Public opinion and the internet

Murphy, Peter (2009) Public opinion and the internet. In: Pagani, Margherita, (ed.) Encyclopedia of Multimedia Technology and Networking. IGI Global, pp. 1194-1199.

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The development of the "World Wide Web" has had a significant impact on the formation of public opinion in democratic societies. This impact, though, has not been exactly that predicted by early 1990's prophets of the Web, who expected a decentralization of traditional mass media. If anything, the easy accessibility of the Web-enabled Internet (hereafter, "the Net") has extended the audience reach of traditional network media. Despite this, the Net is fundamentally changing the nature of public opinion. One should be wary of thinking of this change as a technology-enabled extension of the 19th-century liberal public. In the liberal view, the Net is a difficult- to-control free speech medium. It engenders a babble of voices devoted to persuading citizens and governments of the merits and otherwise of laws and policies. Because the Web’s infrastructure of servers is global, dictatorial, or even legal, control of it is difficult to achieve. This is especially true for governments that want to encourage the pragmatic benefits of computermediated commerce. Yet, to see the Net simply as a free-speech medium does not do full justice to its nature. It began life as a powerful document delivery system, and, in important ways, its long-term impact on public opinion derives from that fact. The Web leveraged existing inter-networked computing to enable a new way of creating, collecting, storing, transforming, and disseminating documents and information objects. The frothy activity of instant commentary and interest group campaigning that the Net facilitates disguises the extent to which the logic of the public sphere is undergoing a long-term paradigmatic shift shaped by its origins as a document archive.

Item ID: 22560
Item Type: Book Chapter (Reference)
ISBN: 978-1-60566-015-8
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Date Deposited: 03 Jan 2013 02:03
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2001 Communication and Media Studies > 200101 Communication Studies @ 50%
08 INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES > 0806 Information Systems > 080611 Information Systems Theory @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970108 Expanding Knowledge in the Information and Computing Sciences @ 50%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950299 Communication not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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