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Deliberation and Democracy: Innovative Processes and Institutions

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Edited By Stephen Coleman, Anna Przybylska and Yves Sintomer

As our experience regarding the practice of deliberation grows, the position from which we evaluate it, and the criteria of this evaluation, change. This book presents a synthesis of recent research that has brought detailed and robust results. Its first section concerns contemporary challenges and new approaches to the public sphere. The second focuses on the Deliberative Poll as a specific deliberative technique and compares findings emanating from this practice in various political and cultural contexts. The third section addresses the challenge of determining what constitutes deliberative quality. Finally, the last section discusses democratic deliberation and deliberative democracy as they relate to the complex challenges of contemporary politics.
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Zhang Weiyu - Chapter Three. The Disenfranchised and E-Deliberation: Beyond Access

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Zhang Weiyu

Chapter Three. The Disenfranchised and E-Deliberation: Beyond Access

Introduction

Online deliberation, or eDeliberation, refers to an emerging body of practices that purposely foster open, fair, and rational discussions over the Internet. Websites such as e-the-people.org and e-democracy.org provide ordinary citizens an online space to have democratic conversations (Dahlgren 2001). Projects such as Deliberative Polling go online to take advantage of its relatively lower cost and longer duration compared to face-to-face deliberation (Luskin et al. 2006). Both types of practices have been found to be able to promote respectful listening, change attitudes, increase knowledge, and so on (Monnoyer-Smith and Talpin 2010). However, the contribution of such practices to democracy in general is contested among scholars (Dryzek 2009; Dahlberg 2001; Graham 2008; Shane 2004). One critique concerns the various inequalities seen in both access to and use of information technology, such as those of racial inequalities (Mossberger et al. 2006) and inequalities in technical capitals (Zhang 2010). Considering the central role information technology plays in eDeliberation, how the disenfranchised engage and experience eDeliberation becomes crucial because the representativeness of participants and their voices directly influence the legitimacy of decisions generated from such deliberative practices (Chang et al. 2014).

The tradition of political participation research provides the basis on which we can project the relationship between eDeliberation and the disenfranchised. Participation in American politics is not universal, and those who do take part are, in important ways, not representative of...

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