Edited by Stephen Coleman and Deen Freelon
Chapter 14: Everyday political talk in the Internet-based public sphere
Ever since the advent of the Internet, political communication scholars have debated its potential to facilitate and support public deliberation as a means of revitalizing and extending the public sphere. Much of the debate has focused on the medium’s potential in offering communicative spaces that transcend the limitations of time, space and access (and the traditional mass media)m whereby open communication, deliberation and exchange of information among the public can prosper. Following the initial enthusiasm over the possibilities of a more interactive and deliberative electorate, along with the cyber-pessimist response, a growing body of rich empirical research into online deliberation has arisen in its wake. In search of online deliberation, scholars have conducted a broad range of investigations, developing several prominent directions in the field. One popular line of research has been the study of informal political talk through the lens of public sphere ideals.The aim of this chapter is to detail and discuss this growing body of research and its significance. I begin by discussing what scholars mean by political talk and why it is thought to be essential for (a more deliberative) democracy. Following this, the major findings to date are set out, focusing specifically on three of the most common features of political talk investigated by scholars in the field. I discuss scholarly disagreement and offer my thoughts and critical reflection on the topic. Finally, the chapter ends with several recommendations for future research into informal political talk in the Internet-based public sphere.
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