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This December, the Berkman Center and some friends are hosting the next in our series of Internet & Society conferences. A placeholder site is here:
This year, we're taking a skeptical look at whether the Internet is transforming politics. We're interested in global themes, in campaigns of all sorts and all levels, and not just the US presidential election.
We'd love your help in pulling together the panels and discussions. What would be most helpful at this stage is to come up with the hardest, most interesting questions that might serve as the organizing principle for a specific panel or discussion session on the primary day of the conference, December 10, 2004. An example might be: 'Are campaigns more effective at engaging young people in campaigns by using Internet technologies?' Give us a better one.
One question to consider is "Does extensive use of the Internet marginalize political groups by facilitating communication among self-selected true believers?"
My view is that political groups and self-selected true believers are the same people. If the question is whether the internet reduces the power of political parties by empowering communication among extremists, my answer is no. As an example, I watched one of the presidential nominating conventions almost entirely on the internet, using the party's website. It provided uninterrupted coverage and no commentary. I loved it. The party (aka political group) was able to use the internet to reach people, despite television's decision not to cover much of the convention. And I think those of us who watch convention coverage like that could be described as "self-selected true believers."