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Author Biography

James L. Leighter (Ph.D., University of Washington) is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Creighton University. Dr. Leighter is principally concerned with the ways in which local community decision-making occurs and how such decision-making is shaped and colored by culture and communication. He teaches undergraduate courses in cultural, group, interpersonal and public communication. Dr. Leighter currently works as a consultant, facilitator and researcher for the Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities. In these roles, he shares the Institute1s vision of more sustainable rural and urban communities across the state of Nebraska.

Laura W. Black (Ph.D., University of Washington) is an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University. She studies public deliberation, dialogue, and conflict in small groups and is specifically interested in how personal storytelling functions in public forums. Her research of public meetings, juries, and online communities aims to understand how scholars and practitioners can encourage high-quality public discourse while also promoting values such as respect, equality, and community. Her work has appeared in Communication Theory, Human Communication Research, Journal of Public Deliberation, Small Group Research, Political Communication, and several edited books.

Lynn S. Cockett (Ph.D., Rutgers University) is an Associate Professor of Communication at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA. Her research focuses on issues of identity and interaction, particularly in group contexts. Her most recent publications have appeared in the Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference on Cognition and Exploratory Learning the in Digital Age and Women and Language.

Leslie Jarmon (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin) was a Faculty Development Specialist and Senior Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin with the Division for Instructional Innovation and Assessment. Dr. Jarmon was Principal Investigator for the UT System’s statewide extension of operations into Second Life, a first-in-the-world initiative that includes 16 academic, medical, and health science university campuses, and thousands of students and faculty. She designed and taught graduate level courses at UT-Austin from 1998 to 2009 with the Office of Graduate Studies. She is perhaps best known for creating the world's first multimedia digital dissertation to be accepted entirely on CD-ROM in 1996. We are saddened to report that Dr. Jarmon passed away in November 2009. She will be greatly missed.

Abstract

This special issue of IJP2 attempts to build linkages between public participation scholarship and communication research that emphasizes close attention to naturally-occurring interaction. The essays all investigate different aspects of the communication that occurs during one public meeting: a public forum that focused on issues of economic development in Omaha, Nebraska. Through their investigation of this common case, the essays in this issue provide detailed description of some communication processes common to public meetings such as nonverbal communication, question and answer behavior, storytelling, the use of the term “community,” and the terms people use to talk about their own communication. These studies highlight how such interactive practices function in important ways to build or challenge notions of community, frame the purpose and outcome of the meeting, display power differences among participants, and clarify key community values. This collection of essays highlights how close attention to what happens during public meetings can have important implications for both the theory and practice of public participation. A full video of the meeting is available online.

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