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Author Biography

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.

Abstract

This study uses discourse analysis from a Language and Social Interaction (LSI) perspective to analyze the personal stories that were told during the North Omaha Development Project (NODP) public meeting. Personal stories may not intuitively seem to be important in public meetings because they center on individual, personal experience, rather than discussing issues in public terms. However, stories help people to create and negotiate their identities, demonstrate their values, and indicate what actions ought to be taken to enact those values in meaningful ways. In the NODP public meeting, presenters and audience members told stories that demonstrated the important distinction between community members and outsiders, and offered competing notions of the community values and appropriate actions that should be taken to address neighborhood poverty. This analysis offers insights into how public participation scholars can view stories told in public meetings as well as practical implications for officials convening public meetings.

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