From Broadcast to Netcast: The Internet and the Flow of Political Information

A Thesis presented By Mark Seth Bonchek To The Committee on Political Economy and Government in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the subject of Political Economy and Government

Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts April 1997

(c) 1997 by Mark Seth Bonchek
All rights reserved

Abstract
This thesis examines the effect of the Internet on the flow of political information. Case studies and an online survey test the hypothesis that the Internet is altering the political communication structure in the United States. The current Broadcast Structure, distinguished by the unidirectional redistribution of information by the press from organizational issue-networks to public social-networks, is found to be giving way to a new Netcast structure. This structure is distinguished by an omnidirectional flow of information that bypasses the press as an informational intermediary and provides new opportunities for political participation among privileged groups. The hypothesized shift from a Broadcast to Netcast structure is tested using case studies of the Internet and one of the first online surveys. Case studies include analysis of the MN-Politics electronic mailing list, the alt.politics.homosexuality Usenet newsgroup, an online petition to protect PBS funding, and campaign activity on the World Wide Web. The online survey measures the demographics, usage, and political activity of citizens and organizations obtaining White House electronic documents. The thesis finds support for ten hypothesized effects on the flow of political information. The hypotheses are derived from the unique properties of the Internet as a communication medium and the literature on political, social, and economic behavior. (1) An all-channel structure connecting active and attentive citizens, political organizations, government, and the press produces (2) disintermediation, turning traditional intermediaries into information brokers. (3) Virtual organizations arise around shared interests rather than shared geography, (4) integrating social networks and issue networks. The ability to redistribute digital information and maintain weak-tie networks

promotes (5) propagation of information and contributes to (6) an increased volume of information and (7) the integration of personal, broadcast, and network media. The importance of education and income for Internet usage and political participation produces (8) a bias in favor of high-resourced individuals and organizations. Anonymity and the ability to deliver targeted, customized messages produces (9) heterogeneity in information sources and (10) the replacement of broadcasting with narrowcasting. There is some evidence that the Internet is increasing political participation among economically- and educationally-advantaged political agents.

Contents
1 Introduction.......................................................................................................................1 1.1 Contribution to the Literature ........................................................................................3 1.2 Hypotheses....................................................................................................................6 1.3 Organization .................................................................................................................8 Communication Media....................................................................................................10 2.1 Properties ....................................................................................................................10 2.2 Internet........................................................................................................................16 2.3 Information Flow ........................................................................................................23 2.4 Summary.....................................................................................................................27 Communication Structures .............................................................................................28 3.1 Structures ....................................................................................................................29 3.2 Broadcast Structure .....................................................................................................33 3.3 Issue Networks............................................................................................................34 3.4 Social Networks ..........................................................................................................36 3.5 Network Structure .......................................................................................................41 3.6 New Channels .............................................................................................................46 3.7 The Press ....................................................................................................................49 3.8 The Public...................................................................................................................50 3.9 Netcast........................................................................................................................51 3.10 Hypotheses..................................................................................................................54 3.11 Testing ........................................................................................................................57 Mailing Lists ....................................................................................................................62 4.1 Netcast Structure.........................................................................................................63 4.2 Political Content..........................................................................................................64 4.3 Political Agents ...........................................................................................................68 4.4 Political Channels .......................................................................................................73 4.5 Case Study: Access Council .......................................................................................73 4.6 Case Study: Common Cause.......................................................................................76 4.7 Social and Issue Networks...........................................................................................82 4.8 Summary.....................................................................................................................84 Usenet Newsgroups..........................................................................................................85 5.1 Virtual Organization....................................................................................................87 5.2 Heterogeneity..............................................................................................................95 5.3 Media Integration......................................................................................................100 5.4 Disintermediation......................................................................................................108 5.5 Summary...................................................................................................................113 Online Petitions .............................................................................................................115 6.1 Online Petitions.........................................................................................................116 6.2 Propagation ...............................................................................................................119 6.3 Resource Bias ...........................................................................................................129 6.4 Summary...................................................................................................................131 World Wide Web...........................................................................................................132 7.1 Disintermediation......................................................................................................133 7.2 Narrowcasting...........................................................................................................134 7.3 Media Integration......................................................................................................136 7.4 Case Study: Republican National Convention...........................................................137 7.5 Case Study: Campaign ’96 .......................................................................................148

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7.6 Summary...................................................................................................................157 White House Electronic Documents .............................................................................159 8.1 White House Publications System .............................................................................162 8.2 Survey Methodology .................................................................................................166 8.3 Disintermediation......................................................................................................171 8.4 Propagation ...............................................................................................................174 8.5 Narrowcasting...........................................................................................................177 8.6 Resource Bias ...........................................................................................................179 8.7 Summary...................................................................................................................184 9 Political Participation....................................................................................................185 9.1 Political Participation ................................................................................................186 9.2 Resources..................................................................................................................188 9.3 Engagement ..............................................................................................................193 9.4 Mobilization..............................................................................................................201 9.5 Data ..........................................................................................................................204 9.6 Resources..................................................................................................................204 9.7 Engagement ..............................................................................................................206 9.8 Mobilization..............................................................................................................210 9.9 Summary...................................................................................................................214 10 Conclusion .....................................................................................................................215 10.1 Theory ......................................................................................................................216 10.2 Hypotheses................................................................................................................219 10.3 Evidence ...................................................................................................................221 10.4 Implications ..............................................................................................................224 11 Sources...........................................................................................................................227 8

Thanks
To my parents, Lawrence and Rita Bonchek, for making it all possible To my grandparents, Henry and Florence Schreiber, for your perseverance and generosity To my sister, Lisa, for always being there To Carl Jette, for the art of inquiry To James Beniger, for showing me how to think about communication To James Alt, for your trust To Ken Shepsle, for taking me under your wing To Sandy Robbins, for showing me that communication is everything To Randall Davis, for taking a chance on me To John Mallery, for your brilliance and insight To Roger Hurwitz, for your friendship and knowledge To Sidney Verba, for your wise counsel To David King, for your faith and perspective To Janelle Shubert, for support and humanity To Justin Sterling, for pointing the way To Elizabeth Davidson, for your love and devotion To the men of Sequoia, for your heart and your friendship To Eric deRivera, for your inspiration and commitment To Rich O’Keeffe, for your humor and spirit To Todd Jesdale, for your cool To Mike Logan, for starting a journey To Dale Calverley, for your trust To the Men and Women of New England, for keeping me from quitting To Ken Anbender, Gail and Alan Cantor, for your community and contribution To David Stone, for giving me a reason to finish To the Netizens who appear on these pages, for your contribution and candor And to everyone else who should be mentioned on this page, for your understanding.

