A discourse analysis of audience deliberation in online forums on race-relevant news

  • Marthinus Conradie, Dr University of the Free State, South Africa
  • Susan Brokensha, Dr University of the Free State, South Africa
Keywords: Online deliberation, Discourse analysis, Content analysis, News discourse, User comments, Racism, Race


In a post-cyber-utopian world, scholars are aware that online discussions emanating from newspaper articles do not automatically exhibit democratic discourse. Against this background, we aim to delineate some of the main attributes of deliberative discourse in an online news site for the South African Mail & Guardian. We are particularly interested in determining how interlocutors justify conclusions through warrants. Warrants are discourse moves that link conclusions with evidence, and we examine their role in contesting the ideological productiveness of opposing arguments. Focusing on race-sensitive discussions, we combine a content- and discourse-analytic framework to identify the deliberative dynamics of warrants in online debates hosted by the Mail & Guardian. We argue that warrants, as a conceptual tool, offer a fruitful purchase on the enactment of deliberation in naturally-occurring settings. Moreover, they seem cardinal for the contestation of ideology, notably when deliberation is suffused with the analysis of power relations in highly-charged topics.


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