[Air-L] The Internet & Politics: Key Readings

Stephen Coleman S.Coleman at leeds.ac.uk
Tue Jul 21 17:34:07 PDT 2009

This sounds like a very interesting project, Bill. In the interest of provoking some discussion, I'm responding via the open list. I suppose that I would categorise works under three broad headings: i) those that have reflected in interesting theoretical ways about new relationships of political mediation arising from the Internet; ii) empirical studies of particular projects, applications and institutional adaptations; and iii) policy analyses and proposals relating to the Internet and politics, ranging from open source software to WSIS to the evaluation of government-funded initiatives. 

Under i, I would want to go back to the 1987 work by Arterton on Teledemocracy. In many respects, he raised most of the theoretical questions about media interactivity and politics that we are still asking today. These questions have been subsequently addressed in interesting ways by Wilhelm (2000) and Bimber (2003) and in several chapters in volumes edited by Hague and Loader (1999), Axford and Huggins (2000), Quah et al (2007) and Chadwick and Howard (2009. I also think that Blumler and Kavanagh's 1999 article on 'the third age of political communication' is a seminal piece in its account of the transition to a new media era - and that Nick Couldry's recent work on mediatization and mediation is illuminating.

Under ii, there is much that is worth including. I would certainly include key works by Hampton and Wellman, and Kavanaugh and Patterson on the Internet and social capital; Bennett on the Internet and collective action; Gibson and Ward on political parties; and various chapters from the three volumes on the Internet and youth citizenship edited by Bennett, Loader and Dahlgren. Work by Richard Rogers, Warren Sack and John Kelly has been very useful in relation to the potential of the Internet for public deliberaration. 

There is less immediately obvious material to be included within the third category. There are some good articles written, jointly and separately, by John Street and Scott Wright - and Arthur Edwards, Robin Mansell, Laurence Monnoyer-Smith and Lincoln Dahlberg have all had interesting things to say. In my own work, conducted firstly in collaboration with John Gotze and then with Jay Blumler, an effort has been made to connect theory and experimentation to questions of policy.

So, you will have no problem in filling four volumes. It would be stimulating if some discussion within this list could not only guide your choices, but perhaps articulate some of the different ways in which scholars have made sense of the Internet-Politics literature. 

Stephen Coleman
Professor of political Communication and Director of Research
Institute of Communications Studies
University of Leeds

New book: The Internet and Democratic Citizenship: Theory; Practice; Policy: http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521817523

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