Equality of Participation Online versus Face to Face: An Analysis of the Community Forum Deliberative Methods Demonstration

19 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2015 Last revised: 21 Aug 2015

See all articles by Eric Showers

Eric Showers

Stanford University - Center for the Study of Language and Information

Nathan Tindall

Stanford University - Center for the Study of Language and Information

Todd Davies

Stanford University - Symbolic Systems Program; Center for the Study of Language and Information

Date Written: June 9, 2015

Abstract

Public deliberation involves informed discussion by groups of citizens, representing a general public. Such groups are sometimes convened by decision makers or nongovernmental organizations as inputs to public policy. These groups have traditionally met face to face (F2F), requiring considerable time and expense. Online deliberation environments may provide a more cost-effective and/or less inhibiting environment for public participation. But do online deliberation methods (e.g. discussion boards or Internet-enhanced teleconferences) bias participation toward certain individuals or demographic groups? We compare F2F versus online contribution levels of participants in a large-scale, random assignment, U.S. deliberation experiment that allows for within-participants and cross-modal comparisons. For English speaking adults who were required to have Internet access as a condition of participation, we find no negative effects of online modes on equality of participation (EoP) related to gender, age, or educational level. An asynchronous discussion board/forum appears to have improved EoP for gender relative to F2F discussion. The data suggest a dampening effect of online environments on black participants, as well as amplification for white participants. Synchronous online voice communication EoP is on par with F2F across individuals (measured by Gini index). But individual-level EoP is much lower in the online forum, and greater online forum participation predicts greater F2F participation for individuals. Measured rates of participation are compared to self-reported experiences, and other findings are discussed.

Keywords: public deliberation, participation equality, discursive equality, e-participation

Suggested Citation

Showers, Eric and Tindall, Nathan and Davies, Todd R., Equality of Participation Online versus Face to Face: An Analysis of the Community Forum Deliberative Methods Demonstration (June 9, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2616233 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2616233

Eric Showers

Stanford University - Center for the Study of Language and Information ( email )

210 Panama Street
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Nathan Tindall

Stanford University - Center for the Study of Language and Information ( email )

210 Panama Street
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Todd R. Davies (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Symbolic Systems Program ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-2150
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.stanford.edu/~davies

Center for the Study of Language and Information ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-4115
United States

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