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Democratic Applications of Internet Technology

Internet technology has created political opportunities, including new potentials for direct democracy and other bottom-up, self-organizing political forms. These forms range from democratic decision-making by online communities, such has Indymedia, to those activist groups like Move On, which use the amplifying capacity of the internet to mobilize large constituencies towards effecting social change. Increasingly, these groups are employing grassroots techniques via the internet in creative ways. Online communities, such as Slashdot, employ reputation systems to circumvent hierarchical editorial processes, while Indymedia uses open publishing to radically democratize media. Move On uses its powerful e-mail lists and innovative software to wage a virtual march on Washington or hold a virtual primary for the democratic presidential candidates. In the following pages we offer several institutional exemplars of these groups that use the internet to “amplify cooperation” as the well-known technology commentator, Howard Rheingold, suggests in his book, Smart Mobs.

Democratic Applications of Internet Technology:

Democratizing Web Software

Open Publishing

Trust Building Online: Reputation and Rating Systems

Grassroots Mobilizing Online

Self-Organizing Networks and Coalitions

The Internet’s Impact on News Media

The Internet’s Impact on Mainstream Politics