In the past decade, contrasting trends have alternately fuelled hopes and fears concerning the potential of the Internet and then new digital personal/social media for democratic participation.Despite the persisting problem of the digital divide, Internet users have grown in number from about 300 million to the 1.4 billion of today, and a new generation of tools, providing mobile and simultaneous ‘community’ services, seems to have reshaped the way in which people connect and communicate.
Whilst it is generally agreed that the new media have been important resources for social movements since the end of the 1990s, it is also apparent that they still to encounter obstacles against their systematic entry into the general public sphere and effective influence on political decision-making, with the exception of rare and brief episodes/events. In parallel, in many countries, digital participation seems to have gained a strong position in the rhetorics adopted by governments and institutional actors (under the labels of e-democracy and e-participation).
In spite of this institutional fascination with the Web, throughout the past decade the claim for an Internet Bill of Rights on the global multi-stakeholder agenda (WSIS) has had to face the ‘securitarian turn’ produced by the global terrorism alarm since the 11 September attacks. Moreover, Internet ‘politics from below’, in their collective as well as individual forms, like those emblematically practiced by bloggers and social networks, has suffered from the increasing processes of market colonization and corporate concentration deployed on the Net and their implications in terms of the privatization of privacy and censorship policies, with and without state intervention.
Nevertheless, there is considerable evidence for the Internet’s growing libertarian political impact. This is the case of the global challenge to state secrecy raised by WikiLeaks and also by the spring 2011 uprisings in the Mediterranean Arabian countries. But is also the case of recent developments in the contentious politics of some European countries (e.g. the Spanish ‘indignados’, or the successful Italian referendum movement) where digital social networks have proved powerful means to convey demands for a radical renewal of politics based on a stronger and more direct role of citizens, and on a critique of post-democratic functionings.
The journal invites scholars to analyze this decade of Internet politics with its ambivalent dynamics. Equally welcome are papers devoted to empirical analysis of specific aspects, or which seek to draw a wider picture of Internet political trends throughout the decade.
The final deadline for submission has been extended until March 10, 2012. The papers selected will be published according to the order of their final acceptance by the journal, and they will be commented on in the ‘Essay’ section.