The Fifth Estate Emerging Through the Network of Networks

Prometheus, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 1-15, 2009

32 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2008 Last revised: 4 Dec 2015

Date Written: June 10, 2008


The rise of the press, radio, television and other mass media enabled the development of an independent institution: the ‘Fourth Estate’, central to pluralist democratic processes. The growing use of the Internet and related digital technologies is creating a space for networking individuals in ways that enable a new source of accountability in government, politics and other sectors. This paper explains how this emerging ‘Fifth Estate’ is being established and why this could challenge the influence of other more established bases of institutional authority. It discusses approaches to the governance of this new social and political phenomenon that could nurture the Fifth Estate’s potential for supporting the vitality of liberal democratic societies.

Keywords: network society; information and communication technologies; democratic institutions; political studies; media studies; fourth estate

Suggested Citation

Dutton, William H., The Fifth Estate Emerging Through the Network of Networks (June 10, 2008). Prometheus, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 1-15, 2009. Available at SSRN:

William H. Dutton (Contact Author)

University of Southern California ( email )

3502 Watt Way #304
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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