Call#: Van Pelt Library JF799 .I62 2006
Owen’s article is optimistic regarding future civic engagement, but often defines this engagement in terms of student political projects, voters looking at government websites, etc. She doesn’t offer much concrete evidence that these online practices translate into actual voting. She does, rather inadvertently, point out an interesting paradox: those users who are currently the most web-savvy are not yet old enough to legally vote. Furthermore, Owen’s article reveals that the Internet may only further engage those already intending to vote. She also rethinks the traditional concept of engagement, which in this case may mean community-building, blogging, etc. as opposed to actual voting.
This article gives useful breakdowns of American populations using the Internet by age, gender and race (although only in the categories “White” and “Black”) – but does not offer any analysis through more nuanced categories or race, class, geographical location, etc.
Call#: Annenberg Library Reserve P94.65.U6 J46 2006
In chapter six, Jenkins discusses the role of popular culture in emerging political communities. Jenkins (as is the case throughout Convergence Culture) is focused on how old and new media interact and the dynamics of collaboration and participation. While Jenkins recognizes the scoff-factor when implying the concept of “photoshop for democracy” (user-generated images that often map themes from popular culture onto the political campaign) is any sort of substitute for real political activism, he insists that this kind of user-generated content and mass dispersion is a serious act of citizenry. In fact, using popular culture as a means of engaging voters might just be the most effective way of re-establishing interest in politics as a part of our everyday lives. Jenkins focuses on the 2004 election and recognizes that the next step is to think of “democratic citizenship as a lifestyle.” Furthermore, online political communities seem to be segregating voters, as opposed to encouraging dialogue across ideologies. Although he seems to offer popular culture as a kind of national balm for the ailments of political fragmentation, Jenkins recognizes the inherent limits of its role in (or applicability as a model for) contemporary political communities.
For me, the most useful parts of this argument is the attention he pays to the increasing participation of average Americans (now as monitorial citizens as opposed to informed citizens) in the media landscape and the possibilities for the integration of politics and popular culture. However, he doesn’t seem to offer any real solution for the acutely polarized political landscape.
Call#: Van Pelt Library JK1764 .T75 2004
Call#: Van Pelt Library JK1764 .D37 2005
Ch. 1: “Electronic Political Discussion”
This chapter offers an overview of various online communications, including electronic email lists, Usenet and blogs. Davis addresses the question of whether or not online discussions make any difference in political processes, institutions or societal behavior and ultimately decides that the prophesized utopia of direct democracy has not yet been achieved. The obstacles facing such restructuring include: inequality in the levels of accessibility and the fragmented nature of electronic political discussion. Even the more tempered notion of deliberative democracy faces hurdles - most notably human reliance on technological solutions.
This chapter is a helpful summary of current online discussion forums and briefly pulls apart the kind of Trippi-esque claims of revolution. I'm going to utilize the rest of this book in order to examine the broad claims of internet revolution which, in the case of much writing about the internet, seem devoid of factors like accessibility.
Call#: Van Pelt Library JK2281 .C67 2004
This chapter analyzes five cases of online politics, including the use of the internet by Bush and McCain in 2000, the phenomenon moveon.org, Web White and Blue and the “instant response meter” developed by Speakout.com. The moveon.org case study discusses the evolution of the wildly successful organization which proved to have a mobilizing capacity beyond all expectation. It summarizes its strategy of providing a voice for those unheard during the Clinton scandal as well as using the Internet to broaden the early donor pool. The article mentions in the last few sentences that there is no conservative counterpart to the MoveOn model, perhaps because “grassroots action works better in opposition – and the conservatives are in power.” I think this is a valid point and worth examining in relation to the Democratic takeover in the midterm elections although at the moment it seems too early for a conservative backlash.
As the chapter points out, Joan Blades and Wes Boyd (the founders of MoveOn) are not political candidates. They (in the vein of many environmentalists or human rights organizations responding to a specific problem) started their site/online petition as a reaction to the Clinton impeachment issue and grew to become a kind of brand of endorsement for selected democratic candidates. Also, they bundle donor choices to make sizable contributions to a slate of candidates. Would any one candidate be able to mobilize the kind of broad support this portal of the people harnessed?