Civic (Re)Socializing: The Transformative Potential of Deliberative Public Sphere Structures
Knobloch, Katherine Rhodes
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This dissertation presents a model for public sphere discourse that situates alienating and deliberative communication norms and practices at opposite ends of a spectrum. Alienating communication routines act as a counter-force to more deliberative forms of communication and (re)create five conditions of alienation - commodification, social isolation, meaninglessness, normlessness, and powerlessness - that influence what individuals know, how they interact, and who ultimately has power in the political process. Moreover, this dissertation looks at how such structural iterations influence the attitudes and actions of those who interact through them and focuses specifically on the potential of deliberative minipublics to correct those conditions of alienation. Normative theory and the limited available empirical scholarship on deliberative public projects suggest that when they actively include regular citizens, those lay participants develop more deliberative attitudes and practices, along with increased political efficacy and engagement. Beyond the effects that deliberation may have on participants, deliberative minipublics connected to macro-level decision making draw the wider public into the deliberative process and may subsequently affect the public's political attitudes. This dissertation addresses these questions by studying two highly structured deliberative forums--the 2009 Australian Citizens' Parliament and the 2010 Oregon Citizens' Initiative Review. It first focuses on whether deliberative minipublics can live up to their normative ideals then looks at whether they alter the civic attitudes and behaviors of participants, and in the case of the CIR, the wider public. The findings show that deliberative minipublics can closely approximate their normative ideals and that participants in face-to-face deliberative forums reported increased deliberative efficacy, internal efficacy, communicative engagement, and community-based engagement, though they did not often report increases in more institutionalized forms of political participation. Online participants, by contrast, reported only limited increases in their internal and external efficacy and communicative engagement. Members of the electorate who were either aware of the CIR or read the CIR Statements saw some increased internal and external efficacy.
- Communications