The advent of online communication not only offered a new tool for one to reach many — in particular, for politicians to impart messages to the public. It also, as the authors of this week’s readings detail, inaugurated a wholly new paradigm of communication. No longer were messages from politicians susceptible to filters in the news media or as tethered to the economics of advertisements as before; now politicians could submit unadulterated political messages to the public, and for a fraction of a cost of what a primetime television advertisement might’ve cost a candidate thirty years ago.
Though more a manifesto for Internet users than an academic study of online communication, Barlow’s “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” outlines the advances brought on by the new paradigm. Legal concepts — property, expression, borders, identity — that in physical space are the government’s bailiwick it has no control over in Cyberspace, Barlow argues. Hierarchies once or still fostered by the government — like those based on race, income, power or socioecomic station — are obsolete in cyberspace, he adds. And even if the government here or abroad or any other official entity wanted to govern the Internet, they would not be able to, he concludes. ”
“You have no sovereignty where we gather,” Barlow writes in his 1996 manifesto. “I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.”
Still, online communication has afforded politicians and governments some degrees of greater control over the public, real or online, and Bimber and Davis and Druckman et al. relate these in the chapter we read. While online communication still favors the better-financed politicians, websites still offered candidates the opportunity to get their messages across at rates far lower than television stations would charge and fostered the creation of networks of supporters. Druckman’s findings that candidates guard their messages more closely when the race is more contested and are looser when they feel as if they have nothing to lose demonstrate the importance of online communication in campaign strategy and politician-voter relationships.
Question: What are the advantages and disadvantages of online communication allowing politicians to directly impart their messages to the public? And are voters are more or less informed because of this?