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The prism of the public sphere: The COP15 coverage by the Brazilian media system

The 30-page article, The prism of the public sphere: The COP15 coverage by the Brazilian media system (2017), was written by Diógenes Lycarião and Antal Wozniak, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, the authors provide an analysis of the contributions media provides for the public to understand and engage with deliberative and governmental processes, as exemplified in the Brazilian coverage of the 15th UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP15). Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

In studies of political communication, news media are often regarded as a locus for what Page (1996) calls “mediated deliberation” (for an up-to-date overview, see Rinke, 2016), i.e. the sphere in which “communication professionals convey information, values, and diverse points of view to the mass public, which then deliberates vicariously through the give-and-take and to-and-fro of these various professionals” (Gastil, 2008, p. 50). Based on this paradigm, increasingly sophisticated methods and analyses have been developed to assess the “deliberativeness” of media content (cf. Wessler & Rinke, 2014; van der Wurff, Verhoeven, & Gadellaa, 2013).

This strand of literature offers valuable contributions to comprehending in a more nuanced way the different conditions under which the quality of deliberation in the media system might improve or decrease. But in our understanding of the news media’s role in the division of labor in modern societies’ “deliberative systems” (cf. Mansbridge, 1999; Parkinson & Mansbridge, 2012) a number of questions remain unanswered, especially when it comes to problems posed by increasing social complexity (cf. Bohman, 2007). This is because while most studies concerned with mediated deliberation have been focusing on deliberativeness of media content, its mediation dimension (or systemic function) has received less (more…)

Deliberative Technology: A Holistic Lens for Interpreting Resources and Dynamics in Deliberation

The 34-page article, Deliberative Technology: A Holistic Lens for Interpreting Resources and Dynamics in Deliberation (2017), was written by Jodi Sandfort and Kathryn Quick, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, the authors “introduce the concept of deliberative technology as an integrative framework to encapsulate how facilitators and participants bring different resources into use in deliberative processes.” Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Public deliberative processes can create many positive results, including enabling participants to understand substantive issues, appreciate other perspectives, and build their abilities to develop or act upon solutions (Gutmann & Thompson, 2004; Jacobs et al., 2009; Mansbridge, 1999). To readers of this journal, this almost goes without saying. Yet, attempts to create these results often fail (Fung, 2006; Nabatchi et al., 2012; Quick & Feldman, 2011). No single dimension explains success or failure; the results of deliberation arise through a complex mixing of contextual and design features. However, as deliberation becomes an increasingly expected mode of governance (Leighninger, 2006), there is a thirst for more practical guidance about how to make deliberation efforts more successful.

Seasoned practitioners have a healthy skepticism of how-to guides. They know there is no “master recipe” or set of rules that will reliably produce successful public deliberation. Instead, they are aware that a variety of deliberative techniques exist to serve particular purposes (Creighton, 2005; Kaner, 2007; Leighninger, 2006), and are able to draw nimbly on a wide palette of them to design each deliberation to suit particular purposes (Bryson et al., 2013; Carson & Hartz-Karp 2005). Indeed, as skilled practitioners think through how to accomplish the goals of deliberation, they may experience a diminishing return on investment for advanced planning in deliberation. Many find the unpredictability of deliberative processes not only inevitable, but also inherently desirable. As they gain more experience and judgment, they actively read, respond to, and shape emergent dynamics in deliberation to steward productive deliberation. Thus, a variety of modes of engagement emerge from (more…)

Reason, Deliberation, and Democracy in Divided Societies: Perspectives from the Jafari School of Thought

The 25-page article, Reason, Deliberation, and Democracy in Divided Societies: Perspectives from the Jafari School of Thought (2017), was written by Nicolas Pirsoul, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, Pirsoul talks about how the Jafari school of thought promotes deliberative democracy and provides an opportunity to promote peace in a deeply divided society. Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Jensen Sass and John Dryzek suggest that practices of deliberative democracy are universal political practices and happen in unlikely socio-cultural settings such as the one marked by the “Islamic Revival” in Egypt. They argue that “culture meets deliberation where publicly accessible meanings, symbols, and norms shape the way political actors engage one another in discourse” (Sass & Dryzek, 2014, p. 21). Here, I take their argument one step further and focus on these symbols and norms. Instead of focusing my attention on the deliberative process arising from civil society’s interpretations and disagreements over the theological and social significance of Islamic texts in a contemporary environment, I turn my attention towards the motivational basis for deliberative practices as they appear from within Islamic sources themselves, namely the Koran and Ahadith (sing. Hadith).

