Discussion Topic Essay

1703 words - 7 pages

Research studies and US Census data leave no doubt, democratic participation has changed (Dalton, 2006, 2008; Gimmler, 2001; Leighninger, 2011; McAtee & Wolak, 2011; McBeth, Lybecker, & Garner, 2010; PEW, 2010; US Census, 2013). Mounting empirical evidence indicates that comparatively fewer people engage in traditional forms of democratic participation today, such as casting their votes for candidates, than forty years ago. This change has been fueled in part by changing citizenship norms as well as evolving information and communication technologies (ICT) overcoming existing scale and scope barriers previously associated with direct democracy (Dunne, 2010; Hilbert, 2010; Meijer, 2012; Nam, ...view middle of the document...

, 2008; Harrison, 2012; Imraan et al., 2008). Another centered on the domain of ICT and its democratic potential, while the third area explored changing citizenship norms in adolescents or newly democratic countries (Coffe & Van Der Lippe, 2010; Dejaeghere & Hooghe, 2009). Yet, researchers have paid little attention to the links and overlaps of these three areas. In other words, despite an increasing amount of research, limited attention has been paid to the relationship between changing citizenship norms, engaged citizenship, and ICT. As a result, this study will seek to explore the how, we the people, participate in the political process and what motivates the use of ICT to engage. Based on the premise that ICT are transforming citizenship norms, the study will attempt to assess the impact of the Internet on democratic participation and processes. It will seek to fill the current gap in literature by investigating the link between citizenship norms, engaged citizenship, and ICT.
Purpose Statement
It is the study’s intent to elaborate on and explore changes in democratic participation. Using data from the U.S. General Social Survey (GSS) and the U.S. Citizenship, Involvement, Democracy (CID) survey, this study will seek to establish a link between the proliferation and increasing sophistication of ICT (independent variable), changing citizenship norms (dependent variable), and engaged citizenship (dependent variable).
Deductive Approach
An article criticizing the downfall of democracy and the erosion of citizenship norms first piqued my interest in this area of research. I began researching literature concerning changing citizenship norms and discovered a vast field covering a variety of areas – from spaces of participation to power structures and from engaged citizenship to radical democracy. Some of the studies outlined the positive contributions of participatory arrangements between government, NGOs, and civil society (Creswell, 2002, 2004; Gaventa & Pettit, 2011; McBeth et al., 2010). Others were more critical – lambasting this trend as disguised elitism and forms of pseudo-participation reinforcing existing structures (Creswell, 2002, 2004; Escobar, 2013; Gaventa, 2006; Harrison, 2012; Taylor, 2007). More recently, an interview with an activist from an NGO highlighted how the Internet has changed political and democratic participation. As a result, I started exploring research in the area of civil engagement and Internet. One thing I noticed while reading and exploring the literature was that citizenship norms, engaged citizenship, and ICTs were generally treated and discussed separately. Different aspects were explored, such as the digital divide, socioeconomic factors impacting participation, and the influence of participatory spaces and power structures. However, none of the studies explored (thus far) has explored the role of ICT on citizenship norms and engaged citizenship. Obviously, I am still working on further defining and...

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