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Title:Robust dialogue but limited representation: A case study of an online discussion group focused on local politics
Author(s):Baker, Andrea Bridget
political communication
online discourse
Abstract:The use of social networking technologies to discuss, organize and participate in the political process, both during and in between election cycles, seems to be gaining popularity (Davis, 2005; Rainie, 2005b). There is a growing body of literature that examines the use of the Internet and its various technologies as tools to improve the democratic process (Brunsting, 2002; Dahlberg, 2001; Harrison & Falvey, 2001; Jensen, 2003; Kavanaugh, Carroll, Rosson, Reese, & Zin, 2005; Stromer-Galley, 2002, 2003). Some researchers have studied technology’s impact on access to information, government services, officials and candidates (Harrison et al., 2005; Jensen, 2003; Kavanaugh et al., 2005) Some researchers have focused on the quality of discourse within the communities (Dahlberg, 2001; Davis, 2005; Wilhelm, 2000). Others have highlighted technology’s ability to transcend geographic, social and ideological boundaries (Hacker & Dijk, 2001; Kavanaugh et al., 2005;Stromer-Galley, 2002, 2003). What much of the research has in common is that the studies have centered on political discussion groups such as those found on USENET newsgroups (now Google groups), chat rooms, and Yahoo! groups, which are organized by political ideologies or topics generally associated with national issues. There is some research on community computer networks, but these are mostly products of a collaboration between universities, government, and citizens (Harrison, Zappen, Stephen, Garfield and Prell, 2001; Harrison, Zappen and Adali, 2005; Kavanaugh, Carroll, Rosson, Reese and Zin, 2005; Kavanaugh, Reese, Carroll, and Rosson, 2005). Needed are studies that examine citizens’ uses of web technologies to talk about local political issues. Eliasoph (1997) has argued that people avoid publicly talking about politics in their home communities. The question is: Can online discussion space focused on local politics expand participation as well as create an environment where diverse ideas and informed discussion thrives? In addition to providing insight to the academic community, the answers to these questions may assist local communities looking to foster public discussion about issues that affect the everyday lives of average people.
Issue Date:2009-02-08
Genre:Conference Poster
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-03-29

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