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 5: Silicon Valley Ideology and class inequality: a virtual poll tax on digital politics

Jen Schradie

Abstract

The assumption that networked communication technology enables egalitarian and horizontal political participation has not only grown in tandem with the Internet’s growth; it has also run parallel to the rise of neoliberalism, with individual rights at its core. Digital politics are often tied to the neoliberal tenets of free markets, free labor and freedom from the state in what this chapter argues is Silicon Valley Ideology. Within this framework, the individual exercises freedom of expression in a neoliberal system disconnected from hierarchical structural positions, such as membership in political organizations. Over the last 20 years this ideology around non-hierarchical participation has become institutionalized, corporatized and diffused into society, as networked social media have also permeated everyday practices of much of the population. However, this ideology of the individual is disconnected from class-based digital inequality, thus creating a contradiction between the idea of egalitarian networked political participation and the structure of social class differences. The result is a digital politics gap due to a virtual poll tax for the poor and working class. The broader neoliberal system, then, creates and is sustained by inequality, and Silicon Valley Ideology serves as a justification for the exclusionary segregation.

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