Saturday, March 31, 2001

The Case of Minnesota E-Democracy, by Lincoln Dahlberg

Extending the Public Sphere through Cyberspace: The Case of Minnesota E-Democracy

by Lincoln Dahlberg
First Monday, volume 6, number 3 (March 2001),

Copyright ©2001, First Monday

"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 J├╝rgen 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."