To what extent is political participation deepened and enriched by the Internet? Is the Internet more inclusive—especially towards the young—than traditional forms of participation requiring physical contact? Do people learn more by discussing on the Internet—and especially in online political forums—than by deliberating face‐to‐face? We aim to answer these questions by presenting the results of research based on the observation of a deliberative experience that allowed both online and face‐to‐face participation, namely the IDEAL‐EU project, carried out by the Tuscany (Italy), Catalonia (Spain), and Poitou‐Charentes (France) regions. IDEAL‐EU was aimed at involving young people—between ages 14 and 30—to discuss the issue of climate change in order to produce a report to be handed to the President of the European Parliament Commission on Climate Change. It first consisted in online discussion forums, and then in an electronic town meeting organized in the three regions' capitals in November 2008. This town meeting involved both keypad voting and face‐to‐face discussions in small groups. The comparison of these two stages of the experience allows evaluation of the respective effects of online and face‐to‐face political discussions on young participants' political knowledge. Using content analysis of websites, direct observation of the assembly, and interviews and questionnaires completed by both online and assembly participants, we evaluate the respective effects of these different forms of civic engagement for actors' perceived level of knowledge on climate change and on their political competence more generally.
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