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The Myth of Digital Democracy


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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 " 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

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix Acknowledgments xi Chapter One: The Internet and the "Democratization" of Politics 1 Democratization and Political Voice 4 A Different Critique 8 Gatekeeping, Filtering, and Infrastructure 12 The Difference between Speaking and Being Heard 16 Chapter Two: The Lessons of Howard Dean 20 The Liberal Medium? 21 "Big Mo'" Meets the Internet 26 The Internet and the Infrastructure of Politics 27 The End of the Beginning 34 Chapter Three: "Googlearchy": The Link Structure of Political Web Sites 38 What Link Structure Can Tell Political Scientists 41 The Link Structure of Online Political Communities 45 Site Visibility and the Emergence of Googlearchy 54 The Politics of Winners-Take-All 56 Chapter Four: Political Traffic and the Politics of Search 58 The Big Picture 60 Traffic Demographics 67 Search Engines and (the Lack of) User Sophistication 68 What Users Search For 70 Search Engine Agreement 78 How Wide a Gate? 80 Chapter Five: Online Concentration 82 Barriers to Entry 83 Distribution, Not Production 86 Online Concentration 90 Comparative Data, Comparative Metrics 91 A Narrower Net 99 Chapter Six: Blogs: The New Elite Media 102 Blogs Hit the Big Time 103 Bloggers and the Media 105 So You Want to Be a Blogger 113 Blogger Census 118 Bloggers and Op-Ed Columnists 125 Rhetoric and Reality 127 Chapter Seven: Elite Politics and the "Missing Middle" 129 The Limits of Online Politics 131 A Narrower Net 133 Political Organizing and the Missing Middle 139 New Technology, Old Failures 141 Appendix: On Data and Methodology 143 Support Vector Machine Classifiers 143 Surfer Behavior and Crawl Depth 150 Hitwise's Data and Methodology 151 References 155 Index 173

About the Author

Matthew Hindman is assistant professor of political science at Arizona State University.


Winner of the 2010 Goldsmith Book Prize (Academic Book) Winner of the 2009 Donald McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communications Policy Research, awarded by the Donald McGannon Communications Research Center "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

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