top of page
< Back

Operationalizing democratic listening

Mary F (Molly) Scudder, Purdue University

Tue 5 November 2019

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


In order to capture the epistemic, ethical, or democratic benefits of deliberation, people must listen to one another. In fact, listening is constitutive of the deliberative act. Therefore, finding ways to evaluate listening is essential to the project of deliberative democracy. In this paper, I consider how to measure the act of listening in small-scale face-to-face deliberative encounters. Specifically, I tackle the observational challenge of measuring the act of listening itself, as opposed to listening outcomes. Prior work measures listening by focusing on narrow constructs like aural recall, or by emphasizing the outcomes we hope listening might bring about, such as responsiveness. I show that each of these measures, in isolation, is inadequate and fails to capture the most democratically meaningful aspects of listening. I go on to explain, however, that these measures can be usefully combined into a lexical scale that captures different degrees of, or steps toward democratic listening. I also propose new measures to include within such an index, including the perception of speakers themselves, whether they feel as if others have listened to them.

About the speaker

Dr. Mary F (Molly) Scudder is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Purdue University. She received her PhD from the University of Virginia. She specializes in democratic theory, especially practices of citizenship and the conditions of meaningfully democratic deliberation in contexts of deep difference. She has published articles in Polity and Political Studies and is currently wrapping up work on a book investigating how citizen listening can move deliberation in the direction of greater democracy.

bottom of page