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Y490 Politics of the Internet, Lecture 5

Y490 Politics of the Internet, Lecture 5


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  • 1. Y490 POLITICS OF THE INTERNET September 29, 2010
  • 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  Apathy of voters
  • 4. Origins of Democratic Theory  Jean Jacques Rousseau  Tom Paine  Alexis de Tocqueville
  • 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, Bo wling Alo ne  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
  • 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
  • 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)  Here is the web site for the conference.  Reflects speculation about the growing importance of the Internet as a channel for communicating with the electorate  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
  • 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?