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  • 1. Y490 POLITICS OF THE INTERNET February 8, 2012
  • 2. E-Democracy
    • What is democracy in general?
    • How does e-democracy differ from it?
    • Examples of earlier efforts to use technology to enhance participation:
      • Interactive cable TV
      • Public access TV
      • The WELL
  • 3. Democracy in General
    • Direct democracy vs. Representative democracy
    • Role of elections and election campaigns
    • Role of parties
    • How parties interact with social movements
    • The role of money in electoral systems
    • Participation vs. the apathy of voters
  • 4. Origins of Democratic Theory
    • Jean Jacques Rousseau
    • Tom Paine
    • Alexis de Tocqueville
    Monty Python video
  • 5. Key Issues in Representative Democracy
    • Corruption (vote buying)
    • Tyranny of the majority
    • Holding elected representatives accountable
    • Executives vs. legislatures vs. judiciaries (separation of powers)
    • Dealing with factions, special interests, partisanship
    • Declining levels of popular participation and voter apathy
  • 6. More Recent Thinkers
    • Juergen Habermas – communicative action
    • Benjamin Barber – strong democracy
    • James Fishkin – deliberative democracy
  • 7. Robert Putnam’s Work on Social Capital
    • Professor of Political Science at Harvard
    • Best-selling book, Bowling Alone
    • Basic thesis:
      • Not as much participation in traditional civic associations by US citizens as in the past
      • This is bad because that participation increases levels of trust among citizens
    • Possible reasons for this:
      • Television
      • Rise of alternative forms of civic participation
  • 8. QUBE
    • Cable TV system in Columbus, Ohio
    • Introduced in 1977
    • Featured greater interactivity that existing one-way cable TV systems
    • Financially a bust
    • Ended in 1994
    Phil Donahue video
  • 9. Cable Access TV
    • Example of CATS in Bloomington
    • Typical features:
      • Gavel to gavel coverage of meetings
        • School board
        • City and county councils and commissions
        • State legislatures
      • Citizen-created content
      • Some local news
  • 10. Definition of Digital Democracy
    • “… a collection of attempts to practice democracy without the limits of time, space, and other physical conditions, using information and communications technology or computer-mediated communications instead, as an addition, not a replacement for traditional political practices.”
    Source: Hacker and van Dijk 2000.
  • 11. The WELL and other Bulletin Boards
    • Pre-Web systems designed to foster participation in the 1980s
    • Originally supported by Stuart Brand of the The Whole Earth Catalog and John Perry Barlow
    • Subject of Howard Rheingold ’s book, The Virtual Community
    • The WELL had its ups and downs over the years and is now a fee-based web site
    • Fred Turner , From Counterculture to Cyberculture
    Video about the Whole Earth Catalog
  • 12. Constraints on Citizen Participation
    • Long and irregular working hours
    • Time spent on consumption activities: shopping, recreation, entertainment
    • The lack of investment social capital (Putnam)
    • Fear of reprisals or sanctions from other members of the community
    • Lack of confidence and skills
    • Environmental constraints: transportation issues, shortages of meeting spaces, etc.
    Source: Chadwick, p. 92.
  • 13. Pew Internet and American Life Project
    • Initiated in the 1990s by the Pew Charitable Trusts
    • Became part of the Pew Research Center in 2004
    • Main tasks:
      • Monitor online activities
      • Examine how online activities affect families, communities, health care, education, and civic and political life
  • 14. Bruce Bimber’s Research on Presidential Elections
    • Internet had not had much impact on presidential elections in 2000 and 2004
    • Main use of Internet was by candidates and political parties
    • Public still got most of its information from newspapers and television but there was rapid growth in use of the Internet for this purpose
  • 15. Conference on YouTube and the 2008 Elections
    • Organized by Stuart Shulman , (U.Mass., Amherst)
    • Reflects speculation about the growing importance of the Internet as a channel for communicating with the electorate
    • CNN YouTube debate videos
    • Evidence for citizen participation via YouTube is mixed:
      • Great use of YouTube for repurposing TV ads
      • Limited use by citizens for comments, criticisms
  • 16. AOL as a Negative Example
    • Limits on sending email to lists (justified as part of anti-spam efforts)
    • Monitoring and censorship of material posted to the site
    • No town hall or town meeting forum for members
    Kevin Trudeau video Breast Feeding Photos on Facebook
  • 17. Key Questions
    • What are the philosophical origins of e-democracy?
    • Is geographical community and face-to-face interaction essential for democracy?
    • Do virtual communities help or hinder democracy?
    • Why is it so difficult to be an active citizen? Will the Internet help?
    • Do corporate sector discussion forums provide deliberative public spheres?
    • How useful are the concepts of social capital and public sphere for interpreting the Internet’s impact on democratic politics?