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Judging technical claims in democratic deliberation: A rhetorical analysis of two Citizens' Initiative Review panels in Oregon

John Rountree, University of Houston-Downtown

Tue 5 May 2020

11:00am - 12:00pm

Virtual seminar

Seminar recording is available on our YouTube channel.


Average citizens face difficulty evaluating competing expert claims in the public sphere, and the complexity of policy issues threatens citizens’ autonomy in democratic governance. This study examines how participants in a rigorous deliberative setting judge technical claims. It analyzes audio and transcripts from two intensive mini-public deliberations in the Citizens’ Initiative Review in Oregon. It shows how lay participants in these meetings rhetorically co-construct a standard of verifiability to evaluate expert claims. The study then reflects on what this emergent standard of judgment reveals about the potentials and pitfalls of lay deliberation concerning technical policy issues.

About the speaker

John Rountree ( is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown. He studies democratic deliberation, particularly as it brings together citizens and public officials in the public sphere. His dissertation looks at congressional town hall meetings and the opportunities for deliberative participation in national political life. John received his Ph.D. in Communication from Pennsylvania State University in 2019.

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