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Karol Jakubowicz

Democracy and New Media: Do the Two Go Together? (Work in progress) Prepared for delivery at an International Conference on Political Communication in the Era of New Technologies organized by the Polish Communication Association and the University of Warsaw Warsaw, September 22-23, 2011

Foreword First, a salutary warning from James Curran: The literature on media and democracy is in need of a removal van to carry away lumber accumulated over two centuries. What should be discarded, what should be kept and how the intellectual furniture should be rearranged is something that needs to be thought about in a NEW WAY (Curran, 2002: 217; emphasis added). The reasons for this radical view can easily be understood. Democracy has long been in crisis that is now threatening to leave it as an empty shell. There are those who claim that we live in a post-democracy era. In any case, democracy is undergoing what some scholars call its third transformation, so old concepts and theories are increasingly in need of reformulation. That in itself requires a re-examination of the role of the media in democracy all the more so that the media themselves are in a period of socially-, culturally- and technologically driven upheaval. These processes are all ongoing, so this paper cannot but be a work in progress, given that it concerns processes that are themselves works in progress. We will first seek to understand some of the main reasons for the crisis of democracy and some concepts regarding its future shape. Then we will review briefly the roles of the media in the operation of the democratic system. Then, we will take a look at what the term new media means in practice and how in reality it stands for three generations of new media. Only then will it be possible to deal with the matter at hand, i.e. the new medias role in democracy now and in the future. First, we will present the promise of the crucial role that enthusiasts believe the new digital media can play in reviving and rejuvenating democracy. Then we will read out the indictment of the destructive role of the new media in democracy that some scholars have formulated. And to see which of the schools of thought is closer to the mark, we will look on the basis of available evidence at what the impact of the Internet is likely to have, on two crucial elements of democracy: the civil society and the public sphere.

Crisis and Future of Democracy In 1975, the Trilateral Commission published a report on the state democracy (Crozier, Huntington, Watanuki, 1975), noting that while democracy had performed well in Trilateral countries during the first 25 years after World War II, later it suffered from a crisis. That turned it into an anomic democracy, where there is consensus on the rules of the democratic game, but no longer a sense of purpose as to what the game is for. Colin Crouch (cited after Blhdorn, 2006: 71) maintains that in general democracy can at best be a momentary experience, and that after a democratic moment which, he says, did indeed last some quarter of a century in Western countries we have to expect an inevitable entropy of democracy. The result, according to Crouch, has been a post-democratic revolution. As a result, virtually all the formal components of democracy survive, but citizens have, in his opinion, been reduced to the role of manipulated, passive, rare participants. Politics and government are increasingly slipping back into the control of privileged elites in the manner characteristic of pre-democratic times. Post-democratic politics, according to Crouch, has little interest in widespread citizen involvement or the role of organizations outside the business sector. Citizens remain indispensable as the source of political legitimacy, but this can be obtained by means of minimal participation (ritualized elections, consultation processes and tightly managed exercises of public involvement), while policy is really shaped in private by interaction between elected governments and elites that overwhelmingly represent business interests. This view of the malaise to be found in established democracies is quite widely shared by other authors, as we will see below. To try and understand the process which has led to these results, let us recall that Crozier, Huntington and Watanuki (1975) identified three challenges to democracy and ascribed its crisis to the fact that it had been hit by all three of them simultaneously: contextual challenges these arise autonomously from the external environments in which democracies operate and are not directly a product of the functioning of democratic government itself. Changes in the international distribution of economic, political, and military power and in the relations both among the Trilateral societies and between them and the Second and Third Worlds now confront the democratic societies with a set of interrelated contextual challenges inflation, commodity shortages, international monetary stability, the management of economic interdependence, and collective military security affect all the Trilateral societies; changes in social structure and social trends: at one time or another, threats to the viability of democratic government have come from the aristocracy, the military, the middle classes, and the working class. Presumably, as social evolution occurs, additional threats may well arise from other points in the social structure; Intrinsic challenges to the viability of democratic government which grow directly out of the functioning of democracy. Democratic government, the authors explain, does not necessarily function in a self-sustaining or self-correcting equilibrium fashion. It may instead function so as to give rise to forces and tendencies which, if unchecked by some outside agency, will eventually lead to the undermining of democracy. The more democratic a system is, indeed, the more likely it is to be endangered by intrinsic threats. Intrinsic challenges are, in this sense, more serious than extrinsic ones. In recent years, they continue, the operations of the democratic process do indeed appear to have generated a breakdown of 2

traditional means of social control, a delegitimation of political and other forms of authority, and an overload of demands on government, exceeding its capacity to respond. This framework is still useful today and can assist us in understanding also the current situation. In addition to the loss of a sense of purpose as to what the democratic game is for, we could also mention two more manifestations of the crisis of democracy, interlinked with the challenges listed by Crozier, Huntington and Watanuki (1975): Doubt as to the rules of the democratic game and whether they would be effective, if observed; And what we could call the disappearance of the players of that game, a profound structural crisis which cannot easily be remedied within the traditional model of democracy

As for contextual challenges, the above list should be complemented with a few more items, including globalisation, the weakening of the nation state, European integration and the democratic deficit of the European Union, inter-cultural migration, demographic trends, economic performance, technological change, state capacity, individuation, mediatisation and a prevailing sense of insecurity (Schmitter, Trechsel, 2004: 3). Regarding social trends, leading to the growing loss of faith in democracy, we could mention a 2007 report by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. It notes the increasing feeling of political discontent and disaffection among citizens, which is well illustrated by a declining turnout at elections and a growing disappointment or indifference towards politics, especially among the young generation. This phenomenon is seen as being interrelated with the dysfunctioning of some political institutions in many countries: political parties have partly lost their capacity to be a link between citizens and state; representativeness of parliaments is all too often questionable; basic principles of democracy such as separation of powers, political freedoms, transparency and accountability are widely perceived, and sometimes rightly so, as being insufficiently implemented or not implemented at all (Gross, 2007). Changes in social structure and other social trends have also contributed to what we have called disappearance of the players of the democratic game, a process mentioned by many authors, including those of the Trilateral Commissions report itself. They stated that religion, nationalism, and ideology used to be the sources of the sense of purpose in using the rules of democracy to attain the objectives resulting from those inspirations. However, neither church, nor state, nor class now commands people's loyalties We have witnessed the dissipation of religion, the withering away of nationalism, the declineif not the endof classbased ideology (Crozier, Huntingon, Wanatuki, 1975: 159-160). This, let us remember, is a diagnosis of the situation strictly in the Trilateral countries and not others in 1975, but unfortunately later developments showed that the authors were too optimistic about nationalism and, to a lesser extent, about religion as a source of a sense of purposes for large segments of the population. The process has picked up momentum since then. Ulrich Beck refers to the fact that according to Zygmunt Bauman in the 21st century the developed world entered the second, liquid phase of modernity. In very dramatic terms and perhaps with some exaggeration, he says that in these circumstances all existing modern social, economic, and political institutions the church (or mosque, temple), the family, journalism, the nation-state, party-based democracy have become zombie institutions: living dead categories, which blind the social sciences to the rapidly changing realities inside the nation-state containers, and outside as well (cited after Deuze, 2008: 857)

