Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens, and Social Movements

By Brian D. Loader; Paul G. Nixon et al. | Go to book overview

9

The Dutch women's movement online

Internet and the organizational infrastructure of a social movement

Arthur Edwards

Political parties, interest groups, social movement organizations and the media are the main intermediaries that are involved in what Lawson (1988) coined as the 'linkage chain', the chain of connections that runs from the citizens' wishes to political decisions. It has been claimed that one of the effects of the increasing use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the public domain, notably the internet, will be that the intermediary roles of these actors will erode, because citizens will be able to bypass them. Such a 'disintermediation' has been welcomed as one of the potential benefits of the internet, as it would allow for a direct, unbiased representation of citizens' demands in political decision-making (cf. Bryan et al. 1998). However, disintermediation has also been designated as a threat to democracy, because intermediaries are important sources of judgement and selection, social integration and checks and balances (Shapiro 1999).

Disintermediation in politics has, to date, mainly been discussed with respect to political parties. In various studies it has been established that there is a weakening of the once strong linkages between social class, religion and party identification and that the importance of parties as channels of political participation is steadily declining (Smith 1998). Benjamin (1982) was one of the first authors relating the disintermediation of political parties to ICTs. New technologies such as two-way cable television and direct mail would allow for direct communication between politicians and voters and would therefore contribute to the decline of political parties as mediating institutions.

It seems that social movements are taking over some of the terrain lost by political parties. In the 'market for political activism'

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