American approach

public sphere



social issues

political economy




your say


shim.gif (43 bytes)shim.gif (43 bytes)

Search this site


  Does internet create democracy?

by Alinta Thornton

Does the internet create or contribute to democracy, by revitalising the public sphere?

I relate the US internet and democracy debate to American communications theory, starting with Howard Rheingold.

I also explore some European theory, including Habermas, and then I discuss whether the Internet really will create democracy in practice.

New: I've added a new section on the conclusion page: Internet and mobiles - new communication.


2002 paper

I updated my thesis in 2002, mainly because I was preparing a shorter updated version for the journal Ecquid Novi. This has been published in Ecquid Novi Vol 22(2) 2001
at p 126.

This site contains the full updated paper, or you can download it.

1996 thesis

My original thesis was written in 1996. The full thesis (24,000 words) is still available here:

Books of interest

  • NEW The Civic Web: Online Politics and Democratic Values, Anderson, Cornfield and Arterton, 2002. Political web sites and e-mail lists ...will [by 2004] be a part of every electoral and policy campaign. ...Leading scholars from several academic disciplines join pioneer practitioners of online advocacy, discussion, and law in considering how the Internet can host, and even advance, enlightened self-government by a free people in a constitutional republic."

  • Losing control: freedom of the press in Asia, Roland Rich 2000, Asia Pacific Press. "A combination of new
    technology and greater democracy is breaking the shackles that once constrained the press in Asia."

  • Electronic Democracy : Using the Internet to Influence American Politics
    by Graeme Browning, Daniel J. Weitzner, "There are so many authors out there proclaiming the internet to be the salvation of democracy that Browning is a voice of moderation. I would recommend this book as your starting point for internet activism."

  • E.Con : How the Internet Undermines Democracy by Donald Gutstein. "Despite chapter headings related to Canada, the public sector, and the Internet, this book powerfully debates global issues on personal freedom and intellectual property rights."


  • Republic.com
    by Cass R. Sunstein. "Republic.com exposes the drawbacks of egocentric Internet use, while showing us how to approach the Internet as responsible citizens, not just concerned consumers. Democracy, Sunstein maintains, depends on shared experiences and requires citizens to be exposed to topics and ideas that they would not have chosen in advance."

  • Technology, Development, and Democracy : International Conflict and Cooperation in the Information Age
    by Juliann Emmons Allison (Editor). "Theoretical perspectives and empirical analyses for understanding the impact of the communications revolution on international security, the world political economy, human rights, and gender relations. Internet technologies are evaluated as sources of change or continuity, and as contributors to either conflict or cooperation among nations."

  • Governance.com: Democracy in the Information Age
    by Elaine Ciulla Kamarck (Editor), Joseph S., Jr. Nye (Editor). "Explores the ways in which the information revolution is changing our institutions of governance. Contributors examine the impact of technology on our basic institutions and processes of governance, including representation, community, politics, bureaucracy, and sovereignty. Their essays illuminate many of the promises and challenges of twenty-first century government."

Your comments

I'd love to hear your comments - please drop me a line and I'll publish it on the "your say" page (unless you ask me not to).


>>Next: Introduction


Alinta Thornton
Masters Thesis
MA in Journalism
University of Technology, Sydney



You are visitor number: