'Guns, an American conversation'

'Guns, an American conversation'

Englisch

 

 

Guns, An American Conversation

‘Guns, An American Conversation’ is a dialogue journalism experiment in which citizens from across the United States with opposing views on the issue of gun control came together to engage in civil civic dialogue in a moderated environment.

Purpose and Problems

This experiment was an attempt to initiate dialogue amongst communities over gun control in the United States, a subject that attracts widespread attention and an array of stances that are often drastically dissimilar. It created an understanding as to where people’s personal views have stemmed from and why. Facilitator John Sarrouf of Essential Partners stated the experiment was about sharing your own and listening to other’s ‘personal complexities’ to illustrate that people were more than just their view on the issue of guns.[i]

This was introduced to address the ongoing conflict in the United States as a result of the reoccurring tragedies of gun violence, in particular mass shootings in schools. A middle ground solution has become near impossible to reach as polarization increases, thus leading to a decline in civic dialogue. The often insensitive and aggressive nature of politics that citizens have become accustomed to has made communication an alien concept and ‘stands in the way of progress’.[ii]

What also solidifies the rigidity of the individual belief further is the filter bubble issue. As people obtain more knowledge from online, news exposed to the individual become filtered to their personal preference and ‘relevance’. A filter bubble makes it seem as though the view of the user is the only view and will seldom be challenged by opposing views.[iii] The conversation acts as a social media experiment that avoids the issue of the filter bubble as it includes a variety of contrasting views and brings together ‘communities of people who were not talking at all or at least not productively’.[iv]

Background History and Context

The guns conversation initiative was organised in response to continuing civil unrest which was amplified after the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida where 17 people were killed and 14 injured.[v]  There have been over 52,000 incidences of gun violence recorded in 2018, 13, 530 deaths and 325 mass shootings[vi], figures that will only increase by the end of the year.

This was not the first time that dialogue journalism was used to open communication in the United States. The name ‘Dialogue Journalism’ was made by Spaceship Media, an organization dedicated to ‘supporting meaningful civic dialogue and easing polarization’.[vii] Spaceship Media had previously organised private conversations in Facebook groups following the 2016 Presidential Election between two groups of 50 women (one group from Alabama who voted for Trump and the other from San Francisco Bay Area who voted form Clinton) who then talked about a broad range of issues and their differing opinions on each topic.[viii] This was called the ‘Talking Politics’ project.

Organizing, Supporting and Funding Entities

The Guns conversation project originated from Advance Local, the 9th largest news organisation in America, who then partnered with Spaceship Media, Newseum, Essential Partners, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and Time.[ix]

Advance Local worked to recruit the first 21 candidates for the two-day intense workshop meeting that took place in the Newseum in Washington D.C. The 21 candidates were then joined by a further 130 candidates where discussion then moved to a closed Facebook group. Advanced local worked to select candidates that came from a variety of different backgrounds and carried different personal beliefs that spanned ‘across the political divide’.[x] Through the use of facebook, they gave facts and reports on recent events and provided information on a range of issues on the command of the participants.

Essential Partners were recruited due to their experience in bringing peace to subjects of conflict and working with groups to build healthy relationships. Parisa Parsa and John Sarrouf (directors of Program Development and Strategic Partnerships) taught selected candidates ‘effective partner exercises’ and how to effectively relay their grievances/questions in a way that allowed the topic to be discussed in depth.[xi]

Participation, Recruitment and Selection

The guns conversation was not an initiative open to all. As previously mentioned, Advance Local first recruited candidates that came from all over the United states, bringing with them their own views and personal experiences with guns. Participants ranged from victims of gun violence, teenagers, mothers, ex-offenders, lawyers and hunters. Although small, the group then expanded to 150 and contained a significantly diverse spectrum of political ideologies regarding guns. By doing so, the organisers were able to capture a broader range of voices on the issue of gun violence that had previously been drowned out.[xii]

Advance Local asked their readers whether there was an interest in communicating with each other on the issue of gun violence through dialogue and in response, 1000 people expressed their enthusiasm as well as the role guns played in their personal lives. Candidates selected were asked by Advance Local what could be done to reduce gun violence with answers being rated from ‘very pro-guns’ to ‘very pro-gun control’. 51% of the 150 participants in the Facebook conversation took either a strong pro-gun or pro-gun control stance while the rest was a collective of those who had a neutral view or were ‘somewhat’ inclined one way or the other. [xiii]

Methods and Tools Used

The foremost method used to successfully carry out the guns conversation imitative was the use of ‘dialogue journalism’. The outcome of this method is to harness the way in which journalism is used to better democracy by opening a platform for civic communication and reduce polarization that has previously prevented dialogue regarding the controversy of gun violence. A ‘structed environment’ was created where not only participants were able to express their view without the insults that are so frequently spouted in a polarized nation but were also able to communicate their point or question with up to date articles and news provided by the journalists involved.[xiv]

