Democratizing Participation: Digital/Networking Tools and Political Change

Here is an early attempt to theoretically ground my work on Internet & Democracy at Harvard's Berkman Center. The goal of this new project is to investigate the effects of networked/digital technologies on democratic change around the world. The first outputs are a series of narrative case studies, starting with the Ukrainian Orange Revolution.

I'm interested in feedback, as well as other recommendations of how to theoretically ground this work. The views in this draft are my own and do not represent the opinions of the Berkman Center.

Money quote:

For people around the world for whom an increase in their freedom to speak, challenge corrupt regimes, increase transparency and end human rights violations would be a blessing, the Internet is a tool that holds promise. Just how useful the Internet can be for challenging existing power structures has yet to be studied in depth. However, early evidence shows that the Internet has the potential to lower the barriers to a wide variety of democratic action, including mobilizing public protest, creating citizen journalism and manipulating cultural icons.




  • Josh,

    I agree with your thesis, but I wonder if signing an online petition or subscribing to/sending out an e-mail newsletter is actually equivalent to a day of volunteering/lobbying? This is a question worth investigating -- is internet inspiring a wave of low-level involvement in a wide variety of movements, rather than whole-hearted dedication to a single cause? And if so, how is this affecting the nature and speed of political change? This may not quite fit into the scope of your research, but I think it's intriguing in the light of current theories about the "millennial generation" -- that we're concerned about and committed to changing the world, but can tend to be fragmented due to our access to so many types of information and the relative security and freedom we enjoy to explore these multiple avenues.


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