Frontispiece

Because communication is the fundamental social process, because man is above all an information-processing animal, a major change in the state of information, a major involvement of communication, always accompanies any major social change. - Wilbur Schramm

The deployment of technical media has a fundamental impact on the ways in which people act and interact with one another. This is not to say that the technical medium determines social organization in some simple, monocausal way; the deployment of technical media is always situated within a broader social and institutional context which limits the available options. But new technical media make possible new forms of social interaction, modify or undermine old forms of interaction, create new foci and new venues for action and interaction, and thereby serve to restructure existing social relations and the institutions and organizations of which they are a part. - John B. Thompson

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” - P. Steiner, The New Yorker

Your Papa knows not the difference between on-line or off-line, But apparently cyber-space can be used to commend or to malign. If affordably produced, and for the public more simplified, One thing is certain, and can not be denied, Each household will have a radio, a t.v., and an Internet alongside. What a domino-effect field this new media opens up, To manufacture these units, to repair them, even to advertise – a pup! - Henry J. Schreiber

1 Introduction
The flow of political information is a vital process in the political system (Deutsch 1966, Fagen 1966). Individuals, organizations, and governments depend on accurate and timely information to make decisions and coordinate their activities (Converse 1990). The complexity of the political system requires political actors to gather information from beyond their immediate environments (Nimmo and Combs 1983). Communication media such as newspapers, television, and the telephone are the channels through which this information is gathered (McLuhan 1964, Schramm 1973, Meadow 1980). As the ability of communication media to transmit information changes over time, so does the flow of information (Pye 1965, Straits 1991). New media enable actors to gather information from new sources in new locations, often in less time and at less expense. The Internet is a “unique and wholly new medium of worldwide human communication” that enables political actors to transmit information at a low cost independently of time and distance (U.S. District Court 1996). The unique transmission capabilities of the Internet alter the flow of information between individuals, within organizations, and throughout society (Sproull 1991, Hiltz 1993). This alteration in the flow of information suggests an alteration in political behavior as well. The scholarly literature demonstrates a relationship between the flow of political information and political behavior. In particular, information has been found to be an important factor in political participation (Verba 1995), political cognition (Sniderman 1991), public opinion

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(Neuman 1986), political meaning (Neuman 1992), and political discussion (Gamson 1992). The relationship between media, information, and behavior is summarized in Figure 1. Political information is an intervening variable between communication media and political behavior. Differences in the ability of communication media to transmit information produce differences in the flow of political information. In turn, these differences produce differences in political behavior by affecting individuals, organizations, and communities’ knowledge and understanding of political actors, events, and processes. Use of the telephone, for example, allows citizens to transmit information immediately over large distances. The telephone produces a different flow of information than the postal service, which takes much longer to transmit information over the same distance. By distributing information more rapidly, the telephone enables citizens to respond to political crises or emergencies that would otherwise be missed. Figure 1: Model of Media, Information, and Behavior

Understanding the effect of the Internet on political behavior using the media/information/behavior model requires answering four questions:

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1. How does the Internet differ from other media in its transmission of political information? 2. How do these differences in transmission affect the flow of political information among political actors? 3. Which political actors are affected by the changes in the flow of political information? 4. How do these changes in the flow of political information affect political actors’ behavior? Political science has been slow to take up these questions. Only one panel at the 1996 American Political Science Association Meeting addressed the Internet directly and as of July 1996 the major political science journals had yet to publish an article on the effect of the Internet on the political process. This dissertation intends to remedy this gap in the literature by examining the first three questions and developing an understanding of the first half of the media/information/behavior chain. By exploring the connection between media and information, this dissertation should assist future researchers complete the chain by answering the fourth question and exploring the connection between information and behavior on the Internet.

1.1

Contribution to the Literature The dissertation contributes most directly to the field of political communication.

Three literatures in the field are particularly relevant. The first overlaps with media studies and addresses the social and political effects of new communication media. Noteworthy studies have been conducted on pamphlets (Goldsberry 1995), the telegraph (Blondheim 1994), radio (Chester 1969, Reinsch 1988), the telephone (Aronson 1971, De Sola Pool 1977), newspapers (Schudson 1978), television (Mickelson 1972, Ranney 1983), mass media (Benjamin 1982, Gordon, 1977), and electronic media (Abramson

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1988). There are currently few studies on the effect of the Internet on political communication and the political process. Notable exceptions are Aikens’ (1996a, 1996b) papers on a Deweyan system of public opinion formation and the Minnesota electronic democracy project, and the Haubens’ (1996) paper on the creation, development, and impact of the Internet. This dissertation differs from these works in having an explicit model of political behavior and in specifically addressing the flow of political information as a dependent variable. Aikens’ work emphasizes public opinion formation with a more normative focus, while Hauben’s research is more historical and prescriptive about public policy concerns. The dissertation is also a contribution to the literature on diffusion of information (Savage 1981), an outgrowth of the literature on diffusion of innovation (Brown 1969, Rogers 1971, 1995). The substantive contribution to this literature is the inclusion of the Internet as a channel for diffusion. Previous studies have examined only personal and broadcast media. The methodological contribution is a bridging of individual and system-level analysis. Previous studies have examined information flow at the level of the individual (Katz 1955), the organization (Graber 1992), and the political system as a whole (Deutsch 1967). This dissertation bridges individual and system-level analysis by considering the individual as the primary decision-maker within a communication structure and political system (Stimson 1990). Drawing on the recent critiques of rational choice as a model of human behavior (Mansbridge 1990), the dissertation assumes that individual behavior is complex and multi-dimensional. Social and psychological factors (Campbell et. al. 1960) as well as rational self-interest (Alt and Shepsle, 1990) are important determinants of political

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behavior. The interplay of these factors is assumed to depend on the social context (Fischer 1977). In this dissertation, social context is approximated by social networks. With whom a person communicates and about what they communicate are assumed to influence that person’s behavior. The dissertation will take the mechanism for this influence largely as a given, emphasizing the relationships between social networks and the roles of the networks themselves more than the relationships (Holland and Leinhardt 1970, 1975) and roles (White et. al. 1976, Lorraine and White 1971) of individuals within social networks. The third literature addresses the flow of information within governmental organizations. A number of studies have examined sources and flow of information in Congress (Bimber 1991, Sabatier and Whiteman 1985, Maisel 1981), state legislatures (Riffe 1988, 1990, Mooney 1991), and the bureaucracy (Graber 1992). Most of these studies address the various channels of information used by legislators and bureaucrats and the balance between both specialist and non-specialist information (Zwier 1979) and technical and non-technical information (Webber 1987). This dissertation contributes to this literature by evaluating the importance of the Internet as source for information from political organizations and constituents. An additional contribution arises out of the timing of the study. Currently, the Internet is still a distinct medium. The television, the telephone, radio, and the Internet each have their own devices. But the distinctions between these media are rapidly blurring. It is already possible to use one’s computer to play CD’s, tune into a radio broadcast, view a television program, surf the Web, and talk on the telephone. The distinct effect of the Internet may be more difficult to measure as the delivery of these

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channels blur together. In addition, the Internet is still used by a minority of the population. Most citizens receive their political information from personal and broadcast media. By analyzing the Internet today, the old and new communication structures can be examined in juxtaposition and their differences noted more clearly. As use of computer networks becomes more widespread, it will become more difficult to separate out the specific effects of the Internet. This dissertation therefore contributes to the literature by documenting the changes as they are occurring.

