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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Civic Life and Deliberation

Lance Bennett, Alan Borning, and Diane Douglas write at The Seattle Times:

The Internet and the technologies that connect people through it can provide access to vast and immediate information resources, diverse perspectives and person-to-person communication.

The newly released report, "2010 Civic Life in America," finds that the Internet also can be a boon to civic engagement. Residents of "Internet households" in America have a voting rate about 19 percent higher than that of non-Internet households, and those who go online on a regular basis are more likely to be involved in offline community activities as well.

At the same time, the Internet is hardly a panacea for creating a more civil society — indeed, much of the current online discussion about political matters is anything but civil. It is essential to design new technologies that help foster deliberation and respect while still maintaining vigorous debate and free speech.

CityClub, University of Washington's Center for Communication & Civic Engagement and its Department of Computer Science and Engineering collaborated to produce a new Web-based resource to advance digital democracy in Washington state. With funding from the National Science Foundation, we developed an online resource to promote community discourse and deliberation on the nine critical ballot measures before Washington voters this November.

Our Living Voters Guide invites all Washingtonians to discuss these vital ballot measures together, to explore one another's positions, and to build a personal, customized platform that will inform their final vote.