There is an intrinsic link between conversation, our notion of the public sphere and the quality of democracy. From Parliament to the neighbourhood, conversation lies at the heart our society and our everyday interactions and relationships.
But the ways in which we converse are changing. New technologies enable us to speak to people anytime, anywhere and on any topic. This has led to a fragmentation of interest groups. We are talking less with those who do not share those interests and less to people in the areas in which we live. By contrast, we are talking more to people to whom we are tied by interest, and more about particular topics on blogs and behind closed doors.
At the same time, a series of crises, from the perceived decline of standards of social behaviour to concerns over security have dominated the headlines of the papers we read and the news we consume. As a result, community involvement remains of vital importance, but the structures of engagement no longer reflect the ways in which people are comfortable in having their say.