Web 2.0: Harnessing Democracy’s Potential

Web 2.0: Harnessing Democracy’s Potential

Pedro Isaías, Sara Pífano, Paula Miranda
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0071-3.ch014
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Democracy shares many of its core principles with Web 2.0: it is participatory, interactive, individual-centered, host to and tolerant of multiple voices and opinions. They even have some common polemics: wisdom of the crowds vs. ignorance of the crowds; and the fact that everyone voicing an opinion may constitute both noise and debate. The emergence of the term e-Democracy 2.0 results from an alliance between Web 2.0 and democracy. This chapter intends to demonstrate that Web 2.0 has the potential to improve democracy. For this purpose, it begins by providing an overview of the core benefits and challenges of e-Democracy 2.0, then focuses on the importance of social technology for citizen participation. More specifically, this chapter conducts a content analysis to assess the role that Facebook plays in terms of encouraging and facilitating citizen participation.
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Web 2.0 And Democracy: The Benefits Of An Alliance

Democracy is a political philosophy in which the people decide, by voting who represents them. The government has always been an identity separated from the people. Although it is the people that elects and empowers the government, it has remained a distance authority, a distance figure of political power that could not be easily reached. With the development of communication technology, this distance has been decreasing. In the Web 2.0 age individuals are no longer constrained by a motionless role of information consumers. The interactive web allows them to assume a different part, one of proactive authors of content (Eikelmann, 2007). Web 2.0 stands on principles of ease of use, network effects and the centrality of the role of the user (Constantinides & Fountain, 2008). Web 2.0 is evolving and propelling civic participation, by making it possible to a mounting number of people (Caplan, 2008).

The idealization and prediction of a digital democracy is not a new phenomenon (Westen, 1998) and it now seems closer to reality, despite some expected skepticism. Ideally, e-Democracy will have a central part in fostering participation and improving politics. It’s core benefit is the reengagement of citizens with their public representatives and its feasibility is intrinsically connected with the emergence of tools that assist people with the challenge of having to manage the amount and intricacy of information required to produce highly informed citizens. “The digital age is creating an information and communications renaissance.” (Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, 2009).

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