“How Deliberative Designs Empower Citizens’ Voices: A Case Study on Ghana’s Deliberative Poll on Agriculture and the Environment”

February 3, 2021 @ 12:00 pm

This is a past event. You can view the recording here.

Date/Time: February 3, 2021 – 12pm CT (6pm UTC)

Speaker: Kaiping Chen

Empowering ordinary citizens with the capacity to deliberate is a core issue in science communication. Despite growing deliberative practices in developed nations, it is significantly less understood how public deliberation can happen among populations who live with limited educational resources and poor urban infrastructure in developing countries. This article studied a case of a well-designed deliberation method, Deliberative Poll, in Tamale, Ghana. I analyzed the stimulus information video and thousands of speech acts from deliberation transcripts to examine how expertise was used and what was deliberated in public dialogue. A broad range of expertise and interests were represented. Participants had thoughtful discussions on complex policy issues and their discussion results were considered by local policymakers. This article contributes to our understanding of how to effectively foster public deliberation among populations in the Global South and measure the nuances of expertise and public reasoning on science.

Kaiping Chen is an assistant professor in computational communication in the Department of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an affiliate of the UW-Madison Robert & Jean Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies and the Center for East Asian Studies.

Chen’s research employs data science to examine how digital media and technologies affect political accountability to public well-being and how deliberative designs can improve public discourse on controversial and emerging technologies. Under the first research line, Chen revealed the strategies politicians use to manage and manipulate online citizen requests in democratic and authoritarian countries. Chen demonstrated how the promise of digital technology to empower citizens’ voices can be compromised by political interests and information burdens. Chen’s new projects under this line investigate how politicians respond to testimonies from scientists and manipulate science for political agendas. Under the second research line, Chen explores whether ordinary citizens have the capacity to engage in thoughtful discussion on complex policy issues when they are exposed to deliberative communication environments vs organic online platforms such as social media. Chen demonstrated that a deliberative process can foster people’s thoughtful discussion on well-being issues including food security, sustainable agriculture and environment, and public health. This thoughtful discussion can further increase civic participation in community development. Chen’s new projects further explore this line in two ways. One is about designing effective communication strategies (through deliberation and framing) to advance public understanding of highly complex science topics such as gene-editing and AI.  The other involves studying how to mitigate the spread of misinformation on science topics across digital platforms. Chen’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation. Her works have been published, or forthcoming, in peer-reviewed journals across disciplines including American Political Science ReviewPublic Opinion Quarterly, Public Understanding of Science, Journal of Science Communication, Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, International Public Management Journal, Frontiers In Sustainable Cities, and The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, among others.

Chen received her Ph.D. in Communication from Stanford University and earned her Master of Public Administration from Columbia University.

You can find a list of her publications on Google Scholar; for more information see her personal website: kaipingchen.com and follow her on Twitter @Kaiping_Chen