Politics and the Internet

by Henry on May 24, 2012

A few months ago, I posted a draft article on Politics and the Internet that was forthcoming in the _Annual Review of Political Science._ The final version is now out, and available (via a paywall passthrough: let me know if this doesn’t work for you) here – with acknowledgment to Crooked Timber readers for the helpful suggestions that you all gave me. Again, thanks.

bq. Political scientists are only now beginning to come to terms with the importance of the Internet to politics. The most promising way to study the Internet is to look at the role that causal mechanisms such as the lowering of transaction costs, homophilous sorting, and preference falsification play in intermediating between specific aspects of the Internet and political outcomes. This will allow scholars to disentangle the relevant causal relationships and contribute to important present debates over whether the Internet exacerbates polarization in the United States, and whether social media helped pave the way toward the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. Over time, ever fewer political scientists are likely to study the Internet as such, as it becomes more and more a part of everyday political life. However, integrating the Internet’s effects with present debates over politics, and taking proper advantage of the extraordinary data that it can provide, requires good causal arguments and attention to their underlying mechanisms.

{ 4 comments }

1

Bjorn 05.25.12 at 2:11 am

“Over time, ever fewer political scientists are likely to study the Internet as such, as it becomes more and more a part of everyday political life. ”

What complete nonsense! Academics outside the hard sciences showed the Internet no interest when it was a fringe nerd phenomenon in the early 90’s. Now that it’s “a part of every political life”, the academics can’t get enough of it, with whole careers devoted to nothing else…

2

Martin 05.25.12 at 3:45 am

This reminds me of Hegel: it probably means something really profound, but I’m not bright enough to work out what it means.

3

straightwood 05.25.12 at 12:57 pm

This article is better than I expected. Professor Farrell is to be commended for courageously concluding that the retooling of the political science discipline will be required to prepare the way for successor scholarly disciplines relevant to the modern world. This is akin to deftly sawing off the tree branch on which one is seated.

We wonder at the ignorance of the ancients who attempted to reduce the elements of matter to earth, air, fire, and water, but we are still expected to take seriously scholars attempting to reduce the elements of modern governance to democracy and markets. Internet-based political evolution will be a cornucopia of emergent forms for which vocabulary and analytical apparatus do not yet exist. Professor Farrell is correct in stating the bloc obsolescence of the existing political science discipline, even as he attempts to work within it. How he grapples with this predicament will be the measure of his merit.

4

Antti Nannimus 05.26.12 at 4:18 am

Hi,

“The most promising way to study the Internet is to look at the role that causal mechanisms such as the lowering of transaction costs, homophilous sorting, and preference falsification play in intermediating between specific aspects of the Internet and political outcomes.”

Yeah, okay thanks, where can I get these lower costs again?

Have a nice day,
Antti

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