New Media and Democratic Citizenship

New Media and Democratic Citizenship

B. W. Hardy (University of Pennsylvania, USA) and D. A. Scheufele (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 5
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-789-8.ch189
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Abstract

The issue of the civic potential of the Internet has been at the forefront of much scholarly discussion over the last 10 to 15 years. Before providing a comprehensive overview of the different schools of thought currently dominating this debate, it is necessary to briefly describe how researchers have defined the terms citizenship and new media. Across different literatures, two ways of examining citizenship emerge. The first approach examines citizenship broadly as citizen involvement in the political process. Scheufele and Nisbet (2002), for example, identified three dimensions of citizenship: feelings of efficacy, levels of information, and participation in the political process. The second approach taps citizenship much more narrowly as social capital (i.e., the more emotional and informal ties among citizens in a community) (Shah, Kwak, & Holbert, 2001). Depending on which definition of citizenship they followed, researchers also have been interested in different types of new media use with a primary focus on the Internet. Some have examined the Internet as a medium that functions in a top-down fashion similar to traditional mass media. These scholars mostly are concerned with how online information gathering differs from traditional media use, such as newspaper readership or TV viewing. More recently, scholars have begun to examine different dimensions of Internet use, including chatting online about politics, e-mail exchanges with candidates and other citizens, and online donations to campaigns.

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