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Internet and Political Participation

Andreas Schulz
University of Kassel
Andreas Schulz
University of Kassel
Open Panel

Abstract

Our representative democracy and its political process are increasingly criticized because of a lack of citizen participation. Surveys have shown a decreasing role of formal memberships in political organizations and the traditional forms of participation. The internet could be a new instrument of increasing the role of the citizen in the political process. Virtual debates about law initiatives, participation on building projects in municipalities and regions at a website, the discussion about participatory budgets at the website of municipalities are examples of new participatory instruments. The presentation will discuss the conditions for the participation of citizen with digital media. Can we fill the participatory gap with the internet or are there increasing political inequalities? Not all citizens are connected with the internet (digital gap) and not all internet users have the social and media competences (digital inequality). Reasons for these inequalities are a weak school and occupational education and income poverty. The core condition for participation, filling the political gap, is therefore the development of equal social and media competences. The presentation will suggest variables and a methodology for this question and will present case examples of electronic participation.