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Ranch State and CitizenSpace: Digital Democracy and Web Strategies for the United States and the United Kingdom
Unformatted Document Text:  5 “media form the space of politics”(Castells, 2001; Hollihan, 2001). According to some, the Internet as an ICT represents an opportunity to deploy a technology that can enhance democracy – through the creation of “closer links among citizens as well as between citizens and politicians”. (Westen, in Elberse, Hale, & Dutton, 2000). The Internet has also been viewed as a technology that can facilitate debate, discussion, and direct democratic participation (Elberse, et al, p. 130). These claims can be backed up by the notion that the Internet increases public awareness, access to information, and increased interest (Dutton, et al, 1998, in Elberse, et al, p. 130). Such claims are based in part on the presumption that increased access to information can enhance the “informed discussion” that occurs between citizens. This transforms the media, image-driven politics characteristic of “thin” democracy to that of “thick” democracy. (Barber, 1984). As a result, citizens can lobby their governments as an act of civic participation in a democratic society. Conversely, ICTs could also potentially harm democracy. Access to information is one thing, but the control of information that is accessed and the medium it is delivered through may fundamentally alter what is debated and thoughtfully considered amongst any sort of deliberative citizenry. ICTs could reinforce “existing patterns of control” by helping politicians fine-tune their polling methods (Elberse, et al, p. 131) or also if the control of networks that disseminate information are not transparent (Lessig, 1999). Finally, if greater attention is paid to citizens with access to information on the Internet, such a condition could widen knowledge gaps between information “haves and have-nots” (Elberse, et al: p. 131; van Dijk, 2000; Castells, 2001). If there has been confusion in the terms of how ICTs affect democracy in the past (Arterton, 1987, in Musso, Weare, & Hale, 1999), what sort of functions can we identify that link ICTs to democracy? One study attempts to address the confusion by providing an empirical analysis of the function of local government websites (Musso, Weare, and Hale, 1999). Musso, Weare and Hall’s study gives us a framework to begin looking at connecting ICT functionality to

Authors: Hayden, Craig.
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“media form the space of politics”(Castells, 2001; Hollihan, 2001). According to some, the
Internet as an ICT represents an opportunity to deploy a technology that can enhance democracy
– through the creation of “closer links among citizens as well as between citizens and politicians”.
(Westen, in Elberse, Hale, & Dutton, 2000). The Internet has also been viewed as a technology
that can facilitate debate, discussion, and direct democratic participation (Elberse, et al, p. 130).
These claims can be backed up by the notion that the Internet increases public awareness, access
to information, and increased interest (Dutton, et al, 1998, in Elberse, et al, p. 130).
Such claims are based in part on the presumption that increased access to information can
enhance the “informed discussion” that occurs between citizens. This transforms the media,
image-driven politics characteristic of “thin” democracy to that of “thick” democracy. (Barber,
1984). As a result, citizens can lobby their governments as an act of civic participation in a
democratic society.
Conversely, ICTs could also potentially harm democracy. Access to information is one
thing, but the control of information that is accessed and the medium it is delivered through may
fundamentally alter what is debated and thoughtfully considered amongst any sort of deliberative
citizenry. ICTs could reinforce “existing patterns of control” by helping politicians fine-tune their
polling methods (Elberse, et al, p. 131) or also if the control of networks that disseminate
information are not transparent (Lessig, 1999). Finally, if greater attention is paid to citizens with
access to information on the Internet, such a condition could widen knowledge gaps between
information “haves and have-nots” (Elberse, et al: p. 131; van Dijk, 2000; Castells, 2001).
If there has been confusion in the terms of how ICTs affect democracy in the past
(Arterton, 1987, in Musso, Weare, & Hale, 1999), what sort of functions can we identify that link
ICTs to democracy? One study attempts to address the confusion by providing an empirical
analysis of the function of local government websites (Musso, Weare, and Hale, 1999). Musso,
Weare and Hall’s study gives us a framework to begin looking at connecting ICT functionality to


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