Creating a Democratic Public Sphere through Political Discussion

Creating a Democratic Public Sphere through Political Discussion

Steven M. Schneider (State University of New York, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-878289-86-5.ch008
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Abstract

Computer-mediated discussion is an increasingly popular method of engaging in political talk with other citizens. This article presents a case study of a Usenet newsgroup focused on abortion and discusses the creation of public sphere by the conversants. The notion of the public sphere is discussed, and measures allowing an assessment of its democratic character are proposed. A formula for estimating entropy is developed and applied to data obtained from the case study of an ongoing discussion. A high level of inequality in participation among conversants is noted, with very few of the discussants responsible for an extraordinarily high proportion of the content. This inequality, though tempered by analysis of the newsgroup on a day-to-day basis, calls into question the democratic character of the public sphere represented by this conversation.

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