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.

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.

John Gastil (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin) is a Professor of Communication at the University of Washington, where he specializes in group decision making, political deliberation, and public scholarship. He is the principal investigator on The Jury and Democracy Project, which rediscovered the jury system as a valuable civic educational institution. Gastil has also contributed to the Cultural Cognition Project, which explores the cultural underpinnings of attitudes toward various public policy issues. Most recently, Gastil has worked with Australian colleagues to study the flow of ideas and arguments through the Citizens’ Parliament held in Canberra in February 2009. His published work includes the books Political Communication and Deliberation, By Popular Demand: Revitalizing Representative Democracy through Deliberative Elections, and The Group in Society, as well as numerous journal articles.


This concluding essay reflects on how the essays included in this special issue can help address some prevailing issues in public participation scholarship. We see three themes running through the contributions to this special issue that are particularly important for public participation scholars and practitioners to consider. These issues are: citizens’ distrust of public officials, concerns about who counts as a legitimate member of the community, and challenges related to the framing the process and goals of the meeting. In this concluding essay we summarize and reflect on the insights provided by the special issue contributions. We also look ahead to assess how these contributions can inform future public participation research and practice by illuminating the importance of communication practices and public meeting formats.