Politics as usual? Revolution, normalization and a new agenda for online deliberation

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The suggestion that new media might revolutionize politics persists as one of the most influential and popular discourses.There has been a burgeoning scholarly response, often framed through the polarising 'revolution' and 'normalization' 'schools' (Davis, 2009; Margolis and Resnick, 2000).This article argues that the schism between revolution and normalization has negatively influenced subsequent empirical analyses of political conversation online (and of e-democracy studies more generally).First, it will argue that many scholars have failed to consider the nature of revolutionary change in any detail, tending to frame and interpret their research findings with the very technologically determinist accounts of revolutionary change of which they are so critical.Second, it will argue that the revolution/normalization frame has led researchers to disproportionately analyse existing political institutions and practices, often using narrow definitions of politics and normative underpinnings that simply may not be relevant in the context of new media.Finally, the article argues that the revolution/normalization frame may have led researchers to interpret their empirical data in an unduly negative way.Combined together the revolution/normalization frame can shape the selection of cases, the choice of research questions and how subsequent results are interpreted - with the danger that researchers are being unduly pessimistic about the prevalence and nature of political debate online.The critique will lead to a series of suggestions about how scholars can take online deliberation research forward.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-261
Number of pages18
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • e-democracy
  • normalization
  • online deliberation
  • political communication
  • politics as usual
  • revolution

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