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The Myth of Digital Democracy

3.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691138688
ISBN-10: 0691138680
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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2009 Donald McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communications Policy Research, awarded by the Donald McGannon Communications Research Center

Winner of the 2010 Goldsmith Book Prize (Academic Book)

"Both utopian and dystopian interpretations have been made of the Internet's influence on many spheres of life--and democracy is no exception. . . . Absent from much of this debate is evidence-based analysis of the effects of the Internet on the business of politics. Many theories have been built on nothing more than anecdote, inference and assertion. In The Myth of Digital Democracy, political scientist Matthew Hindman fills important gaps in the evidence base, and does so accessibly."--Richard Allan, Nature

"[T]here is much in Hindman's book that is persuasive, counterintuitive, and important to understanding the moment."--Matt Bai, Democracy: A Journal

"Matthew Hindman's The Myth of Internet Democracy is one of the first significant efforts to bring data to bear on the relationship between the internet and democracy. He argues against the journalists and pundits who have made sweeping claims about the internet's transformative potential for democracy, and suggests that the new online bosses are not very different from the old ones. Unlike earlier sceptics, however, he has some data to support his claims."--Times Higher Education

"This is a well written short book about one aspects of online politics, namely who gets read and heard when it comes to online political debate, which I recommend to any reader interested in the relation between the internet and democratic values. The book is well organized and most of content is accessible to a general readership."--Olle Blomberg, Metapsychology Online Reviews

"Hindman convincingly challenges seemingly sensible claims that online communications are expanding public voice, weakening gatekeeper power, and engaging broader swaths of the citizenry in politics. . . . By bringing new data and methods to bear in a serious critique of what were becoming consensus views about the Internet's role in public life, Hindman offers more than just another set of volleys over the net of ongoing academic debates."--John Kelly, Perspectives on Politics

"The Myth of Digital Democracy . . . make[s] a significant contribution to the scholarship on e-democracy."--Wendy N. Wyatt, Journal of Mass Media Ethics

"Hindman's The Myth of Digital Democracy makes it possible to visualize the whole elephant. Comprehensiveness and rich data support Hindman's central claim about inegalitarian outcomes of the interactions of Internet and politics, and provide an excellent starting point for future research."--Meelis Kitsing, Journal of Politics

From the Back Cover

"An outstanding combination of theoretical and empirical work. Hindman has produced one of the very few best books, ever, on the relationship between the Internet and democracy. Indispensable reading."--Cass R. Sunstein, author of Republic.com 2.0

"Hindman provides a serious, informed, and methodologically conscientious argument in favor of the position that the Internet has not fundamentally changed the elitist and concentrated structure of the public sphere typical of mass media. He produces significant evidence against both fears of fragmentation of discourse and hopes that we are seeing a more egalitarian and democratic networked public sphere. The contribution is important, and anyone working in this area will have to contend with his data and analysis."--Yochai Benkler, Harvard University

"Many authors make claims about the Internet and politics on the basis of some piece of the problem--by looking just at Web sites or blogs, or by examining link structure, or evaluating some aspect of campaigns for office. Hindman has drawn together many pieces of the puzzle into a coherent whole. This is an ambitious book, and it delivers."--Bruce Bimber, University of California, Santa Barbara

"This book makes a significant contribution to the study of political communication. Hindman's approach provides an extensive and multifaceted view of online political content, its producers, and its audiences. This book breaks new ground in important ways, and is likely to become a modern classic in the field of the Internet and politics."--Diana Owen, Georgetown University


Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691138680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691138688
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #837,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Seth Horning on June 19, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's not what we think. Most of us use the internet for porn apparently. I think the book was a fascinating, if not depressing, look at how we use the Internet and whether it is truly living up to the hype of making us better informed and more active citizen participants in our governments.
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Format: Paperback
Hindman starts by discussing the academic origin of the book, and a broad review of the generally optimistic expectations most have of the Internet's impact on US democracy. Hindman repeatedly states the naive early read on how the Internet would impact US elections. It runs like this, the Internet will give voice to those silenced by big media.

Hindman avoids going into any details about how US democracy works by simply saying the term is merely a positive adjective, not a logical set of principles. After arguing at some length that democracy can't be defined, he promises the book will study logistics. This seemed like a great promise, but upon reflection seems to require Hindman to reassess his unwillingness to define democracy. What sense can logistics make without logistic goals, something a definition would offer. As best I can tell, Hindman intuitively links democracy to 'giving voice to the masses'. This is clearly the scale Hindman uses to measure the Internet's impact on US politics.

I was hoping Hindman would offer a discussion of how the Internet influenced political group formation and relative balances of power, but the only two groups contrasted were 'bloggers' and 'journalists'.

The following was covered in some detail:
1. Frequenters of political sites are predominately liberal. I suspect one could argue this, but Hindman lays out a very factual argument for the conclusion, but never speculates on changes the 60-40 split might eventually produce.
2. From Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, we can deduce ways the internet activates non-activist volunteers and offers new fund raising opportunities. Since this has little impact on 'giving voice to the masses', these logistical breakthroughs are describe in a somewhat disappointed tone.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read in threes and fours, this book is part of the set that includes SMS Uprising: Mobile Activism in Africa and Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful.

This book educated me. It challenged and soundly negated some of my assumptions, but it also reinforced my view that the Internet at this time is a communications network, not a knowledge network or an action network.

Here is the last paragraph:

"Yet where the Internet has failed to live up to its billing has to do with the most direct kind of political voice. If we consider the ability of ordinary citizens to write things that other people will see, the Internet has fallen far short of the claims that continue to be made about it. It may be easy to speak in cyberspace, but it remains difficult to be heard."

Totally awesome. This is an impressive piece of work. At Phi Beta Iota I am posting four web diagrams showing top news and political sites and a couple of other things (I no longer post images to Amazon after they removed 354 images as a lazy way of censoring twelve copies of Obama-Bush sharing the same face--I no longer trust Amazon with my work, hence Phi Beta Iota--and a lesson about Internet abuse).

Behind this elegant book is a great deal of hard work with lots of math, lots of elbow grease, and lots of time spent making sense of massive amounts of data. I am totally impressed.
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