Public engagement is advocated in risk communication and can occur at different levels including public consultation and participation. Such engagement has traditionally been achieved by mechanisms such as focus groups or citizen juries; however, the growth in online interactive media platforms and tools has provided new opportunities. Drawing on research outcomes from the EU-funded FoodRisC (Food Benefit & Risk Communication) project, this article aims to demonstrate online opportunities for public engagement. First, the mining and analysis of user-generated content online has provided a new mechanism for public consultation, assisting communicators to understand public concerns, opinions and information dissemination behaviours in different scenarios. Second, interactive information deliberation tools exemplified by VIZZATATM have created a new avenue for public participation, allowing researchers and practitioners to encourage and understand public deliberations over risk information. Collectively, the findings from the FoodRisC project highlight the opportunities and challenges for online mechanisms of public engagement in risk communication.   

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Exploring online mechanisms of public engagement in risk communication
Insights from the European FoodRisC project

Liran Christine Shan   University College Dublin

Áine Regan   University College Dublin

Patrick Wall   University College Dublin

Áine McConnon   University College Dublin

Public engagement is advocated in risk communication and can occur at different levels including public consultation and participation. Such engagement has traditionally been achieved by mechanisms such as focus groups or citizen juries; however, the growth in online interactive media platforms and tools has provided new opportunities. Drawing on research outcomes from the EU-funded FoodRisC (Food Benefit & Risk Communication) project, this article aims to demonstrate online opportunities for public engagement. First, the mining and analysis of user-generated content online has provided a new mechanism for public consultation, assisting communicators to understand public concerns, opinions and information dissemination behaviours in different scenarios. Second, interactive information deliberation tools exemplified by VIZZATATM have created a new avenue for public participation, allowing researchers and practitioners to encourage and understand public deliberations over risk information. Collectively, the findings from the FoodRisC project highlight the opportunities and challenges for online mechanisms of public engagement in risk communication.   

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