It is unlikely to actually increase civic engagement through Web 2.0

Political Participation and Web 2.0 by Allison Orr

Abstract

The Internet has engendered a considerable level of debate in political discourse ever since its emergence as a tool in everyday life.  With low voter turnout and civic participation in decline, much of the debate has come to focus on the Internet’s ability to provide avenues for political participation and civic engagement.  Enthusiasm for this potential waned slightly during the nineties, but it has been reignited recently with the rise of “Web 2.0”, and its emphasis on user-generated content, social networking and collaboration.  While the debate had led to discussions of participatory democracy, much of it fails to take into account the nature of participation, and what is advocated is often merely more communication.  This paper will more closely examine the participatory avenues offered by Web 2.0 within a framework of participatory and democratic theory to show that it is unlikely to actually increase civic engagement.  Furthermore, this discourse is heavily influenced by the evaluative nature of democracy and its associated concepts.  This paper will explore how evaluative concepts such as democracy and participation are used in this debate to give credit to claims for the new technologies and to those using them.

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