Tag Archives: deliberative democracy

Lim, M. & Kann, M.E. (2008). Politics: Deliberation, mobilization, and networked practices of agitation. In _Networked Publics_, K. Varnelis, ed. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Merlyna Lim, PhD, Science & Technology Studies and Technology & Development from the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands, is Assistant Professor in the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes and the School of Social Transformation – Justice and Social Inquiry Program at Arizona State University. She researches information and communication studies (ICT), particularly the social shaping of the Internet in non-Western contexts.

Mark Eliot Kann, PhD, Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is USC Associates Chair in Social Science and Professor of Political Science and History at USC. He researches earlier American political thought and gender studies.

In this chapter, Lim and Kann consider the democratic modes on the Net: deliberation, citizen involvement in discourse, and mobilization, the development of expansive social networks. They compare Habermas’ (1998) Between Facts and Norms and Rawls’ (1995) Political Liberalism, the two 1990s contributions to the deliberative democracy debate. The former upholds a renewed public sphere that’s based on equitable, inclusive, public deliberation. The latter assumes people have different ideas about the common good, so the institution of deliberative democracy requires a knowledgeable and reasonable citizenry that can advocate for particular policies.

However, not all forums on the Net reflect either of these concepts and are instead in turns “uncivil, anarchic, and even undemocratic” (80). While they agree with Henry Jenkins’ view that amateurs spreading their media and engaging in participatory culture “is an important aspect of democracy in contemporary society” (99), they are slower to call it democratic: “it is convivial” (ibid). Some may consider blogs to be change catalysts, but in truth blog readership is uneven and the blogs themselves to be politically polarized.

For democratic action to take place (in the literal sense of the word), Internet initiatives won’t suffice. They must be done in coordination with “other media networks, as well as between cyberspace and geographical place” (90).

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Media Literacy, Minor Field, Public Space, Research Fields

Itō, M. (2008). Introduction. In _Networked Publics_, K. Varnelis ed. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Mizuko (Mimi) Itō, PhD in Education and Anthropology from Stanford University, is the Research Director of the Digital Media and Learning Hub at the University of California Humanities Research Institute, as well as Professor in Residence and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning in the Department of Anthropology and Department of Informatics at UC Irvine. She is a cultural anthropologist who studies new media use, specifically among young people in the U.S. and Japan.

In the introduction to Kazys Varnelis-edited Networked Publics, Itō explains “networked publics” refers to “a linked set of social, cultural, and technological developments that have accompanied the growing engagement with digitally networked media” (2).

Neither “audience” nor “consumer”, “publics” evokes a more participatory engagement and the possibility for a convergence culture, one that acts from all sides and angles (Jenkins, 2006).

The book’s diverse contributors discuss place, culture, politics, and infrastructure. Within these larger themes, they drill down to consider accessibility, the decentralization of communication networks the implications, aggregation, Internet privacy, the net neutrality debate, intellectual property in the creative industries, and what function the Net serves in the deliberative democracy discourse. (The book’s focus is the U.S. since it continues to play a leadership role in Internet communications [though there are some leapfrogging countries].)

The Internet is, as Barnett (2004) puts it, neither poison nor cure. While larger numbers are “domesticating networked digital media for their ongoing business, for socialization, and for cultural exchange” (1), the digital divide is “resilient” (7), owing to the consistent technological advances. Catch up in hard in such conditions.

This book concerns not new technologies, “but rather on longstanding social, cultural, technical, and material domains” (4).

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Mitchell, D. (1995). The End of Public Space? People’s Park, Definitions of the Public, and Democracy. _Annals of The Association of American Geographers_, 85(1): 108-133.

Don Mitchell, PhD Geography, Rutgers University, is Distinguished Professor at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. His specialties comprise: cultural, urban, and historical geography, public space, landscape, labor, social theory, and Marxism. His publications are grouped thusly: on landscape and laborers; on public space, radical politics and marginalized peoples; on culture, geography, and general trouble making. He approaches these three areas of study through a broadly Marxist, and certainly radical and materialist, framework, starting from the position that scholarship and political commitment cannot be divorced.

