New and alternative media: The Internet and the parliamentary public sphere
This chapter discusses the part played by new information and communication technologies (ICTs) in social and political processes. In particular it assesses the Internet’s potential for restoring the public sphere and tackling the ‘crisis of public communications’ (Blumler and Gurevitch, 1995). It does so by questioning the conventional research perspective and grounds for evaluation applied in many recent studies. Much work in this area identifies a state of political crisis, caused by the disconnection of ordinary people from institutional politics, and then presents the Internet’s new communicative capacities as a potential solution. However, as argued here, this approach has certain drawbacks. It is conceived within a technologically determinist framework. It evaluates the Internet as a force for greater, direct democracy rather than as a means of enhancing representative democracy. Lastly, it conceives, and evaluates, the public sphere according to Habermas’s (1989 ) idealised eighteenth-century model, rather than engaging with contemporary politics and communication.