Extending the public sphere through cyberspace: The case of Minnesota E-Democracy

  • Lincoln Dahlberg

Abstract

Over the last decade a lot has been said about the possibilities of the Internet enhancing the public sphere. The two-way, decentralized communications within cyberspace are seen as offering the basis by which to facilitate rational-critical discourse and hence develop public opinion that can hold state power accountable. However, this potential has largely gone unrealized. Instead, cyber-interaction is dominated by commercial activity, private conversation, and individualized forms of politics. In this paper I investigate how the present Internet may be used to more fully facilitate the public sphere. To do this I evaluate Minnesota E-Democracy, an Internet-based initiative that attempts to develop online public discourse. Drawing upon a model of the public sphere developed from Jürgen Habermas' work, I show how the initiative structures discourse to overcome many of the problems that presently limit democratic deliberation online. While some significant limitations do remain, I conclude that Minnesota E-Democracy provides a basis from which online deliberative initiatives can, given adequate resourcing and further research, extend the public sphere through the Internet.
Published
2001-03-05
How to Cite
Dahlberg, L. (2001). Extending the public sphere through cyberspace: The case of Minnesota E-Democracy. First Monday, 6(3). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v6i3.838