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Public deliberation in an era of communicative plenty

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This article introduces and develops the concept of ‘communicative plenty’ to capture the implications of the increasing volume of communication, both online and face-to-face, in contemporary democracies. Drawing on recent systems thinking in deliberative democracy, the article argues that communicative plenty can offer a viable context for large-scale public deliberation provided that: i) the spaces for voice and expression are accompanied by sufficient spaces of reflection and listening; and that ii) collective decisions involve sequencing of first expression, then listening and then reflection. To substantiate this proposal, two cases where conventional democratic practices were modified either formally or informally to promote greater listening and reflection are subjected to close empirical analysis. The analysis reveals that designing spaces of reflection and listening is a practical means to enhance public deliberation and so democracy, particularly in contexts vulnerable to an overload of expression and the democratic pathologies of communicative plenty.
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Keywords: citizen engagement; deliberative democracy; internet; listening; participation; political communication; reflection

Affiliations: 1: University of Canberra, Australia 2: Australian National University, Australia

Appeared or available online: 09 March 2018

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