Political Participation and Web 2.0

Notwithstanding the fact that it is also said to be the cradle of the modern “negative liberties”, Democracy is the undisputed realm of the ancient citizens’ “positive liberty” to participate in the political process, which,in modern western societies,presupposes freedom of thought, speech and association, as well as the existence of the mass media. Following Habermas’ thesis whereby the advent of the mass media brought along a “re-feudalization” of the public sphere, several authors saw the rise of a “new public sphere” in the birth of Internet. According to some, the Internet might somehow be the solution for the maladies of democracy.

There is in fact no consensus regarding the potentialities of the Internet and, in particular, its Web 2.0 version for the strengthening of the citizens’ political participation and – by extension – of democracy itself. Nonetheless, this “new medium” has become the cornerstone of the communication strategies of both political parties and their candidates. Contrary to the “normalization thesis”, several authors have stressed the novelty, as well as the potential for democracy enhancement, of the political parties’ communication on the Internet, which can be skilfully used as a tool for building political trust, reinforcing pluralism and heightening citizens’ participation, not to mention the benefits to “horizontal communication”, central to civic interaction.

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Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
União Europeia
Quadro de Referência Estratégico Nacional
Programa Operacional Factores de Competitividade
Universidade da Beira Interior
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