Courtesy of Federal News Radio, on a fourth occasion, comes an essay from Cary Coglianese of the University of Pennsylvania Law School on a paper by Schlozman, Verba and Brady of the Universities of Boston, Harvard and Berkeley respectively, so no backstreet pseudo-academics.

The paper entitled “Perspectives on Politics: Weapon of the Strong? Participatory Inequality and the Internet” is in the Cambridge University Press publication “Perspectives on Politics”, so is also downloadable from a reliable source.

The authors conclude that “If we began this inquiry hopeful that the political possibilities of the Internet might disrupt long-standing patterns of participatory inequality in American politics, what we have found has, by and large, showed those expectations to be unfounded.” They do remain hopeful that things might change with Internet developments being so unforeseeable, but they do so with a lot of questions about the future, their final words being “Will social networking provide a less class stratified venue for politics or will income and education continue to exert their traditional power in structuring political involvement into new environments? Stay logged on.”

Having personally held great hopes at the outset of e-government for it and the potential inclusiveness, I have observed by my own experiences the limitations. This latest essay confirms for me that whilst they are good tools for some people to use, the Internet and social media will always exclude those most at risk from being politically sidelined. In the final words of Cary Coglianese ” If e-government does portend a revolution in citizen participation, it is still too early to arrive for the party”.


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