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Political Use of the Internet

Photo of Noriko Hara

"The Internet has stimulated academic inquiries on the political implications of its use."

Noriko Hara, SLIS faculty member, and colleague Youngmin Jo (Department of Political Science, IU Bloomington) co-authored a paper that will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Chicago (August 30-September 2, 2007). The talk abstract is below.

Political Use of the Internet:
A comparative analysis of U.S. and South Korea presidential campaigns

The Internet has stimulated academic inquiries on the political implications of its use. In this study, we explore the democratic implications of the Internet in the context of the interplay between information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the nature of civic engagement. As the advancement of information and communication technologies has become indispensable in the United States (Hoffman, Novak, Venkatesh, 2004) and other countries, it is increasingly prevalent for the general public to use the Internet for civic engagement and to overcome silence in political issues. Similarly, the Internet has started to make significant impacts on politics. The U.S. presidential election in 2000 marks the advent of Internet use in political campaigns as Bimber and Davis (2003) contend. Four years later in 2004, political parties, candidates, and other organizations used the Internet to effectively mobilize voters and to promote candidates' visions (Jacobs, 2005). In the 2002 presidential election in South Korea, many claimed that the victory of a disadvantaged presidential candidate owed much to online campaigning (French, 2003). It is unquestionable that various socio-political factors are influencing use of the Internet for political purposes, but previous studies have not included cross-country comparison. Given that the exploration of the impact of the Internet on political changes is still in its infancy, more empirical work must be done before the link between ICTs and democratic development can be theorized. In this study, the central question investigated is: has the Internet altered the nature of civic engagement and political participation in recent presidential elections? We use a qualitative case study method to compare and contrast the use of the Internet for recent presidential campaigns in the U.S. and Korea. To investigate the role of ICTs in political campaigns, we will discuss three areas of influence in particular (fundraising, civic participation, and e-mobilization), identifying similarities and differences between the U.S. and Korea. The result of our analysis shows that the impact of the Internet on the two presidential elections differed in all three areas. The impact of the Internet on democratic development should not be overstated. Our main argument is twofold. First, the Internet provides ordinary citizens with political resources and opportunities to expand their political participation in a democratic environment. Second, Internet-based collective action can lead to political changes, both positive and negative, depending on the interaction pattern between the state and society. While the political implications of ICTs come to the fore, the predominant factor in the recent presidential elections remained traditional representative mechanisms. These results will shed light on social and organizational practices with respect to the potential political utilization of ICTs in two different countries.

Jo, Y., & Hara, N. (2007, August). Political use of the Internet: A comparative analysis of U.S. and South Korea presidential campaigns. Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, IL.

Posted August 30, 2007