Part I: The Internet and Political Communication
Part I The Internet and Political Communication 2. Democratic Potentials of Online Communication for Political Debate Barbara Pfetsch Free University of Berlin, Germany Silke Adam University of Bern, Switzerland Abstract: This chapter focuses on the democratization potential of online communication for political debate in Western democracy. We discuss the inclusiveness and democratic potential of online communication in two steps. The first section is devoted to the question of why online communication has fuelled hopes and how empirical studies cast doubt on the demo- cratic potential of the internet. In the second section of the chapter, we propose a new per- spective and argue that the internet might be effective as a medium of empowerment and in- clusiveness only in interaction with the traditional media. We tackle the notion of a new hy- brid media system and claim that political communication research must focus on this zone of interaction between old and new media in order to better understand and realistically assess the democratic potential of the internet. Key words: democratic theory, internet, political debate, hybrid media system Introduction The democratic potential of online communication for political debate in West- ern democracy refers to the normative question of whether the internet can make up a better public sphere than traditional mass media. Reflection on this issue started immediately when the internet was introduced. Since then the idea that the internet would generally improve political communication has turned out to be too enthusiastic and also to some degree naïve. Therefore, the...
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