More specifically, I will focus my attention on Shia narrations embedded within the Jafari school of thought, also known as the Twelver Shias. There are three main reasons for narrowing down my investigation to that particular group. First, Twelver Shias represent a minority in the West (as migrants) and in the Islamic World (they represent 10 to 15 percent of the total Muslim population) (Nasr, 2007, p. 34). Second, they have suffered and still suffer from harsh persecutions at the hands of Sunni rulers ever since the Ummah split shortly after Muhammad’s death. These first two reasons are relevant if one wants to explore the significance of (more…)

A Randomly Selected Chamber: Promises and Challenges

The 26-page article, A Randomly Selected Chamber: Promises and Challenges (2017), was written by Pierre-Etienne Vandamme and Antione Verret-Hamelin, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, the authors discuss the lack of confidence people have in contemporary democracy and hypothethize the hopes and challenges of how a randomly selected chamber of representatives would address this. Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Contemporary democratic representation can be considered to be in crisis as indicated by the fact that many people express mistrust towards the political class in opinion surveys (Norris, 1999; Rosanvallon, 2006). As a consequence, voter turnout to elections is decreasing in most established democracies (Mair, 2013) and party affiliation and identification have become marginal (Dalton & Wattenberg, 2000). We interpret this as the result of two factors: 1) people do not believe that their representatives act in their best interests (problem of representation); and 2) democratic states have lost a lot of regulating power in a globalized economy characterized by capital mobility (problem of scale). We believe that the problem of scale partly explains the crisis of representation, but not entirely. This paper, however, will limit itself to addressing the problem of representation. Consequently, we acknowledge that the proposed solution might not be enough to tackle the identified crisis.

In this paper, we will use the term representation in two distinct senses: “statistical” or “descriptive” representation means mirroring the diversity of the people; “active” representation means acting in the best interests of the people (Pitkin, 1967; Przeworski, Stokes, & Manin, 1999, p. 2). Part of the contemporary crisis of representation stems from the fact that (more…)

From Code to Discourse: Social Media and Linkage Mechanisms in Deliberative Systems

The 37-page article, From Code to Discourse: Social Media and Linkage Mechanisms in Deliberative Systems (2017), was written by Benjamin A. Lyons, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, he explores about how deliberative democracy functions on social media and examines the ways that these platforms facilitate discourse. Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Online deliberation has largely been evaluated by face-to-face standards, drawing on Habermas (1984, 1990, 1996). Some researchers (e.g., Coleman & Moss, 2012; Dahlberg, 2001; Dahlgren, 2005; Freelon, 2010; Graham, 2015; Zimmermann, 2015) have critiqued and looked beyond this approach. Instead, expanded views of deliberation have been employed (Conover & Searing, 2005; Mansbridge, 1999; Young, 2006). Implicitly, this approach is informed by a systemic view of deliberation (Mansbridge et al., 2012): Not every discussion space needs to meet every criterion, but the spaces must be linked. Unfortunately, these studies do not explicitly examine how forums might connect. Digital media studies meanwhile look at actual objects of connection as it occurs online, such as through hyperlinks, follower networks, semantic tags, and memes. By integrating these bodies of research, scholars can better evaluate deliberative functions in digital communication environments. At the same time, scholars of digital media can better frame the contribution the objects of their study make to the broader political system.