1.2

Hypotheses How does the Internet change the flow of political information? The hypothesis

tested in this thesis is that the unique properties of the Internet create new channels for political communication between political actors. Prior to the Internet, political actors were restricted by the one-to-one transmission of personal media and the high costs and one-to-many transmissions of broadcast media. As a result, there were few channels of communication between citizens and political organizations. The press served as a gatekeeper, gathering information via personal media, filtering that information, and broadcasting it out again to its citizen-audience. This broadcast structure of political communication, depicted on the left side of Figure 2 below, exhibits a limited set of channels for political communication. The Internet differs from other media in its transmission properties. Unlike personal or broadcast media, the Internet is a many-to-many medium, supporting communication among group members. Unlike broadcast media, the Internet has low setup costs and supports two-way, interactive communication. Unlike many other media,

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the Internet is very rapid and the cost of transmission is virtually independent of distance or location. Finally, the Internet’s use of digital information allows for manipulation and processing of the information along the transmission path. These differences between the Internet and other media open new channels for communication among political actors. Political organizations are able to communicate directly with each other, bypassing the press as an intermediary. Citizens are able to communicate interactively with existing broadcasters and many political actors become their own broadcasters. Finally, new network-based channels open alongside existing channels, supporting a greater variety and flow of political information. Together with the existing channels of the broadcast structure, these new network channels create a new Netcast structure depicted on the right in Figure 2. Figure 2: Broadcast and Netcast Structures Broadcast Structure Netcast Structure

The flow of information in the Netcast structure differs from the flow in the Broadcast structure. Analyzing the unique properties of the Internet in combination with
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the social characteristics of political communication yields the following hypotheses about the effects of the Internet on the flow of political information:

1. An all-channel structure of political communication in which all political agents are directly connected to each other 2. Disintermediation, i.e. bypassing of traditional intermediaries, and a shift from gatekeeping to brokering for these intermediaries; 3. Formation of virtual organizations based on shared interests rather than shared geography; 4. Integration of social and issue networks, such that personal relationships form more easily around political issues and personal relationships are enhanced in existing issue-oriented networks; 5. Greater propagation of political information through duplication and retransmission between social networks across weak-tie relationships; 6. Increased volume of political information; 7. Integration of personal, broadcast, and network media either simultaneous transmission, repackaging, and rebroadcast; 8. Resource bias in who uses the Internet for political communication towards those with higher income and education; 9. Heterogeneity of sources for political information, expanding the diversity of opinion to which citizens have access and may be exposed to; 10. Narrowcasting of customized and targeted messaged to specific communities of interest. 1.3 Organization The thesis is organized according to the questions raised in the first section of this chapter. Chapter 2 examines the question of how the Internet differs from other media in its transmission of political information. Chapter 3 examines how these differences in transmission affect the flow of political information among political actors. Chapters 4 through 9 test the hypothesized effects derived in Chapter 3 using case studies of Internet mailing lists, Usenet groups, online petitions, World Wide Web campaign sites, and an

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online survey of White House electronic document users. Overall, the analyses and case studies are consistent with the hypothesized effects. Chapter 10 examines how these flow effects may influence political participation. Survey results from White House document users suggest that the Internet is creating new opportunities for political participation and increasing the levels of political participation among high-resource groups already likely to participate.

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2 Communication Media
The first of our research questions is “How does the Internet differ from other media in its transmission of political information?” The media ⇒ information ⇒ behavior model predicts that differences in transmission properties produce differences in information flow. The purpose of this chapter is therefore to investigate the unique properties of the Internet and their effects on information flow. The first section defines communication and communication media and explicates the dimensions that differentiate communication media from each other. The Internet is shown to possess unique characteristics and transmission properties. The third section finds structural, historical, and technical reasons for these differences. The chapter concludes by hypothesizing the effects of these differences on the flow of information.

2.1

Properties Communication media are the “extensions of man.” McLuhan 1964), machines

and social institutions “interposed in the communication process to multiply and extend the delivery of information” (Schramm 1973). As the channels of communication, “the very substance of human intercourse,” they have been considered both the skeleton (Pye 1963) and the nervous system (Deutsch 1967) for the body politic. They are the building blocks from which the communication structure is built. Each communicative act has a source or sender who originates the message, the message itself, a medium for carrying the message, a receiver who interprets the message, and possible feedback to the source from the receiver (Lasswell 1971, Shannon 1949).

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Messages are made up of information, “the raw material of communication.” Communication occurs when information is transmitted from a source to a receiver and when that information has some affect on the receiver (see Figure 3 below). Communication is therefore “the transfer of meaningful information from a source to a receiver” (Graber 1991:4), “a process in which there is some predictable relation between the message transmitted and the message received” (Katz and Kahn 1978:436). Figure 3: The Process of Communication

The processing of information into an organized body of thought is the creation of knowledge. Since the structure of communication in a society determines how information flows, it also affects its ability to create, maintain, and utilize knowledge. Communications is the web of human society. The structure of a communication system with its more or less well-defined channels is, in a sense, the skeleton of the social body which envelops it. The content of communications is of course the very substance of human intercourse. The flow of communications determines the direction and the pace of dynamic social development (Pye 1963). By influencing the flow of information and the creation of knowledge, media therefore influence individual behavior, social organization, and the functioning of the political system. Media differ in their properties as channels for communication and their capacities for transmitting information. Some media are better for carrying messages over distances (telephone) while others are better for storing messages through time
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(magnetic tape). Some media are better for targeting a message to a specific individual (letter) while others are better for distributing messages to large audiences of people (television). Media also differ according to the type of information they carry. Some information is textual, some audio, some visual. Finally, media differ in the costs incurred to utilize the medium for the transmission of information. Media therefore vary along five dimensions: time, distance, audience, content, and cost. Differences among media along any of these dimensions correspond to differences in the capacity to transmit information. To the extent that the Internet differs from other media along these dimensions, it will differ in its capacity for transmitting information. Along the dimensions of time, media can be divided into synchronous and asynchronous. Media that store and transmit messages through time are called asynchronous media. A medium is asynchronous if there is a significant delay between the time that a source sends the message and the time that is received. In some cases, the source of the asynchronicity is slow delivery, while in other cases it is due to the storage of the message until the receiver actually retrieves the message. Books, newspapers, answering machines, videotapes, CDs and floppy disks are all asynchronous. Synchronous media do not have a perceptible delay between the time a message is sent and received. Synchronous media include the telephone, radio, and live television. Related to the synchronicity of media is interactivity. Interactivity occurs when the receiver can provide feedback to the sender in a way that affects the source’s subsequent transmission. With true interactivity, the parties involved alternate roles as senders and receivers in a dialogue. Telephone calls are usually interactive, whereas television news broadcasts are not. Talk radio and television talk shows are partly

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interactive because the source’s communication is affected by feedback from the audience, although not all receivers are able to participate in the exchange. Media can be further differentiated along the dimension of distance. Some media are better able than others to transmit information across physical distances. Media that transmit information in physical form are more limited than those that transmit information in electronic form through wires or via radio waves. Newspapers, books, letters, and compact disks represent information physically in paper, ink, and plastic. These media must be physically transported from the source to the receiver, limiting its reach and adding to its expense. Media that transmit information over wires or radio waves are less encumbered by physical distance. Whereas a letter to another country must be physically transported, a telephone call does not. Media such as short-wave radio, television, telephone, and satellite transmissions are therefore more capable of transmitting information across large distances. Audience is the third dimension for comparing communication media. Media differ in the size of the audience that can simultaneously receive a message. Some media are personal media, connecting a single source with a single receiver. These media are called one-to-one media and include telephone calls, letters, and facsimiles. Other media broadcast messages from a single source to multiple receivers. These media are one-tomany media and include radio, television, newspapers, and books. A third category is many-to-many media. Many-to-many media enable multiple sources to communicate with multiple receivers. Conference calls are an example of a many-to-many medium.

