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Deliberation, E-Democracy, and the Virtual Public Sphere Democratic deficit Participation Public Sphere Deliberative democracy Theory Practice WWW as self-generating.

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Presentation on theme: "Deliberation, E-Democracy, and the Virtual Public Sphere Democratic deficit Participation Public Sphere Deliberative democracy Theory Practice WWW as self-generating."— Presentation transcript:

1 Deliberation, E-Democracy, and the Virtual Public Sphere Democratic deficit Participation Public Sphere Deliberative democracy Theory Practice WWW as self-generating public sphere? Engineering online deliberation

2 Democratic deficit Modern (liberal) democracies inherently deficient Ideal: Greek word meaning rule by the people Government of the people, by the people, and for the people (Abraham Lincoln) Logistic problem: Equal participation becomes impossible in large communities Emergence of elites unavoidable Historical prejudice: Distrust in mass decision making by enlightenment philosophers, democratic theorists, founding fathers

3 Representative democracy Election and exchange of elites Changing paradigm in democratic theory Minimalist/elitist models of democracy (Schumpeter, Downs, Dahl) becoming dominant in 20th century Empirical theory of democracy Meaningful participation in collective decision making of more than a tiny minority is inconceivable; Invisible hand mechanism ensures that aggregation of unaltruistic preferences leads to desirable social outcomes; Responsible party model Suggestion to replace the term democracy with that of polyarchy (Dahl)

4 Participation Voting From habitual to evaluative (rational) Ineffective form of citizen participation According to elitist theories (Schumpeter), voting is no more than a regularly recurring element of uncertainty in elite domination (incumbents could be thrown out) Declining turnout Party membership Parties increasingly centralised Professional campaign agents replacing members Members tend to be more radical than leaders, hence liability rather than asset in campaigns, in time of policy convergence Political activism (demonstrations, petitions, etc.) Increasingly disassociated from traditional party system and its mobilisational power Quasi anti-political participation

5 Participatory democracy Resurgence of substantive models of democracy in 1960s/70s (e.g. Carol Pateman) Five building blocks of participatory democracy (Zittel 2003): Promotion of a new mode of decision making (deliberation) Strengthening of the direct mode of decision making Referendums/direct democracy (Switzerland, Ireland) Democratization of the local level (local democracy) Higher levels of political interest in local matters than national Higher likelihood/expectation of political efficacy More feasible to generate deliberative structures at local than national level Increased citizen participation at local level could raise political interest/ perceived efficacy; resulting in more participation (e.g. turnout) at national level Democratization of functionally defined units of the political system (segmentation) E.g. workplace democracy, intra-party democracy Implementation of representation as delegation Not just responsible, but responsive parties/candidates Responsive to the policy concerns of their constituents Communicative and educative function of political representatives Frequent recall between representative and constituency

6 Critique of the institutions of liberal democracy Consistent use of the principle of representation Central significance of the electoral connection as a mechanism for interest aggregation Institutional restraints impinging on political participation in liberal democracy lessen political engagement and spawn political apathy in the long term Demand for institutions that facilitate as much political participation as possible

7 The public sphere Habermas The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere Defines public sphere as Autonomous (free from state/government intervention) Deliberative forum for open, equal debate of public issues Taking place in clubs, tea houses Mainly comprised of economically rising but politically marginalised bourgeoisie Distributed through (and taking place in) free press, which also confronts ruling elites with focus and state of public opinion Largely blaming mass media (centralization/commercialization) for transformation (destruction) of public sphere Degrading citizens from participants to audience Critical public transformed into apathetic mass (atomised individuals, who are being fed information) Reducing public opinion from collective opinion formation process into mere aggregation of (uninformed, unchallenged, underdeveloped, prejudicial) opinions

8 Improving democracy through deliberation Philosophical rationale for deliberative democracy Policy-making derives legitimacy from preceding public deliberation The public sphere comes into existence whenever and wherever all affected by general social and political norms of action engage in a practical discourse, evaluating their validity Argumentation can exploit the conflict between success-oriented competitors for the purpose of achieving consensus as long as the arguments are not reduced to mere means of influencing one another Weak publics: informal vehicles of public opinion Taken together, they form a wild complex that resists organization as a whole Strong publics: institutions seeking out cooperative solutions to practical problems a locus of public deliberation culminating in legally binding decisions (or laws)

9 Habermas influence Prompting revival in participatory challenges to empirical democratic theory Originally published in German in 1960s First English translation in 1980s Coinciding (?) with increased theorizing about deliberative democracy The communicative network of a public made up of rationally debating private citizens has collapsed; the public opinion once emergent from it has partly decomposed into the informal opinions of private citizens without a public and partly become concentrated into formal opinions of publicistically effective institutions. (Habermas, 1989: 247) In the 1990, embraced by cyberenthusiasts

10 Deliberative democracy Modes of decision making Voting Aggregation of preferences Majority rule decision making Deliberating Aiming for unanimity/compromise Voting theories (in particular Rational Choice models) assume that preferences are given (exogenous to decision making process) Deliberative democracy presumes Values are stable Preferences, opinions, tastes change Preferences change, although not compulsory, is the assumed purpose of deliberation Deliberation is successful if agreement is found, which implies some change in preferences Deliberation may help overcome decision making dilemma like vote cycles

11 Virtues of deliberation Civic virtue Discussion produces bettercitizens (more informed, active, responsible) Deliberation lowers propensity to (and benefit of) strategic behaviour Governance virtue Decisions taken following open discussions have greater legitimacy Deliberation enhances quality of decisions Cognitive virtue If opinions are not fixed, open dialogue gives rise to new, more articulated points of view Deliberation increases knowledge