Finally, let us cite Ivan Krastev who maintains that democracy requires the existence of strong players: strong government, strong opposition, strong left and right-wing parties. When everyone is weak and wishy-washy, the system does not work. There is no reason to turn out for elections or to vote. Everybody wants to be in a grey centre (akowski, 2011). The result, as Swanson and Mancini (1996) describe this, is the secularization of politics, leading ultimately to the emergence of virtual politics, whereby the virtual reality of propaganda replaces reality. Krastev argues that because of all this the entire social infrastructure of democracy has been eroded, and democracy now amounts mainly to the rotation of elites. He explains: Where are the workers? In China. Where are trade unions? They are declining in the West and count for practically nothing in the East. Where are newspaper readers the core of the enlightened electorate in classical democracies? They are disappearing together with the newspapers themselves. Where are the tax payers? They have mostly become VAT payers. Ministers of finance no longer serve taxpayers, but investors. And what about journalists and independent media? They [have transformed into tabloids]. (akowski, 2011). As for intrinsic challenges to the viability of democratic government, growing directly out of the functioning of democracy, we can mention four especially important ones: neoliberalism, populism, nationalism and illiberalism. Closer examination of these processes would extend beyond the scope of this paper, but it is clear that together with the erosion of the framework for the democratic process and of the social infrastructure of democracy, they add up to a major structural crisis that does not admit of an easy fix and most probably not within the old model of democracy. There is, of course, no easy answer to the question regarding the future of democracy, or indeed the role of the media in the democratic system. What is known as the currently unfolding third transformation of democracy (Blhdorn, 2006) may take it in a variety of directions. Robert Dahl (1995) considers this process to be associated with the era of globalization and the need, as previously (transformation of city-state democracy into nation-state democracy), to adjust democracy to the new circumstances and scale of its transnational or even global operation. He warns that the danger is that the third transformation will not lead to an extension of the democratic idea beyond the national state but to the victory in that domain of de facto guardianship. In the course of its historical evolution, democracy seems to Dahl to be incrementally moving away from the theoretical ideal of rule of the people, and an increasing democratic deficit emerges. Andrs Krsnyi (2007; 2011; Blhdorn, 2006) takes as the starting point for his analysis the decline of political parties and parliaments in the last decades and the crisis of representation. Reviving the Weberian-Schumpeterian model of competitive elitism, he points towards the delegation and concentration of power, and to the striking rehabilitation of leadership as the most striking political innovations of the past fifteen years. He argues that in late-modern democracies there is a marked shift from input responsiveness and input legitimacy towards output responsiveness and output legitimacy. For contemporary electorates, he believes, what matters is what works. Political elites are therefore expected to take a lead and get on with the job, and electorates make use of the democratic elections in order to pass their verdict on their leaders performance. The objective of leader democracy is not to provide responsive government but, if anything, to provide responsible government. The historical evolution of democracy can be described as moving from direct democracy via representative democracy towards leader democracy, or as the transformation of participatory government into representative government and further into responsible government.

Mark Warren (2004; 2006; Blhdorn, 2006) shares the view that in the face of globalization, the decentering of the nation-state, complexity, and functional differentiation, representative democracy faces, if not obsolescence, at least diminished importance. He notes the the following processes impacting on democracy: the pluralization of political arenas and conflict lines; the unprecedented opportunities for political articulation and participation; the ever increasing skepticism of democratic publics towards their elected representatives; the high level of public information about political issues, and the rapid spread of experiments with elements of direct and deliberative democracy. All this leads Warren to suggest that the current transformation of democracy is a move towards citizen empowerment and democratic self-rule and it was initiated by the emancipatory social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The job now is to continue that process. Warren is joined in his approach by a great many authors. One is Jeremy Gilbert (2009) who believes we have now entered an era when none of the modern institutions of government seem capable of really exercising any control over the material, social and cultural changes which capitalism brings about. The crisis of democracy we are experiencing today, he says, is only a symptom of this deeper shift: it is symptomatic of the inability of institutions which were born in the industrial revolution and came to maturity in the era of cinema, railways and mass democracy to get to grips with the mercurial fluidity and speed of postmodern cybernetic capitalism. The postmodern context could be seen, according to Gilbert, as a moment of fantastic opportunity, a moment when the force of democracy might finally break free from the constraints placed upon it by industrial society, as the antagonisms which continue to persist within and across the field of contemporary social relations become evident and activated. So, he says, we need to seek out and experiment with processes of democratic consultation and deliberation which are far more participative and processual than what we have now. Gilbert invokes deliberative democracy as a possible model. Even this limited sample of different views on the future of democracy shows how difficult it is to determine what it will look like. It is doubly difficult to predict what media system and model of journalism would be required. In fact, each of the three possible models of future democracy discussed above would require a different set of solutions. Dahls global democracy, i.e. nation-state democracy writ large, would require a global media system, capable of serving a global civil society and forming part of a global public sphere, and performing a monitorial and watchdog function vis--vis a global government. Krsnyis leader democracy would require an elite public sphere grouped around the leader and practicing what Christians et al. (2009) call collaborative journalism (see below). Radical, participatory and direct democracy proposed by Warren would require a polycentric media system oriented to giving everyone an opportunity to speak, with the media performing a facilitative and radical function. We need, therefore, to review different models of the functions of the media and journalism in democracy before we can turn to the role of the new media in it. Media and Democracy James Carey (2000) has no doubt that No journalism, no democracy; but, equally, no democracy, no journalism. Journalism and democracy are names for the same thing. That is an optimistic, but also a simplistic view on the subject. An overview of many approaches in this field is provided by Christians et. al (2009) in the book Journalism In Democratic Societies.Normative Theories of the Media. As shown in

table 1, the authors separate three levels of analysisphilosophical traditions, political systems, and media systemsbut also show how these different levels are related.

Table 1. Framework of analysis of media in democratic societies PHILOSOPHICAL POLITICAL MEDIA Normative traditions Models of democracy Roles of media Corporatist Administrative Collaborative Libertarian Pluralist Monitorial Social responsibility Civic Facilitative Citizen participation Direct Radical Concentrating on the roles of the media, and without going into details, let us note that the authors explain that the most basic meaning of the term monitorial is that of an organized scanning of the real world of people, conditions and events, and of potentially relevant sources of information. A subsidiary meaning is of evaluation and interpretation, guided by criteria of relevance, significance and reigning normative frameworks for the public arena. This element differentiates monitoring from the now familiar model of the omnivorous electronic search engine that assembles information more or less blindly. A third element of meaning that still lurks somewhat in the background is one of vigilance and control, even if short of their most negative implications. As for the medias facilitative role, they promote dialogue among their readers and viewers through communication that engages them and in which they actively participate. In facilitative terms, the news media support and strengthen participation in civil society outside the state and the market. They do not merely report on civil societys associations and activities but seek to enrich and improve them. Citizens are taken seriously in clarifying and resolving public problems. The aim of this interactive mode is democratic pluralism. The media in their facilitative role promote a mosaic of diverse cultures and worldviews. The facilitative role of the news media is both rooted in and promotes deliberative democracy. The radical role of the media and journalism serves above all those in society who are opposed to the establishment and who typically do not have a fair share of the national public sphere. This role seeks to change deep-seated concentrations of social power that inhibit citizen participation in democratic communication. The media and journalists are called upon to encourage not merely superficial changes such as voting procedures but also changes at the very core of the existing social structure. Minorities, for example, the voiceless and disenfranchised, must be enabled to participate fully in the electoral process. The role of the radical media and journalists is to challenge the injustices perpetrated by hegemonic alliances, and propose instead a new order and support movements opposing these injustices. The collaborative role deals as much with the needs and expectations of the state as the needs and expectations of the press. Defined in relation to the state, a collaborative role for the press implicates government(s) locally, regionally, nationally and at times even transnationally in the mission of the press. Collaboration represents an acknowledgment of the states interest to which the press accedes either passively or unwittingly, reluctantly or wholeheartedly in participating in the choices journalists make and the coverage they provide.

Another possible way of approaching the issue of the interdependence of media and democracy is offered by Gillmor (2010: 4) who looks at the democratic potential of the means of communication themselves squarely in terms of the way they facilitate, if at all, individual control over the act and contents of communication. On this basis, he identifies several generations of media: Media 1.0: the printing press which liberated the word of God from the control of the priests and was humanitys first profound democratization of media; Media 1.5: the telegraph which enabled information to move from point to point but not directly to the people; Media 2.0: radio, i.e. mass media content travelling long distances instantaneously and directly to individuals, but still through the intermediary of an institution; Media 2.5: television ditto; Media 3.0: the Internet, combining all that has come before and extending it across the web of connections that includes everyone and everything from email to the World Wide Web. It is radically democratized media. Possibilities emerge, literally without limit.