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The fourth dimension for comparing media is content. Information can be transmitted in the form of text, graphics, audio, or video. Media differ in their ability to transmit different types of information. Letters transmit text effectively, but are incapable of transmitting audio or video information. Radio is effective for audio information, but incapable of transmitting video. Television is effective for audio and video, but poorly suited for text. Media also differ in their cost structures. Two types of costs are fixed costs and marginal costs. Fixed costs are the initial or entry costs required for having the ability to send or receive messages. The cost of a telephone is a fixed cost. Marginal costs are the ongoing expenses involved in sending or receiving individual messages. The cost of a phone call is a marginal cost. Fixed and marginal costs sometimes differ for senders and receivers. Most broadcast media are expensive for senders and inexpensive for receivers. The cost of purchasing and operating a television station, for example, is far more expensive than purchasing and operating a television set. The differentiating characteristics are summarized in Figure 4 below for some common media. The first and second columns list the types of media according to the relationship between the source and the receiver. One-to-one media are labeled personal media, one-to-many media are labeled broadcast media, and many-to-many media are labeled group media. Internet media are listed separately. The third column lists the temporal relationship between transmission and receipt of the communication, either synchronous or asynchronous. The fourth column indicates the capacity of the medium for interactivity, either none, partial, or full. The fifth column indicates the capacity of the medium for transmitting information across large distances, either local, regional, or

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global. The sixth column indicates the speed with which the information can be delivered over that distance, either slow or fast. The seventh column indicates the types of information optimally transmitted over the medium—text, graphics, audio, or video. The last four columns describe the cost structure for the medium. Fixed and marginal costs for senders and receivers are indicated by low, medium, high. Only direct financial expenses are considered in this column; other costs such as education or training are not included. Figure 4: Properties of Communication Media
Medium Personal Conversation Letter Phone Call Voice Mail Facsimile Broadcast Radio Television Lecture Print Tapes/CDs Movie Mass Mailing Group Meeting Conf. Call Internet E-Mail Listserv Web Chat Usenet Virtual Conf Audience 1-1 1-1 1-1 1-1 1-1 1-Many 1-Many 1-Many 1-Many 1-Many 1-Many 1-Many M-Many M-Many 1-1 1-Many 1-Many M-Many M-Many M-Many Time Synch Asynch Synch Asynch Asynch Synch Synch Synch Asynch Asynch Asynch Asynch Synch Synch Asynch Asynch Asynch Synch Asynch Synch Interact Full No Full No No Part Part Part No No No No Full Full Part Part No Yes Part Yes Area Local Global Global Global Global Regnl Global Local Global Global Local Global Local Global Global Global Global Global Global Global Speed Fast Slow Fast Fast Fast Fast Fast Fast Slow Slow Slow Slow Fast Fast Fast Fast Fast Fast Fast Fast Type Aud/Vis Txt/Graph Audio Audio Txt/Graph Audio Aud/Vid Aud/Graph Txt/Graph Aud/Video Aud/Video Txt/Graph Audio/Vis Audio Text Text All Text Text Au/Vi/Txt FC:Src/Rcv Low/Low Low/Low Med/Med Med/Med Med/Med Hi/Low Hi/Med Low/Low Hi/Low Hi/Low Hi/Low Med/Low Low/Low Med/Low Med/Med Med/Med Med/Med Med/Med Med/Med Med/Med MC:S/R Low/Low Low/Low Med/Low Med/Low Med/Med Low/Low Low/Low Low/Low Med/Low Med/Low Med/Low Med/Low Low/Low Med/Med Low/Low Low/Low Low/Low Low/Low Low/Low Low/Low

Looking only at the non-Internet media, two patterns emerge. First, there is typically an imbalance between sending and receiving costs. Fixed and marginal costs are generally higher for the sender than the receiver. Second, there are some gaps in the

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possible combinations of characteristics. For example, there are no inexpensive global group media. There are also no inexpensive, fast, global, text-based, personal media. Comparing Internet media to non-Internet media, it is apparent that the Internet is distinctive as a communication medium. No other medium (1) combines personal, group, and broadcast communication, (2) features a moderate fixed cost and low marginal cost for broadcasting, (3) provides for inexpensive global group communication, and (4) enables inexpensive, rapid, global, text-based, personal communication.

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Internet Why does the Internet have such distinctive characteristics as a communication

medium? The answer lies in the design of the Internet, the nature of digital information, and the properties of computer networks. The Internet is a collection of computers connected together so that they can exchange information with each other. By itself, a computer is merely a sophisticated calculator, a standalone information processing machine. But connect two computers together so that they can exchange information, and each computer becomes a communication device. From the 1950s through the 1980s, computers were largely standalone information-processing devices. Even in the 1980s, with the development of personal computing, computers were still used primarily as standalone devices. Some computers were networked together, but mostly within organizations as local terminals for mainframe computers. The breakthrough in the 1990s was the networking of millions of computers into a global network of computers (Tesler 1995, Tapscott 1996).

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A computer network is a collection of computers that are connected, or networked, together using a protocol for exchanging information and a physical link, or substrate, for transmitting the information. The protocol provides the rules that each computer must follow in the transmission of information so that communication can occur. Like a universal translator, the protocol enables computers to communicate despite differences in operating systems, capabilities, and network connections. The physical substrate carries the information between computers, usually through telephone lines, wireless radio, coaxial or fiber-optic cable. An internet (small “i”) is a network of networks. Just as networks connect computers to computers, internets connect networks to networks. Like networks, internets also have protocols and physical substrates. The internet protocols enable networks with different operating systems and configurations to communicate with each other. The internet’s physical substrate connects the networks to each other. The Internet (capital “I”) is the largest internet in the world with nearly 10,000,000 hosts (Matrix 1996). A host is either a computer or a network that is connected to the Internet. Some hosts are individual computers. Some hosts are networks with hundreds of thousands of users. America Online, for example, is a single host. What hosts on the Internet have in common is their use of a common protocol, TCP/IP, as a language for sharing information with each other. TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) converts messages into packets and re-assembles them at their destination. IP (Internet Protocol) transports the packets through the network. Transmitting information on the Internet is like moving one’s apartment in identically sized boxes using United Parcel Service. The TCP protocol disassembles the information

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and packs them into identically sized packets. The IP protocol ships them to their proper destination. The TCP protocol then unpacks and organizes the information into its original arrangement. The TCP/IP protocol allows almost any kind of computer or network to connect to the Internet and exchange information with other computers and networks. Vincent Cerf, one of the primary developers of TCP/IP, has said, “I take great pride in the fact that the Internet has been able to migrate itself on top of every communications capability invented in the past twenty years” (Diamond 1995:45). The Internet is the product of the Cold War. In the late 1950s, the Pentagon became concerned about the susceptibility of their communication system to nuclear attack and the hostile conditions of war. The existing phone network was fragile because a break in the circuit connecting two parties ended a call. An ICBM missile hitting a central switch could wipe out communication to an entire region. In response to a request from the Pentagon, the RAND corporation conceived a network that would route a signal around any disruption and maintain communication: “There would be no obvious central command and control point, but all surviving points would be able to reestablish contact in the event of an attack on any one point [through a] redundancy of connectivity” (Diamond 1995:42). In other words, the information would automatically take a detour if blocked along any given path. At the heart of this conceptually robust network was an invention called packet switching. With a phone call, a connection is opened and maintained for the duration of the call. Each message between sender and receiver is transmitted in its entirely exactly as it is sent. Packet switching differs from a phone call because each message is broken up into small “packets.” A packet consists of a message, a source, a destination, and a

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history of the packet’s travels on the network. Each node in the network has instructions to route these packets towards their destination using whatever network connections are available. Dedicated computers called routers store maps of the network topology and inform the nodes what paths are available between the source and destination. In this way, the intelligence of the system is embedded in the system itself, rather than in a single switching point vulnerable to malfunction or attack. Until the 1990s, the Internet was primarily a network for the defense industry, government and academic scientists, and university students. Members of the general public connected to a computer network were usually connected to a local area network, a dial-in bulletin board, or an online service such as CompuServe, but not to the Internet. Not until the 1990s did corporate networks, bulletin boards, and online services begin connecting their networks to the Internet. In the early 1990’s, the number of host computers jumped from the thousands into the millions. In 1981, fewer than 300 computers were linked to the Internet. By 1989 the number had grown to 90,000 computers. By 1993, over one million computers were connected. Over the next three years, the Net continued to grow exponentially as the network passed its critical mass (Markus 1987, Rafaeli 1993), reaching over 9 million by 1996). Approximately 60 percent of these are located within the United States. The total number of people connected to the Internet is estimated to be 40 million worldwide and 20 million in the United States. The Internet is usually accessed from work, home, school, online services, and public-access sites over dial-in lines or direct network connections. Dial-in lines are

