Marginalized Groups

New electronic forms of communication open the public realm to voices which often go unheard in traditional discourse. Chat rooms, MOO's, homepages and other virtual spaces remove reliance on the body or social status from democratic participation. With the removal of such societal markings, individuals are free to create their own identities within the fluidity that on-line communities offer. This notion of the unstable subject adheres to postmodern conceptions of the self as a multiplicity of constructions.

Electronic technologies also encourage the subversion of Western hegemonic conceptions of the past and present. On the Internet anybody can tell the type of small story which "ideal speech situation."   In the fall of 1994, the Minnesota E-Democracy Project created an electronic meeting space where candidates could answer public questions, and citizens from across the state could speak with one another about the political process. This experiment in participatory democracy not only placed all citizens on the same level (regardless of party affiliation or political involvement), it also enabled third-party candidates to share equal footing with more established candidates (Aikens 2). The inclusion of third-parties in the MED allowed for the expression of a greater breadth of view points. Democracy moved closer to the people.

Howard Rheingold also describes the efficacy of virtual communities to generate inclusive democratic spheres in his observation of the Big Sky Telegraph, a virtual space created to provide access to information and personal interaction, for people separated by the distances between rural locales in Montana. Rheingold notes that the Women's Resource Center took advantage of the BST to link, for example, victims of physical abuse, unskilled women who were divorced late in life and single mothers without child support. The electronic network gave these women not only the support of a previously unformed community, but it also provided a space where people with similar hardships could meet and for grassroots organization. (Rheingold 248)