This typology is in line with the view that democratic systems represent a range of different combinations of representation and participation. Along with a great many others, Gillmor believes that the stronger the participatory dimension, the more democratic the system. That is open to heated debate, as we will see below, but on the same principle we can usefully classify social communication systems as situated in different places along a continuum between representative and direct communicative democracy (see Figure 1). Figure 1.From least to most participatory systems of communicative democracy.

Representative/ participatory

Conflict and consensus media



Citizen media

Peer-to-peer social conversation

As in the framework developed by Christians et al. (2009), each of these systems implies a different view of citizenship and the operation of democracy. We will discuss each of them briefly. To begin with the wake-up function of the media, Zaller (2003) has called for a replacement of the normative Full News standard now considered as binding on the media. It 7

Representative communicative democracy

Direct communicative democracy

requires that the media should provide the citizens with the basic information necessary to form and update opinions on all of the major issues of the day, including the performance of top public officials. However, according to Zaller (2003: 110), this standard places unrealistically heavy demands on many citizens. The growing complexity of contemporary systems of governance and issues to be resolved by the political system may indeed be beyond the ability of most citizens to follow them closely with full comprehension. Therefore, Zaller proposes a different standard, Burglar Alarm news. As he puts it, the idea is that news should provide information in the manner of attention-catching burglar alarms about acute problems, rather than police patrols over vast areas that pose no immediate problems (Zaller, 2003: 110, emphases added). This ties in with a proposal for a different concept of citizenship. According to Schudson, (1998), most thinking about citizenship is still confined to the model of the individual informed citizen, and employs a rather rigid version of that model. It is therefore outdated, and has to be reconsidered. Two reasons account for this. First: the complexity of governance and the great amount of information available. And second, the fact that contemporary democracy requires expertise and has created institutions that mediate between private individuals and public governing bodies. The obligation of citizens to know enough to participate intelligently in governmental affairs should therefore be understood as a "monitorial" one: scanning (rather than reading) the informational environment in a way so that he or she may be alerted and mobilized around issues of special importance: Monitorial citizens tend to be defensive rather than pro-active ... The monitorial citizen is not an absentee citizen but watchful, even while he or she is doing something else ... Citizenship now is a year-round and day-long activity as it was only rarely in the past. In this world, monitoring is a plausible model of citizenship (Schudson, 1998: passim; emphasis added). The familiar watchdog function is still based on the concept of the informed citizen, in the belief that democracy requires, and citizens deserve, a healthy flow of useful information and a news and information system that holds powerful institutions accountable (Waldman, 2011: 30). Therefore, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, in arguing for the development of local media, has said: A shortage of reporting manifests itself in invisible ways: stories not written, scandals not exposed, government waste not discovered, health dangers not identified in time, local elections involving candidates about whom we know little (Waldman, 2011: 30). For his part, James Curran (2007: 34) considers the watchdog function to be an outdated, fossilized theory that presents citizens as protected; briefed; reconstituted as a public body in the form of public opinion; and represented to authority. It thus places the media centrestage, bathed in a heroic light, as the central intermediary institution of liberal democracy. The reason it is outdated, according to Curran, is that it downplays the role of social groups, political parties, civil society, ideology and globalisation. It seems disconnected from an understanding of how contemporary democracy works. Curran is also unconvinced by the claim that the media should be impartial at all times. His proposed media and democracy model seeks to bring together two media functions and two types of media, conflict media and consensus media: The first function is one of representation of different segments of society and their views. This is best achieved by means of partisan journalism taking place in advocacy, conflict-

oriented, politically and socially engaged media. These, let us add, could also be described as monologue media; The second function is one of conciliation through balanced journalism, pursued in the core media sector. Mass television channels and, in many countries, local monopoly dailies are the central meeting places of society where different social groups are brought into communion with one another. We could describe these core media as dialogue media: they should enable divergent viewpoints and interests to be aired in reciprocal debate, and alert mainstream society to the concerns and solutions of minority groups. The norm of journalism practiced by this core sector should be that of balanced journalism, typified by the reporting of different viewpoints expressed by the spokespersons of opposed groups. Its features pages and studio discussions should also provide a forum of debate open to different opinions.

The trouble with this model is that it may itself be increasingly outdated. We seem to be deep into what has been called a post-objectivity era. This trend was thrown into sharp relief in August 2011 by fact that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission stripped 83 rules, including the Fairness Doctrine, from its books. The doctrine had not been enforced for more than two decades, but formally remained in force. Now, as FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement, striking this from our books ensures there can be no mistake that what has long been a dead letter remains dead" (Melvin, 2011). Consensus (i.e. non-partisan, impartial) media are finding it difficult to hold their own. This is the case with CNN, a consensus medium that could be said to represent what Jay Rosen (2010) has called View from Nowhere journalism which seeks to gain trust, based on the viewlessness of the journalist and news producer. In a process known as the Foxification of news (The Economist, 2011), the U.S., a long-time advocate of journalistic impartiality, is in the midst of shift in the system by which trust is sustained in professional journalism (Rosen, 2010). Ideological journalism is becoming more and more prevalent and neutral journalism is said to be losing ground, as shown by the popularity of openly right-wing Fox News and the relative decline of CNN. Transparency is the new objectivity (Weinberger, 2009): the onus on journalists is not to be objective, but transparent, i.e. candid and open about their views, giving the public a clear interpretative framework for assessing the opinions they are expressing and the stance they are taking: Transparency puts within the report itself a way for us to see what assumptions and values may have shaped it, and lets us see the arguments that the report resolved one way and not another. Transparency the embedded ability to see through the published draft often gives us more reason to believe a report than the claim of objectivity did (Weinberger, 2009). In addition to any polarization and radicalization of the general public, we may perhaps ascribe this tendency to the impact of the Internet A study conducted in 2010 of 46 American news websites (7 commercial ones and 39 non-profit ones) found that the majority of them (56%) were ideological in nature (Holcomb, et al., 2011). Overall, across the 46 sites, a lack of diverse viewpoints emerged. A large majority nearly two-thirds of stories involving some controversy contained only a single point of view. This would seem to suggest that exposure on the Internet to highly partisan and onesided portrayals of reality creates expectations and user habits that carry over to traditional media and create a situation in which media users seem to crave partisan political [content]