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typically slower than direct network connections. Users who access the Internet from work or school are often subsidized in their usage by their institutions. Typical Internet access charges are $20 per month not including phone bills and equipment. Most urban users are able to use a local access number and avoid long-distance charges. Members of online services typically pay hourly charges for connect time, which they can use to access the Internet. Just as the road system carries a variety of devices for transportation including bicycles, cars, and trucks, the Internet allows for a variety of methods for communication including electronic mail, chat groups, and the World Wide Web. Each has its own characteristics and capabilities, but they share the use of TCP/IP and packet switching as a method of transmitting information on the network. They also share the fundamental property of low cost transmission of digital information across large distances. Collectively, they give the Internet its capacities as a communication medium. The most frequently used application on the Internet is electronic mail, or e-mail (Schaefermeyer 1988). As its name suggests, e-mail is equivalent to sending a postal letter, except the address is a destination on a computer network and the information is stored digitally rather than written on a piece of paper. An e-mail sender enters the address and message into a form on a computer connected to the Internet and “sends” the message. The message is routed to one of the many computers known as domain name servers located throughout the Internet which store information about where to find the computer hosting the recipient’s e-mail account. When delivered to the destination computer, an e-mail program on the destination computer stores the message in a file called the recipient’s “mailbox” for retrieval at the recipient’s convenience.

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A listserv uses electronic mail to create a one-to-many broadcasting medium. A computer program on a host computer stores a list of electronic mail addresses. Individuals can add or delete their address from the list by sending e-mail messages to a subscription address at the host computer. Subscribers to the mailing list can send messages to all other subscribers by sending a message to the address of the mailing list at the host computer. When the host computer receives a message to that address, it automatically rebroadcasts the message to everyone on the mailing list. Usenet newsgroups, bulletin boards, and Web-based conferencing systems are all types of “distributed message databases” and are similar to listservs (Johansen 1988). Like listservs, they allow discussion and the exchange of information on a particular topic. Unlike listservs, submissions are archived and must be retrieved by a reader. They do not automatically appear in a user’s electronic mailbox. Usenet groups are the largest form of distributed message databases and are open to any Internet user. There are currently more than 15,000 Usenet newsgroups with at least 100,000 messages posted each day. A variety of meeting and conferencing systems are also available through private networks and proprietary software (Schrage 1990). Chat facilities allow users to interact in real-time. Messages typed on one person’s terminal appear virtually instantly on the other, allowing an interactive exchange of text. Online services such as America Online and CompuServe have their own chat systems, while the Internet has facilities such as Internet Relay Chat and WebChat. Related to chat system are network-based telephone and video-conferencing facilities such as CU-SeeMe. Both of these facilities extend the real-time exchange of text in chat rooms to sound and video exchange.

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Telnet, FTP (File Transfer Protocol), and Gopher services enable a network user to access a computer elsewhere on the Internet remotely. Telnet gives the user direct control over the remote computer as if he were on that computer directly. FTP gives the user the ability to copy files between a remote and local computer. Gopher gives the user the ability to navigate a directory on a remote computer and view the information contained in its files. The most versatile application on the Internet is the World Wide Web, an application that uses a server program to make information available to anyone who has a browser program such as Netscape or Mosaic. The World Wide Web (“Web”) is the fastest growing application on the Internet. The number of web sites has grown from 130 in June of 1993 to 230,000 in June of 1996 (http://www.mit.edu:8001/people/mkgray/ net/web-growth-summary.html). Traffic on the World Wide Web grew from 39 megabytes per month in November 1992 to 3.1 million megabytes per month in November 1994). Since its inception, the Web has been growing at an exponential rate, doubling every three months. Although the growth rate is leveling off, the number of Web users continues to climb (http://www.isoc.org/ftp/isoc/charts/90s-www.txt). The Web was developed at CERN, a particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. Since particle physics is a highly collaborative enterprise, the physicists at CERN were interested in a technology that would allow scientists around the world to publish and retrieve each others’ research. The initial work in 1989 centered on the development of a protocol for exchanging text, graphic, and sound information called http, hypertext transfer protocol. By 1991 they had developed a Web server for distributing information, and a Web browser for retrieving information. The Web

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browser, running on a retriever’s computer, contacts the Web server, running on the distributor’s computer, and requests a file containing the desired information. The server then transmits the file to the browser, which displays the information for the retriever. Files are given unique addresses called URLs, uniform resource locators. Most files are written in a formatting language called html, hypertext transfer markup language, which allows URLs to be imbedded in a way that links files together. Documents on the Web can be text, sound, graphics, or video. Using a browser program, an individual enters a URL address into his or her browser, which contact the server program responsible for distributing the document with that address. The information is then transmitted by the server to the browser and displayed on the user’s screen. The primary advantage of the World Wide Web is that URL addresses can be embedded in documents as hyperlinks so that a user can simply click on the address with a computer mouse and have the associated document displayed on the screen. This facility makes it possible to “surf” the Web by clicking from one document to the next independently of where the document may be stored.

2.3

Information Flow The flow of political information is a function of the supply and demand for that

information (Weatherford 1982, Fischer et al. 1977, Straits 1991). Demand arises from citizens’ interest in politics, their partisanship, their affect, and their resources (McLeod 1981). The supply of information arises from political agents’ interest in producing and distributing political information and the capacity for distributing that information. The Internet increases the supply of information by increasing the capacity for distributing

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that information. The specific ways in which the Internet increases the supply of information can be summarized by six key concepts: propagation, narrowcasting, automation, mediation, knowledge representation, and virtual organization. These changes have potentially important political consequences because “even relatively minor variations in communication structures can produce substantial differences in information flow patterns and in the distribution of political influence” (Graber 1992:168; see also Kessel 1983, 1984). Propagation refers to the spread of information. It is a measure of the “contagiousness” of information, of how many times a message is passed along from one person to the next. Most news items do not propagate successfully—they are read and forgotten without being discussed or distributed to anyone else. Good jokes, on the other hand, do propagate successfully—they are told and retold from one person to the next. The Internet promotes the propagation of information because of the ease with which information can be forwarded. Forwarding information in a newspaper, magazine, or letter requires the sender to physically clip the article and either fax or mail the letter. Forwarding information in an email message can often be accomplished with only a few clicks of the mouse. The low fixed cost of broadcasting on the Internet, combined with its global reach, provides Internet users with a low-cost publishing medium. Using ftp, telnet, gopher, or the World Wide Web, information can be made available to people all over world for dollars a month. As an added benefit, the information is retrievable at the user’s convenience and can be tailored specifically to the user’s requirements or preferences. Publishing on the Internet differs from traditional broadcasting because of

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the ability to engage in narrowcasting. In traditional broadcasting, the same message is distributed to the entire audience. Everyone in the country sees the same version of the network evening news. With narrowcasting, different segments of the audience receive different messages (Pepper and Rogers 1993). Newspapers and magazines accomplish some narrowcasting through regional versions of the same paper or issue. Subscribers to the New York Times outside of New York City, for example, receive a different version of the newspaper than those who live within New York City. With the Internet, the granularity, or degree of specificity, can move to the level of the individual. Each subscriber to an online newspaper can receive his own newspaper, customized to his specific interests and past reading habits. The development of the Internet has paralleled an expansion in the role of the computer from a computing device to a communications device. By combining computing and communication devices, it is possible for an Internet-connected computer to process the information that it transmits and receives. The Internet brings automation and intelligence to the communication, saving time and expense and creating new possibilities. Electronic mail, for example, can be automatically sorted and prioritized according to keywords contained in the text (Malone 1987). Web sites around the world can be categorized and indexed in large databases such as Alta Vista or Yahoo for search and retrieval. Discussions can be automatically archived for future retrieval. Autonomous software agents gather, interpret, and report on useful information (Foner 1993). Survey systems sends forms to recipients, process their responses, and format the results in real-time without the need for human oversight or intervention (Mallery 1994b.