Mitchell recounts the controversial decision for UC Berkeley leadership to partner in 1989 with the City of Berkeley to wrest the People’s Park from its marginalized users and turn control over to middle-class and student interests, who believe the conservative argument that in order for public spaces to work, they must be safe, orderly. From the 60s through 80s, Cal students became increasingly conservative, actively avoiding the space, though one official admitted the park was no more dangerous than anywhere else. It was just a matter of perception.

“Activists see places like the Park as spaces for representation. By taking place, social movements represent themselves to larger audiences” (125).

Following Lefebvre’s (1991) two visions of public space, Mitchell argues this is a battle between the City’s desired the park’s representations of space — planned, controlled, orderly — and the park’s experienced representational space — appropriated, lived-in, used for and by the homeless. Without this park and like public spaces, these and all similarly affected homeless struggle and fail to “represent themselves as a legitimate part of ‘the public'” (115). Theirs is a “double-bind” (118) in that they are at once too visible and too defenseless against the interests of late capitalism.

Bringing Fraser’s (1992) subaltern counterpublics to earth, Mitchell avers public space “constitutes an actual site, a place, a ground within and from which political activity flows” (117). In the contemporary city, meanwhile, privatization has been prioritized, evoking Sorkin’s (1992) “disneyfication” of the United States. Boyer (1992) proposes that even diversity in a public space is often artifice: “territorial segregation created through expression of social difference has increasingly been replaced by a celebration of constrained diversity” (120).

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Kenny, S. (2010). Towards unsettling community development. _Community Development Journal_, 46(Supplement 1): i7-i19.

Sue Kenny is Associate Professor, Director of the Centre for Citizenship & Human Rights, and School of Social Inquiry at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia. She researches community organizations, community development, and capacity building. Her specific research interest areas are: civil society, third sector, sociology of human rights, risk society, uncertainty and globalization, community development, and community studies.

Community development is paradoxical. It entails multiple objectives and contested processes, it upholds and struggles against extant power relations, and it operates at local, national, and international levels. So rather than set an overdetermined form of community development established around the ideas of “social maintenance and defensive active citizenship” (i7), we need a community development that is “unsettled and edgy” (ibid), demanding “critical, proactive, visionary, cosmopolitan and active citizens who are prepared to challenge the existing power relations” (ibid). We need to work within a new third sector, not comfortable, but engaged in deliberative democracy, critical and proactive citizen-making.

There is a lot of literature on the “practices, visions, and ideological contexts of community development” (i7-8), but less on the formal institutional settings (e.g. state, third-sector organizations, sometimes corporate), and even less on those third-sector organizations (e.g. voluntary associations, NGO, community organizations). The discourse pervading community development is determinedly normative, Leftist, and pro-human rights. However, the third-sector approach embraces a third way, both neoliberal in approach and Left-leaning. The emphasis is on the management, rather than the empowerment of, local enterprises.

If we want an “active” citizenry, we need to think about what is, exactly, our conception of “citizenship.” It involves thinking about membership in society, construction of identity and loyalty, support of members (our rights), and contribution to society itself (our obligations). “Active citizens are autonomous, self-conscious beings who are concerned to shape their own destiny” (i9). Community development needs these active citizens because they collaborate for the improvement of their communities.

So what does this mean? Consider four ideal types and their functions of active citizenship: (1) maintenance of existing, asymmetrical social relations (volunteering through third-sector organizations); (2) individualized self-help(ing) that foregrounds individual agency and entrepreneurialism (e.g. neoliberal organizations); (3) defensive opposition, which is oppositional, yes, but within the terms of the prevailing power structures (e.g. letter writing, radio call-ins); and (4) visionary active citizenship, “proactive rather than reactive” (i10).

This mode looks for alternative options and new processes, often adopting deliberative democracy. Cutting across all four typologies are the following aspects of active citizenship:(1) citizenship relates to perceptions about actions or proceedings, (2) the citizen’s interests can be about local, regional, national, global issues, (3) citizens might speak out on their own behalf or others’, and (4) citizenship can be individualistic or collaborative. This matters because community development presupposes the latter form.

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