van der Merwe, Rean and Meehan, Anthony
Direct Deliberative Governance Online: Consensual Problem Solving or Accommodated Pluralism?
Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 9(1) pp. 46–63.
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Abstract This article describes and analyses patterns of "governance conversation" observed in interactions on e-mail lists that aim to support local, direct governance in a geographically co-located community in South Africa. It examines the extent to which governance conversations feature instrumental or expressive dialogue and how they subsequently support consensual or pluralist outcomes. Although each conversation pattern relates to governance, the making of consensual, "binding decisions" which is usually seen as a key outcome of deliberative democratic processes, is almost entirely absent from the observed interactions. Nonetheless, the exchanges appear to be relevant and useful to the broader process of local direct deliberative governance. The results indicate that online interaction may be particularly suited to facilitating the pluralist deliberation required to manage complex local governance problems. The study points to the potential value of an infrequently investigated context of online deliberation - that of resident-to-resident deliberation on geographically local issues - and presents a broader conception of the role of online deliberation in local governance.
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