(Stelter, 2010). If so, then this would suggest a concept of citizenship that is radically different from either the monitorial or the informed citizen. Currans (2007) model, as outlined above, may be outdated also because it still separates the media from the public, even though there is bound to be a closer relationship between a social group and the conflict/advocacy medium that speaks for it. Dan Hind (2011) proposes a blueprint for a democratic media system that opposes the monopolization of the power to investigate and to publicise what is discovered by a tiny number of professional editors and owners who are unrepresentative, unaccountable to the public, and vulnerable to all manner of private pressure and inducement. Therefore, he argues, each of us must be given some control over what is investigated and researched and over the prominence given to the results. In this representative/participatory model, with the BBC as its vehicle: We need to set aside a sum of public money sufficient to support a large and lively culture of investigative reporting and analysis. Journalists and researchers can make open pitches for the money they need to conduct particular investigations or to pursue long-term projects. Those that receive sufficient support from the public will receive the money. Those that produce material that seems important to a fair number of people will be given more resources with which to broadcast their findings to a wider public (Hind, 2011). Another example of this trend is the practice of the daily newspaper of Litchfield County Connecticut, The Register Citizen, to invite reader to participate in a daily online story meeting, allowing them to submit story ideas. This open-door process yields new story ideas, feedback on current issues, corrections on published stories and comments on the papers publication methods. The newspapers website also launched a fact check box at the bottom of every story, so any errors readers spot can be reported immediately (Silver, Martinelli, 2011). While in this model a part of the public might play a role in determining some of the contents of communication, it would have no control over the media institution itself. This form of participation has, however, long been represented by autonomous, "alternative," "free" or community stations. If the groups or movements they speak for are structured and organized in a truly democratic way, all or most of their members are able to influence the operation of their media and participate in the determination of their goals; in short, they can, with some exaggeration, be called media co-managers. Few of them need be active mass communicators in their own right. Still, in such a situation, the given group's views, ideas, culture and world outlook would enter social circulation at a level appropriate to the group's size and scale of operation (i.e. through the intermediary of national, regional, local or community media), could be known to the public at large and could potentially influence its views, policies or outlook. This would make group members indirect communicators. Moreover, a fairly large number of group members can be involved in the running and operation of those media, contributing time, effort and money to ensure their functioning and survival; in short they would become communication facilitators, without necessarily becoming communicators themselves. In this instance, a communication system can be both representative and participatory at the same time. Of course, devising such a system for big mass media, rather than for small community media, would be quite a challenge. A much higher degree of direct communicative democracy is represented by citizen media which represent different degrees of institutional editorial moderation and control over contents provided by citizen journalists. The level of direct participation by individuals willing to contribute is very high, but many of the serious citizen journalism sites (OhmyNews in South Korea, AgoraVox in France, Skoeps in the Netherlands, NowPublic in Canada), AllVoices and The Huffington Post in the US, finally and Blottr in the UK) do perform


editorial functions and may reject content. For example, AgoraVox publishes around 75% of all submitted articles. Finally, Web 2.0-supported peer-to-peer social conversation represents a true paradigm shift: full disintermediation and deinstitutionalization of mediated social communication in the digital commons, also known for example as "information commons (Kranich, 2004). In theory, at least, this is genuine direct communicative democracy (at least for those that have the equipment and the communication competence to be part of it). Supporters of this model of democracy have high hopes that peer-to-peer social conversation will be the ultimate form of communicative democracy and thus a means of bringing democracy into the 21st century in the form of e-democracy or digital democracy. As we will see below, however, that is not the only view on the matter. New Media and Democracy The generic term new media has been defined and used in a wide variety of ways (for some authors everything that happened after Gutenberg is new). Let us therefore explain that we refer here to what we consider to be three generations of new media in the second half of the 20th century and later, comprising New Media 1.0: cable, satellite, VCR, teletext, etc. extensions of traditional analogue TV (1960-1970s); New Media 2.0: the effect of media digitization and convergence of media and the Internet, facilitating different modes of communication: allocution, conversation, consultation and registration, as well as linear or non-linear one-to-one, one-to-many, one-to-few, few-tofew, many-to-many communication (1980-1990s); New Media 3.0: Connected TV, smartphone, tablet all in one (2000s).

Below, by new media we effectively mean the last two generations, i.e. digital electronic media, primarily Internet-facilitated modes of media and comunication. As already mentioned, notions of digital democracy or e-democracy are underpinned by a number of expectations regarding the beneficial impact of digital technologies on democratic processes. It is hoped that the Internet will strengthen democracy because: 1. It lowers the entry barriers to political participation. 2. It strengthens political dialogue. 3. It creates community. 4. It cannot be controlled by government. 5. It increases voting participation. 6. It permits closer communication with officials. 7. It spreads democracy world-wide. However, lest a mistaken impression is created that the Internet will cure all the ills of democracy, the Council of Europe made a point in its Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)1on electronic democracy (e-democracy) of pointing to what it considers its subsidiary role. The document reiterates the need to develop and maintain effective, transparent and accountable democratic institutions that are responsive to the needs and aspirations of all and emphasizes the importance of maintaining and improving democratic institutions and processes in the context of the new opportunities and challenges arising from the information society. 11

Others have gone much further in debunking the supposed beneficial consequences of Internet use in political processes and procedures. Eli Noam (2010) considers each of the statements in the above list of Internet contributions to a strengthened democracy as a utopian populist view, and continues: I argue, in contrast, that the Internet, far from helping democracy, is a threat to it precisely because the Internet is powerful and revolutionary, it also affects, and even destroys, all traditional institutions--including--democracy. A somewhat more nuanced view is offered by Benjamin Barber (2002): How quickly the remarkable new technology has become one more element reinforcing an old, commercial, consumerist society. This only increases the pressure of money and commerce and monopoly and the forces of democracy, and increases the pressures of homogeneity and uniformity of democracys necessary pluralism. Politics as the art of public selling may flourish, but democracy in its representative and strong forms can only expire Technological change is both driving globalization unambiguously and impacting democratization in deeply ambiguous ways. It has the potential to strengthen as well as to weaken democracy in certain of its chief characteristics, though differentially for representative and strong democracy. If it is to serve democracy, the technology will have to be effectively programmed to do so. These authors views on the effect of the Internet and digital technologies on democracy, or prospects for its revival, add up to what might be called a charge sheet or indictment of these new technologies, as in Table 2. Table 2. Noam (2001) and Barber (2002) on the effect of the Internet and digital technologies on democracy Noam Barber 1. The Internet will make politics more expensive and raise entry barriers Is speed appropriate to democratic deliberation? With respect to deliberative democracy, the injunction is slow down! 2. The Internet will make reasoned Digital media relevant to democracy are prone to and informed political dialog more reductive simplicity -- to binary dualism. Strong difficult. democracy demands multiple choices and the complexities multi-choice options bring consensus or at least nuance rather than a clear division New technologies divide, isolate and atomize people. Too many chat rooms on the Net criminalize difference 4. The Internet disconnects as much rather than exploring it. They embrace a hooliganism as it connects where participants refuse to learn, refuse to listen and refuse to grow. 5. Information does not necessarily weaken the state 6. Electronic voting does not In a participatory democracy, where COMMON strengthen democracy deliberation is the object the privatization introduced by computer voting will appear as a vice 12

7. Direct access to public officials will be phony 8. The internet facilitates the international manipulation of domestic politics. 9.

Politics, the law and democracy start quite necessarily as a contest of words against force and feeling. Democracy will rely on words rather than pictures and streaming video will not be a welcome development. We could discuss each of these eight items at length but instead let us concentrate on the really important contentions made by Noam and Barber, and these are set out in items 2 and 3. They go to the heart of the issue namely whether or not the Internet makes possible the kind of discourse and debate that is needed for democracy to operate in practice. In considering the future of democracy in the Internet age, these comments raise to two crucial questions: 1. How, and to what extent, can the new media and new technologies contribute to transforming their users into a community, giving its members a group identity and a sense of co-responsibility for the common good, so they can reconcile individual and public interest; 2. How can they facilitate the emergence of the common will of the demos as a foundation for the development of the political will of society and its ability to take decisions within its political system in a way that guarantees their legitimacy? These are huge issues, of course. To find a way at least partly to deal with these questions, we will approach the first set of dilemmas in terms of the prospects for the operation of civil society in the context of new media and technologies. We will also interpret the second set of issues in terms of prospects for the reconstitution of the public sphere in the new circumstances. We will draw on available research to see, as far as the data allow, whether it confirms or disproves the pessimistic predictions of Noam and Barber. Civil society and new media Putnam (1995) and other scholars have identified social capital as capable of powerfully influencing the way representative systems of government operate. Social capital is rooted in different forms of civic engagement, civic attitudes and forms of involvement in the life of the community, social trust and strong social relationships which contribute to the development of democratic norms and behaviour patterns. Participation in civic associations and other groups of the civil society also helps acquire the social and organizational skills needed for participation in forms of direct democracy. However, according to Putnam, social capital and civic connectedness are declining. Over time, this cannot but negatively influence social cohesion and democratic processes. Social and cultural change in developed societies is promoting the individualization and alienation of individuals and groups from the political process. The new media and new technologies may accelerate this trend, damaging civil society in the process. Complete individualization would be an extreme form of social fragmentation and if it were to occurr on a mass scale would hamper, or could actually prevent, the development of the common will of the demos and the emergence of a community capable of mobilizing for the pursuit of common goals. Some authors (e.g. Ulrich Beck and Zygmunt Bauman) maintain that individuals in


