White, Charles S. "Citizen participation and the Internet: prospects for civic deliberation in the information age." The Social Studies, Jan-Feb 1997 v88 n1 p23 (6)

Keywords: democrary, participation


In this article Charles White explores the ability of the Internet to enhance citizen participation in democratic processes and focuses on the tensions between representative and direct forms of democracy. Specifically, the author claims that people generally feel they are losing control of the forces that govern them and that community bonds are weakening. In general the author believes that citizens donít trust their political leaders and as a result there appears to be little incentive to become an informed and participating citizen. The author presents classical theories of democracy to provide background into the importance of active engagement and participation by the citizen. These theories place high value on self-rule by engaged citizens, distributed power and collective deliberation.

The author presents pros and cons of citizen participation. He points out that studies indicate there has been no significant increase in knowledge or interest in politics by the general citizen in recent years. Generally, it takes time and effort to become informed and most people today just canít spare either. Studies suggest that most people just wonít participate regardless of the technology available, thus the author concludes that technology will not reduce citizen apathy. The author also points out that the greatest obstacle to overcome is the dissemination of technology to society.