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Public Debate in the Digital Space : Comment sections as platforms for civic engagement in the digital public sphere

Sarapuu, Merilin LU (2017) MKVM13 20171
Media and Communication Studies
Abstract
With the emergence of the digital spaces, modern society has been witnessing the transformation of the public sphere, which is mostly altered by the new means of communication. Simultaneously, civic discussions that are taking place within the public sphere, are inevitably going through the same transformation and are now more and more often found in the digital spaces. This thesis is taking on the civic discussions by exploring comment sections as potential platforms for a political debate amongst citizens. More precisely, the aim of this thesis is to understand the potential and democratic value of civic engagement taking place in online spaces such as The Guardian and Facebook, and to understand the role of the platform as a possible... (More)
With the emergence of the digital spaces, modern society has been witnessing the transformation of the public sphere, which is mostly altered by the new means of communication. Simultaneously, civic discussions that are taking place within the public sphere, are inevitably going through the same transformation and are now more and more often found in the digital spaces. This thesis is taking on the civic discussions by exploring comment sections as potential platforms for a political debate amongst citizens. More precisely, the aim of this thesis is to understand the potential and democratic value of civic engagement taking place in online spaces such as The Guardian and Facebook, and to understand the role of the platform as a possible factor in promoting differences of the engagement between these spaces.
Relying on a qualitative content analysis, the thesis analyses and compares the comments of The Guardian’s news site and the comments on their Facebook page, which are derived from the same news content. This news content is an article about one of the most controversial and debated topics in the UK within the past year, that is Brexit. The content analysis highlighted the importance of three concepts when looking at this kind of online civic discussions – deliberative democracy, counter democracy and the notion of passion. While counter democracy and passion helped to untangle the motivations behind active online engagement to understand its potential, the democratic value of this kind of engagement was best understood through elements of deliberative democracy.
Thus, the thesis shows that these tree concepts could be used as an interrelated theoretical groundwork to explain the potential and value of this type of civic engagement as online discussions. In addition, comparison of the discussions on two platforms highlights large differences in how the three concepts are expressed and what potential different platforms have for a democratic debate. For example, comments on The Guardian’s site proved to be much more civilized and valuable for deliberating about a political issue than comments on Facebook. This indicates that the characteristics of the platform play a great role in how the discussions are shaped. (Less)
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author
Sarapuu, Merilin LU
supervisor
organization
course
MKVM13 20171
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
civic engagement, digital media, online commenting, public debate, deliberative democracy, counter democracy, passion, Brexit, The Guardian, Facebook
language
English
id
8906919
date added to LUP
2017-06-20 13:28:24
date last changed
2017-06-20 13:28:24
@misc{8906919,
  abstract     = {With the emergence of the digital spaces, modern society has been witnessing the transformation of the public sphere, which is mostly altered by the new means of communication. Simultaneously, civic discussions that are taking place within the public sphere, are inevitably going through the same transformation and are now more and more often found in the digital spaces. This thesis is taking on the civic discussions by exploring comment sections as potential platforms for a political debate amongst citizens. More precisely, the aim of this thesis is to understand the potential and democratic value of civic engagement taking place in online spaces such as The Guardian and Facebook, and to understand the role of the platform as a possible factor in promoting differences of the engagement between these spaces. 
Relying on a qualitative content analysis, the thesis analyses and compares the comments of The Guardian’s news site and the comments on their Facebook page, which are derived from the same news content. This news content is an article about one of the most controversial and debated topics in the UK within the past year, that is Brexit. The content analysis highlighted the importance of three concepts when looking at this kind of online civic discussions – deliberative democracy, counter democracy and the notion of passion. While counter democracy and passion helped to untangle the motivations behind active online engagement to understand its potential, the democratic value of this kind of engagement was best understood through elements of deliberative democracy. 
Thus, the thesis shows that these tree concepts could be used as an interrelated theoretical groundwork to explain the potential and value of this type of civic engagement as online discussions. In addition, comparison of the discussions on two platforms highlights large differences in how the three concepts are expressed and what potential different platforms have for a democratic debate. For example, comments on The Guardian’s site proved to be much more civilized and valuable for deliberating about a political issue than comments on Facebook. This indicates that the characteristics of the platform play a great role in how the discussions are shaped.},
  author       = {Sarapuu, Merilin},
  keyword      = {civic engagement,digital media,online commenting,public debate,deliberative democracy,counter democracy,passion,Brexit,The Guardian,Facebook},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Public Debate in the Digital Space : Comment sections as platforms for civic engagement in the digital public sphere},
  year         = {2017},
}