Prompting Deliberation about Nanotechnology: Information, Instruction, and Discussion Effects on Individual Engagement and Knowledge

The 33-page article, Prompting Deliberation about Nanotechnology: Information, Instruction, and Discussion Effects on Individual Engagement and Knowledge (2017), was written by Lisa M. PytlikZillig, Myiah J. Hutchens, Peter Muhlberger, and Alan J. Tomkins, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 2. From the abstract, “Deliberative (and educational) theories typically predict knowledge gains will be enhanced by information structure and discussion. In two studies, we experimentally manipulated key features of deliberative public engagement (information, instructions, and discussion) and measured impacts on cognitive-affective engagement and knowledge about nanotechnology”. Read an excerpt from the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

There are many desirable potential outcomes of participating in public engagements. Learning outcomes are especially important because knowledge is a prerequisite to offering informed policy input, which may make the input more useful and influential (Guston, 2014; Muhlberger & Weber, 2006). Prior research suggests deliberative public engagements, in particular, may improve public understanding of science and technology by providing participants with opportunities to study relevant information as they form their preferences (e.g., Farrar et al., 2010). However, not all studies find positive effects of deliberation (Delli Carpini, Cook, & Jacobs, 2004; Ryfe, 2005), and even when effects are found, it is difficult for researchers to identify the mechanisms responsible (e.g., Sanders, 2012).

Experiments investigating the effects of specific features of public engagement are especially important for advancing theoretical understanding of what features of public engagements work for what purposes and why, and to guide the design of effective engagements (PytlikZillig & Tomkins, 2011). In addition, because of concerns relating to issues of equality and engagement (Benhabib, 2002), it is important to examine potential moderators. Not all publics have equal information or influence relating to political or policy issues, and little research has examined whether certain deliberative mechanisms favor some groups over others (Fraile, 2014; Hickerson & Gastil, 2008; Karpowitz, Mendelberg, & Shaker, 2012).

Deliberative engagements include features such as provision of balanced information, encouragement of deep cognitive engagement, and group discussion (Fishkin & Luskin, 2005). Theory suggests these features may promote increased knowledge and potentially more well-justified attitudes and policy preferences (Chambers, 2003; Mendelberg, 2002). However, there are numerous empirical gaps in these theorized connections. For example, despite the centrality of deep cognitive engagement to deliberative theory, few studies of deliberative practice explicitly measure cognitive engagement, or the variety of other ways people may engage. Even fewer attempt to causally connect different forms of individual engagement to specific deliberative design features and outcomes, such as increased knowledge or understanding.

To begin to fill this gap, in the present studies, we experimentally varied features of deliberation (information, instructions, and discussion), and measured the individual and combined impacts of these features on individual-level engagement and knowledge. Further, we examined potential moderation by two other variables: gender—which is a longstanding basis of political inequality (Benhabib, 2002)—and individual differences in need for cognition (the tendency to enjoy and use effortful and deep thinking processes (Cacioppo, Petty, Feinstein, & Jarvis, 1996)—a variable especially relevant to deliberation.

We conducted our studies in the context of engaging college science students in deliberations about potential ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) associated with nanotechnology. While the college classroom context is not representative of the majority of public engagement contexts, it is one such context, and one that facilitates controlled experimentation. In addition, findings from studies of the design of deliberative discussions in this context can specifically improve the use of deliberative practices when helping students consider ELSI implications of new science and technology developments—a practice which is increasingly encouraged (Barsoum, Sellers, Campbell, Heyer, & Paradise, 2013). Finally, findings in this context may suggest possibilities that should be investigated in other public engagement contexts.

Download the full article from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

About the Journal of Public DeliberationJournal of Public Deliberation
Spearheaded by the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in collaboration with the International Association of Public Participation, the principal objective of Journal of Public Deliberation (JPD) is to synthesize the research, opinion, projects, experiments and experiences of academics and practitioners in the emerging multi-disciplinary field and political movement called by some “deliberative democracy.” By doing this, we hope to help improve future research endeavors in this field and aid in the transformation of modern representative democracy into a more citizen-friendly form.

