Deliberation and Decision Making Online: Evaluating Platform Design

King, M. 2018. Deliberation and Decision Making Online: Evaluating Platform Design. PhD thesis University of Westminster Social Sciences

TitleDeliberation and Decision Making Online: Evaluating Platform Design
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsKing, M.

This thesis explores the potential of ICT and online communication to deepen democracy and support large scale online deliberation. It draws together the most promising current practices in online deliberation, presenting a theoretical and empirical exploration of innovative online deliberation platforms. ICT and online communication is increasingly sophisticated and ubiquitous in public life yet its democratic impact is ambiguous. Online engagement is characterised by low quality, disorganised deliberation. Experimental platforms have emerged which utilise novel design, argument visualisation, and machine learning to support large scale deliberation. The fields of informal logic and collective intelligence have been influential on the developments of these platforms. But the platforms and the perspectives that influence them have been neglected by wider research into online deliberation. The thesis seeks to address the question: to what extent can developments in informal logic and collective intelligence address problems in the theory and practice of online deliberation? The theoretical analysis explores the insights that emerge from a comparison of the approaches of informal logic, collective intelligence and deliberative democratic theory. Models of argumentation and reasonableness from collective intelligence and informal logic reveal ways in which deliberative theory is under-defined, as well as providing techniques to structure, support and analyse deliberative processes. The empirical element draws together and analyses the experiences of online deliberation practitioners to provide a deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges ICT presents for democracy. These novel technologies indicate how challenges associated with knowledge coordination, participant behaviour and information overload can be ameliorated. Yet analysis of the platforms also identifies resourcing, recruitment, collective attention and the application of AI as barriers to developing effective online deliberative spaces.


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