Online Community and Democracy

Document Type: Original article


Professor, Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Technology, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, Canada


The debate over the contribution of the Internet to democracy is far
from settled. Some point to the empowering effects of online discussion
and fund raising on recent electoral campaigns in the US to argue that
the Internet will restore the public sphere. Others claim that the Internet
is just a virtual mall, a final extension of global capitalism into every
corner of our lives. This paper argues for the democratic thesis with
some qualifications. The most important contribution of the Internet
to democracy is not necessarily its effects on the electoral process but
rather its ability to assemble a public around technical networks that
enroll individuals scattered over wide geographical areas. Medical
patients, video game players, musical performers, and many other
publics have emerged on the Internet with surprising consequences.


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