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Mostly, online arenas and initiatives are scrutinized in themselves. Along with the DQI, the frameworks of Stromer-Galley and Kies tend to assess interactions within a certain space. Reciprocity is usually restricted to a process of direct interlocution and reason-giving is conceived of being something internal and unique to the specific arena under analysis. The attempt to comprehend these internal relationships often ignores the broader nature of discursive flows. Online deliberation is constrained to a reproduction of face-to-face conversations. The role that information provided by online initiatives plays on a deliberative system is disregarded or even criticized as not fully dialogical.

The connections and disconnections of arenas, and the discursive routes built online are overlooked. Deliberation is viewed as something to be observed within an initiative or arena, and not across initiatives and arenas. Specific points in the framework of both Stromer-Galley and Kies could be thought of as exceptions in this regard. The former suggests the measurement of sources cited by actors, while the later considers the external impact of arenas in his analyses.

These points indicate the relevance of the 'external world' on processes that happen within a given online arena. However, both ideas have limitations.


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Stromer-Galley's sourcing, as was already noted, can only assess what is explicitly mentioned and results in missing the idea of uninhibited discursive flows that cannot be properly identified. Kies's external impact reduces the many possible connections among arenas to one type: influence on the elaboration of political decisions.

As a result, neither of the two 'exceptions' is properly equipped to capture the broader idea of deliberative systems. Each idea can grasp some eventual connections, but they are not effective when dealing with the idea of structural connections at the grounds of their frameworks. This is one of the central challenges for current methodological measurements of online deliberation.

Understanding the connections, routes and flows among discourses on the web should no longer be thought of as something that can be ignored. If online deliberation is to be understood, these complex processes should be faced properly. Discussions occurring within an online group or forum represent a small fraction of a much more complicated process, that pervades online and offline arenas.

The concept of deliberative systems has become essential to obtaining a complete study of deliberation. A third problem with some of the most influential empirical attempts to investigate deliberation on the web is related to a disregard of the nature of online interactions. Some scholars seem so concerned with their attempt to translate the conceptual dimensions of deliberation into empirical categories that they end up missing key aspects of the web.

This type of disregard seems evident in the lack of attention to the different discursive architectures of online arenas. Usually, methodological procedures are conceptualized in a generic way that frequently fails to grasp the particularities of distinct online experiences. The discussion of politics either on a social network community site, a newspaper website, a blog or Facebook generates completely different processes. They should not simply be gathered under the umbrella of Type II Deliberation or coded as if they were disembodied discourses.

The logics of online discussion vary significantly and methodological procedures have not been able to capture these variations. This is why, according do Dahlberg , several studies of online deliberation make flawed generalizations, not supported by their data. In addition, interactions that count as a discourse on the web should be amplified if online experiences are to be understood.

The role of videos, songs, cartoons, links, images and comments must be conceived of in their specificities and through their intertwinements. It is problematic, for instance, to neglect the centrality of images in Facebook discussions or the role of videos used to respond to other videos on Youtube. However, online deliberation tends to be taken as an asynchronous variation of face-to-face verbal communication.

Studies are inclined to focus on forums and communities, measuring the arguments verbally expressed by their members. It is definitely easier to study these interactions; but this procedure may pass over the whole experience of online discussion. One exception here is the recent work of Davies and Chandler , who emphasize the need to comprehend the variety of communicative elements in online interactions and explicitly draw attention to the different modalities discourses may assume.

In this sense, the nature of social ties, the forms of expression, the routes followed by discourses, the regimes of visibility and even the boundaries between public and private are singular in online practices. This is not to say that the internet creates an entirely different world. Nevertheless, there are certain specificities that should be taken into account if web deliberation is to be fully comprehended. One of these specificities is deeply related to the aspects developed in the previous section.

I argue that if deliberation, as such, has much to gain from the idea of deliberative systems, then online experiences cannot be studied without it. The richness of online deliberation lies in the countless dynamic connections that engender new forms of discussion. Either explicitly promoted through linkage, or randomly encouraged through individual practices, the network of networks should not be imagined as a cluster of enclosed arenas.

Although it may sound obvious, it is important to emphasize that the idea of a web is essential to the study of this network. However, as many studies focus on the micro-analysis of individual posts within a distinctive arena, the undisciplined discursive flows that surround the specific post are frequently neglected. An additional specificity is related to the type of engagement that is expected from online deliberators.

As opposed to focusing on the discursive process engendered by certain practices and initiatives, studies focus on the energy spent by each participant.

Features of deliberation

These studies often express a feeling of frustration because of a lack of engagement of participants. It is frequently suggested, for instance, that the high levels of one-timers would show the inability of online experiences to foster deliberation. Analogous to this, some scholars seem to expect that users would behave in social networks, online groups and other web arenas in exactly the same way as if they were in conventional meetings.

The point I am trying to establish is that most studies of online deliberation seem to lack a sociological understanding of the way in which individuals behave online. Subjects are overburdened with certain expectations that emerge from other interactive structures, a practice which ultimately ignores the dynamics of online experience. In the quest for reciprocal and respectful arguments on the web, many studies simply borrow a pre-established idea of debate.

