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Deliberative democracy via cyberspace : A study of online political forums in Taiwan

Pai, Ching-Fen 2010. Deliberative democracy via cyberspace : A study of online political forums in Taiwan. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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The emergence of the Internet ignited new hope for those aspiring to reinvigorate democracy, especially online political forums whose discursive nature seemingly offers the possibility of deliberative democracy. This thesis aims to explore whether online political forums are capable of contributing to public deliberation in Taiwan's context. Three forums have been chosen in this study, Yahoo Political Forum, Palm BBS and The Presidential Office Forum, respectively sponsored by a commercial website, an academic institution and the government. The complete research project has two branches of inquiry, one focuses on the analysis of the messages published in the forums, and the other aims to comprehend online discussants' motivations, expectations and standpoints concerning online deliberation. Drawing on systematic content analysis and discourse analysis, the results reveal that 1) the discursive qualities are different amongst the three forums The Presidential Office's discussants tend to create their own topics, in contrast to the participants of Yahoo and Palm who rely very much on journalists' reports as sources of discussion topics 2) Current political tensions are amplified, and engender verbal conflict in Yahoo and Palm which thwarts the rationality of discussions 4) Driven by political efficacy, the participants in The Presidential Office prefer to communicate directly with bureaucrats. The analytic results from the in-depth interviews show that the discussants are encouraged and motivated to participate by the forums' anonymous character nevertheless, the lack of positive responses and encouragements gained from the extended environment causes the discussants to reward themselves by pleasing their individual demands. Public deliberation in online forums may be weakened by unequal access, irrational participants/actions and fragmentation of public discourse. In this study, online political forums do not yet constitute a virtual/alternative public sphere. Their deliberative function confronts identity politics and tensions between political groups, therefore, to talk politics online the boundaries and differences of the political diversity in Taiwan must be overcome.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
ISBN: 9781303189593
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:33

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