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The Public Sphere and Network Democracy: Social movements and Political Change?

Abstract

The article critically examines the democratic possibilities of technological innovations associated with Web 2.0 tools and in this context it address the first and second ‘waves’ of academic debates concerning the social media and the public sphere in the networked society. It argues that the initial optimism associated with a virtual public sphere has been replaced by doubts about whether this model was appropriate for the development of democratic values. It assesses whether the information communications networks have constructed a more personalised form of politics and it is concerned with the application of the networked power relations with reference to grassroots or social revolutionary movements. New communications environments were seen to be instrumental in forging the conditions for the ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions and the Turkish protests within Istanbul’s Taksim square during the summer of 2013. These Middle Eastern case examples are discussed along with the calls for political and economic change in Southern Europe within financially constrained countries of Spain and Greece. Based on such studies the article theorizes on the key question concerning whether the social media can contribute to democracy, revolution and expansion of the public sphere, or whether they remain instruments of control and power.

Petros Iosifidis*, Mark Wheeler

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