Democracy in the Age of the Internet

By Longford, Graham; Patten, Steve | University of New Brunswick Law Journal, Annual 2007 | Go to article overview

Democracy in the Age of the Internet


Longford, Graham, Patten, Steve, University of New Brunswick Law Journal


INTRODUCTION

As access to the Internet and the World Wide Web expanded in the early 1990s there was considerable optimism that an age of low-cost information production and egalitarian public conversations in cyberspace would transform and deepen democracy. The hope was that technological advances and improved access to the means of producing, distributing and receiving information would allow ordinary citizens and organic civil society groups to become broadcasters and publishers capable of sidelining the once powerful barons of the mass media. The unidirectional broadcast model of mass communication would give way to more interactive and democratic forms of public communication. Citizens would have access to a greater diversity of information and opinion as new voices found expression in a more vibrant and inclusive virtual public sphere--indeed, the term netizen was coined to conjure up notions of politically engaged Internet citizens coming together online to identify and deliberate upon the issues of the day. Governance would also be transformed as communications technology improved access to information and enhanced the state's capacity to engage in formal dialogue and deliberation on matters of public policy. In short, the new media would invigorate democracy by creating new egalitarian public spaces, empowering ordinary people with better means of communicating and organizing, and allowing governments to pursue more open, transparent and consultative relations with citizens.

Today this optimistic assessment of the Internet's potential to transform the public sphere and deepen democracy seems profoundly naive. While some dimensions of democratic life have benefited from popular access to the Internet, this has not been true for other dimensions of democracy. In assessing democracy in the age of the Internet it is evident that the Internet has had different consequences for the electoral, deliberative and monitorial dimensions of democracy. (1) Moreover, to understand the complexity of the relationship between the Internet and these three distinct dimensions of democracy, we must recognize that the democratic potential of any communication technology will always be limited by the character of existing social, political and economic power relations, as well as by the attitudes, orientations and activities of governments, citizens and corporations. For example, in recent years, governments have been unceasingly cautious when embracing potentially democratic technologies, citizens appear to be increasingly caught up in the consumer identities of market society rather than being meaningfully engaged in politics, and powerful corporate enterprises with significant Internet-based commercial interests have been engaged in efforts to control the social, legal and technological architecture of cyberspace. The Internet's impact on the character and quality of democracy is tempered by these basic social, political and economic realities.

The discussion to follow is organized around separate assessments of the electoral, deliberative and monitorial dimensions of democracy. We contend that because our governments and political parties have been cautious, even reluctant, to embrace the Internet as anything more than a tool to supplement existing methods and techniques of political communication, the Internet has altered the practice of electoral democracy but has not transformed the character or quality of this dimension of democracy. With regard to the deliberative dimension of democracy, the aspect of democracy for which hopes were highest, the corporate colonization of the Internet has hampered the potential to facilitate a democratic transformation of the public sphere, thus undermining the democratic contribution of critical communication. In the realm of monitorial democracy--that is, of citizens taking action in response to political events or policy developments--the Internet has truly enhanced democracy, transforming social movement networks and empowering grassroots movements with new tools, allowing interested publics to mobilize and monitor policy-makers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Democracy in the Age of the Internet
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.