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

Follow the International Association of Public Participation [US] on Twitter: @IAP2USA

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol13/iss2/art2/

Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference Recap

Last week, NCDD Managing Director Courtney Breese and I had the pleasure of attending the Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference in the Phoenix area. The conference was hosted by NCDD member organizations – the Participatory Budgeting Project and the Jefferson Center, as well as, the Center for the Future of Arizona, the Katal Center, the Participatory Governance Initiative at Arizona State University, Phoenix Union High School District, and the Policy Jury Group.

It was three exhilarating days of mixing and mingling and learning with folks from across the world about the innovative practices going on to better engage our communities and improve participatory democracy. Huge shout out to PBP and all the co-hosts for such a great event, we heard from several people that this was one of the most engaging conferences they had attended.

NCDD was well represented at the conference with pre-conference trainings and several folks from the network who presented sessions:

    • Courtney and I presented a session with two fellow NCDD members, Cassie Hemphill (of the IAP2 Federation and University of Montana) and Annie Rappeport (of the University of Maryland), on Using art to explore participatory democracy work and connections.
    • There were two pre-conference trainings by NCDD member orgs: One on participatory budgeting (PB) hosted by the Participatory Budgeting Project, and another training on citizen juries, citizen assemblies, and sortition hosted by the Jefferson Center and the Policy Jury Group.
    • Our upcoming Tech Tuesday speaker, David Fridley of Synaccord, presented the session, Up for deliberation using digital tools, with Amy Lee of Kettering, John Richardson of Ethelo, and several others. [Learn more about Synaccord at our free Tech Tuesday webinar next week on March 20th – register here]
    • Martha McCoy of Everday Democracy held a session on Advancing Racial Equity in Government Planning and Participatory Democracy with Sarita Turner of PolicyLink and John Dobard of the Advancement Project.
    • Matt Leighninger of Public Agenda did a session with Patrick Scully of Participedia and Mark Warren from the University of British Columbia on What can we gain from better documentation of participatory democracy? And how can we do it together?
    • Jim Rough from the Center for Wise Democracy had a session with several others on Dealing with Global Democratic decline: What now?
    • The Participatory Budgeting Project held numerous sessions (too many to list here!) but you can check out the full conference schedule by clicking here.

We had an NCDD meet up on Friday night in Tempe, where we had a great opportunity to connect with folks in our network and those new to NCDD – all of whom are passionate about participatory democracy. It was nice to be able to have a chance to sit down over drinks, get to know each other better, and learn about the work going on in each of our lives.

At the conference, several things stood out:

It was incredible to be able to see the participatory budgeting process going on at Central High School in Phoenix and hear from the students, staff, and administrators themselves about the impact of PB in their school and on the psyche of the student body. This was year two for this PB process and the effort has grown to include all Phoenix high schools. (By the way, have you heard the incredible news that PB will soon be implemented in all NYC high schools – which is over 400 schools! Learn more here about this phenomenal accomplishment.)

It was so rewarding to be in attendance with so many folks from across the world, each bringing exciting experiences of participatory democracy and how to transform the way that people engage. Below are some examples shared at IPDConf and by no means is an extensive list of the incredible individuals in attendance and work being done!

  • Mayor José Ribeiro shared the exciting work going on in Valongo, Portugal to empower community members to be more participatory and some of the democratic policy initiatives that have been implemented in the area. “The job of perfecting democracy is a never-ending job” – Mayor Ribeiro
  • Courtney and I had the pleasure of befriending, Antonio Zavala of Participando por México and we had an opportunity to learn more about his work on participatory budgeting in México City.
  • Hsin-I Lin of Taiwan Reach-Out Association for Democracy shared about her organization’s work bridging intergenerational connections and the participatory budgeting going on in Taiwan.
  • During lunch on the first day, Courtney and I got to talk with Suzanne van der Eerden and Petra Ramakers from the Netherlands and learn about their techniques to make participatory budgeting even more fun with gamification.
  • Willice Onyango who is leading the Coalition for Kenya Youth Manifesto presented the session on Barriers to participatory governance and how we can contribute to international efforts to move the needle, with presenters Carrie O’Neil of Mercy Corps and Malin Svanberg.