Western societies refuse to accept that their lives are influenced by external factors (such as class, or cultural capital obtained with education) or social structure, or are unaware of their impact. They ascribe their own actions and situation solely to their individual motivations or decisions. As noted by Mikuowski-Pomorski (2006: 92), what is fragmented in social life may never come together again. That may powerfully influence social and democratic processes. In the media field, fragmentation and individualization may be encouraged by a process known as ego-casting (Rosen, 2004-2005), whereby individuals select media content for reception in line with their personal preferences, potentially creating individual virtual environments that have little in common with those of other individuals. And indeed, if all audiencje behaviour patterns and content chioices were fully individualized, that would mean the end of the audience as a signivficant social collectivity. Media users [would] come to have no more in common that each other than owners of any other consumer article [followed by] na decline in the strength of ties that bind people to their chosen media source and a loss of any sense of identity as an audience (McQuail, 2005: 447). Views differ as to what forms of social relations favour the development of social capital. Putnam (1995) himself considered the impact of electronic networks on social capital and expressed this view: My hunch is that meeting in an electronic forum is not the equivalent of meeting in a bowling alley or even in a saloon. In line with this, some authors argue that face-to-face interaction within traditional social group activity is most conducive to generating social capital, because it is through direct contact, social interaction, and sustained involvement that social capital develops. Others claim that the importance of face-to-face communication may be exaggerated. Another thing to consider in this respect is the composition of the group or association one belongs to. This is known as the difference between bridging and bonding forms of social capital. Homogeneous, inward-looking groups tend to produce dense networks that promote bonding, whereas bridging occurs in more diffuse settings in which groups encompass social diversity. Social interactions that bridge together people from different backgrounds and interests may connect people to others beyond their normal social network and develop more generalized social trust and collective orientations. In contrast, groups that tend to bond together mostly like-minded individuals may be less likely to develop trust and tolerance that extends beyond the individuals own network. Associations with more diverse and more engaged members presumably generate generalized trust. Participation in civil society groups can produce social and organizational skills that are vital for a participatory democracy. The jury is still out, however, on whether direct interpersonal contacts are a necessary requirement from this point of view and precisely what types of associations are most conducive to the attainment of these ends (Kittilson, Dalton, 2008). In this context, Atkinson (2010) notes that the individualisation thesis is based on the view that the residents of contemporary Western nations are no longer willing or able to perceive the motors of their life paths as external, social forces such as class or material resources and instead talk of internal, personal facets and motivations. They allegedly perceive their actions and their fates as the consequences of their own, free, individual choices rather than social structural forces. Ulrich Beck ascribes this to the demands of an ambiguous blend of welfare state policies and employment insecurity, whereas for Bauman individualisation is an insidious corollary of the hegemonic grip of neo-liberalism, individualism and consumerism on political and media discourse. Widespread acceptance of such views would be harmful to prospects of the existence of a strong civil society.


Atkinsons research shows, however, that Britons, at least, have still not lost a sense of the impact of societal factors and determinants on their lives and perceive and express their lives in terms of external, class-based constraints and enablements, chiefly those of economic and cultural capital, whilst any individualism or individualisation of class that do occur, particularly amongst the dominated, is both old news and fully explicable in terms of class. Accordingly, they are likely to see value in forms of social organization, such as civil society associations, and democratic processes enabling them to exert influence on their political and social environment. Research shows that the Internet does not lead to full atomization of society. While the traditional sources of social capital may be declining, the mechanisms through which citizens connect to others evolve with the new technology of the Internet (and other new technologies): Indeed, more people are sitting in front of their computer monitors, but they use this experience to connect to others in their social groups, others who share their cultural, social or political interests, and to garner information about the world and their fellow citizens through this new medium. Virtual civil society appears to have many of the same benefits for citizen norms and political involvement as traditional civil society (Kittilson, Dalton, 2008). The authors find that the shift toward virtual civil society is linked with bridging trust in people outside ones immediate personal network. Virtual activity is also related to participatory citizen norms. Overall, interpersonal social group and virtual activity are each similarly and positively associated with higher levels of political participation. Both forms of involvement contribute to heightened electoral and Internet activity. While interpersonal social group activity is more strongly linked with protest participation, virtual interactions share a tighter connection with political discussion. Interpersonal social group activity appears more conducive to social trust and tolerance. On the central question of how social capital is generated, the authors say that this likely happens in multiple ways, and those mechanisms are changing with social, economic and technological transformations. Specifically, their findings thus suggest that face-to-face interactions may not be the crux of social capital formation in the contemporary age. This appears to find confirmation in a study of personal networks of ICT users in the US (Petrovi, 2008). As it turned out, active involvement in online communities means having larger personal networks of emotional support with a smaller percentage of close family ties and a larger proportion of friends. Active participants in online communities also report more geographically distant networks and having known the members of their personal networks for a shorter period of time. In this network sociality, Petrovi found, there are no real "strangers", only potential members of people's ever-expanding networks. Moreover, because of mobility, network sociality is based less upon a shared common history and narrative: instead, information is key, the immediacy of what each person can offer in the quick exchange and the active production of trust. Finally, this sociality is also a "sociality with objects" since it is deeply embedded in new communication technologies, including Internet-based communication services such as email, chat rooms, discussion forums, mailing lists and web sites and especially mobile communication technologies like notebooks and mobile phones. Geographic proximity and local ties are still important resources of emotional support. The importance of local ties is suggested by the structural composition of personal networks of landline and mobile phone users. The former have fewer friends in their network, but more older and locally-knit ties than non-users of telephones, whereas mobile phone users have more work- or schoolmates in their networks than mobile phone non-users. Mobile phone use is positively associated with visits to relatives. The same holds for active participation in online communities that also highly significantly correlates with the frequency of involvement in voluntary organizations, whereas landline telephone use is positively correlated with both active


participation in religious community and voluntary organizations. Respondents combine a variety of communication technologies to stay connected to their personal networks. On one hand, active participants in online communities use more frequently mobile phones, texting and the Internet to communicate with members of their emotional support networks than non-active participants, whilst passive participation in online communities is significantly correlated only with the use of texting. On the other hand, the use of texting is significantly associated with the frequency of mobile phone, SMS, landline telephone and Internet use. Landline use is associated with sms and landline use. As for PC email use, a highly significant association was found with Internet use. Finally, mobile phone users draw on mobile phones more frequently and on texting less frequently to stay in touch with their personal networks than non-users of mobile phones. Rather than viewing online and offline interactions as social processes that take place on separate social planes, study results suggest, says Petrovi, that new forms of sociality are driven by a human need to fine-tune social contact, manage time and (micro)coordinate activities in a increasingly interlaced manner, which combines electronically mediated and inperson communication. In this respect, the intense social use of ICTs does not preclude ready adopters such as active participants in online communities from offline social activities and socializing; on the contrary, it appeared that it may have an important role in augmenting their social circles and in intensifying the offline socialization with their relatives. The findings contradict the idea that communication technology detracts from personal relationships and leads to social isolation. Instead, the results indicate a synergy between online and offline participation that relates to the ways people experience the cohesiveness of their social environments, which may be used to advantage to leverage the community - increasing the relevance and significance of community in individuals' lives. The author argues that the individual focus of communication technology use embodied in the changing experience of network and mobile sociality in late modernity does not necessarily carry with it the dissolution of integrative forms overlying communal life but, instead, can foster greater involvement in the coordination of activities that lay at the foundation of contemporary communal life. An interesting set of data on these subjects is provided by a study of American social network sites (SNS) (Hampton, et al., 2011). 79% of American adults said they used the internet and nearly half of adults (47%), or 59% of internet users, say they use at least one of SNS. Facebook dominated the SNS space in this survey: 92% of SNS users are on Facebook; 29% use MySpace, 18% used LinkedIn and 13% use Twitter. The study found that the average user of a social networking site has more close ties and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American. The average internet user is less likely to report having no discussion confidants (7%), and they tend to have more close ties (average of 2.27) than non-internet users (15% of non-internet users have no close ties, and they average 1.75 discussion partners). SNS users are even less likely to be socially isolated; only 5% report having no discussion confidants, with an average 2.45 close ties. The use of some technologies is associated with having more close ties. Here are the examples: Internet users average 14% more discussion confidants than non-users. Those who use instant message average 12% more core confidants than other internet users, or 25% more than non-internet users. The use of SNS in general was not found to have a negative relationship with the number of overall close ties. However, frequent users of Facebook have larger core networks. For