This results in a process that fails to seek out new definitions for public discussion that could better accommodate the idiosyncrasies of the internet. This article has sought to discuss three weaknesses found in prominent methods utilized for the study of online deliberation: 01 the establishment of misleading distinctions; 02 the neglected implications of the concept of a deliberative system; and 03 the disregard of some specificities of the internet. I briefly pointed out that some of the procedures often used for comprehending web discussions have been unable to grasp the nature of online interactions.

The focus that these techniques place on micro distinctions has frequently hindered an understanding of the broader picture in which they are inserted. This does not mean micro-content analysis is, in itself, wrong or misleading. It has been responsible for interesting developments in the areas of both deliberative democracy and internet studies. There are, of course, fruitful findings that help to explain the possibilities of web discussion, thus supporting the work of those responsible for designing online consultations and web forums.

Therefore, I do not argue that the empirical literature on online deliberation is unproductive. In my own empirical work on online deliberation, I have attempted to operationalize six criteria inclusiveness, reason-giving, reciprocity, respect, orientation toward common good and connectivity with other discursive arenas in ways that combine quantitative and qualitative analyses 8. It would be beyond the scope of this article to explain how each of these categories was operationalized, but it is important to emphasize how some conceptual moves may lead the analysis in fruitful directions.

When discussing reason-giving, for instance, I suggest restricting the quantitative measurement to a variable that simply codes the existence or inexistence of justifications, further developing the investigation through a Batesonian-Goffmanian frame analysis, that conceives of frames not as individual strategies but as broader cultural and interactive constructions. This analysis takes into consideration not only words, but also images, memes and links mobilized by posts and comments. Another criterion that deserves attention is reciprocity.

In addition, my investigations have benefited from the concept of affordances , frequently used in technology studies, which paved interesting routes for context-sensitive analyses. I am not, therefore, skeptical about the possibility of empirically assessing online deliberation and, as a matter of fact, measuring some of its dimensions.

I am against excessive micro-quantification, focused on individuals and on arenas considered as self-enclosed and not sensitive to the contexts of online interaction. My argument is simply that key weaknesses permeate most of the empirical studies. Such studies would greatly benefit from a more complex view, which does not mean the establishment of numerous detailed categories to capture the minutiae of individual discursive constructions.

The core idea of deliberation and the nature of the online experience must be kept in mind. By doing so, the concept of a deliberative system can contribute a great deal because of its emphasis on the reticular character of human interaction. A deliberative system helps to create an understanding of the complexities and specificities of web deliberation, thus generating new routes for empirical studies. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

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Democracy in Motion: Evaluating the Practice and Impact of Deliberative Civic Engagement

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Services on Demand Journal. Online deliberation and its measures Online deliberation is one of the main areas of interest among the most innovative research on deliberative democracy DAVIES, It should also be observed he depth of justifications, which is measured by coding the use of internal based on personal viewpoints or external based on facts justifications Reflexivity Content analysis points to apparent cases of reflexivity.

Surveys and interviews help demonstrate more internal processes Empathy Measurement of cases of disrespect and surveys and interviews that ask users about levels of respect Sincerity Assessment of apparent cases of insincerity.

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Participation of political personalities in the forum. Users participate in other discussion spaces. There are concrete outcomes.

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The establishment of misleading distinctions Micro approaches to online deliberation seem fascinated by detailed coding schemes that often lead to classifications, which do not deepen our knowledge of the topic. Dahlberg has made a similar argument, when he claims that: The fundamental problem is that operationalisation requires researchers to focus upon those aspects of the public sphere for which narrowly defined and measurable indicators can be found, thus neglecting other aspects less amenable to quantification.

Neglected implications of the concept of a deliberative system Despite the broad theoretical acceptance of the concept of a deliberative system 7 , most empirical studies addressing online deliberation still neglect its implications. However, I would recommend extreme care in its use, especially because of the danger fostering an individualized notion of deliberation Another problematic element in these approaches is the assumption that only contact with opposing perspectives would promote online deliberation LEV-ON and MANIN, ; MUTZ, The disregard of some specificities of the internet A third problem with some of the most influential empirical attempts to investigate deliberation on the web is related to a disregard of the nature of online interactions.

Concluding remarks This article has sought to discuss three weaknesses found in prominent methods utilized for the study of online deliberation: 01 the establishment of misleading distinctions; 02 the neglected implications of the concept of a deliberative system; and 03 the disregard of some specificities of the internet.

Received: December ; Accepted: July Avenida Prof. How to cite this article. Evaluation of the ease of access to the online forum, on the basis of connectivity, ICT skills and discursive rules. Assessment of discursive concentration and the level of control of the debate. Measurement of the proportion of posts that are within a thread and the proportion that start a new thread, in addition to the assessment of the extent to which posts take into consideration opinions previously presented.

Evaluation of whether the opinions are justified or not and how complex justifications are. It should also be observed he depth of justifications, which is measured by coding the use of internal based on personal viewpoints or external based on facts justifications. Content analysis points to apparent cases of reflexivity. User Tools. Sign In.


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    The politics of public deliberation : citizen engagement and interest advocacy, Carolyn M. Hendriks

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