New Media, Democracy and Participation Essay

Words: 1775
Pages: 8

Digital communication systems enhance democracy by offering greater access and participation to citizens than traditional media. Discuss.

Digital communication systems have largely enhanced democracy, offering greater access and participation to many, but not all, citizens. This essay will discuss both sides of the argument, beginning by examining the notion of new, digital media as compared to old, traditional media, the concepts which make such media “new”, and how this adds to democracy and greater participation. On the other hand, this essay will also discuss the concept of “digital divide”; that while for many in often Westernised societies, digital communication is freely available, but in other areas it is not, therefore
…show more content…
Henry Jenkins labels this “participatory culture”; which entails low barriers to participation and access, expressing creatively, user support for sharing with fellow users, and an aspect of sociality (Jenkins 2009:5-6). Interactivity also allows for giving feedback and “sharing” on social media, other aspects largely unseen in traditional media, which adds to participation of citizens. Furthermore, interactivity with media such as news websites or forums contributes to the creation of Habermas’ concept of a “public sphere”, that is, a neutral ground for public issues to be discussed (Craig, 2004:51). This is evident in the ability to write comments and link to social media, giving a greater platform for discussion, sharing of news stories on sites such as Facebook, sharing opinions with others, and displaying a greater variety of views on important issues. This gives a new space for democratic participation.

While the above paragraphs have described the way in which digital media contributes to democracy, there are several counter-arguments to this, as many of the above points are quite idealistic. Firstly, the concept of digital divide, which can be defined as “the differential access to and use of the Internet according to gender, income, race, and location” (Rice in Flew 2008:25-6). Despite digital media having democratising properties, these cannot be realised by those who do not have access to the Internet, or do not have the skill to use it, thus limiting