Connecting Democracy: Online Consultation and the Flow of Political Communication
The global explosion of online activity is steadily transforming the relationship between government and the public. The first wave of change, "e-government," enlisted the Internet to improve management and the delivery of services. More recently, "e-democracy" has aimed to enhance democracy itself using digital information and communication technology. One notable example of e-democratic practice is the government-sponsored (or government-authorized) online forum for public input on policymaking. This book investigates these "online consultations" and their effect on democratic practice in the United States and Europe, examining the potential of Internet-enabled policy forums to enrich democratic citizenship.
The book first situates the online consultation phenomenon in a conceptual framework that takes into account the contemporary media environment and the flow of political communication; then offers a multifaceted look at the experience of online consultation participants in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France; and finally explores the legal architecture of U.S. and E. U. online consultation. As the contributors make clear, online consultations are not simply dialogues between citizens and government but constitute networked communications involving citizens, government, technicians, civil society organizations, and the media. The topics examined are especially relevant today, in light of the Obama administration's innovations in online citizen involvement.
The following paragraph from the introductory chapter gives a flavor of our framework:
"A useful understanding of the online consultation phenomenon has to go beyond how particular consultations might or might not affect the outcomes of individual policy- making episodes. We need to consider what such consultations provide, or could provide, to the larger flow of political communication within a society. This also means regarding online consultations as something more than simple two-way dialogues between citizen-participants and public decision makers. Instead, they represent a kind of networked communication involving citizens (both participants and auditors), public decision makers (of both the legislative and administrative sort), bureaucrats, technicians, civil society organizations, and the media generally. Exploring the meaning of online consultations to these diverse actors requires evidence -gathering through multiple methods, comparative study, and analysis across a variety of key disciplines. We have to appreciate how the experience is constructed by social, political, and legal forces, including, but not limited to the design of the online consultation experience itself. This sort of approach yields an understanding that the online consultation can best contribute phenomenon's greatest contribution to democratic practice depends by inspiring and supporting a reimagining on it becoming both an impetus to, and a form of support for, a re-imagination of democratic citizenship, a robust form of citizenship that is enhanced by arguably rendered more practical (but hardly inevitable) because of new forms of information and communication technology."
Table of Contents:
1 Online Consultation and Political Communication in the Age of Obama: An Introduction
Peter M. Shane
I- Online Consultation and the Flow of Political Communication
2 Democracy, Distance, and Reach: The New Media Landscape
Stephen Coleman and Vincent Price
3 Web 2.0: New Challenges for the Study of E-Democracy in an Era of Informational Exuberance
4 Online Consultations in Local Government: What Works, When, and Why?
Joachim Astrom and Ake Gronlund
5 Neighborhood Information Systems as Intermediaries in Democratic Communities
Steven J. Balla and Sungsoo Hwang
II- What Online Consultations Mean to Their Participants
6 Playing Politics: The Experience of E-Participation
7 The Participatory Journey in Online Consultations
8 Democratic Consultation and the E-Citizen
Stephen Coleman, Rachel Gibson, and Agnes I. Schneeberger
9 The Technological Dimension of Deliberation: A Comparison between Online- and Off-Line Participation
10 The Third Sector as E-Democratic Intermediaries
Scott Wright and Stephen Coleman
11A Survey of Federal Agency Rulemakers? Attitudes about E-Rulemaking
Jeffrey S. Lubbers
12 The Internet and the Madisonian Cycle: Possibilities and Prospects for Consultative Representation
David Lazer, Michael Neblo, and Kevin Esterling
III- The Legal Architecture of Online Consultation
13 Legal Frameworks and Institutional Contexts for Public Consultation Regarding Administrative Actionfor Executive-Branch Actions: The United States
Peter L. Strauss
14 Legal Frameworks and Institutional Contexts for Public Consultation Regarding Administrative Action for Executive-Branch Actions: The European Union
Polona Picman Stefancic
15 The Legal Environment for Electronic Democracy
Peter M. Shane and Polona Picman Stefancic
16 E-Democracy, Transnational Organizations, and the Challenge of New Techno-Iintermediation
17 Making the E-Citizen: A Socio-Technical Approach to Democracy
About the Editors
Stephen Coleman is Professor of Political Communication in the Institute of Communications Studies at the University of Leeds.
Peter M. Shane is Jacob E. Davis and Jacob E. Davis II Chair in Law at the Ohio State University.
Edited by Stephen Coleman and Peter Shane, the book is a collaborative project of 19 researchers investigating the experience and potential of online consultation in the United States and Europe.
Connecting Democracy: Online Consultation and the Flow of Political Communication, The MIT Press, december 2011.
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