Designing Deliberation Systems
Type of work: Article (academic)
In a liberal democracy, the evolution of political agendas and formation of policy involves deliberation: serious consideration of political issues. Modern-day political participation is dependent on widespread deliberation supported by information and communication technologies, which also offer the potential to revitalize and transform citizen engagement in democracy. Although the majority of Web 2.0 systems enable these discourses to some extent, government institutions commission and manage specialized deliberation systems (information systems designed to support participative discourse) intended to promote citizen engagement. The most common examples of these are political discussion forums. Although usually considered trivial adaptations of well-known technologies, these types of deliberative systems are often unsuccessful, and present a distinct set of design and management challenges. In this article, the authors analyze the issues involved in establishing political deliberation systems under four headings: stakeholder engagement, Web platform design, service management, political process reshaping, and evaluation and improvement. We review the existing literature and present a longitudinal case study: the Norwegian Demokratitorget (Democracy Square). We define key issues in each of the four areas, which need to be understood to design and manage a successful net-based deliberation forum.