Online debates among ordinary people discussing current affairs are typically viewed through the lens of political mobilisation and dismissed on various grounds – due to their unintelligibility, incivility, lack of argument or polarisation and fragmentation effects. It is believed that conversational discourses cannot meet the Habermasian conditions of deliberative democracy and therefore have little value, either for decision-makers or political democratisation. By providing empirical data from the analysis and comparison of three cases of real-life public debates that occurred on Russian-language online forums, this paper attempts to dispute the assumption that such discussions are non-deliberative. It is argued that the very conversational nature of online discussions might be their main value as a manifestation of active citizenship from below.
Language of contribution: English