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A Study of New Communication Technologies and Civic Engagement : A Time to Reconceptualize the Research Constructs?
Unformatted Document Text:  6 In recent years a number of books and other scholarly works have been published about the impact of the Internet on civic engagement and political system as a whole. Many cyber-enthusiasts have embraced the Internet arguing that the Web will give rise to a new public sphere that will reinvigorate civic life and help build new virtual communities of citizens willing to fully participate in political life. According to this view, virtual communities will become valuable alternatives to traditional physically located communities (Rheingold 1993). In contrast, cyber-pessimists have suggested that meaningful communities cannot exist in cyberspace and that they just distract us from real communities (Baudrillard 1983). Some researchers have even argued that the Internet could easily become an enemy of liberal democracy because it allows citizens to filter and customize public affairs information and thus reduce the amount of shared experience (Sunstein 2001). Still, many scholars have found their inspiration in the works of Ithiel de Sola Pool (1983; 1990) who argued that new technologies could allow us to create a media environment more in line with the libertarian heritage of the United States. Neuman (1991) argues that proliferation of digital technology and horizontal, point-to-point communication networks has revived some the pre-mass society civic ideals, namely the focus on community-centered society. According to him, the notion of returning to a romanticized communal life of the nineteenth century while keeping affluence, pluralism and cosmopolitan spirit of a contemporary metropolis seems very attractive to many. Furthermore, Neuman claims that in early nineteenth century America, citizen-based democratic governance was based on an extensive interpersonal communication network

Authors: Skoric, Marko.
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6
In recent years a number of books and other scholarly works have been published
about the impact of the Internet on civic engagement and political system as a whole.
Many cyber-enthusiasts have embraced the Internet arguing that the Web will give rise to
a new public sphere that will reinvigorate civic life and help build new virtual
communities of citizens willing to fully participate in political life. According to this
view, virtual communities will become valuable alternatives to traditional physically
located communities (Rheingold 1993). In contrast, cyber-pessimists have suggested that
meaningful communities cannot exist in cyberspace and that they just distract us from
real communities (Baudrillard 1983). Some researchers have even argued that the Internet
could easily become an enemy of liberal democracy because it allows citizens to filter
and customize public affairs information and thus reduce the amount of shared
experience (Sunstein 2001).
Still, many scholars have found their inspiration in the works of Ithiel de Sola
Pool (1983; 1990) who argued that new technologies could allow us to create a media
environment more in line with the libertarian heritage of the United States. Neuman
(1991) argues that proliferation of digital technology and horizontal, point-to-point
communication networks has revived some the pre-mass society civic ideals, namely the
focus on community-centered society. According to him, the notion of returning to a
romanticized communal life of the nineteenth century while keeping affluence, pluralism
and cosmopolitan spirit of a contemporary metropolis seems very attractive to many.
Furthermore, Neuman claims that in early nineteenth century America, citizen-based
democratic governance was based on an extensive interpersonal communication network


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