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Social Media and Participatory Democracy

Public Notice and the World Wide Web

Shannon Martin E.

Public notices are usually provided in the form of a document when something is about to be done or recently has been done by government. For about two hundred years these notices have often taken the form of legal notices placed as classified ads in newspapers.
With the onset of social media, government as well as personal information can be accessed at a push of a button for all to see. This book addresses the kinds of changes that public notice and published public records have experienced as governments around the world try to accommodate the digital formats for information and World Wide Web publishing, as well as presenting historical and legal underpinnings for the broader claim of a public requirement to be informed about government.
While there is concern that government information on the web will fall pray to pranks and misuse, the author argues that it is possible to reduce this risk by looking carefully at the intent of public notice and the history of democratic evolution. The book concludes with recommendations for smoothing the transition from a paper-based world of records to an environment of speed and virtual portability.
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Chapter 1: Political Communication Theories and the Development of Public Notice

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The rationale for any one element of a political system depends on the interplay of that element with all other parts of the system. Public notice, the subject of this book, has such a long history within democracies and representative government that it seems almost redundant to have to explain or justify its character and use. Political theory helps us in this case not only to place public notice in a social construct but also to appreciate its contribution as an element of a political system and predict how the system would change if this one element were to change.

A good discussion of political theory was presented by William Bluhm in his classic text Theories of the Political System.1 Bluhm made the distinction between public government involving public politics and business or church government involving private politics. For the present work we will assume that public government and public politics are the subjects being discussed. Working on that premise, the political theory elements for us, here, will include the social process involving cooperation among those with power, leading to decision making for the group.

The relationship between and interplay of these elements—social processes, cooperation, the bestowing of power, and group decision making—remains a complicated network for government constructs. The chapters presented ← 1 | 2 → here will focus on representative democracies that are either long established or currently emerging. Though this form of government is not perfect for all social environments, it will provide the...

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