example, someone who uses Facebook a few times per day tends to have about 9% more strong ties. Facebook use seems to support intimacy, rather than undermine it. Social networking sites are increasingly used to keep up with close social ties. Looking only at those people that SNS users report as their core discussion confidants, 40% of users have friended all of their closest confidants.

Internet users in general score 3 points higher than average Americans in total support, 6 points higher in companionship, and 4 points higher in instrumental support. A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day tends to score an additional 5 points higher in total support, 5 points higher in emotional support, and 5 points higher in companionship, than internet users of similar demographic characteristics. For Facebook users, the additional boost is equivalent to about half the total support that the average American receives as a result of being married or cohabitating with a partner. Facebook is said to revive dormant relationships. The average Facebook user had 229 Facebook friends. They reported that their friends list contains: 22% people from high school 12% extended family 10% coworkers 9% college friends 8% immediate family 7% people from voluntary groups 2% neighbors

Over 31% of Facebook friends cannot be classified into these categories. However, only 7% of Facebook friends are people users have never met in person, and only 3% are people who have met only one time. The remainder is friends-of-friends and social ties that are not currently active relationships, but dormant ties that may, at some point in time, become an important source of information. Interestingly also, Facebook users are much more politically engaged than most people. Internet users in general were over twice as likely as average Americans to attend a political meeting, 78% more likely to try and influence someones vote, and 53% more likely to have voted or intended to vote. Compared with other internet users, and users of other SNS platforms, a Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day was an additional two and half times more likely to attend a political rally or meeting, 57% more likely to persuade someone on their vote, and an additional 43% more likely to have said they would vote. There is thus no evidence that SNS users, including those who use Facebook, are any more likely than others to cocoon themselves in social networks of like-minded and similar people, as some have feared. Somewhat different conclusions emerge from a study by Gaines and Mondak (2009) on the clustering of ideological types on social networks, in this case on Facebook. Their analysis of profiles of American college students detected some signs that students cluster ideologically on Facebook, although the extent of this sorting is not dramatic. Nevertheless, such phenomena do manifest themselves. During the American Presidential campaign of 2008, 23% of online political users (i.e. those who went online for news about politics or the campaign; communicated with others about politics using the internet; or shared or received campaign information using specific tools, such as email, instant messaging, text messages or Twitter) customized their political news, i.e. took advantage of


tools such as RSS feeds and email alerts to get customized political news tailored to their specific interests. (they represented 17% of all internet users) (Smith, 2009). Younger voters (particularly those under the age of 30) took great advantage of the ability to customize their news and get the latest updates on the campaign. Among online political users age 18-29, 21% signed up online to receive updates about the campaign, 12% customized a web page to display political information tailored to their interests, and 8% set up a politics-related RSS feed. Users of various social media applications were also interested in obtaining timely customized informationperhaps so they could be the first to share them with their friendswith Twitter users leading the way. Compared with other online political users, Twitter users were much more likely to sign up online for updates about the election (26% did this, vs. 14% of non-users) and to subscribe to political RSS feeds (14% vs. 4%). Another feature of Internet use during the election campaign was sharing and forwarding political information. Fully 44% of online political users (representing 33% of internet users and 24% of all adults) did one or more of the following activities related to political content sharing in 2008: 37% of online political users forwarded political commentary or writing to others 25% forwarded political audio or video recordings to others 22% shared photos, videos or audio files online related to the campaign or the elections

Assuming that they were probably most likely to do this in relation to users of similar political views or affinities, then such individual and group communication may indeed serve the fragmentation of society and development of alternative, politically-driven public spheres. This would appear to be indicated also by research on the 2006 general election in Italy (Molinari, 2011). A survey of electoral flows showed that the citizens embedded in homogeneous partisan networks were comparatively more influenced than those who discussed politics within heterogeneous networks that do not uniformly support a single political position. In both cases, the effects of interpersonal networks on voting behavior turned out to be stronger than those of TV news programs and generalist talk shows. The research results cited in this section cannot be generalized or lead to the formulation of any final conclusions. We can, however, say that while the Internet may indeed have the effect of fragmenting society and creating an echo chamber for individual or group views, it is not true to say that the new technologies are always destructive of social capital or the operation of civil society. While the forms this may take may be different than so far, the social effect may be the same. The challenge is not to insist on the continuation of old patters of civil society operation but to understand new ones and to learn how to promote them. The public spheres of the new technology era Noam and Barber place heavy emphasis on the need for full democratic discourse and debate in the new technological situation in line with the classical model of society and democracy. This naturally prompts consideration of the public sphere (see e.g. Hudzik, Woniak, 2006) and how it may serve its purposes in the new circumstances. Following Dahlgren (2005) we may describe the public sphere as a constellation of communicative spaces in society that permit the circulation of information, ideas, debates ideally in an unfettered mannerand also the formation of political will (i.e., public opinion). 18

These spaces, in which the mass media and now, more recently, the newer interactive media figure prominently, also serve to facilitate communicative links between citizens and the power holders of society. As Dahlgren (2010) points out, the public sphere is best conceptualized as consisting of three constitutive dimensions: structural (the formal institutions of the public sphere, prominently including the media); representational (the output of the media); and interaction (interaction between the citizens and the media, and between the citizens themselves). The first two are particularly important in terms of the role of the media in democracy. Benkler (2008) points out, as do other authors, that the new technologies are conducive to the emergence of a networked public sphere, making it possible to circumvent the bottleneck of the traditional mass media. However, as shown by the views of Noam and Barber, some observers anticipate that the fragmentation of the public discourse will lead to the disappearance of the public sphere, as individuals will perceive reality through symbolic windows, providing no need or opportunity for common discourse or political action. These will be possible only within groups observing the same things through their windows (Benkler, 2008). This is an extreme and very pessimistic view, but it is true that though we usually speak of the public sphere only in the singular, this does not reflect reality. Habermas himself differentiated between a political and a cultural sphere. It is also accepted that different social classes or segments of society may create their own public spheres (see Negt, Kluge, 1993; cf. also Bentivegna, 2006; Jakubowicz, 1991). New media and new technologies help the emergence of different public spheres (and new imagined communities, see Slevin, 2002) and by the same token help destabilize the old model of social and especially political communication. According to Holt and Karlsson (2011), the new technologies return the public sphere after a period when the public discourse was dominated by the mass media to the original Habermasian (1996) vision of a polycentric public debate, taking place in a wide variety of forums and public spheres, with the participation of active citizens, and not only passive recipients of allocutory communication. The moot question is whether this process will recreate in cyberspace the forms of public discourse typical of the Habermasian public sphere (some call this process return to the coffee house). That will depend on how social communication evolves: whether towards a paradigm shift, leading to the prevalence of peer to peer conversation, or conversely towards concentration and domination of communication networks by large domestic and international corporations. To support what has been said about the possible multiplication of public spheres, let us note that Downey and Fenton (2003) speak of counter-public spheres representing different segments of public opinion and made possible by the new media and new technologies. There are, they say, multiple and competing counter-publics, each marked by specific terms of exclusion (for example, those of class, race, gender) in relation to dominant communications, yet each understanding itself as a nucleus for an alternative organization of society. Somewhat along the same lines, Peter Dahlgren (1996) argues that convergence fosters the emergence of many mini-public spheres. Similarly to James Currans conflict and consensus media, Dahlgren identifies a common domain of the public sphere (mainstream media, reaching the whole public) and an advocacy domain, media representing the views of different social groups and organizations. New media and new technologies enrich and expand the public sphere, multiplying content services and media types. In addition, many internet-based public spheres appear. What follows is one list of such spheres:


