Digital Divide: Pippa Norris

Another day, another book review…..I picked up the Pippa Norris book as there seemed to be some interesting parallels between what she was talking about in terms of Internet take up from third world countries as a way of looking at the problems of getting first world users to adopt technology for a specific purpose.  I am not sure in the end that this was as useful as I anticipated though it was a good example as to why I need to very clearly position which part of the democratic process I am interested in.  I am looking at the transition point from a purely social discourse to one with the potential for a formal democratic outcome.  I need to look at how you build a vibrant social network and then be sure of the point at which you introduce the formal element – I have assumed a linear approach with the participants being aware that this is a ‘journey’ but this is perhaps not accurate when I am actually suggesting that you go off and ‘harvest’ groups from other locations in order to seed the democratic debate.  But this is something of a digression – main points from the book are:

  • Useful content on the cultural differences between democracies (p.34):  “The rapid adoption of the Internet as a lobbying and fund-raising tool in American electoral campaigns, for example may reflect the particular form of interest group pluralism and money-driven political campaigns found in the United States, rather than a model common in many European democracies”
  • P.97 – comments about how the Internet can increase access and do broaden involvement – and can “facilitate opportunities for direct democracy”
  • Schumpeterian definition of democracy “that defines representative or liberal democracy in terms of its structural or institutional characteristics”.  This is worth looking at more with respect to Democratic benchmarks
  • She has a very sensible warning about assuming that online activists are active because they are online – and not because they would be active anyway.

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