Caught in the Web: The Impact of New Communication Technology on Political Participation

by Declan O’Briain

New forms of media, particularly social media, have been hailed as the great new-age tool of democratic participation while simultaneously being derided for facilitating arm chair politicking and ‘slacktivism’. Global movements such as Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring have utilized such technologies in what appears to be innovative and unique ways. Yet day-to-day politics in much of the developed world is met with cynicism, apathy, and voluntary non-participation. Although we recognize the potential of these new technologies, our understanding of the way in which they are shaping the political landscape is incomplete. This article will argue that the conversation needs to move beyond the viewing social media according to the above dichotomy, and instead should see social media as one of many tools that can be utilized in myiad ways. It will then close with some reflections on what this might mean for electoral policy in democratic nations, and how it might be utilized by government’s looking to re-engage their citizenry.

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