Moderation was a significantly effective tool used by the journalists at Advance Local. Seven moderators worked first to build personal relationships by initiating introductions from participants and the outcome they hoped for. They established guidelines in etiquette and how to effectively handle ‘explosive comments’.[xv] They aided crafting a refraining of comments whilst also urging the quiet to speak up and in some instances removing participants from the group altogether.[xvi] This allowed effective conversation in understanding differences, allowing everyone to voice their opinion without being talked over.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

To a certain extent, the initiative had the intended effect of creating a deeper understanding on differing views for many of its participants, regardless of their own personal view. Alexis Intili was one of the 150 participants who at first was hostile to views unlike her own but as a result of the initiative has changed the way she views differing opinions and asks ‘why’ instead of dismissing. She claims to be ‘a lot more accepting than I was before’ and has since started a splinter group in her community in attempt to change the mindset of others who foster her previous mindset.[xvii]

A book club has been created by participants for those who wanted to continue communicating regarding gun control whilst many of the participants still keep in contact in differing ways after the Facebook group ended. The influence of the initiative was not successful on all participants, with 3 being removed from the group and others leaving of their own accord, but many participants became more understanding and open to opposing ideologies whilst learning to communicate effectively. This reduced polarization in the group. [xviii]

Analysis and Lesson Learned

Overall, the idea of increasing people’s understanding towards opposing views and reducing polarization in a moderated environment was significantly effective. As mentioned, mirroring initiatives have been set by participants in their own local community, thus the initiative goes further than its own being. Many felt they were having meaningful conversations with others completely different in background and ideology in ways they would have never expected before the initiative. Moreover, those so often forgotten by the stereotyping of certain groups such as the NRA (white, male, older) were given the chance to voice their opinion and show diversity in different interest groups that become lost in public assumption. Amber Ramos, a young Latina and member of the NRA was able to voice her opinion as to why she was a member where she may have been overlooked before.[xix]

However, there were several limitations to the Facebook Group platform created. By moving the initiative online, the lack of instant connection that is unavoidable in face-to-face initiatives made it harder for moderators to make ‘instant connections’ and create the personal experience that is greatly essential to achieve the opening of mindsets.[xx] An online platform automatically excludes the 11% of Americans who do not use the internet. Over 27 million of the adult population are either not online for reasons regarding lack of interest, difficulty in understanding or financial costs of online equipment. The majority of the 11% are made up by people over 65 and low-income households.[xxi] Thus effect of dialogue journalism is not felt by a significant portion of the American population. The in-person meeting seems a more effective way in engaging with participants as the instant connection is automatically made, with a more personal ambience felt which is significantly important when attempting to broaden participants to new ideas.

Secondary Sources


[i] Tsai, D. & Trianni, F. (4 April 2018) ‘What Happens When You Reimagine The Difficult Conversation About Guns’ [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGv1uWEFPpU

 

[ii] Seib, G. F. (29 May 2017) ‘Civil Discourse in Decline: Where Does It End?’ Available from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/civil-discourse-in-decline-where-does-it-end-1496071276

 

[iii] (4 April 2018) ‘The age of the filter bubble – a small world in a large network’ Available from: https://www.ionos.com/digitalguide/online-marketing/web-analytics/the-filter-bubble-how-it-influences-us/

 

[iv] Ciobanu, M. (9 January 2018) ‘Spaceship Media is using ‘dialogue journalism’ to enable productive conversation between communities at odds’ Available from: https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/spaceship-media-is-using-dialogue-journalism-to-enable-productive-conversations-between-communities-at-odds/s2/a715850/

 

[v] Chuck, E., Johnson, A., Siemaszko, C. (14 February 2018) ‘17 killed in mass shooting at high school in Parkland, Florida’ Available from: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/police-respond-shooting-parkland-florida-high-school-n848101

 

[vi] Gun Violence Archive 2018 Available from: https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/

 

 

[vii] Spaceshipmedia ‘Our Philosophy’ Available from: https://spaceshipmedia.org/#aus

 

[viii] Lew, T. (15 February 2018) ‘Why ‘Dialogue Journalism’ Is Having a Moment’ Available from: http://mediashift.org/2018/02/why-dialogue-journalism-is-having-a-moment/

 

[ix] Holmes, M. (4 April 2018) ‘Civil talk about guns? See America make it happen’ Available from: https://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2018/04/civil_talk_about_guns_see_amer.html

 

