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Local civic governance using online media – a case of consensual problem solving or a recalcitrant pluralism

Rean van der Merwe, Thursday 3rd June, 16:45 pm - 17:00 pm, Student Presentations 4, JLB Meeting Room 1

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31 May 2010

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2nd year PhD student who is doing his research in South Africa. Reporting on a specific case study on how communities use online social media. For example, if a community wants to make a decision on a village common.


Some people say let’s make a forum but does not think about the implications etc. of using this space. This would allow the open democracy.


Sometimes the technology reflects the hidden assumptions of the space. Online forums are abstract spaces.


Process of deliberation: instrumental – expressive scale and the pluralist-consensual scale.


The instrumental, consensual making process is usually more investigated in the literature and he was more interested in an ad-hoc way i.e. the pluralist-expressive side.

He analysed 680 discussion messages – and developed a contextual typology acts. He used grounded theory and the unit of analysis was a message within a conversation.

Patterns of conversation:

  1. Announcements (the reason why it was made in the first place)
  2. Feedback exchange
  3. Stakeholder coordination (after awhile – the community would collude to build a unified voice to send back to the announcer i.e. the government)
  4. Deliberative mediation : spot a problem in the community and then post it
  5. Deliberative engagement: person go and try a solution and then come back and re-engage (?) i.e. wicked problems

When people can’t solve something they revert to their norms and values to provide an expressive view.

There appears to be a lack of formal decision making on the forum but this does that mean there are no outcomes.


Did you identify any patterns of conversation would not occur in a face-to-face meeting? Only a few people could have made an announcement. The online forum reconnected the people. Yes some of the patterns you do see offline but they are different in kind.

How does this fit into your overall research question? Looking at the how the roles are shaped by the process and the technology and the affordances of the technology.

17:17 on 3 June 2010

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