Democracy and the Internet: Access, Engagement and Deliberation
The internet has the capacity to facilitate the creation of new forms of civic engagement, but the realisation of these opportunities requires institutional and cultural reinforcement. The democratic character of e-citizenship and the equal distribution of online resources to the public require the fulfilment of four conditions: access, engagement (incorporating education, motivation and trust), meaningful deliberation and a link between civic input and public policy output. Furthermore, the gap between the main features of cyberspace and the inherent prerequisites of democracy, such as a finite space and a set of rules, create tensions that need to be negotiated politically. Although the empirical evidence available includes some encouraging signs regarding the future use of the internet for civic engagement, the existing limitations and obstacles mean that the new media will complement, rather than replace, the old media as a democratic public sphere.