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On the World Wide Web, databases can be integrated with Web server software to enable users to track overnight express packages or order airline tickets directly. The Internet performs an effective role as an intermediary by making it easy for suppliers and consumers of information to find each other and communicate. Suppliers benefit from the ability to make information available at a low cost, and consumers benefit from the ability to search for and retrieve the information. In becoming its own intermediary, the Internet bypasses or replaces many traditional intermediaries. Because of the high entry costs of traditional broadcasting, most information suppliers were required to attract the attention of the press to disseminate information to the public. On the Internet, suppliers can distribute information directly to the public. The result is a process of disintermediation in which broadcasters are no longer needed as gatekeepers, filters, or intermediaries. The ability to collect, store, compute, and distribute information on the Internet facilitates knowledge representation. Network documents known as FAQs (frequently asked questions), for example, document the accumulated knowledge on a particular topic. As new information is found to contribute to the knowledge base, the FAQ is updated for distribution and retrieval. The capacity for anonymous and asynchronous communication allows for diversity and heterogeneity in the sharing of information. Net users can participate in discussions and exchange information without revealing their identity, avoiding such otherwise deterring consequences as embarrassment or retribution.

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The capacity for many-to-many communication in which costs are independent of time and distance allows for the formation, organization, and maintenance of virtual organizations or groups. These virtual groups are organized not around geography, as in most traditional groups, but around common interests. Through the Internet, individuals are able to find each other, share information, collaborate, and coordinate activities regardless of time or place. Together with low-cost publishing, the proliferation of virtual organizations organized around common interests supports narrowcasting, in which broadcasters deliver targeted messages to small groups of Internet users who share an interest in the content of the message. .

2.4

Summary In their judgment against Internet censorship, the U.S. District Court ruled that

“the Internet is therefore a unique and wholly new medium of worldwide human communication.” They based their ruling on four factors. “First, the Internet presents very low barriers to entry. Second, these barriers to entry are identical for both speakers and listeners. Third, as a result of these low barriers, astoundingly diverse content is available on the Internet. Fourth, the Internet provides significant access to all who wish to speak in the medium, and even creates a relative parity among speakers.” Their conclusion supports the view that the Internet differs fundamentally from existing media: “The Internet may fairly be regarded as a never-ending worldwide conversation. ... the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed.” (U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 96-1458, June 11, 1996).

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3 Communication Structures
In Chapter 1 we saw how the unique transmission properties of the Internet create the capacity for new types of information flow. But information flow is not only a function of the transmission properties of communication media. Information flow is also a function of social organization and behavior. The ways that people organize themselves, communicate with each other, and utilize communication media are important factors in the flow of political information. The Internet can only be understood fully in the context of the entire environment for political communication. “In short, environment plays a crucial role in affecting the social flow of political information” (Huckfeldt and Sprague 1987). This chapter examines the full environment of political communication to understand how citizens receive and distribute political information. The first section presents the concept of a communication structure. A communication structure is the system comprising the channels of communication, the agents that use those channels, and the information carried over those channels. Traditionally studied within organizations (Wigand 1988, Rogers 1976, McPhee 1985, Graber 1992), communication structures will be applied here to the entire political system. The middle sections present three types of communication structures. Broadcast Structure refers to the pre-Internet system dominated by personal and broadcast media and characterized by intermediation between political organizations and citizens through the press. The communication structure in which people communicate solely by computer network is given the label Network Structure. This structure is not intended

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to describe a full communication environment, but serves as a useful juxtaposition to the Broadcast Structure. The combination of the traditional Broadcast Structure with the emergent Network Structure is hypothesized to yield a Netcast Structure. This hybrid structure combines personal, broadcast, and network media and possesses distinct patterns of information flow. The chapter concludes by summarizing these hypothesized patterns of information flow.

3.1

Structures A communication structure is a system comprising the channels of

communication, the agents who use those channels, and the information carried over those channels. Communication structures occur at any level of organization, from family, corporation, or city, to country, region, or globe. This study will focus on the political communication structure in the United States, comprising citizens and organizations in the United States using communication media to exchange information about political affairs. The primary agents in the U.S. political communication structure are the public, the press, government organizations, and political organizations. Political agents are connected by a variety of information channels. Personal media include face-to-face meetings, personal letters, facsimiles, and telephone calls. Broadcast media include radio, television, magazines, mass mailings, and newspapers. Channels can be either one-way or two-way. Content in these channels varies according to the information needs of the agents using them. The information may be text, audio, or video; fact or

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opinion; discussion or announcement. Discussion requires a two-way channel, while an announcement requires only a one-way channel. Agents play different communicative roles. Some agents are suppliers of information, using information channels to distribute information to other agents who are information consumers. Some agents are intermediaries, gathering information from suppliers, processing, filtering, and interpreting the information, and then re-distributing it to consumers (Myers 1994). There is a need for intermediaries because the cost of directly acquiring political information typically exceeds the benefit (Downs 1957). Intermediaries reduce the cost of acquiring information. Citizens have a particular need for intermediaries because they usually do not have direct contact with politics, especially at the national level (Nimmo 1983). Networks are sub-structures that lie within larger communication structures. A network consists of agents, channels, and content. What differentiates a network is the sharing of content among its members. The network of politicians, government workers, consultants, lobbyists, reporters, and analysts that work in and around Washington D.C. can be considered a network because of their shared information. Communication structures can be depicted graphically using a simple schematic representation. Figure 5: below shows the elements of the representation. Agents are depicted by polygonal shapes. Channels are depicted by lines, with arrows representing the direction of the information flow and patterns differentiating types of media. Networks are depicted by dashed rectangles surrounding the agents and channels that constitute the network.

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Figure 5: Representation of Communication Structures

Communication structures are determined by technology, and social behavior. Technology determines the properties of the channels and the kinds of communication that can be supported. Social behavior determines how people use those channels for communication and the exchange of political information. This social aspect of political communication is particularly important. Political behavior may be understood in terms of individuals tied together by, and located within, networks, groups, and other social formations that largely determine their opportunities for the exchange of meaningful political information (Huckfeldt and Sprague 1987). Historically, the most important intermediaries in communication structures have been social networks and the mass media (Beck 1991, Chaffee 1986). A sample communication structure is depicted in Figure 6 below. Sender (A) initiates a communication to agent (B) via a one-way personal medium. Agent (B) distributes the message to another intermediary (C) via a one-way broadcast medium. Agent (C) passes the message along to a member of his or her network via a two-way personal medium. One scenario that fits this template is a legislator (A) who sends a letter to the editor of a newspaper (B), who publishes the letter, which is read by an individual (C), who discusses the letter with a family member (D).

