Madisonian Democracy without Madison Avenue
January 22, 2007 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Deliberative Polling®, developed by Professor James S. Fishkin, is a technique which combines deliberation in small group discussions with scientific random sampling to provide public consultation for public policy and for electoral issues. Since deliberation is good for civic health, this model has also been floated as a fourth branch of government: Deliberation Day. This proposal has met with some criticism. (Many links are pdf.)
posted by anotherpanacea (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
James S. Fishkin, I mean.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:58 PM on January 22, 2007

I think that guy's attempt to register the phrase Deliberative Polling ® is rather ambitious. I've had many professional discussions about the technique, with no idea that someone claims it as their own. Not particularly insightful of him (but a very important concept).
posted by wilful at 3:46 PM on January 22, 2007

I agree that the registered trademark is a bit not on. having said that, I saw Fishkin's talk at Networked Publics last year and came away both genuinely impressed and just a little bit encouraged that we might still pull some sanity out of this trainwreck of a civilization. It's good stuff.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:53 PM on January 22, 2007

I can't believe registered trademarks for new concepts are considered kosher in some academic disciplines. I had an adviser who had a lifetime goal of coining several words that would become widely used in science at least. One of them was aptamer, but I doubt it would have made it if he stuck a big fat ® after every appearance in the scientific literature (nor would many editors in the biomedical literature have stood for it).
posted by grouse at 3:54 PM on January 22, 2007

For what it is worth, I'm pretty sure he did coin the term, and has promoted it heavily since then (BBC and PBS specials, etc.) Anyone familiar with the field would recognize it as his pretty quickly. Definitely tacky (grouse: I don't think it is considered kosher by most political scientists), but it is legit.

Whether the idea actually works or not... I'm not sure you can really know, given the difficulty of measuring what it means for deliberation (or democracy, for that matter) to 'work'. I always felt it fell into the category of 'can't hurt to try'.

(Polisci degree, with a focus in deliberative democracy.)
posted by louie at 4:24 PM on January 22, 2007

(Well, I mean... in moderation. I didn't see the 'Deliberation Day' bit. That is crackrock. Not harmful, per se, just a waste of time.)
posted by louie at 4:28 PM on January 22, 2007

This conversation is instructive on why you do not try to trademark concepts you want other people to take seriously in the academic world. So far almost all the discussion has been about the tackiness of the trademark!
posted by grouse at 4:30 PM on January 22, 2007

They will be greeted as deliberators.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:46 PM on January 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Of course, I can't discuss his idea without a footnote that ® is an ® of ®, all ® ®d.
posted by anthill at 5:41 PM on January 22, 2007

Of more interest is the dark side of deliberation, including group polarization, augmentation of the hindsight bias, and the other stuff that deliberation is really good at: reinforcement of groupthink, informational cascades and the like. Sometimes a good idea in theory is balls in practice.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:31 PM on January 22, 2007

"Deliberative Polling is a registered trademark and fees from the trademark go to the Center to support research."

I think they trademarked it so they could keep control of the method, so it wouldn't get diluted by a lot really skewed, badly run polls, and then discredited. But yeah, tacky, which is why I left it in.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:02 PM on January 22, 2007

For instance, the charges of group polarization (as pointed out by Cass Sunstein) have been retracted; there's evidence that a properly run poll avoids it.

Sunstein, Cass R. 2003 "The Law of Group Polarization" In James S. Fishkin and Peter Laslett, eds., Debating Deliberative Democracy. Oxford: Blackwell.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:06 PM on January 22, 2007

I wonder how much Edward de Bono gets whenever a team 'Brainstorms' something?
posted by wilful at 6:11 PM on January 23, 2007

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