The closing panel was an energizing close-out to a powerful conference, featuring a conversation on each of the panelists’ visions for the Future of Democracy led by incoming Co-Executive Director of the Participatory Budgeting Project, Shari Davis, with Sarita Turner of Policy Link, Carlos Menchaca the NYC Council Member for District 38, Ashley Trim of the Davenport Institute, and Josh Lerner, fellow PBP Co-Executive Director. Check out the hashtag #IPDConf2018 on Twitter for more photos, quotes, and participant experiences!

Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The 23-page issue guide, Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do? was published in January 2018 from National Issues Forums Institute and Kettering Foundation. The issue guide offers participants three options to use during deliberation on how to address current immigration to the US. The issue guide is available to download for free on NIFI’s site here and is also available in Spanish here, and there is a post-forum questionnaire for both languages.

From NIFI…

The immigration issue affects virtually every American, directly or indirectly, often in deeply personal ways. This guide is designed to help people deliberate together about how we should approach the issue. The three options presented here reflect different ways of understanding what is at stake and force us to think about what matters most to us when we face difficult problems that involve all of us and that do not have perfect solutions.

The issue raises a number of difficult questions, and there are no easy answers:

Should we strictly enforce the law and deport people who are here without permission, or would deporting millions of people outweigh their crime?

Should we welcome more newcomers to build a more vibrant and diverse society, or does this pose too great a threat to national unity?

Should we accept more of the growing numbers of refugees from war-torn regions, or should we avoid the risk of allowing in people whose backgrounds may not have been fully checked?

Should our priority be to help immigrants assimilate into our distinctively American way of life, including learning English, or should we instead celebrate a growing mosaic of different peoples?

The concerns that underlie this issue are not confined to party affiliation, nor are they captured by labels like “conservative” or “liberal.”

The research involved in developing the guide included interviews and conversations with Americans from all walks of life, as well as surveys of nonpartisan public-opinion research, subject-matter scans, and reviews of initial drafts by people with direct experience with the subject.

This issue guide placemat presents three options for deliberation:

Option 1: Welcome Immigrants, Be a Beacon of Freedom
This option says that immigration has helped make America what it is today- a dynamic and diverse culture, an engine of the global economy, and a beacon of freedom around the world.  It says that part of what defines America as a nation is the opportunity for all to pursue the American dream. We should develop an immigration policy that builds on that tradition by welcoming newcomers, helping immigrant families stay together, and protecting those fleeing from war and oppression.

Option 2: Enforce the Law, Be Fair to Those Who Follow the Rules
This option says we need a fair system, where the rules are clear and, above all, enforced. With an estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally, our current system is unjust and uncontrolled. In fairness to the long lines of people who are waiting to come to America legally, we must strengthen our commitment to border security, crack down on visa overstays, and introduce more stringent measures to deal with immigrants living here without authorization.

Option 3: Slow Down and Rebuild Our Common Bonds
This option recognizes that newcomers have strengthened American culture in the past. But the current levels of immigration are so high, and the country is now so diverse, that we must regain our sense of national purpose and identity. We should have a measured immigration policy—one that reduces the rate of immigration and assists newcomers as they become part of the American community. We need to find ways to accommodate newcomers without compromising our sense of national unity.

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NIF-Logo2014About NIFI Issue Guides
NIFI’s Issue Guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. By intention, Issue Guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

Follow on Twitter: @NIForums

Resource Link: www.nifi.org/en/issue-guide/coming-america

How Should We Prevent Mass Shootings in Our Communities? (NIFI Issue Advisory)

The 4-page issue advisory, How Should We Prevent Mass Shootings in Our Communities? was published September 2016 from National Issues Forums Institute and Kettering Foundation. The issue guide offers participants three options to use during deliberation on how to address the tragic realities of mass shootings that are occurring in our communities. The issue advisory is available to download for free on NIFI’s site here.

