In politics, deliberation is used to involve the citizens in solving a problem or in public decision making so that it’s not just experts making the decisions. Together with facilitators, the following can be achieved by the citizens:
- Be informed about the issue
- Talk with each other instead of past each other
- Learn different perspectives
- Discover key tensions and values
- Create unique and new ideas
- Make decisions
Not Politics As Usual
Unfortunately, it seems like the political system rewards bad communication more than it punishes it. The way campaigns are framed simplify issues as if it’s easily solvable. Leaders should learn how to see these concerns as complicated matters rather than simple ones.
Deliberation is essential in democracy and community politics as it unites people despite differing opinions. It allows them to learn how to make decisions despite that and reveal opportunities that weren’t visible before.
A Communication Practice
Communication scholars often take an interest in studying deliberative democracy. This is far from the usual non-contradictory arguments used in modern political debates, which usually simplifies a complex issue. Ideal perspectives try to seek out different opinions, rely on facts, consider the value dilemmas present in a problem, and use a structured discussion to reach a proper judgment. Deliberation differentiates itself from dialogue by asking them to go beyond that and look at the costs and trade-offs when making a decision.
How Many Sides Are There?
It can be two or three. With gun control, it can be the issue of those who advocate it and those who support the right to bear arms. It can also be about how the media affects mental health.
You could try to think of more sides, with four or five more ways, to an issue but it will be difficult since the brain like to believe in a good-versus-evil way. While it’s easy to think that there’s everything is black and white, issues are more complicated than that.
These are called wicked problems because one would need to consider multiple values and opinions to solve it. Solutions can fail despite having good decisions because the people affected by the decision weren’t included in the process. Below is an example of this.
The Well-Intentioned Flop
An office wants to save on their electricity usage and thus used a light switch in the bathroom that has a timer. Every time someone uses the bathroom, they can choose the amount of time the light will stay on allowing it to stay off after some minutes.
But what happens instead is that employees keep the lights on for an hour before it shuts off because they don’t want the lights to turn off while they’re using the bathroom. Constantly switching the light also brings up issues of hygiene.
The issue required more than just installing a new switch as it needed factors like the efficiency and cleanliness to be considered.
Traditionally, wicked problems can’t be solved because they include vital tensions. This means people have to choose between two good options, requiring them to balance their decision-making.
Considering issues as wicked helps in solving them rather than thinking in a pro or anti-manner. However, it can be tempting as it can help people see them as good while the opposing side as the evil. These factors can be considered when reframing the situation:
Weighing The Tradeoffs
Although they’re all positive, there needs to be a trade-off as you can’t have everything. Using one thing can increase your safety but decrease the convenience. Deliberation helps the community to understand these fundamental values and tensions in a specific issue as well as to understand each other’s perspectives.