From confrontation to understanding: In/exclusion of alternative voices in online discussion


  • Tamara Witschge Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies


Online discussions, immigration debate, internet and democracy, alternative voices, discourse analysis


This article examines the potential and limitations of the internet’s use for democratic debate. Academic literature on the potential uses of the internet to enhance democratic discussion in Western democracies almost always falls exclusively on one side of the optimist/pessimist divide. This article responds to the need for more situated knowledge, using an in-depth critical discourse analysis of the public debate on immigration in the Netherlands. The Dutch public debate on immigration and integration has been dominated in the past decade by a sense of deep ideological differences. The analysis conducted in this article reveals the power relations between the dominant and alternative discourses on immigration. It shows the ways in which online alternative voices deemed too radical by the mainstream public are excluded from participation in the public debate. The paper furthermore addresses the potential for understanding and for meaningful interaction across difference and illustrates the role of alternative styles of communication in online discussions. As such it contributes to our understanding of cross-cultural communication as well as that of online interaction. The study, though limited to case studies in the Netherlands, addresses a question relevant beyond the specific case and national context examined: how to establish meaningful interaction in light of difference?

Author Biography

Tamara Witschge, Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies

Tamara Witschge (PhD) is a lecturer at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. She obtained her PhD degree from the Amsterdam School of Communications Research, University of Amsterdam in May 2007. Her main research interests are media and democracy, changes in the journalistic field, equality and diversity in the public sphere, and the public debate on immigration. Her PhD thesis ‘(In)difference Online’ focused on online discussions of contested issues. From 2007-2009 she was a research associate at Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre and worked on the project ‘Spaces of News’. This project aimed to explore the ways in which technological, economic and social change is reconfiguring news journalism and shaping the dynamics of the public sphere and public culture. Tamara Witschge is the General Secretary of ECREA (since 2008) and is a member of the organizing committee of the European Communication Conferences (Amsterdam, Barcelona and Hamburg). She is a member of the editorial board of the international journal New Media and Society, as well as of PLATFORM: Journal of Media and Communication.




How to Cite

Witschge, T. (2011). From confrontation to understanding: In/exclusion of alternative voices in online discussion. Global Media Journal - German Edition, 1(1). Retrieved from



Peer-Reviewed Articles