From NIFI…

The tragic attacks in Orlando, Florida, San Bernardino, California, and other places have raised concerns among many people across the nation. Other violent episodes, such as a teenager who was gunned down after returning home from the president’s inauguration, have also drawn attention. While mass shootings are infrequent, they may be increasing. Each event has devastating effects on the entire community.

Overall, the United States has become safer in recent years. Yet mass shooters target innocent people indiscriminately, often in locales where people ordinarily (and rightly) feel safe—movie theaters, college campuses, schools. How can we stop these violent acts and ensure that people feel safe in their homes and communities?

This issue advisory presents three options for deliberation, along with their drawbacks:

​Option 1: Reduce the Threat of Mass Shootings
The problem is that we are too vulnerable to violence. Communities and homes should be places where people are safe. The means for carrying out mass shootings are all around, and those who might perpetrate them are free among us. It is too easy for individuals to obtain weapons that are designed to kill a large number of people in a short time. We cannot stop all violent impulses, but we can and should make it much more difficult for people to act on them. We need to restrict the availability of dangerous weapons, identify potentially dangerous people, and prevent them from carrying out their plans.

Option 2: Equip People to Defend Themselves
The problem is that most people are unable to defend themselves against sudden danger from violence. There will always be some people who are a threat to those around them. In such situations, we cannot afford to rely on someone else to rescue us. We need to be prepared for violence and have the means to defend against it. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees this right.

Option 3: Root Out Violence in Society
The problem is that we live in a culture that perpetuates violence and numbs people to its effects. Violence and criminality are pervasive in popular music, films, television, video games, and sports. Mass murderers gain notoriety through nonstop media portrayals. This results in a culture in which stories of mass shootings circulate and gain momentum, increasing the likelihood of further shootings. We need to root out and stop the glorification of violence to break this cycle.

Note about this Issue Advisory
Recent horrific events involving mass shootings have touched a deep chord in many of us. Deliberative forums on this issue will not be easy. It will be important to remember, and to remind participants, that the objective of these forums is to begin to work through the tensions between security, freedom, and a healthy society.

Mass violence evokes raw emotions. Participants in this forum may become angry, and those with strong feelings may feel attacked by those who hold other points of view. This may sidetrack the deliberation. In productive deliberation, people examine the advantages and disadvantages of different options for addressing a difficult public problem, weighing these against the things they hold deeply valuable. This framing is designed to help people work through their emotions to recognize the trade-offs that each of us must wrestle with in deciding how to move forward.

The framework outlined in this issue advisory encompasses several options and provides an alternative means of moving forward in order to avoid the polarizing rhetoric now growing around the major policy options. Each option is rooted in a shared concern and proposes a distinct strategy for addressing the problem that includes roles for citizens to play. Equally important, each option presents the drawbacks inherent in each action. Recognizing these drawbacks allows people to see the trade-offs they must consider in pursuing any action. It is these drawbacks, in large part, that make coming to shared judgment so difficult—but ultimately, so productive.

One effective way to begin deliberative forums on this issue is to ask people to describe how the issue of mass violence has affected them or their families. Some will have had direct experience; many more will say they are affected by the fear of such acts. They are likely to mention the concerns identified in the framework.

The goal of this framework is to assist people in moving from initial reactions to more reflective judgment. That requires serious deliberation or weighing options for action against the things people value.

NIF-Logo2014About NIFI Issue Guides
NIFI’s Issue Guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. By intention, Issue Guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

Follow on Twitter: @NIForums

Resource Link: www.nifi.org/es/issue-guide/issue-advisory-how-can-we-stop-mass-shootings-our-communities-2016