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Figure 6: Sample Communication Structure

In order to understand the effect of the Internet on the U.S. political communication, we will compare three different structures. The Broadcast Structure describes the system of agents, channels, and content that existed before the advent of the Internet. The Network Structure describes how agents use the channels of the Internet to communicate and exchange information. The Netcast Structure describes the communication structure when the Broadcast and Network Structures are combined and agents have full use of all channels.
Broadcast Structure Communication Structure Without the Internet + Network Structure Communication Structure of the Internet Alone = Netcast Structure Communication Structure With the Internet

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3.2

Broadcast Structure

Figure 7: Broadcast Structure The Broadcast Structure of political information flow is depicted in Figure 7: above. The press, government, and political organizations are connected via two-way personal media in issue networks organized around political issues. The press draws information from these issue networks and uses one-way broadcast media to distribute the information to the public. Information than circulates within geographically-based social networks comprised of co-workers, friends, and family. In Figure 7, the contents of rectangle D are the members of issue networks: government, political organizations, and the press. The personal nature of the relationships and communication among these three political actors is indicated by the

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solid arrows, A, B, and C. The broadcasting of information by the press to the public is indicated by the dashed arrow extending beyond the boundary of the issue network into the social networks G. Within the social networks, activist and attentive publics use personal media F to discuss and distribute information gathered from the broadcast media and personal experience. The larger arrow in the direction of the attentive public reflects the greater volume in the flow of information from the activist to the attentive public.

3.3

Issue Networks The concept of the broadcast structure is original to this research, but its features

are drawn from the literature on American politics. The concept of issue networks was introduced by Heclo (1978) and validated by Gais, Peterson, and Walker (1984), Peterson (1993), and Nyland (1996). Schlozman and Tierney (1984:276-77) describe issue networks as “webs of policy activists within and without the government who are linked by their common commitment and expertise with respect to a particular issue area.” They find that issue networks characterize relations between the press, organizations, and government institutions more accurately than earlier theories of iron triangles (Adams 1981) and sub-governments (Cater 1964). Membership of issue networks includes policy or technical experts affiliated with public agencies, corporations, private groups, and political organizations. The importance of seniority and the group norms typically excludes members of the general public who do are not full-time activists (Stimson 1990; also Laumann 1976, Fischer 1977). Because different aspects of an issue attract attention from different parties, membership is fluid with temporary coalitions forming and dissolving over time.

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Communication within issue networks tends to be personal, utilizing one-to-one media (Wilson 1973, Milbrath 1960). As noted by Schlozman and Tierney (1984:276), “contacts between organized interest representatives and government policymakers entail mutual exchanges of information and consultation and cooperation on policy matters rather than simple one-way communications.” The press relies on members of issue networks as sources for their articles and broadcasts (Cohen and Young 1981, Entman 1989). These relationships tend to be personal (Sigal 1973, Herman 1988, Gans 1979, Blumler and Gurevitch 1981). “Just as elected politicians and appointed officials develop mutually dependent relationships with these reporters, so do Washington lobbyists. The reporters depend on lobbyists (as well as on government officials) for information about current and future developments in their areas of concern. The reporters can be reciprocally useful to the lobbyists. From reporters, lobbyists may glean information or insights into their opponents’ strategies (Schlozman & Tierney 1985:179). Along with the personal nature of their relationships, the press is also subject to the group norms, fluidity, and seniority that affects political organizations and government officials. It is therefore appropriate to consider the press as members of issue networks. Although they are members of issue networks, the press also serves a role as a bridge to the public. In the language of social network analysis, the press is a bridge because they span the boundary of their social networks (Graber 1992:175, Rogers and Rogers 1976). Drawing information from issue networks through personal contacts, they then broadcast that information to the public. Although some information is available to the public directly from political organizations (Rothenberg 1992, Schlozman and

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Tierney 1984, Walker 1991) and the government, the press is the dominant channel through which information flows from issue networks to the public (Graber 1984, Rubin 1981, June 1988, Ranney 1983, Bagdikian 1983). The expense of direct broadcast prevents most organizations from contacting citizens directly (Cigler and Loomis, 1983, Sabato 1981, Zeigler and Peak 1972, Paletz and Entman 1981). Information typically flows in one direction from the media to citizens. Journalists have little feedback on how well the information they present to the public is “getting through” (Kiolbassa 1989). Letters to the editor, Nielsen ratings, readers surveys and focus groups (Carper 1995), and circulation measures provide only crude and unreliable indicators as to how the information is being received, processed, and evaluated (Gans 1979, Robinson and Levy 1986).

3.4

Social Networks We now turn our attention to the bottom half of the figure and the role of social

networks in the flow of political communication. Most citizens obtain their political information from the mass media or from other citizens. Political opinions are rarely determined by individual factors, but are instead developed through attentiveness to the news media and through participation in political discussions. ... It is this combination of personal and mass media intermediation that provides voters with the opportunity to learn about the political environment (Myers 1994:145). The flow of information from other citizens is determined by the ways that people organize themselves socially. “Any given individual can be visualized at the center of a web of social ties radiating outward toward intimates, to casual acquaintances, and,

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through them, to the wider society” (Weatherford 1982:117). These webs are known as social networks (Wellman and Berkowitz, 1988). The first studies of information flow in social networks were conducted by Paul Lazarsfeld and his colleagues at Columbia University (Berelson 1954, Lazarsfeld 1948, Katz 1955). Their studies of voters revealed the importance of personal relationships, particularly friends and family, in the diffusion of campaign information. Their research also proposed a two-step flow of information in which attentive members of the public pass information along to inattentive members. After a revival of the field in the 1970s (Sheingold 1975), research has demonstrated how new information spreads across social networks (Savage 1981, Gamson 1992) and within social networks among parents (Jennings 1983), spouses (Niemi 1977), male friends (Laumann 1973), neighbors (Weatherford 1982), non-relatives (Huckfeldt 1987), and family (Straits 1991). Most information flows within cohesive social groups of family, friends, neighbors, organizational members, and co-workers (Burt 1987, Huckfeldt 1995). Members of social groups tend to be socially and spatially proximate, i.e. they live near each other and are similar in their demographic characteristics, social values, political opinions, and economic resources (Chaffee 1986). Since the cost of acquiring information from people who are close to oneself is low, and individuals are cost sensitive in their information seeking (Downs 1957), most people turn to proximate social networks for political information (Myers 1994) and for political recruitment (Snow 1980, Tilly 1978, Oberschall 1973, Rosenstone 1993). Relatives are the most frequent discussion partners for political issues, followed by co-workers, and neighbors (Beck 1991).

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Information also tends to flow between citizens who share similar political preferences (Huckfeldt 1987). In a pattern known as homophily in the literature, people tend to obtain information from people with whom they agree. “People do not often discuss politics with those who disagree with them” (Beck 1991). Weatherford (1982) finds that the desire for congenial discussion partners is more important than affective factors such as trust and intimacy in the creation of social networks. Familial social groups are the most homophilic, while friend and co-worker groups are less homophilic (Straits 1991). The flow of information between social networks is called propagation and occurs primarily through weak ties (Granovetter 1973, Blau 1974). Two individuals have a weak tie if the members of their respective social networks do not have relationships with each other. Two individuals have a strong ties if members of their social networks are likely to know each other. Without weak ties, social networks remain isolated from each other and information stays within homogenous groups. With weak ties, information moves between social groups and diffuses throughout communities. As we would expect from the homophilic characteristics of social groups, individuals have less in common with their weak ties than their strong ties (Myers 1994, Beck 1991). Demographically, citizens with more weak ties tend to be younger, more educated, more affluent, and more organizationally involved (Huckfeldt 1995). Individuals and social networks can be classified according to their interest and awareness of political issues. Some citizens are highly informed, interested, and attentive to political issues, while others are uninformed, uninterested, and inattentive. Neuman (1986) finds that “the mass public is stratified along a sophistication continuum”

