Capturing Citizens’ Values: On the Role of Narratives and Emotions in Digital Participation

Katharina Esau 1
  • 1 Institute of Social Sciences, Department for Communication Science, University of , Düsseldorf, Germany


This paper argues that social and political problems currently addressed by local governments through new forms of digital participation can be considered wicked problems, because they cannot be tackled through factual information alone. Addressing such problems means connecting diverse citizens’ values to empirically based and logically based arguments. The paper addresses the question of which role citizens’ personal narratives and emotions play in digital participation and how narratives and emotions articulate personal and social values. This line of inquiry is illustrated by two examples of digital participation on the local and regional level of democracy. The examples show that citizens’ narratives and emotional expressions articulate diverse values and value conflicts (e.g., security vs. universalism). Finally, the paper develops some preliminary ideas about how online argument mapping tools could be combined with value mapping.

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The Journal is devoted to the fundamental issues of empirical and normative social theory, and is directed at social scientists and social philosophers who combine commitment to political and moral enlightenment with argumentative rigour and conceptual clarity. Published articles develop social theorizing in connection with analytical philosophy and philosophy of science.