Perspectives: Diana Mutz

6 04 2010

I recently came across this video interview with Diana Mutz. She is a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative Versus Participatory Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2006).

This brief interview segment raises some good questions and insights for P2 practitioners. I like that she acknowledges American citizens are “over-burdened” with participation; we simply cannot expect everyone to participate in everything! She also points out that people like to be with like-minded people – both in-person and on-line. So the challenge then becomes one of representative participation more than numbers. How do you tap into people’s inclination to discuss issues with people who hold similar views and achieve a robust discussion with multiple points of view?

Mutz points out that this inadvertently happens in “non-political” forums based on common interests when there is another topic uniting the group such as a sport, hobby, event or other activity. People don’t typically gather to discuss race, gender, class and other big issues; but these kinds of topics are raised in the course of conversation while watching a football game or meeting with a local club.

Mutz also sees opportunities for deliberative democracy on the internet; I would be interested to hear more specifics and more recent views given the evolution of social media.

Watch the video and let me know what you think … what insights speak to you as a P2 practitioner? What questions do you find engaging and relevant? Please comment with your reactions!