Characterizing democratic deliberation in an online forum

Jess Kropczynski, Guoray Cai, John M. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The use of online forums to support civic discourses on local politics has gained momentum, but it is not clear whether such online conversations generate relevant outcomes for democratic decision-making. Empirical studies in online deliberation suggest that online forums often produce fragmented and unorganized public preferences when conversations occur naturally without facilitation. However, it remains unknown as to what degree an unfacilitated online forum can achieve desired quality. Here we report a detailed content analysis on local newspaper forums to reveal the patterns of progression towards the formation of public preferences in a local planning context. Towards this goal, we developed a new coding scheme that incorporates speech acts as indicators of deliberation quality and a progressive five-phase model of deliberative decision-making. Using this coding scheme, the selected newspaper forum was analyzed using a three-step procedure. Our results pinpoint portions of the observed dialogue where progress is not made towards advanced phases of deliberation due to failure to develop common ground and joint assessment of alternative courses of action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-165
Number of pages15
JournalInformation Polity
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Aug 31 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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