[x] Montgomery, B., Benham-French, K. & French, T. (June 28th, 2018) ‘From banning them to embracing them, a group of Americans got together to talk about guns’ Available from: https://www.oregonlive.com/today/index.ssf/2018/06/from_banning_them_to_embracing.html

 

[xi] Holmes, M. (28 June 2018) ‘With gun conversation, we’re learning to listen to each other’ Available from: https://www.oregonlive.com/today/index.ssf/2018/06/with_gun_conversation_were_lea.html

 

[xii] Montgomery, B., Benham-French, K. & French, T. (June 28th, 2018) ‘From banning them to embracing them, a group of Americans got together to talk about guns’ Available from: https://www.oregonlive.com/today/index.ssf/2018/06/from_banning_them_to_embracing.html

 

[xiii] Holmes, M. (28 June 2018) ‘With gun conversation, we’re learning to listen to each other’ Available from: https://www.oregonlive.com/today/index.ssf/2018/06/with_gun_conversation_were_lea.html

 

[xiv] Hay, J., Pearlman, E. (1 March 2018) ‘Can people be civil about polarizing topics? ‘Dialogue journalism’ could serve as a roadmap’ Available from: https://www.poynter.org/news/can-people-be-civil-about-polarizing-topics-dialogue-journalism-could-serve-roadmap

 

[xv] Lavin, E. (28 June 2018) ‘I moderated a conversation about guns with 150 Americans. How we found common ground’ Available from: https://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2018/06/i_moderated_a_conversation_about_guns_with_150_ame.html

 

[xvi] Montgomery, B., Benham-French, K. & French, T. (June 28th, 2018) ‘From banning them to embracing them, a group of Americans got together to talk about guns’ Available from: https://www.oregonlive.com/today/index.ssf/2018/06/from_banning_them_to_embracing.html

 

[xvii] Steen, A. (27 June 2018) ‘“I am a lot less judgmental”: New York resident’ [Video file] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGIL5Pnw0SU

 

[xviii] Montgomery, B., Benham-French, K. & French, T. (June 28th, 2018) ‘From banning them to embracing them, a group of Americans got together to talk about guns’ Available from: https://www.oregonlive.com/today/index.ssf/2018/06/from_banning_them_to_embracing.html

 

[xix] Tsai, D. (28 June 2018) ‘The Role Of Guns: An American Conversation About Learning From Different Perspectives TIME’ Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AHJwsWUTL4

 

[xx] Lavin, E. (28 June 2018) ‘I moderated a conversation about guns with 150 Americans. How we found common ground’ Available from: https://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2018/06/i_moderated_a_conversation_about_guns_with_150_ame.html

 

[xxi] Anderson, M., Perrin, A., Jinging, J. ‘11% of Americans don’t use the internet. Who are they?’ Available from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/05/some-americans-dont-use-the-internet-who-are-they/

 

 

Falldaten

Übersicht

Spezifische(s) Thema/en: 
[no data entered]

Standort

Geolocation: 
The Newseum
555 Pennsylvania Ave
United States
US
Geografische Reichweite: 

Zweck

Andere: verfolgte Zwecke: 
Opening dialogue surrounding a specific topic

Verlauf

Anfangsdaten: 
Samstag, März 24, 2018
Enddatum: 
Sonntag, Dezember 9, 2018
Andauernd: 
Nein
Anzahl der Sitzungstage: 
2.00

Teilnehmer

Gesamtanzahl der Teilnehmer: 
150
Zielgruppe (Bevölkerungsgruppen): 
Zielgruppe: Teilnehmer: 

Prozess

Förderung?: 
Ja
Falls ja,waren sie ...: 
In Person, online oder beides: 
In Person
Online
Entscheidungsmethode(n)?: 
[no data entered]
Falls abgestimmt wird...: 
[no data entered]
Zielgruppe: 
Kommunikationsmethode mit dem Publikum: 

Organisatoren

Wer hat das Projekt oder die Initiative bezahlt?: 
[no data entered]
Art der finanzierenden Instanz: 
[no data entered]
Wer war in erster Linie verantwortlich, um diese Initiative zu organisieren?: 
[no data entered]
Art der organisierenden Instanz: 
Wer hat die Initiative noch unterstützt?: 
Time, Newseum, Essential Partners, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting
Art der unterstützenden Instanzen: 

Ressourcen

Gesamtbudget: 
[no data entered]
Durchschnittliches Jahresbudget: 
[no data entered]
Anzahl der Vollzeitmitarbeiter: 
[no data entered]
Anzahl der Teilzeitmitarbeiter: 
[no data entered]
Art der Mitarbeiter: 
[no data entered]
Anzahl der Freiwilligen: 
[no data entered]

Diskussionen

Bislang wurden keine Diskussionen gestartet.