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Democracy and Elections

For some time, I’ve been developing the argument that when we want to understand the role of internet technologies in politics—in particular when it comes to getting people involved in electoral campaigns, in various forms of activism, and in other forms of civic and political activity—we should focus less on the newest and most heavily hyped tool of the moment (Twitter election! Twitter revolution!) and pay more attention to the role of what I call “mundane internet tools” like email, search, and ordinary websites. New Media & Society has published the article where I make the argument, based on ethnographic research I did during the 2008 U.S. elections, but based on intuitions and interests aroused by previous research in the …

While again hundred thousands of Egyptians show their defiance of the old regime at Cairo’s Tahrir Square and worker protests have broken out in several Egyptian cities, Washington and London still follow a pipe dream of a gradual transition from Hosni Mubarak to a more or less democratic, yet by all means secular new government. However, the web of Western diplomatic moves might turn into a Gordian knot as Egypt 2011 shows analogies to Tehran in 1978. Nations resemble Tolstoy’s families: every one is unhappy in its own way. And yet, when people’s harm escalates and they take matters in their own hands, the differences fade and clear patterns emerge. One such pattern stipulates that revolutions are rarely isolated instances …

Sounds unlikely.  Did Twitter? Nobody really seems to claim so, though Evgeny Morozov erroneously claims that Andrew Sullivan claims so, though Sullivan actually only raised the question and linked to Ethan Zuckerman, who … wait, back to the fax machine. I met Marc Plattner yesterday, who edits the Journal of Democracy and is a veteran of both academic and policy discussions around issues of democracy and democratization. He told me about how some people used to claim the fax machine “caused” (or at least played a large part in) the collapse of the Soviet Union. You can imagine all the arguments that could be marshalled. (“Between them, television, the fax machine and word of mouth have banished fear,” writes John …

The People’s Charter of 1848 contained six demands, then considered dangerously radical by both Whig and Tory governments. One of the six was: EQUAL CONSTITUENCIES, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of larger ones. The Chartists might have been surprised to find that it was a Conservative-dominated government which first tried to enact equal representation, in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill 2010 (PVSCB in civil servantese). As I write, the controversial bill has passed the Commons, and is being considered by Their (unelected) Lordships, who have no scruples about amending bills on how to elect another house.  Oh well, that’s politics. Some political …