link footer
John Gastil Portrait


Communication Arts & Sciences and Political Science Senior Scholar, the McCourtney Institute for Democracy
The Pennsylvania State University


content header


Topic Map

Research Topic Map Civil society and protest groups Communication in small groups The Australian Citizens' Parliament Jury behavior The Democracy Machine (online platform) The Group in society Democracy in Small Groups Civic Engagment The Jury and Democracy Group Decision Making Governance Theory and Practice of deliberative democracy Political Communication and Deliberation Delib. Democracy Handbook Democracy in Motion By Popular Demand The Citizens' Initiative Review Public forums, civic education, political socialization Direct Democracy
Sortition as an alternative to elections Public opinion and civic attitudes Public Opinion and Atts. Elections Cultural Cognition Project Voter Behavior, election dynamics, and campaings


This term has become popular as a way of shifting attention away from formal institutions of government and toward the wider array of people and processes involved in governing. 

For my purposes, this means looking at how elections shape the public policies we create--both directly through initiative and referenda and indirectly through the varieties of executives, legislatures, and judiciaries electorates build. A variety of vehicles through which I have addressed these and related issues can be found under Direct democracy (initiatives and referenda). I most directly address these issues in By popular demand, with the ideas contained therein manifesting themselves in the Citizen Initiative Review process I helped to implement in the state of Oregon in 2009. I also question whether elections are the tool best designed to allocate representative positions; could sortition, although intuitively un-American, ultimately be more democratic?

More generally, good democratic governance requires citizen deliberation, as it enables citizens to determine their collective preferences so that they may be adequately communicated to and subsequently acted upon by representative institutions; I show these connections in Political communication and deliberation. Civil society and protest groups contains my findings on the relationship between protest initiated by the small group and its impact on the process of governance.
The Australian Citizens Parliament represents today the most ambitious attempt to interweave citizen deliberation directly with democratic governance with the intent of bettering decisions and their subsequent outcomes, while the Democracy Machine is an on-going project that will act as a digital hub serving to integrate a variety of already-existing forms of direct engagement to improve efficiencies in preference communication and, therefore, democratic governance.

content footer