Civil Society 2.0 : Conceptualizing the idea of a
Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to conceptualize the idea of a “digital civil society”. During the latest half-century, technological developments in the areas of information and communication have been increasingly ingrained in everyday-life of many people. Not surprisingly, politics have also been affected by these developments. The concept of a global civil society is getting increasingly fashionable, and it is my belief that this global civil society in many ways is related to the technological developments manifested in the digital revolution. From this point of departure, it is my intent to depict the idea of a digital civil society within a conceptual framework substantiated by a number of cases of collective action where the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) has been instrumental. By doing this, my intention is to see if, and how, the ICT revolution is altering civil society organization, mobilization, advocacy and action. The essay has five parts. First, there is a brief introduction of the subject where the main research issues are put forward. The second part describes the methodology and defines the central concepts; global civil society, globalization and the ICT revolution. This framework, elaborated more thoroughly in part three, will serve as both goal and means for the research as it constitutes the research method as well as a potential basis for further research in the area. In part four, a number of cases of civil society collective action are portrayed and analyzed in connection to the conceptual framework. In some of these cases, ICT is used as a way to support and supplement more traditional “offline” collective action whereas in the second part of this chapter, cases of more pure “online action” are described. With the features and characteristics of these case studies in mind, the aim is to identify tendencies supporting the idea of a possibly emerging digital civil society. In the last chapter, there is a discussion concerning the potential characteristics and outcomes of such a digital civil society. I also present a model describing the logic of the conceptual framework and the processes and concepts which are central to this study. My conclusions are meant to create an environment conducive to further research on the subjects I have studied. First, it appears as if the logic of “networking” as power structure within civil society is favourable for organization, participation, communication, mobilization and action. As such, the networked, dynamic and horizontal character of the Internet seems to influence the organizational character of many civil society entities. Secondly, the Internet’s ability to allow for many-to-many communication seems to contribute to a broader and more inclusive way to debate issues of all kinds. Thirdly, ICT in some ways appears to “individualize” collective action, a development possibly related to the individual and isolating character of Internet use itself and the relative anonymity which can be enjoyed online. In sum, these findings suggest that the idea of a digital civil society broadens the base of collective action and, to some extent, reduces the costs of participation.
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