Can the internet improve politics? As the question scarcely been discussed by the “classic” texts on internet and politics of the 1990s, it is asked now in light of the experiences since.
Question and answer are structured in five steps: (1) Politics is about counting, ever more, and the web is good in counting. (2) Politics counts evaluations, and the web is good in evaluations. (3) Political evaluations bear cognitive costs that need to be alleviated, ever more, through trust, and the web is good in employing trust. (4) Political trust relations increasinly have a general network structure, and the web is good in networks. (5) Political trust relations need to be stored, and the web is good in storing sensible data.
While the first three steps describe a type of e-democracy that would be only “nice to have”, steps 4 and 5 point to necessary improvements: The web allows for a network-based collective decision making that efficiently fits the necessities of societies that are not longer satisfied with a kind of representation that urges everyone to align to one group for all issues. Individualization and the cultural demands of non-Western societies go in the same direction in demanding a different and necessarily web-based solution for the cognitive-cost problem of democracy. Keywords: e-democracy, internet, politics, democracy, political theory, social structure, network society, individualization.
[Editor’s note, August 2020: This paper was submitted to a scientific journal in October 2017, and rejected by the journal, without the ability of re-submission, in February 2018. I got two reviews: Particularly the first reviewer described real weaknesses of the paper with great seriousness and in great detail. This could have been tackled, but it would have added ro the paper’s length, in some cases I indeed did not have convincing evidence to back up my statements, and I did not know which journal would be an adequate next choice for submission. And the second reviewer made it clear that the question posed by the text would in any journal be framed to understand “the Internet” as “the current structures of web pages and platforms and of user interactions with them” and not as “the existing potential for new pages and platforms and of user interaction with them”. It might have been possible to narrow down the paper’s perspective from the outset – but in the given situation when I received the reviews, I decided to abandon the text project for the moment. – The paper still uses the term “network-based collective decision making” as the term “Civil democracy” got used only from Spring 2018 onwards. With over 5’500 words and 18 pages, the paper is too long to be presented as blog post. With its first presentation of the problems of partitioning representation, it is however one of the steps towards presenting Civil democracy.]