Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Neighborhood Information Systems as Intermediaries in Democratic Communities"

An article I wrote (together with Sungsoo Hwang of Yeungnam University) has just been published in a book entitled, Connecting Democracy: Online Consultation and the Flow of Political Communication. This volume, by MIT Press, is the end product of the International Working Group on Online Consultation and Public Policy Making (about which I have blogged about here, here, and here, among other places). Essentially, a group of researchers from both sides of the Atlantic spent three years meeting in Europe and the United States, working in collaboration on issues in e-democracy, trying to synthesize a theoretically sound and empirically grounded view of technology and politics.

Here is a summary of the book, taken from the volume's web page over at MIT Press...

The global explosion of online activity is steadily transforming the relationship between government and the public. The first wave of change, "e-government," enlisted the Internet to improve management and the delivery of services. More recently, "e-democracy" has aimed to enhance democracy itself using digital information and communication technology. One notable example of e-democratic practice is the government-sponsored (or government-authorized) online forum for public input on policymaking. This book investigates these "online consultations" and their effect on democratic practice in the United States and Europe, examining the potential of Internet-enabled policy forums to enrich democratic citizenship.

The book first situates the online consultation phenomenon in a conceptual framework that takes into account the contemporary media environment and the flow of political communication; then offers a multifaceted look at the experience of online consultation participants in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France; and finally explores the legal architecture of U.S. and E. U. online consultation. As the contributors make clear, online consultations are not simply dialogues between citizens and government but constitute networked communications involving citizens, government, technicians, civil society organizations, and the media. The topics examined are especially relevant today, in light of the Obama administration's innovations in online citizen involvement.

And here is what some experts in the field are saying about the book...

“Online consultation and collaboration are the keys to better communications and government performance. Coleman and Shane have put together a distinguished set of thinkers who propose innovative ways to empower citizens, create digital networks, and promote more meaningful forms of electronic democracy. This is not a futuristic vision, but a model of how government can and should operate.”

Darrell M. West, Vice President of Governance Studies, Brookings Institution

Connecting Democracy is a must read for anyone interested in how the Internet has changed the way democracies work. The book makes clear that the Internet can transform governance in much more complex ways than often recognized.”
James N. Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science, and Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University

“This impressive volume draws on experience from around the globe, and raises fundamental questions about the nature of democratic institutions, as well as whether or how technology makes a difference. This is a book that scholars, students and policymakers cannot afford to ignore, because it offers clear thinking and solid evidence on democratic practice for the future.”
Karen Mossberger, Professor, Public Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago

“Online consultation has enormous promise for supporting democratic institutions and processes, but the reality seldom approximates the visions of its champions. A stellar, international set of cyber-realists have assembled this multi-disciplinary collection to explain why this is the case, and what can be done to realize its potential. This is must reading for anyone with a serious interest in democracy and the Internet.”
William H. Dutton, Professor of Internet Studies, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford



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