Cyberdemocracy: Technology, Cities, and Civic Networks

By Roza Tsagarousianou; Damian Tambini et al. | Go to book overview

4

Berlin in the Net

Prospects for cyberdemocracy from above and from below

Oliver Schmidtke


INTRODUCTION

The development of computer-based communications technologies has given rise to challenging ambitions and projections. The German case is a good example of how hopes and projections about the new medium by far exceed what is technically or politically feasible in the medium term. Public discussion has indeed discovered the ‘new media age’ as a buzzword. Its implications and opportunities, however, for the democratic process have not yet caught wide attention. To be more comprehensively informed is a major issue, whereas the consideration of an active participation of the citizens has not been of major relevance for public discourse (Kleinsteuber, 1995). General notions such as the ‘Informationszeitalter’ (age of information) and the ‘Information Superhighway’ have been widely acknowledged as substantially changing our social environment. However, use of CCT is largely restricted to economic and technical elites or independent political groups. Considering that Germany is one of the most technologically advanced nations, Berlin, and the country as a whole, have been slow to appreciate the opportunities the new communications technologies provide, especially regarding official policy initiatives.

One of the key issues about which expectations and social reality do not meet is the debate on the impact of new communication techniques on the process of democratic decision-making. Many commentators celebrate the decentralised mode of communication as a step towards a virtual polis in which, be it on a national or local level, people could participate on equal terms in determining their public affairs. In public debates ‘cyberspace’ 1 is often assumed to be synonymous with the realisation of democratic ideals (Rheingold, 1994).

Central to the debate is the assumption that, given their decentralised and interactive nature, the new techniques will help to strengthen or even restore what Habermas (1989) has described as the ‘universal

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Cyberdemocracy: Technology, Cities, and Civic Networks
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Acknowledgements ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vii
  • 1 - Electronic Democracy and the Civic Networking Movement in Context 1
  • 2 - Virtually Going Places 18
  • 3 - Back to the Future of Democracy? 41
  • 4 - Berlin in the Net 60
  • References 82
  • 5 - Civic Networking and Universal Rights to Connectivity: Bologna 84
  • 6 - An Internet Resource for Neighbourhoods 110
  • 7 - The First Amendment Online 125
  • Notes 149
  • 8 - Manchester 152
  • 9 - Electronic Democracy and the Public Sphere 167
  • Index 179
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