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


  • Lincoln Dahlberg




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.




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