Effects of Comment Curation and Opposition on Coherence in Online Policy Discussion
Association for Computing Machinery
Public concern related to a policy may span a range of topics. As a result, policy discussions struggle to deeply examine any one topic before moving to the next. In policy deliberation research, this is referred to as a problem of topical coherence. In an experiment, we curated the comments in a policy discussion to prioritize arguments for or against a policy proposal, and examined how this curation and participants' initial positions of support or opposition to the policy affected the coherence of their contributions to existing topics. We found an asymmetric interaction between participants' initial positions and comment curation: participants with different initial positions had unequal reactions to curation that foregrounded comments with which they disagreed. This asymmetry implies that the factors underlying coherence are more nuanced than prioritizing participants' agreement or disagreement. We discuss how this finding relates to curating for coherent disagreement, and for curation more generally in deliberative processes.