Online Newspapers’ Readers’ Comments - Democratic Conversation Platforms or Virtual Soapboxes?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Online discussions between citizens have been subject to scholarly debate and several empirical studies for a substantial period of time. Scholars have envisioned these as potential venues for citizens’ deliberation. Often, however, empirical findings do not support these notions. The quality of discussion is often not up to the standards of truly deliberative discussions. Nonetheless, there are strains of evidence suggesting that online discussion venues applying facilitators, fixed topics and actively enforcing discussion rules, may avoid many of the problems with discussion quality. This article therefore examines whether readers’ comments on a Finnish newspaper’s website resemble democratic conversations. During the course of three weeks in spring 2010, we content analyze 300 reader comments. Our findings indicate that although there are strains of democratic conversations to be found in online reader comments, there are also many instances in which the opposite holds true. Online discussions between citizens have been subject to scholarly debate and several empirical studies for a substantial period of time. Scholars have envisioned these as potential venues for citizens’ deliberation. Often, however, empirical findings do not support these notions. The quality of discussion is often not up to the standards of truly deliberative discussions. Nonetheless, there are strains of evidence suggesting that online discussion venues applying facilitators, fixed topics and actively enforcing discussion rules, may avoid many of the problems with discussion quality. This article therefore examines whether readers’ comments on a Finnish newspaper’s website resemble democratic conversations. During the course of three weeks in spring 2010, we content analyze 300 reader comments. Our findings indicate that although there are strains of democratic conversations to be found in online reader comments, there are also many instances in which the opposite holds true.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)132–152
JournalComunicação e Sociedade
Volume23
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • public sphere
  • online deliberation
  • online reader comments
  • democratic conversations
  • quality of discussion

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