The Future?Electronic networks will neither completely democratize nor completely limit discourse in the future. Inherent within the nature of technology are means for liberation and means for restriction, which hinge on the motives of those who have communicative power.
A 'cyerdemocracy' which opens speech to all parties needs a guiding model which stresses freedom and equality, because institutional forces threaten to use electonic networks for their own gain. A framework, then, like the one outlined in Habermas' public sphere can serve as an alternative to institutional coercion in the Age of Information.
Yet with the pervasiveness of electronic networks in every phase of life, it becomes much more difficult to create a public sphere distinct from government or commerce. Indeed, technologies can reinforce traditional hierarchical structures as easily as they can subvert them.
The key to resistance lies in the formation of virtual communities on the grassroots level, where real and virtual communities can validate the voices of their members. If participants in electronic networks adhere to the guidelines set forth by Habermas, an ideal speech situation can take shape in which the Internet becomes both an instrument and a space for retuning democracy to the people.
Return to the Beginning
Discussion of Habermas' public sphere
Argument for the democratizing capabilites of electronic networks
Discussion of the limitations of electronic networks
Analysis of President '96 Simulation
Additional Sites on Democracy and Technology