Institutions and discourse

Institutions deeply influence public conversations about political issues: enabling, structuring, and sometimes distorting or preventing people’s discussions. A few illustrative examples:

  • A privately owned social media platform that derives its revenues from advertising may be biased in favor of outrageous content that exacerbates polarization.
  • A nongovernmental organization, such as a church, a private school, or even a neighborhood association, may adopt rules that regulate speech more than a government would be allowed to do.
  • Journalists can contribute to public dialogue about issues, but full-time, professional journalism cannot exist without entities (public, for-profit, or nonprofit) that have resources that they choose to spend to employ reporters and editors.


  • Feeling Exposed in Online Class: Safety in the Virtual Civics Classroom
    Feeling Exposed in an Online Class is a case study from Justice in Schools. According to the summary: A civics teacher at a vocational school (MBO) in the Netherlands finds herself in an uncomfortable situation when a parent interrupts her lesson, furious at what she views as “indoctrination.” The teacher brings the problem to her … Continue reading
  • The Institutional Analysis and Design (IAD) Framework
    Contents Concept As stated on the Ostrom Workshop website: The Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework was designed by Ostrom and her colleagues from the Ostrom Workshop in 2005 to facilitate analysis of institution processes through which individual and collective choices occur. The IAD framework includes analyzing actors, norms, institutional settings, incentive structures, rules, and … Continue reading
  • Public Service–Spirited Media Takes on the Memory Wars
    “Public Service–Spirited Media Takes on the Memory Wars” by Peter Pomerantsev is a case “about how you can challenge bitter, cross-partisan divides in a society where disputes over history are weaponized by political forces, and where opposing groups live in separate media realities. The study follows a group of journalists and scholars in Ukraine who … Continue reading


  • Propaganda
    It is possible to deploy money, talent, expertise, fame, and/or ownership of communications media (such as a television network) to influence public opinion. All such examples of well-resourced persuasive communication could be defined as propaganda, regardless of quality or purpose. Some definitions of the word build in negative connotations, so that a helpful mass message … Continue reading
  • Ideology
    The “word” ideology is used at least three different ways in different intellectual communities or traditions: It can mean the politically relevant opinions that any person holds. In that sense, we all have ideologies, even if we happen to hold few political opinions. It can mean relatively organized, coherent, and recognizable systems of political belief, … Continue reading
  • Motivated reasoning
    People tend to prefer, recall, and emphasize facts that support ideas they already hold, and they doubt or marginalize facts that complicate or challenge those ideas. For example, as people obtain more education, their opinions of climate change correlate more with their political ideology. Conservatives become less likely to believe in climate change, and liberals … Continue reading
  • Jürgen Habermas
    Jürgen Habermas (1929-) is a German philosopher and sociologist, often seen as the leader of the intellectual movement called the “Frankfurt School” in its second generation, when he helped to shift it away from Marxism. He is often presented as a proponent and theorist of deliberative democracy, although he does not endorse all of the … Continue reading
  • Deliberative democracy
    A deliberative democracy is a system in which people discuss before they make decisions. In order for the system to be democratic, people must have reasonably equal power over decisions, which usually means that they each have one vote (although small groups may not using voting). In order for their discussions to qualify as deliberative, … Continue reading

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