E-democracy, direct democracy, community & action, fragmentation & networks, accountability & representation – these are the headlines in Kala Ladenheim’s essay Federalism & Electronic Democracy. Kala’s site is a sonnet cycle rather than an epic poem.
Electronic media, and particularly interactive media, create opportunities for new modes of political action and interaction. The literature focuses on three central theoretical constructs relevant to electronic media: plebiscitary democracy, communitarianism, and pluralism. While early enthusiasm was directed at the opportunity for direct, plebiscitary democracy, the discussion has evolved over time to focus on a range of civic interactions that can be enhanced through the media. Much of what happens on-line is a substitute for and amplification of other systems of communication, and there is debate over whether the media will actually engage more people in political life. However, several attributes of electronic media suggest its potential to shape political processes in new ways. The media encourage micro-politics and special interest affiliation, promote horizontal networking rather than hierarchical organization, and greatly increase accountability at all stages.