This article lays the necessary groundwork for studying social media-enabled linkage mechanisms in deliberative systems. In the first section, I overview the central tenets of deliberation, how it has been evaluated in online contexts, and recent expansions of definitions that coincide with the system or network view of deliberative democracy. The next section discusses (more…)

Discourse Quality in Deliberative Citizen Forums – A Comparison of Four Deliberative Mini-publics

The 30-page article, Discourse Quality in Deliberative Citizen Forums – A Comparison of Four Deliberative Mini-publics (2017), was written by Steffan Himmelroos, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, the author compares the findings from four deliberative citizen forums in order to better understand the quality of deliberation that tends to take place and suggests there are groups that have less influence in these processes. Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Since democratic theory took a deliberative turn in the early 1990s (Dryzek, 2002), there has been a growing interest in deliberative political practices where citizens resolve their differences through talking rather than voting. It has even been suggested that the deliberative ideal of a reasoned, respectful and open-minded argumentation is most likely to be attained in carefully designed citizen forums, like deliberative mini-publics (Fishkin, 1997; Fung, 2007). To gauge the promise of these deliberative mini-publics, researchers have looked into how policy opinions change as a result of taking part in deliberations (Hansen & Andersen, 2004; Himmelroos & Christensen, 2014; Luskin, Fishkin, & Jowell, 2002; Setälä, Grönlund, & Herne, 2010) and how deliberation might empower the participants (Andersen & Hansen, 2007; Gastil & Dillard, 1999; Grönlund, Setälä, & Herne, 2010; Nabatchi, 2010).

There has, nevertheless, been a lack of studies examining the quality of deliberative process (De Vries et al., 2010; Ryfe, 2005). Considering deliberative democracy’s emphasis on the quality of the process by which we reach a decision, one would think that standards of rationality, respectfulness and reflectiveness would be at least as important as the outcome. The good news is that we are seeing a growing number of studies looking into the content of discussions at deliberative citizen forums (Caluwaerts, 2012; Dutwin, 2003; Marlène Gerber, 2015; Karpowitz, Mendelberg, & Shaker, 2012). However, like most studies of deliberative forums, they still tend to (more…)

The Role of Experts across Two Different Arenas in a Deliberative System

The 35-page article, The Role of Experts across Two Different Arenas in a Deliberative System (2017), was written by Rousiley C. M. Maia, Marcela D. Laranjeira, and Pedro S. Mundim, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, the authors respond to the call to explore a deliberative systems perspective by looking at how one arena of deliberation affects another; they do this by exploring the role of experts in two distinct arenas of legislative public hearings and the media. Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Recently, several deliberative scholars have called for a systemic approach to deliberation in order to expand the scale of analysis beyond individual sites or institutions and tap into the complexity of interrelations among parts in the political system (Bächtiger & Wegmann, 2014; Dryzek & Hendriks, 2012; Goodin, 2005; Maia, 2012; Mansbridge et al., 2012; Neblo, 2015; Parkinson, 2006, 2012; Steiner, 2014; Thompson, 2008). While empirical scholars have been developing ever more sophisticated analyses on deliberation and have brought careful empirical evidence to warrant their claims, most studies are conducted in one single arena or in a separate institution. Thus, interconnections among arenas remain poorly understood, and current research designs fail to take note (particularly through systematic measurement) of how findings in one environment relate to other arenas in regards to the larger purposes of democracy. Whereas the systemic approach to deliberation seems genuinely innovative and attractive, empirical research in this field is underdeveloped.

