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Abstract

During the past fifteen years, public deliberation has become an important focus of research, theory, and public practice. This has sometimes led to a variety of narrow conceptualizations that limit deliberation to particular forms of interaction, such as small group discussion, or to divergent conceptualizations deployed in different contexts, such as for media systems versus face-to-face discussions. To address this problem, we advance a flexible yet precise definition of deliberation that has the power to organize not only deliberation theory and research but also much of the larger body of work in political communication. As defined herein, deliberation includes both analytic and social processes and provides a unifying conceptual and critical framework for studying nearly the full range of political communication topics, including informal conversation, media and public opinion, elections, government institutional behavior, jury decision making, public meetings, and civic and community life. Using our flexible conceptualization, each of these research contexts amounts to a kind of deliberative critique and empirical analysis of public life.

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