Can the Internet Strengthen Democracy?
Can the Internet Strengthen Democracy?

From its inception as a public communication network, the Internet was regarded by many people as a potential means of escaping from the stranglehold of top-down, stage-managed politics. If hundreds of millions of people could be the producers as well as receivers of political messages, could that invigorate democracy? If political elites fail to respond to such energy, where will it leave them?

In this short book, internationally renowned scholar of political communication, Stephen Coleman, argues that the best way to strengthen democracy is to re-invent it for the twenty-first century. Governments and global institutions have failed to seize the opportunity to democratise their ways of operating, but online citizens are ahead of them, developing practices that could revolutionise the exercise of political power.

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  • March 2017
  • 160 pages
  • 190 x 124 mm / 7 x 5 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $45.00
  • 9781509508365
  • Paperback $12.95
  • 9781509508372
  • Open eBook $12.95
  • 9781509508402
Table of Contents

1. The great missed opportunity

2. Political Hopes and Fears

3. Democratic limbo

4. Populism or Democracy?

Further Reading


About the Author
Stephen Coleman is Professor of Political Communication at the University of Leeds.
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'Essential reading for anyone interested in how digital media can be used to cultivate a democratic public sphere. Coleman’s optimism is more measured than Barlow’s and less self-serving than Zuckerberg’s, and it brings both of their visions down to earth in a spirit of pragmatic engagement.’
International Journal of Communication

'With prominent examples, a well-rounded, comprehensive and inclusive theoretical background that draws on a variety of academic works (his ‘Further Reading’ chapter is certainly of great value), Coleman’s book confronts diachronic issues related to Internet, and its (undeniable) impact on democracy. The book moves the academic debate further, by not only delineating the current situation and spotting the wrongdoings, but by providing viable and realistic solutions, and by offering a well-supported response to the question of whether the Internet can strengthen democracy – a question much more complicated than it may initially seem.'
Information, Communication & Society

‘Democracy is old and it is about compromise, not about getting one's way. Technologies are new, and they attain popularity as they promise ultimate, personalized experiences. Rather than being put to use to reinvent democracy, much new technology has been retrofitted to serve dated civic practices. Coleman's Can the Internet Strengthen Democracy? brilliantly recognizes this and asks why a new democratic future has not been presented for citizens yet. This book helps us imagine what the future might look like if technology were used to turn the flaws of democracy into strengths and produce a democratic system of governance built for the future. It is bold, it is engaging, and it is like nothing you have read before.’
Zizi Papacharissi, University of Illinois, Chicago

'Since the early days of the web Stephen Coleman has been at the forefront of research into Internet and democracy, and has had a steady hand in pinpointing the difference between promotional rhetoric and experiments that yield dividends. His latest edition is no exception.'
Richard Rogers, University of Amsterdam

'This is a really outstanding book; Coleman’s ideas, as always, are compelling and clear, and presented in a way that grips the reader. This will be the most authoritative and up-to-date text on the topic.'
Peter Dahlgren, Lund University

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