Too Long, Didn’t Read

tldrWelcome to the IAP2 Canada Research Committee’s solution for TLDR (“Too Long, Didn’t Read”). We are working to serve IAP2’s membership with relevant and accessible content that bridges research and practice.

In this piece we present you with a brief summary of The Unfulfilled Promise of Online Deliberation. Feel free to send us articles that you would like to see in future editions of this column.

Janette Hartz-Karp, and Brian Sullivan. “The Unfulfilled Promise of Online Deliberation,” Journal of Public Deliberation 10 (2014) iss. 1. Accessed April 13, 2015

In this article, Hartz-Karp and Sullivan (2014) suggest that the success of adopting new technologies relies on recognizing their limitations and capitalizing on their strengths. Many online platforms fail to effectively foster deliberative democracy; meaning online engagement often falls short of researcher and practitioner expectations related to:

  • scaling out (get more responses);
  • scaling up (effect change in big and small ways);
  • being inclusive; and
  • being deliberative.

The inherent features of online engagement – self-selection and self-management – make it difficult for inclusiveness of participation as well as implementing rules of engagement that support a deliberative process. However, the authors suggest cost effectiveness and the tool’s (online platform) speed and capacity to scale out are strengths that should not be overlooked in engagement planning. The authors advise that practitioner focus needs to be on the strengths and the opportunities of each online platform. There should be a healthy recognition of each tool’s limitations and consideration given to lessen these impacts.

Hartz-Karp and Sullivan (2014) demystify the dream of creating an online space that functions as well as in-person engagement. Accordingly, they suggest that in order for online platforms to significantly contribute to a truly deliberative engagement initiative, “face-to-face engagement…seems [to be] key” (P.3).

Finally, by working from a place of understanding the more traditional P2 scene, the authors suggest that online platforms can address the challenge of self-management in online engagement. In face-to-face scenarios, they encourage lobby groups to diversify viewpoints in the deliberation process. They suggest replicating this aspect online by encouraging “curators”, those who initiate conversations on an issue, to take on a similar role in the virtual environment. The authors indirectly suggest that this takes advantage of, and lessens the unwanted impact of, the self-management ability of online platforms.

Summary by: IAP2 Canada Research Committee Members Jessica Dyck and Mahtot Gebresselassie

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