Political Participation

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POLI0094 Political Participation: Why and How?
1st Semester, 2010-11
Term Paper

From Twitter Revolution to Internet Censorship in China – a discussion on the Internet and political participation

Introduction
Politics could be defined very broadly as the adjustment efforts of humans attempting to coexist in an interdependent relationship. In defining a political system, we refer it to a system which is a persistent pattern of human relationships that involves, to a significant extent, power, rule, or authority. Politics concerns about the process in which a government outcomes or decisions on public affairs is made. The course of action or behavior people conduct to influence in the process of negotiation, bargaining and compromising for a political outcome is what we refer as political participation. There are numerous reasons behind one’s participation in politics which may include hoping to achieve one’s aim, running for the office and even simply out of admiration or attraction to a certain political figure which he identify himself to. The motives behind political participation are diverse and numerous and so are the methods and ways people take part in political affairs. A citizen may join a political party, exercise his right to voting in an election, run for the government office, make monetary contribution, attend a political meeting or even join a protest and demonstration.

Traditionally, mail and mass media play a key role in the dissemination of political information and commentaries which propel most political participation of the mass public. Nonetheless, we can observe that, starting from the begin of 21st century, with the rapid emergence of the Internet, the ways and pattern of political participation seem to be in a continuing dynamic change. It is beyond doubt that the use of Internet in politics draws a considerable amount of attention by politicians, governments and activists, with the proof of recent examples like the Obama online presidential election campaign and the Twitter Revolution in Iran. In this paper, I will endeavor to examine the effect of Internet on political participation and its implication with reference to several recent internet-politics incidents.

Innovative channels of political participation online
Characterized by its feature of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Computer-mediated communication (CMC), the Internet provides a wide platform for diverse and free political participation which was unprecedented before the emergence of Internet. It provides citizen with easy and quick access to political information and commentaries on numerous websites or newsgroups which benefit from the hyper-links of the worldwide web.

For the majority, the online chatroom and forum are the places where they exchange information and idea and carry out discussion on current issues and public affairs. The HK Golden Forum in Hong Kong and the Tian Ya Online Community in mainland are some of the prominent virtual forums in which people enjoy freedom of speech and heated debate of political issues happens. Online political participation does not stop here. In recent years, the increasing worldwide popularity and uprising usage of social networking website such as Facebook and Twitter bring a huge impact to the pattern of political activities. It may not be an exaggeration to say the social networking platform help revolutionize the format of participation and the political landscape with the famous Obama election campaign and Twitter Revolution. Not only are politicians and activists are chasing with the wave of e-politics, the governments, with a comprehensive understanding of the widespread influence of Internet, are also seizing this opportunity to promote e-democracy, increase its efficiency and establish legitimacy through E-engagement and online delivery of public services. We shall not underestimate the potential significance and power of the Internet in...
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