Democratic thinking

Articles on democracy in the independent online media

September 25, 2005

Talking democratically

Can unmediated, massive-scale debate between peers in a networked society really change democratic practice?

Blogs are an obvious recent landmark in this revolution. Their one-to-many broadcast capability appeals in a media culture that celebrates celebrity and individualism. Meanwhile, openDemocracy’s discussion forums have been learning to debate democratically since 2001. As a many-to-many broadcast system, forums lack some of the peculiar satisfactions of blogs. But they have their own delights to offer. As openDemocracy’s community has grown, so have its character, robustness and identity. At their best forums offer a genuinely challenging diversity of interests, dynamics and styles. But at their worst discussion forums can descend into an online form of bar-room brawl.

Sarah Lindon sheds the skin of her role as forum moderator and draws on her experience to attempt a theory of democratic conversation.

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