Julia Jakob, Chung-hong Chan, Timo Dobbrick, Hartmut Wessler
Discourse integration in positional online news reader comments: Patterns of responsiveness across types of democracy, digital platforms, and perspective camps

New Media & Society, In Press: (publ. online before print)
ISSN: 1461-4448 (print), 1461-7315 (online)

Online discourse integration, or the degree to which online user comments are responsive, that is, address or refer to other debate participants, is a normatively valued yet neglected quality dimension of online discussions. This preregistered study features the first cross-country/cross-platform investigation of online discourse integration, using manual and computational content analysis (N = 9835 and N = 30,753 positional news reader comments). Unexpectedly, about one quarter of the comments was responsive in both majoritarian and consensus-oriented democracies (Australia/United States vs Germany/Switzerland) and on platforms that separate or mix public and private contexts (websites vs Facebook pages of mainstream media), even though other deliberative quality criteria were previously shown to vary by country and platform. Comments that are responsive to fellow commenters in the opposing perspective camp were more likely to contain negative evaluations of those addressed, whereas comments responsive within the same perspective camp were more likely to contain positive evaluations.