12 Reason, emotion, rhetoric Habermas: speech should be founded on reason, defended through rational argumentation Aristotle: performative mode of public speech, engaging rational and nonrational elements Rhetoric, according to Habermas, is primarily manipulative, hence an obstacle to constructive deliberation Since people react emotionally, and differ in rhetorical skill, one needs to consider the role of rhetoric in deliberation to avoid unrealistic assumptions If all people affected are to be equal participants Rhetorical skills, prior information, political interest etc. vary with education, age, etc. Participation will be asymmetrical Arousing emotions serves to engage larger numbers, rather than pure rationality

13 Deliberative practice Deliberative polls Developed by James Fishkin in the 1990s Representative sample (ca. 300 participants) Invited to debate politics Measuring opinion change as a result of deliberation Findings Change occurs regularly Predominant tendency towards more liberal opinions through deliberation Moderation of opinions Deliberative organisations Goals Education Conflict resolution Cooperation Action Policy Deliberative groups predominantly goal-oriented Self-selection of members Deliberative practice tends to yield additional means of political participation for those already more politically interested and informed than the average Requirement: minimal recognition of shared values

14 Technology and promise Internet emerging in early 1990s, coinciding with increased emphasis on deliberative democracy Technology promoted as solution of participatory deficit in Western democracies Means of communication (one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many) Decentralised Outside state control Allowing anyone to produce and receive text Parallel to 18th century media landscape Less exclusive than Habermas bourgeois debate clubs in 18th century

15 Technology and theory Instead of deliberative theorists embracing ICT/WWW as basis for reinvigoration of public sphere, it was cyberenthusiasts who incorporated deliberative thinking in their appraisal of the promise of online use […] it is through the free wheeling and rambling discussion that the online medium makes possible, that one can more thoughtfully consider diverse views. The Internet helps to remove the constraints to communication, to make it possible to explore what the underlying dispute or agreement is, and then to determine the new view that will resolve the issue in contention. […] This helps to generate the diversity of the variety of viewpoints that one has to consider to analyze a question or problem. In this process the wide ranging discussion made possible by the Internet is not limited to two communicators, but can include a large and almost unlimited number. (Hauben, 1999)

16 Online debates Internet - a self-reflective medium Most of the literature on virtual public sphere is published only online Extensive meta-debates within discussion forums (netiquette) Patterns of online use User adaptation to the medium Vertical and horizontal segmentation Social exclusiveness of technology Medium of use not consumption Unlimited filtering

17 Internet communities Self-selection Altering the concept of community (different entry/exit conditions than in face-to-face communities) Observed homogeneity in usenet groups … groups that are evenly divided in opinion, or approximately so, must be rare. Asymmetry in the distribution of beliefs within groups is likely to be prevalent, particularly since it is known that individuals tend to seek out politically like-minded individuals. (Huckfeldt and Sprague 1995) Group polarization (possibly detrimental effect on democracy) With respect to the Internet and new communications technologies, the implication is that groups of like-minded people, engaged in discussion with one another, will end up thinking the same thing that they thought before – but in more extreme form. (Sunstein 2001) Tendency towards monological (rather than dialogical) mode of communication little more than a middle-class residents association in cyberspace (McClellan, 1994)

18 Engineering online participation UK under New Labour at the forefront of development of e-governance and e-democracy Tony Blair promising a new relationship between the individual and the state. We want to give power back to the people, and in return we expect them to take on greater responsibility for themselves. changing how national government is run as well as devolving power outwards to the people. (Blair, T. New Britain: my vision of a young country London: Fourth Estate, 1996) Minister for e-commerce, Douglas Alexander MP: The 2001 UK general election gave us the lowest turnout since universal suff rage – only 59% of the electorate were sufficiently engaged in the democratic process to take a stake in choosing their government. However, delve below these headline figures and the warning is even more stark. The detail of the demographics reveals that in the age group over 60% did not vote. This group represents the democrats of the future and, if unaddressed, this level of disengagement would pose a threat to the long-term health of our democratic institutions. … it is now time to set all this activity into a clear policy framework and put e-democracy on the information age agenda. Government should set out what it means by e-democracy and how it intends to use the power of technology to strengthen democracy. (2001)

19 Labours online strategy Stephen Coleman, Professor for E-Democracy, Oxford There are far more online communities in existence than most people realise, constituting an autonomous civic network that can only be healthy for democracy. We are interested in exploring how governments can connect with such online communities, but the main emphasis of this report is to examine whether and how governments themselves can initiate and sustaine democracy exercises aimed at involving the public in the policy-making process. (Stephen Coleman and John Gøtze Bowling Together: Online Public Engagement in Policy Deliberation London: Hansard Society, 2001) Two-way governance Information Consultation Active participation Moderation and mediation Deliberation requires trusted facilitation. In short, it does not just happen. (Coleman and Gøtze 2001) Rules for participants Regulate discussions Moderate messages Help reaching conclusions Summarize deliberations Ensure feedback to participants

20 Online citizenship in Britain Instrumental mode of communication Predominantly, information operates on a passive receiver Emphasis on government targets (100% delivery of government services online by end of 2005) Transactions/Interaction Participation/Conversation Design shortcomings Building on commercial online technology use State interference/usurpation of public sphere Deliberative but undemocratic, hence impossible to institutionalize impact on decision making

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