Smart People, Stupid Networks: The Internet’s Equalizing Influence on Political Discourse and Engagement
This is a Government Honors thesis written by Joseph Backer. The link to download the full 146 page paper with 8 pages of works cited/consulted is to the right of the title, directly under "Papers". I've been reading this in bits and pieces; essentially, it's a study of how the internet is empowering the People with information and technology for communicating and organizing, diluting the power of the political elites and leveling the political and media playing fields. Also, it reviews the history of elite-dominated media in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the role the private and public sectors have been playing in the expansion of the internet.
Abstract: This study explores the impact and influences of the Internet on formalized political discourse and engagement during the last decade. It traces the traditions and conventions of predominantly top-down and elite-dominated methods of information dissemination and citizen mobilization, beginning with newspapers at the turn of the nineteenth century and progressing to the professionalization and specialization experienced during the twentieth century. These sustained patterns of limited influence for non-elites had a marginalizing effect on participation and understandings of democratic responsiveness. Since the emergence of the Internet as a widespread medium of communication, however, prevailing hierarchies of control over discourse and engagement have been challenged on a number of fronts. This study highlights many such challenges and argues that the Internet is an equalizing force that is counteracting the disproportionate levels of power held by political elites. It further underlines the complementary nature of the Internet to traditional forms of political expression, and the necessity of policies that will equip Americans with the confidence and experience necessary to realize the Internet’s potential as a political forum.