1. Versions of e-government, usually with a top-down character, where government representatives interact with citizens and where information about governmental administration and services is made available. While interaction may be relatively constricted, it can still at times serve as a sector of the public sphere. This sector is sometimes distinguished from e-governance, which emphasizes horizontal civic communication and input for government policy; 2. The advocacy/activist domain, where discussion is framed by organizations with generally shared perceptions, values, and goalsand geared for forms of political intervention. These include traditional parliamentarian politics, established corporate and other organized interest group politics (e.g., unions), and the new politics of social movements and other activists; 3. The vast array of diverse civic forums where views are exchanged among citizens and deliberation can take place. This is generally understood as the paradigmatic version of the public sphere on the Net, but it would be quite erroneous to neglect the others; 4. The prepolitical or parapolitical domain, which airs social and cultural topics having to do with common interests and/or collective identities. Here politics is not explicit but always remains a potential. Clearly, there is no absolute way in which the boundary between the nonpolitical and the parapolitical can be drawn, since it is always in part discursively negotiated and changeable; 5. The journalism domain, which includes everything from major news organizations that have gone online (e.g., newspapers and CNN) to Net-based news or-ganizations (usually without much or any original reporting) such as Yahoo! News, alternative news organizations such as Indymedia and Mediachannel, as well as one-person weblog sites (also known as bloggers). Interestingly, the research literature has tended to focus mainly on deliberative interaction in terms of online public spheres and/or mass media journalism. The online journalism sector is a core element of the public sphere on the Internet (Dahlgren, 2005). If these public spheres constituted closed digital ghettoes, conducive to nichification, including the development of enclave or niche mentality (Dahlgren, 2010), then a new social and political situation could well emerge, potentially exploding the nation-state and the democratic system from within. This could produce a clear polarization and radicalization of public opinion (see Eriksen, 2011, on hatred vitriol and aggression vented in online discussions across a broad range of media after the massacre of 22 July 2011, and especially on forums regarded as the sewers of the public sphere) and help conflict media win an even greater advantage over consensus media than they already have. This course of events cannot be discounted, but it seems that the internet would play a secondary role in this process, mirroring rather than moulding social tendencies, such as exacerbation of social divisions (driven by political or other mechanisms), intensification of conflicts, politicization or radicalization of different groups or segments of society. For now, both positive and negative consequences of this destabilization of social communication can be identified. First of all, we are seeing a clear growth in the number of political communicators, new forms of political engagement, and an evolution of the concept of politics. The growing cultural diversity of social communication can also be a positive development in terms of democracy promotion. On the other hand, communication is growing more chaotic and unpredictable. Participation of large numbers of communicators and extreme differentiation of voices undercut political effectiveness and make governance more difficult. This second point of view is shared by Downey and Fenton (2003). In their view, the proliferation of counter publics may create a force to reckon with, but only if powerful efforts are made to unite or coordinate (bridge) them. Such efforts have been made successfully, they


point out, especially in the area of the environment, globalization and ecology. The structural problem that arises with the proliferation of counter-publics is one of translation, of communicating across a wider arena of discursive contestation. If this does not happen the counter-public spheres will further splinter and fragment civil society and hinder, rather than assist the operation of a possible deliberative democracy. The key issue, then, as Downey and Fenton correctly point out, is the relationship between the new media, counter-public spheres and the common domain, especially of the ability of alternative public spheres to break through to the common domain and reach the entire public. This also holds for all other public spheres, as without such a process public opinion may be unable to come together on issues of real societal importance and develop the political will needed to chart a course of action or take other decisions valid and legitimate for all or most of society. To sum up these initial considerations, we may agree with Dahlberg (2005), it is far too early for either fatalistic thinking or premature celebration regarding the democratic potential of the new media and new technologies. The Internet, he says, is moving towards a closed, commercial, discriminatory system. Yet, there are also very positive developments that must not be overlooked. Despite marginalization of critical communication and threats facing the democratic form of online participation, the Internet supports many progressive civic communication networks. Out of these networks critical publics are forming What is needed, therefore, is an ongoing evaluation of the evolving social, political, and cultural conditions and practices that would make it possible to understand and use the democratic potential of the new technologies. New media and new democracy? Schmitter and Trechsel (2004: 7) quote Robert Dahl: Whatever form it takes, the democracy of our successors will not and cannot be the democracy of our predecessors. One can also agree with their view that the future of democracy in Europe lies less in fortifying and perpetuating existing formal institutions and informal practices than in changing them democracy as we know it will have to change and to change significantly. It is therefore quite disappointing when they say that those reforms that promise to increase voter turnout, stimulate membership in political parties, associations and movements and improve citizen confidence in the role of politicians as representatives and legislators deserve prior consideration (Schmitter, Trechsel, 2004: 96). Indeed, many authors are critical of, or not convinced by, the democratic potential of the Internet and argue that the democratic malaise should be dealt with by breathing new life into traditional methods of political participation and communication. Based on the foregoing, we have to say that this would not be significant change, but an effort to boost democratic procedures and processes that, in Ulrich Becks terms, may already be living zombies. Other authors point out that we are entering a new era, when democracy has to be seen in a new light. It needs to be redefined; what is politics and what is democracy must be reconsidered. One reason is globalization (see e.g. Held, 1997; 2000). On the other hand, the need for such reconsideration stems from processes unfolding at the national level. Traditional institutions and structures of parliamentary democracy do retain their validity, but we are also entering an era of informal, extra-parliamentary politics, with the participation of social movements and grassroots organizations. New players appear alongside traditional political parties, such as single-issue advocacy movements. One could argue, notes Jensen (2011: 1), that joining debates, uploading videos, and sharing food recipes represent important acts of citizenry at a time when more formal acts of citizenship like voting and party membership seem to be on the decline.