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comprising three publics. The inattentive or “apolitical” in the bottom stratum consists of the 20 percent of the population who do not monitor political events and are unlikely to be mobilized around any issue. The attentive or “mass public” in middle stratum consists of the 75 percent who “monitor the political process half-attentively, but ... can be alerted if fellow citizens sound the alarm.” The “activist” top stratum consists of citizens who are active and attentive to political issues and exhibit an unusually high level of political involvement. Because social networks are homophilic, social networks can also be classified into these three groups. Before television, social networks were the primary source of political information. Most information spread by word of mouth. However, in the last few decades mass media have become an equally, and possibly more, important source of information (Bogart 1977, 1989). While personal networks are universally regarded as important political intermediaries, it is the mass media, especially television, which increasingly are seen as the principal actors in the intermediation process. Because the media serve as prime conduits for the flow of information from candidates and campaign to voters, they may even be a primary source of information that is exchanged through personal networks (Beck 381). Mass media and personal networks are therefore interrelated in the ways that they bring political information to the citizens. Some information comes directly from the mass media while other information comes indirectly as citizens discuss information obtained from the media. The general pattern of information flow between the press and

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the public is depicted in the bottom half of Figure 7. Information flows via broadcast media from the press to the public. Members of the public are grouped into either activist or attentive social networks based on their interest in politics. Within these groups, citizens are clustered into cohesive social networks by their geography and shared political preferences. Information flows between these networks through weak ties. [The inattentive public does not appear on the chart because they do not receive a significant volume of political information.] In summary, the broadcast model of political information flow is hierarchical. “Information about politics penetrates these layers [of a stratified electorate] from the top down” (Converse 1990:375). Information moves within issue networks through strong ties and personal media. The public is typically excluded from these issue networks by lack of interest, seniority, or expertise. The press serves as an intermediary, broadcasting information from issue networks to the activist and attentive segments of the public. This broadcast information, along with information derived from citizens’ own political experiences, flows within social networks through strong ties and between social networks through weak ties. Some information also flows between the activist and attentive publics through weak ties. In a modified version of the two-step flow of information, “individuals uninterested in politics ... may receive considerable exposure to political information from politically motivated close associates” (Straits 1991:447). By definition, the inattentive public is not exposed to political information.

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3.5

Network Structure Network theorists studying communication in groups and organizations have

found that communication structures can be categorized into four patterns of interaction (Rogers and Rogers 1976). The four are the chain, wheel, circle, and all-channel patterns as depicted in Figure 8. In a chain pattern, most members are intermediaries, receiving or distributing messages to only two other members. The circle is similar to the chain, except there is no end to the chain. In a wheel pattern, there is a single intermediary who serves as a central clearinghouse for all communication. In contrast, the all-channel pattern connects every member with every other member. A variation on the wheel pattern is called an interlocking wheel pattern in which some of the peripheral members communicate with each other, even though most information goes through the center. Figure 8: Communication Patterns

The broadcast model most closely exhibits a wheel pattern. Some agents are connected to other agents indirectly through gatekeepers or bridges in the center. The connection between some of the peripheral nodes means that the broadcast model is an interlocking, as opposed to a radial, wheel pattern. The press is at the hub of the wheel pattern, serving a bridging function between the peripheral nodes. Which pattern represents communication on the Internet? As we will see, the network structure of communication on the Internet exhibits an all-channel pattern in

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which all agents are connected to all other agents. As we saw in chapter 2, the unique transmission properties of the Internet make it easier for citizens to connect and communicate directly with each other. They enable citizens to find information relevant to their interests, to locate other citizens who share those interests, to distribute information broadly, quickly, and cheaply, and to coordinate virtual groups unrestricted by space or time. Since citizens set the marginal cost of distributing and retrieving information equal to the marginal benefit (Downs 1957:215), the low communication cost “makes it rational for economic agents to acquire additional intelligence that is pertinent to their decisions” (Leff 1984:258). As a result, the network structure in Figure 9, below, shows connections among all agents. Figure 9: Network Structure

Evidence for the all-channel network structure of the Internet can be found in both the empirical and theoretical literatures. Most empirical research has been conducted in
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organizational studies of corporations and non-profit organizations. Finholt and Sproull (1990) find that electronic-mail discussion-lists at a Fortune 500 firm enable “people to receive information and make connections that otherwise would have been difficult or impossible.” In their study of computer networking in a local government, Sproull and Kiesler (1991a:103) find that “computer-based communication technology made it possible to bypass traditional information gatekeepers, thereby leading to a change in who had influence.” In another study, Sproull and Kiesler find that the “fully networked organization” exhibits “distributed lattices of interconnections” (1991b:123). Malone concurs, noting that computer-based communication networks give rise to a “coordination-intensive structure” that depends on “many rapidly shifting project teams and much lateral communication” (Malone 1991:133). Palme (1984) finds that use of Email allows for “an increase of the circle of people with which [users] exchange experience and ideas on a daily basis, and has meant that information and viewpoints can be both disseminated to and collected from more people faster than was possible before.” In the corporate environment, Sproull and Kiesler (1986) find that electronic communication promoted two-way communication by fostering communication up the organizational hierarchy from employees to management. Overall, the more important organizational consequences may stem from the fact that electronic group communication is as easy as one-to-one communication. By simultaneously linking and buffering people, electronic mail can reduce group coordination costs for conventional groups, and it can support very large groups of physically separated people that would be otherwise impossible (Sproull 1991a:35). Although “there is no established research programme for considering how people take part in politics through electronic communication” (Sachs 1995), the few empirical studies that have been conducted support the all-channel model. The evidence suggests

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that computer networks connect citizens, political organizations, the press, and governments directly and bypass intermediaries. Garramone, Harris, and Anderson (1986b) studied the Political Forum, a political computer bulletin board system (BBS) initiated by a state senator and a university professor. Their research upheld Williams and Rice’ (1983) contention that the Internet’s “potential for interactivity ... blurs the lines between interpersonal and mass-mediated communication.” Some of the strongest motivations for using the BBS were “to keep up with current issues and events,” “to compare my ideas to those of others,” and “to understand what’s going on in state government.” Overall, the computer network was found to promote direct citizen-tocitizen and citizen-to-government communication. Sachs’ (1995) studied PeaceNet, an international non-profit computer-network connected to the Internet. Interviews with PeaceNet users led Sachs to conclude that PeaceNet appears to provide an even greater range of coverage than the large mainstream print and broadcast outlets along with an unprecedented variety usually associated more with specialized publications ... The lack of gatekeepers distinguishes the network from other media outlets (87-92). PeaceNet enabled citizens to connect with other “like-minded individuals” and obtain “unprecedented access” to policy experts. The “opportunity to reach a mass audience has no equivalent in the traditional media environment, where access is limited by, among other things, substantial costs.” The network was found to be particularly useful for politically alienated individuals who otherwise find it difficult to locate each other and whose opinions are poorly represented in mainstream media (Bennett 1989). “Politically alienated individuals ... no longer have to go through the corporate media. ... They have the capability for immediate, international mass communication with only minimal financial and access restrictions” (p. 98).

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Sachs’ findings confirmed the results of Downing’s earlier study of PeaceNet (1989). Downing found that “the costs of using the system, compared to the costs of doing the same task by more traditional methods, clearly highlight the advantages.” Electronic mail was cheaper than printing, stamping, stuffing, and mailing letters; shipping files electronically was cheaper than overnight express services; and computer conferencing was cheaper and more flexible than telephone conferencing. