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Ranch State and CitizenSpace: Digital Democracy and Web Strategies for the United States and the United Kingdom
Unformatted Document Text:  6 increases in democratic activity (such as voting, citizen access to government, etc.) to facilitate local government reform or change. Davis and Owen have stated that there are four main functions for computer mediated political communication – accessing information, providing a link between public officials and private citizens, providing a forum for public discussion, and a capacity for public opinion measurement. (Davis & Owen, 1998). The local government website study boils this down to two primary functions – ease of access to current information and communication across distance and time between “disparate social groups and institutions”. (Musso, et al, p. 3) Both of these depictions of functional capacities assume that there is a tangible benefit to democracy through such ICT-enabled capacities. Social capital (Coleman, 1990; Putnam, 1993), built through strong social networks that have the capacity to effect change through collective efficacy (Bandura, 1999) and a shared sense of community investment is benefited by the connections made through ICTs – at least in theory. Barber’s notion of “strong democratic talk” helps to foster the “dialectical ties” that “integrate residents into overlapping communities of interest”(Barber, 1984, in Musso, et al, p.6). The Musso, Weare, & Hale study also raises the issue that such participation and heightened civic interest could also slow down the process of governance (Musso, et al, p. 6), at least at the local level. There could be a danger in the pluralist model of governance – as citizens have to sort through a larger number of voices and opinions in order to make decisions that equitable. Nevertheless, it is important to note that this study assumes that for government reform to occur as a result of increased levels of social capital and civic participation – ICTs must facilitate not only links between citizens and governments, but also links between citizens themselves. This is defined as a combination of both vertical and horizontal communication, respectively. The Musso, et al, study examines the scope of website functionality across California municipal websites. As a result of the study, the authors observe two discernable trends in

Authors: Hayden, Craig.
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increases in democratic activity (such as voting, citizen access to government, etc.) to facilitate
local government reform or change.
Davis and Owen have stated that there are four main functions for computer mediated
political communication – accessing information, providing a link between public officials and
private citizens, providing a forum for public discussion, and a capacity for public opinion
measurement. (Davis & Owen, 1998). The local government website study boils this down to two
primary functions – ease of access to current information and communication across distance and
time between “disparate social groups and institutions”. (Musso, et al, p. 3)
Both of these depictions of functional capacities assume that there is a tangible benefit to
democracy through such ICT-enabled capacities. Social capital (Coleman, 1990; Putnam, 1993),
built through strong social networks that have the capacity to effect change through collective
efficacy (Bandura, 1999) and a shared sense of community investment is benefited by the
connections made through ICTs – at least in theory. Barber’s notion of “strong democratic talk”
helps to foster the “dialectical ties” that “integrate residents into overlapping communities of
interest”(Barber, 1984, in Musso, et al, p.6).
The Musso, Weare, & Hale study also raises the issue that such participation and
heightened civic interest could also slow down the process of governance (Musso, et al, p. 6), at
least at the local level. There could be a danger in the pluralist model of governance – as citizens
have to sort through a larger number of voices and opinions in order to make decisions that
equitable. Nevertheless, it is important to note that this study assumes that for government reform
to occur as a result of increased levels of social capital and civic participation – ICTs must
facilitate not only links between citizens and governments, but also links between citizens
themselves. This is defined as a combination of both vertical and horizontal communication,
respectively.
The Musso, et al, study examines the scope of website functionality across California
municipal websites. As a result of the study, the authors observe two discernable trends in


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