2015 Undergraduate Awards

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Dramatic shifts in technology have transformed the structures of civic participation and communication in the latter half of the 20th century, and optimistic presumptions purporting the global establishment of “e-democracy” has become a commonly understood concept. But reality has failed to demonstrate this ideal and has instead proven otherwise: whether online or offline, it is politics as usual. This paper explores the ramifications of online platforms for political engagement from a critical perspective. The author argues that sustaining political activity online in “user-powered,” democratized digital spaces is ultimately fruitless without offline mobilization. While contemporary Web 2.0 platforms for political activity have empirically proven mobilizing potential, a careful critical analysis of such case examples illustrate key misconceptions and the dangers of presuming that democratic potential of the internet will lead to overall civic improvement. Instead, what is observed is the extension of offline social and political realities into the digital realm.


Image by Marcie Casas, licensed under CC BY 2.0.