So, if citizens display little interest in parliamentary life and traditional political processes, this need not mean that they have lost interest in politics as such. Rather, they may have shifted their attention to new forms of political activity, oriented not only to the pursuit of particular definable goals, but also to self-expression, demonstration of ones identity, and affirming a sense of worth and a feeling of belonging. If so, then the Internet and other new technologies (e.g. mobile phones) are becoming not just an important but in reality a key area for political activity, especially because they facilitate new forms of horizontal civic communication. In this context, it is significant that when commenting in 2000 r. on the future of democracy, Robert Putnam wrote: Let us find ways to ensure that by 2010 Americans will spend less leisure time sitting passively alone in front of glowing screens and more time in active connection with our fellow citizens. Let us foster new forms of electronic entertainment and communication that reinforce community engagement rather than forestalling it. (cited after Gaines and Mondak, 2009; emphasis added) At first sight, Putnam appears guilty of the same generational fallacy (bringing to innovative technologies all the judgments, values and prejudices acquired in using the older technologies; making assumptions about the new technology rooted in the experience of the old). as seems to emerge from the above-quoted views of Noam and Barber on the lack of fit between new media and democracy. In reality, however, he does not suggest Americans should forsake the glowing screens and indicates that all the camaraderie of the saloon notwithstanding, forms of electronic entertainment communication may reinforce community engagement. And indeed, one of the main uses of computers is precisely to connect with others, actively, not passively. Could it be that online socializing is already fostering engagement in ways that might easily be missed in traditional research designs? (Gaines, Mondak, 2009: 217). It is significant in this context that analyses have identified a segment of new media users who prefer to interact online rather than offline. This group will doubtless expand in the future as the digital natives grow up, creating challenges for established institutions and policy makers who still mainly rely on traditional media (Jensen, 2011: 19). It would appear that Noam and (to a lesser extent) Barber are not willing to recognize this: if the new technologies do not facilitate the democratic process and procedures conducted in the traditional way, then this means to the two authors, it would appear, that those technologies impact on democracy is wholly negative. Though Noam does not say so in so many words, the implication might be that in his view the best solution would to reinstate the societal conditions that render the traditional democratic process and debate effective. Barber is more flexible, but he, too, expects that information technologies should be programmed in a way that serve those traditional methods. This suggests that the current transformation of democracy (whatever the reasons for it) must lead to the development of a new democratic process and perhaps even new systemic features of democracy and ways of legitimizing it. Above, we discussed three selected relatively specific visions of the future shape of democracy. Two of them (those formulated by Dahl and Warren) are not mutually exclusive: democratic systems must adjust both to globalization and international integration on the one hand, and, on the other, to socio-cultural change, as well as to technological developments that introduce new technologies into the democratic process and development of e-democracy. The third vision, that of leader democracy is less easy to conceive of in these circumstances. The globalization of democracy and e-democracy may complement and support each other, as new technologies may provide the infrastructure for the creation of a global civil


society and public sphere, cosmopolitan citizenship, society and democracy(Beck, 2002; Held, 1997; 2000), and thus a system of political communication suited to conditions of global governance. The future shape of e-democracy is equally unclear. If that vision were to be put into effect, however, there would be need of not only the requisite technologies, but also, and primarily, of appropriate democratic procedures for deliberation and decision-making. Just as an example, there would need to be solutions making possible online democratic deliberation, with the possible participation of all Internet users (see Davies, Gangadharan, 2009). The normative model of participatory communication requires more than interaction or communication among individuals: what is needed is deliberative interaction, leading to an enlightened understanding of the issues involved and the transformation of individual views into consensus and a common approach. If we assume that this path is chosen for the future, then there loom on the horizon a great number of difficulties inherent in conducting a well-managed process of deliberation, producing in the end conclusions acceptable to all. Some proposed solutions concern different modes of representation thanks to which these difficulties can be overcome (Castiglione, Warren, 2006). One example is Warrens (2006) concept of citizen representatives citizens (and not officials or parliamentarians) representing other citizens. The oldest form of citizen representative Warren explains is the legal jury, which represents the considered judgment of peers within courtroom proceedings. Today, we can add to this experiments with citizen juries and panels, advisory councils, stakeholder meetings, lay members of professional review boards, representations at public hearings, public submissions, citizen surveys, deliberative polling, deliberative forums, focus groups, and advocacy group representations. Citizen representatives typically function not as alternatives but rather as supplements to elected representative bodies or administrative bodies in areas of weakness, usually having to do with limitations of communication, deliberation, legitimacy, governability, or attentiveness to public norms and common goods. Another proposal comes from John Dryzek (1999) who recalls the classic formulation of the theory of deliberative democracy (i.e. that outcomes of the process are legitimate to the extent they receive reflective assent through participation in authentic deliberation by all those subject to the decision in question) and points out in tandem with other authors that the large scale of modern societies and the number of citizens that would have to be involved in such deliberative processes make this impracticable . He therefore argues in favour of changing the unit of account from individuals to discourses within the public sphere. A discourse, according to Dryzek, is a shared way of comprehending the world embedded in language, and always features particular assumptions, judgments, contentions, dispositions and capabilities. Adherents of a particular discourse (meaning members of a group united by experience, common interests and purpose and sharing opinions about facts and values) are able to recognize it and share it in an intersubjectively meaningful fashion. Accordingly, Dryzek conceptualizes deliberation as a multifaceted interchange or contestation across discourses within the public sphere and argues that in this approach discursive legitimacy is secured to the extent that collective outcomes are responsive to the balance of competing discourses in the public sphere, to the extent that the balance is itself subject to dispersed and competent control (Dryzek, 1999: 3). For his part, Dahl (1995: 468-469) echoes the view already cited above that neither in polyarchy II, nor even less in polyarchy III is there need (or possibility) for every citizen to be fully informed and active on each significant issue. What is needed is a critical mass of wellinformed citizens, enabling the operation of democracy. Organizational forms of this minipopulus would complement the activities of legislative bodies.


A totally different view on the need for citizens to be well informed is presented by the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University which has come up with the idea of deliberative polling (Fishkin, n.d.). In this procedure, a random, representative sample is first polled on the targeted issues. After this baseline poll, members of the sample are invited to gather at a single place for a weekend in order to discuss the issues. Carefully balanced briefing materials are sent to the participants and are also made publicly available. The participants engage in dialogue with competing experts and political leaders based on questions they develop in small group discussions with trained moderators. Parts of the weekend events are broadcast on television, either live or in taped and edited form. After the deliberations, the sample is again asked the original questions. The resulting changes in opinion represent the conclusions the public would reach, if people had opportunity to become more informed and more engaged by the issues. As for the development of the common will of the demos, decision-making processes are an even greater problem that e-democracy has to find a solution to. As we saw, Noam and Barber are quite scathing about e-voting or online plebiscites or referendums. It is true that, whatever their enthusiasts might say, the ICTs fail to provide easy solutions to this difficulty. And so, they fail to remove problems with societal complexity and the associated fact that the political system has to perform a broad range of services for society, and therefore the quantity of generally binding decisions required to make the system work has reached enormous proportions. This would call for a great number of online referendums to be held very frequently, certainly a difficult prospect to imagine. The ICTs can do little to solve another problem: the difficulty and interrelatedness of the problems with which politics has to deal. This calls for expert knowledge, the building of compromises between differing positions, and the development of policy packages. Referendums, however, are concerned with single issues and, in voting, citizens almost always have to rely on inadequate information, all the more so as the number of referenda increases. A third aspect is motivation for participation in referendums. The normative postulate of self-government can be approached only if the institutional possibilities are available and if they are also used by citizens. The argument that every citizen can participate may be true, but participation would force the citizen to obtain costly information, for without it they have no way of identifying their own interest in the given issue, and their vote would then be senseless. A fourth aspect is the blurring of the democratic logic of a representative system. Such systems are based on the clear accountability of elected representatives in the political decision-making system for their actions and the outcomes of these actions. The more referendums are conducted, the more of a problem accountability becomes. This is why we say that both the preservation and/or reconstitution of civil society, and the operation of the public sphere(s) in the new circumstances, in both cases as parts of new democratic arrangements and processes, require that democracy be reinvented, with new rules of the game. In the meantime, we can most likely look forward towards a process (happening in different countries at a different pace) of extending and complementing the traditional instruments of democracy with opportunities made possible by new media and new technologies. The question is whether this will be more than an interim solution. Van Dijk (2006) believes that this may lead to a lasting marriage of representative democracy with elements of direct democracy. Ultimately, as the bugs are ironed out and answers are found to the many dilemmas posed by the use of the new media and new technologies in democracy, this could potentially lead to the replacement of representative with direct democracy. We must, however, accept Robert Dahls (1995: 469) view that the ideal requirements of democratic action may never be fully met. Be that as it may, the profound crisis of democracy and quickly and fundamentally


changing circumstances and means of conducting politics require new thinking and potentially quite new solutions. These, however, must be free from nave and utopian thinking, so prevalent in contemporary discourse on the role of the new media and new technologies in democracy.

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