Handbook of Digital Politics
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Handbook of Digital Politics

Edited by Stephen Coleman and Deen Freelon

It would be difficult to imagine how a development as world-changing as the emergence of the Internet could have taken place without having some impact upon the ways in which politics is expressed, conducted, depicted and reflected upon. The Handbook of Digital Politics explores this impact in a series of chapters written by some of the world's leading Internet researchers. This volume is a must-read for students, researchers and practitioners interested in the changing landscape of political communication.
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Chapter 4: The Fifth Estate: a rising force of pluralistic accountability

William H. Dutton and Elizabeth Dubois


This chapter provides a fresh perspective on the role of the Internet in politics, enabling the most realistic potential for enhancing democratic governance in the digital age. Researchers who are focused on digital politics and democracy are most often addressing the Internet as a tool for supporting traditional democratic institutions, such as consultation, and political campaigns. However, the Internet is enabling networked individuals to develop a new form of social and political accountability – the Fifth Estate – comparable to the Fourth Estate of an earlier era. The chapter defines the Fifth Estate, its foundations in the behaviour of networked individuals, and its future in the face of challenges from the other estates of the Internet realm.

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