Professor Jane Suiter is member of the EuComMeet project consortium leading Work Package 7: “Making people more reflective”. Professor Suiter is professor in the School of Communications at Dublin City University and Director of the Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society (FuJo). Her expertise lies mainly in the information environment in the public sphere and her current research focus is on deliberation and on disinformation.
She is co-PI on the Irish Citizen Assembly (2016-2018; 2020-2021) and the Irish Constitutional Convention (2012-2014) and a founder member of We the Citizens (2011), Ireland’s first deliberative experiment. Prof. Suiter is a member of the Research Advisory Group on the Scottish Citizens’ Assembly, a member of the OECD Observatory on the Future of Democracy. She is the joint Winner of the Brown Democracy Medal 2019 and was awarded the honour of the Irish Research Council’s Researcher of the Year 2020.
What are your goals and role in the EuComMeet project?
Our research group is responsible for WP7 (Working Package) which is aimed at studying the conditions under which democratic deliberation between individuals of diverse political views can foster better thought-through and more reflective political beliefs and attitudes. Against the backdrop of the raging political polarization in many democracies across the world, studying this question matters not only for advancing the state of the art but also contributing to effective policymaking that can bridge the political divide. If we better understood the mechanisms via which deliberation can help people to engage in a kind of political reasoning that is not egocentric and biased, but other-regarding and reflective, we will be able to design appropriate institutions which can foster higher quality political choices.
How such goals can be framed in the broader debate on the role of deliberative democracy?
Deliberative democracy has been theorized to have several important goals and functions (e.g. emancipatory, ethical, epistemic, transformative, legitimacy-producing) when it comes to improving and/or complementing representative democracies. Motivating citizens to arrive at better political choices constitutes one such function. Reflective political judgements are at the heart of very idea of representative democracy – whereby citizens are assumed to have thought of and weighted the pros and cons of an issue, candidate or party, before making political judgements. The challenge of deliberative democracy, however, is whether reflection-inducing effects of democratic deliberation can extend beyond the small number of participants to a larger public. This is the question we will tackle in our working package.