Technology and the Quality of Public Deliberation


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Full title: Technology and the Quality of Public Deliberation. A Comparison between On and Off-line Participation.
Co-authored with Laurence Monnoyer-Smith.
Presented at the 61st Conference of the International Communication Association, Boston, 26-30 May 2011

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Technology and the Quality of Public Deliberation

  1. 1. Technology and the Quality of Public Deliberation. Comparing Online and Offline Participation<br />Laurence Monnoyer-Smith<br />University of Technology, Compiègne<br />Stéphanie Wojcik<br />University of Paris EstCréteil<br />France<br />61st Annual ICA ConferenceBoston, MassachusettsWestin Boston Waterfront Hotel26-30 May 2011 <br />
  2. 2. Objectives <br />Theoretical framework <br />Case study : a public debate on a industrial plant devoted to waste treatment in Ivry (France)<br />Methodology<br />Results<br />2<br />Outline<br />ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />
  3. 3. <ul><li>Discuss the academic literature on the evaluation of the quality of public deliberation
  4. 4. Make our own evaluation of a deliberative arrangement organized by a public authority, the French National Commission of Public Debate (CNDP).
  5. 5. Compare online and offline modalities of participation.
  6. 6. Highlight the uses and assets of each deliberative device (and show how they are linked) </li></ul>3<br />1. Objectives<br />ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />
  7. 7. Many attempts to operationalize the Habermas’ model of ideal speech situation using coding schemes for measuring the quality of online deliberation (e.g. Dahlberg, 2001, Trénel, 2004, Janssen & Kies, 2004; Stromer-Galley, 2007; Black, Burkhalter & Gastil, 2010, …)<br />Set of quite stable criteria (although discussions still open on some of them, e.g. « sincerity  »).<br />Following the re-reading of Steenbergen & al. (2003) and Bächtiger & al. (2009),we propose to distinguish two types of deliberation through the deliberation quality index (DQI). <br />Type I deliberation concerns the criteria related to the rational dimension of discursive exchanges.<br />Type II deliberation is intended to grasp the alternative forms of communication emerging in the course of deliberative exchanges.<br />ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />4<br />2. Theoretical framework Evaluating the quality of deliberation <br />
  8. 8. Type I deliberation is essentially procedural and with a consensus-oriented goal. It has raised many criticisms in particular from :<br /><ul><li>The « difference democrats » who stress the need to take into account the expression of personal interest, the role of emotions, and expression of conflicts ;
  9. 9. The social choice theorists who highlight the reluctance of people to change their normative preferences during the course of discussions. </li></ul>Thus, type II deliberation is thought to include various forms of talks (e.g. storytelling) in the deliberative process i.e. to extend the quite narrow idealistic conception of Habermassian deliberation.<br />ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />5<br />2. Theoretical framework Evaluating the quality of deliberation <br />
  10. 10. ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />6<br />
  11. 11. A debate organized by the French National Commission of Public Debate (CNDP) between September and December 2009, involving the SYCTOM (public body owner of the plant).<br />Nine public meetings discussed the possible transformation of the plant into a methanization unit producing gas and heat (with less waste incineration). 1000 participants.<br />A website with information (filmed interviews, reports, …), also including : <br /><ul><li>a blog
  12. 12. a newsletter
  13. 13. a question & answer system
  14. 14. a platform entitled « Co-ment », allowing users to comment online the proceedings of the F2F debates, which were written by the CNDP</li></ul> The whole online device is intended to complement, precede and/or prolong the face-to-face discussions.<br />ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />7<br />3. Case study : a public debate about the restructuration of a waste treatment plant in Ivry (France)<br />
  15. 15. ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />8<br />The CPDP website : the blog<br />
  16. 16. 4 out of the 9 public meetings coded<br />The entire online corpus coded :<br />63 posts and 107 comments on the blog<br />73 comments posted on the « co-ment » platform<br />280 questions posted on the Q&A system<br />Online and offline corpus = 1212 observations<br /><ul><li>80 questionnaires (relevant for the equality criteria)
  17. 17. 15 semi-directed interviews
  18. 18. Ethnographic observation </li></ul>ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />9<br />4. Methodology<br />
  19. 19. ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />10<br />5. Results (justification)<br />
  20. 20. ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />11<br />5. Results - RespectSourcing on and offline<br />
  21. 21. ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />12<br />5. Results - InteractivityExpression of agreement and disagreement<br />
  22. 22. Very few alternative expressions<br />Salience of rational rhetoricimposed by institutionalactors and followed by associations.<br />Interactivityhigher online withstrong expression of conflict.<br />High sourcing and technicaldebate but low inclusion of laycitizens.<br />ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />13<br />Discussion 1<br />
  23. 23. Specialization of arenas <br />Blog as a space of legitimization for associations<br />Q&A : space for offline conflict resolution<br />« Co-ment » platform : post-debate space for negociation<br />Off line (public meetings) : constructive elaboration of shared proposals<br />ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />14<br />Discussion 2General comparison between online and F2F <br />
  24. 24. Dynamic articulation between arenas of debate<br />Strategic distribution of expression <br /> methodological consequences <br />ICA - Boston - May 26-30, 2011<br />15<br />Conclusion<br />