New media, politics and society- Second edition
Chapter 2: Electronic Politics
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The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1991: 172) has argued that a lack of access among the general populace to the tools necessary for political participation has resulted in the concentration of political power as the province of a small elite. Although much has been claimed for the potential of new media technologies to promote democratic political participation, it remains unclear whether the application of these technologies in practices as apparently diverse as those of electronic government, interactive entertainment and virtual socialization indeed offer the popular dissemination of the technological and cultural capital which Bourdieu sees as essential to the processes of democratization – or whether they in essence divert their subjects from such processes.
Bourdieu (2005: 62) has proposed that ‘to make a decisive contribution to the construction of a genuine democracy […] one needs to work towards creating the social conditions for the establishment of a mode of fabrication of the general will […] that is genuinely collective […] based upon the regulated exchanges of a dialectical confrontation […] capable of transforming the contents communicated as well as those who communicate.’ It appears that the homogenizing seamlessness of contemporary media technologies refutes the possibility of any such dialectical confrontation. Those who might see the potential of emergent information and communications technologies to foster a global village in which these technologies unify society’s fragments (McLuhan 2001: 385) – or for that matter a return to the ‘vibrant democratic intellectual culture of the eighteenth-century...
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