Learning to Do Democracy: Deliberative Capacity in Political Blogging Communities

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Virginia Tech

This thesis demonstrates that participants in Political Blogging Communities increase their deliberative capacity over time, potentially enabling them to participate in democratic societies. The study unifies perspectives on the meaning of blogs in American politics. It presents a unique theoretical framework that incorporates community and social learning literatures. The Internet is thought to potentially enable a revitalization of democracy because of its political and communicative properties. While studies have looked to deliberation in online forums, this study specifically targets Political Blogging Communities. Blogs have been targeted by a diverse range of scholars and methods that raise questions of their role in emphasizing the constitutional ideal of deliberation. Daily Kos and Red State are among the most popular political discussion sites, but are generally under-investigated in the literature. The theoretical framework and results presented here suggest that they are places where democratic capacity increases. A pilot study provided encouraging results. Because Political Blogging Communities talk about public issues, have several aspects of a supportive community, and feature contributions from ordinary people, they foster an adherence to deliberative norms. The sampling frame sought dedicated participants in an effort to approach the question of social learning over time. To address these questions, the deliberative content of 373 diaries from 20 authors at Daily Kos and Red State was hand coded. This Thesis makes two principal contributions: (1) it introduces a new measure that assesses deliberative quality is introduced, and (2) finds that the diversity of deliberative content in political blogs increases over time.

American Politics, Deliberative Democracy, Red State, Daily Kos, Habermas, Communication, Social Learning, Community, Internet, Democracy, Blogs, Deliberation