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Undergraduate Lecture Series (H1): Politics and the Internet

Date & Time:
16:00:00 - 17:30:00,
Monday 17 January, 2011


In the digital era, political institutions, activities and relationships are increasingly mediated and shaped by the technologies of information and communication. This lecture examines the impact of the Internet and related technologies on the core activities and institutions of government and politics and considers whether the developing use of these technologies serves to reinforce, undermine or otherwise alter traditional political models or patterns of behaviour.

This lecture assesses the evidence for alternative views on the effect and importance of the Internet and related technologies for politics and government. Utopian accounts predict the transformation of political life through Internet-based mediation, with ‘peer production’ and online networks enhancing political participation and technological innovation driving policy innovation, while dystopian arguments emphasise the risks and dangers of technologically strengthened government and the ‘database state’ and ‘politics-as-usual’ accounts underplay the likelihood of technology-driven change and the importance of the Internet for politics, stressing how technologies reinforce existing relationships and inequalities.

Meanwhile, mainstream political science has tended to ignore the phenomenon, appearing to view technological development as policy neutral with no profound implications for contemporary government and politics.

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  • Professor Helen Margetts
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Oxford Internet Institute