Electronic Participation (ePart) Conference

Direct Democracy Catalysed by Resident-to-Resident Online Deliberation

In the context of local civic governance, much of the interest in e-Participation concerns the extent to which online media might overcome the limitations of geography and scale, and so allow local interests to be better represented in institutionally driven participatory processes at national or regional level. In contrast, this study investigates the online deliberations of a local, geographically bounded community in a series of mailing lists that had originated from their own initiative and self-organisation. The interactions we observe challenges assumptions of democratic deliberation as mainly policy debate between citizens and government, or of lobbying administrative government. It also proposes a broader conception of the role of online deliberation in local governance, where instrumental decision-making and developing consensus is frequently over privileged in research.