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The Myth of Digital Democracy

Book Description

Is the Internet democratizing American politics? Do political Web sites and blogs mobilize inactive citizens and make the public sphere more inclusive? The Myth of Digital Democracy reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the Internet has done little to broaden political discourse but in fact empowers a small set of elites--some new, but most familiar.

Matthew Hindman argues that, though hundreds of thousands of Americans blog about politics, blogs receive only a miniscule portion of Web traffic, and most blog readership goes to a handful of mainstream, highly educated professionals. He shows how, despite the wealth of independent Web sites, online news audiences are concentrated on the top twenty outlets, and online organizing and fund-raising are dominated by a few powerful interest groups. Hindman tracks nearly three million Web pages, analyzing how their links are structured, how citizens search for political content, and how leading search engines like Google and Yahoo! funnel traffic to popular outlets. He finds that while the Internet has increased some forms of political participation and transformed the way interest groups and candidates organize, mobilize, and raise funds, elites still strongly shape how political material on the Web is presented and accessed.

The Myth of Digital Democracy. debunks popular notions about political discourse in the digital age, revealing how the Internet has neither diminished the audience share of corporate media nor given greater voice to ordinary citizens.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Dedication Page
  5. Contents
  6. List of Illustrations
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. One: The Internet and the “Democratization” of Politics
    1. Democratization and Political Voice
    2. A Different Critique
    3. Gatekeeping, Filtering, and Infrastructure
    4. The Difference between Speaking and Being Heard
  9. Two: The Lessons of Howard Dean
    1. The Liberal Medium?
    2. “Big Mo’ ” Meets the Internet
    3. The Internet and the Infrastructure of Politics
    4. The End of the Beginning
  10. Three: “Googlearchy”: The Link Structure of Political Web Sites
    1. What Link Structure Can Tell Political Scientists
    2. The Link Structure of Online Political Communities
    3. Site Visibility and the Emergence of Googlearchy
    4. The Politics of Winners-Take-All
  11. Four: Political Traffic and the Politics of Search
    1. The Big Picture
    2. Traffic Demographics
    3. Search Engines and (the Lack of) User Sophistication
    4. What Users Search For
    5. Search Engine Agreement
    6. How Wide a Gate?
  12. Five: Online Concentration
    1. Barriers to Entry
    2. Distribution, Not Production
    3. Online Concentration
    4. Comparative Data, Comparative Metrics
    5. A Narrower Net
  13. Six: Blogs: The New Elite Media
    1. Blogs Hit the Big Time
    2. Bloggers and the Media
    3. So You Want to Be a Blogger
    4. Blogger Census
    5. Bloggers and Op-Ed Columnists
    6. Rhetoric and Reality
  14. Seven: Elite Politics and the “Missing Middle”
    1. The Limits of Online Politics
    2. A Narrower Net
    3. Political Organizing and the Missing Middle
    4. New Technology, Old Failures
  15. Appendix: On Data and Methodology
    1. Support Vector Machine Classifiers
    2. Surfer Behavior and Crawl Depth
    3. Hitwise’s Data and Methodology
  16. References
  17. Index