Newer Media, Republican Moments and the Constitution
Elgar Monographs in Constitutional and Administrative Law series
Chapter 6: Conclusion: The sceptical cyber-republican
The aim of this monograph has been to explore claims about how, in the era of digital communications and Web 2.0, the emergence of the citizen journalist and newer media outlets might be understood as creating a republican moment – a return to virtuous, politically-engaged citizens deliberating in inclusive, decision-making forums. For well over a decade, discussion in academic and policy fields has enthused over the prospects for a civic commons in cyberspace. The potential of internet and Web 2.0 technology in particular to enhance the communicative freedoms and capacities of ordinary citizens has understandably been lauded. The opportunities afforded by interactive websites, blogs and social media present a hitherto unimagined prospect for engaged, politically active individuals and groups to participate in forums of democratic decision-making and accountability. Citizens’ uses of technology might thus challenge Lippmann’s elitist account (and that of Edmund Burke sometime before) of the limited input of ordinary persons into political life. Adopted subsequently by Schumpeter and outlined in Chapter 2, elitist accounts are premised upon the limited competence of citizens to understand other than in generalised terms the multi-faceted and complex nature of policy decisions. There could not be, Lippmann maintained, continuous direction of policy by the popular will. Instead public deliberation about policy choices needed to be both simplified and confined to election time via the act of choosing one set of elites in preference to another on the ballot paper.
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