In this article, we attempt to add a layer to this field. While previous studies have compared debate across different assemblies or parliamentary settings (Stasavage, 2007; Steiner, Bächtiger, Spörndli, & Steenbergen, 2004), we are interested in investigating the role played by a particular actor – the experts – regarding a specific debate in two distinct discursive arenas: legislative public hearings and the media. Although the literature has asserted that (more…)

Deliberators, not Future Citizens: Children in Democracy

The 24-page article, Deliberators, not Future Citizens: Children in Democracy (2017), was written by Kei Nishiyama, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. The article advocates for children to be authentically included in deliberative democracy, as opposed to the position most children have, of little to no agency in democratic activities. Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Children are “neither seen nor heard.” This is an often-used phrase when childhood scholars discuss the relationship between children and democracy (e.g. Cohen, 2005). It points out the largely ignored places and roles of children in both theory and practice of democracy. Yet, during the past several decades, we also observe a gradual improvement of recognition of children, partly as a result of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1989, which enabled a number of scholars and practitioners to re-evaluate a variety of children’s participatory activities throughout the world (e.g. Lansdown, 2001; Invernizzi & Williams, 2008; Percy-Smith & Thomas, 2010). These studies invite us to reconsider the role of children in democracy.

However, the serious issue today is that children are “seen but not heard” rather than “neither seen nor heard.” Despite empirical evidence of children’s crucial democratic role in society, there still exists skepticism about their capacities, such as communication skills, which prevents scholars from taking children’s voices seriously. Furthermore, some scholars fail to take into consideration earnestly children’s various and unique ways of democratic involvement. For example, although non-participation could be interpreted as a “reasonable” political strategy for children to resist adult-centered politics (O’Toole, 2003), it is usually seen merely as evidence of their apathy or rudeness (e.g. Crick Report, 1998). The ignorance of children’s present capacities, knowledge, and/or experiences is often (more…)

Future Possibilities for Civil Rights Policy (IF Discussion Guide)

The 32-page discussion guide, Future Possibilities for Civil Rights Policy, was published by Interactivity Foundation in May 2011 and edited by Suzanne Goodney Lea. For this discussion guide, participants consider what does a civil right actually mean and then explore the policy directions that will redefine civil rights over the next few decades. The guide is available in both English and Spanish. Below is an excerpt of the guide, which can be downloaded as a PDF for free from IF’s site here.

From IF…

We hear a lot about civil rights. Some people say these rights embody the very soul or essence of our democracy and must be actively safeguarded. Others observe that these kinds of rights are spreading to other places around the world. Still others contend that these rights must sometimes be given up in order to protect our nation’s security. But do we ever stop and think about what rights are or could be? Why do we have them? What purposes do they serve and where might they be headed?

Our country’s Constitution and other founding documents incorporate many important ideas about civil rights as they have been imagined within our democratic society. Still, while our Constitution has survived for a couple hundred years, it has also had to change to meet the challenges of new social and political realities. We’ve seen some civil rights expanded to people who were not even recognized as “persons” in earlier times. We’ve also seen some rights contracted during times of social or political upheaval, or eroded through disuse.

Participants in this project discussion are struggling with multiple possible dimensions to civil rights that go well beyond the conventional legal and political frameworks. For example, (more…)

What Should We Do About The Opioid Epidemic? (NIFI Issue Advisory)

The National Issues Forum Institute released the six-page Issue Advisory, What Should We Do About The Opioid Epidemic?, published October 2017. The issue advisory presents three options to use during deliberation on how society can address the rising opioid epidemic that has swept the U.S. The issue advisory is available for free download on NIFI’s site here, as well as, a post-forum questionnaire.

From NIFI…

Drug abuse, a problem the United States has faced for decades, has taken a sharp and lethal turn with the rise of opioids—both legal pain- killers, such as oxycodone and fentanyl, and illegal ones like heroin.

More than 64,000 Americans were killed by drug overdoses in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and at least two-thirds of those deaths were caused by opioids. That is worse than the peak of the HIV epidemic in 1995 and more than the number of US combat deaths in the entire Vietnam War.

In the last year, doctors wrote more than 236 million prescriptions for opioids, or about one for every American adult. But many patients became addicted to the painkillers as their bodies began to tolerate higher and higher doses. Others, if they could no longer get prescriptions, switched to heroin; then came the even deadlier fentanyl.

Now drug abuse is so widespread it is even affecting productivity–employers say they can’t fill positions because too many applicants fail a drug test. The Federal Reserve reports that (more…)

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