Masthead CMC Magazine / April 1, 1996
 Building Democracy Online, by Scott Aikens and Erna Koch

The Role of Cyberspace in Democratic Dialogues

In the future, as access to information technology increases, public forums ought to be constructed in every community to ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to participate.

Indeed, because of interactivity it is possible to structure political discourse in which many citizen-participants speak to each other about the candidates and the issues of the day.

It is even possible to consider restructuring the agenda-setting function of the political media so that the issues of importance to citizen-participants in a democratic dialogue become the issues of importance in the community at large.

This is not to say that the political media will be without a role in the democratic dialogue. On the contrary, it will have a primary role. Rather, this is to say that the role of the political media will be to guide and guard the democratic dialogue rather then dictate what people read, think, and talk about.

The political media will help moderate the democratic dialogue so that something with shape and that is worthwhile is provided. After all, with CMC it is possible to create many forums in addition to the open forums. Some might be tightly edited, some of might be loosely edited.

The political media will help educate the citizen-body about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and help guide the citizen-participant as he or she seeks to exercise the rights of free speech, free assembly and free press as granted to him or her under the Constitution of the United States.

Certainly the political media will be important. But open forums are essential. These will safe-guard the democratic dialogue and create new institutions of accountability. Not only will representative officials be held accountable to citizens engaged in a democratic dialogue, so will the political media. --

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