Grassroots Mobilization

The participatory form of democracy which electronic networks assist and create can help stir political
activism on an unrestricted level. Ideally, this activity occurs in a realm akin to Habermas' public sphere,
which exists outside of the dominant institutions of government and business. Through bulletin boards, e-mail
and the World Wide Web, individuals who otherwise might never have contact, can interact and coordinate
on any number of issues.

Concerted efforts to create public forums for discussion often lead to the inception of new communities
which can organize for political goals. In his analysis of The Telecommunications Policy Roundtable-
Northeast USA, Hans Klein observes that "Much of the work of grassroots activism consists in assembling
groups of people with common concerns and communicating with each other to formulate a common
agenda (Klein 4)." In many ways the Internet disregards status, race, gender and other classifications which  
tend to marginalize groups. Instead, people interact with each other on an equal level of concern, rather than
physical or societal attribute. Every on-line user is provided with the same access to information, and this
information can enable minority and local voices to be heard.

The relatively low cost of organization on the Internet also facilitates this type of grassroots activity. For instance, the American Physical Society, a professional group of physicists, held elections in which a faction of young members hoped to express to the governing council their unhappiness with the dearth of jobs openings for new physicists. The group utilized the Internet to reach the society's 44,000 members and obtained the required 430 signatures required to get a space on the ballot for the elections to the council. Such an uprising was unprecedented in the society's 100 years of existence. "Zachary Levine, one of the campaigners, estimates that the exercise cost a mere $180; using the post and long-distance telephone calls might have cost $2000, and made the effort impractical (Economist 4)."

The affordability of communication through electronic networks, then, can unsettle traditional hierarchies in
government, business and society. Individuals and other groups can more fully participate in the democratic
process without barriers or external coercion.