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Direct deliberative local governance using online media – consensual problem solving or a recalcitrant pluralism?

By Rean Van Der Merwe and Anthony Meehan


This paper describes and analyses distinct patterns of 'governance conversation' observed in interactions on a discussion list that aims to support local, direct, governance in a geographically colocated community in South Africa. Although each pattern relates to governance, making 'binding decisions', which has been seen as a key attribute of deliberative democratic processes, is almost entirely absent from the observed interactions. Nonetheless, the exchanges appear to be relevant and useful to the broader process of local direct deliberative governance. We investigate the extent to which the patterns feature instrumental or expressive dialogue, and subsequently support consensual or pluralist outcomes. The results propose that online interaction is particularly suited to facilitating the pluralist deliberation required to manage complex local governance problems. The outcomes observed in the case study further suggest the potential value of an infrequently investigated context of online deliberation – that of citizen-to-citizen deliberation of geographically local issues; and presents a broader conception of the role of online deliberation in local governance, where formal decision making is frequently over privileged in research

Publisher: University of Leeds
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Open Research Online

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