Six Models for the Internet & Politics

International Studies Review (2013), 15, 30-47

18 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2014

See all articles by Archon Fung

Archon Fung

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Hollie Russon-Gilman

Harvard University

Jennifer Shkabatur

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliyah, Israel; World Bank

Date Written: April 1, 2013


Many agree that digital technologies are transforming politics. They disagree, however, about the significance and character of that transformation. Many of the pioneers of understanding the distinctive dynamics of new digital media platforms — social media and collaborative production — are quite optimistic about the potential for the Internet to dramatically increase the quality of democratic governance. On the other hand, some political scientists who have examined actual patterns of political activity and expression on digital platforms come away skeptical that digital platforms will bring equality or inclusion to democratic politics. We bring these two opposed perspectives in this article by developing six models of how digital technologies might affect democratic politics: the empowered public sphere, displacement of traditional organizations by new digitally self-organized groups, digitally direct democracy, truth-based advocacy, constituent mobilization, and crowd sourced social monitoring. Reasoning from the character of political incentives and institutional constraints, we argue that the first three revolutionary and transformative models are less likely to occur than the second three models that describe incremental contributions of technology to politics.

Keywords: internet, politics, transparency, participation, accountability, civil society, international development

Suggested Citation

Fung, Archon and Russon-Gilman, Hollie and Shkabatur, Jennifer, Six Models for the Internet & Politics (April 1, 2013). International Studies Review (2013), 15, 30-47, Available at SSRN:

Archon Fung

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-9846 (Phone)
617-496-1722 (Fax)

Hollie Russon-Gilman

Harvard University ( email )

No Address Available

Jennifer Shkabatur (Contact Author)

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliyah, Israel ( email )

P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 4610101

World Bank ( email )

1616 H Street
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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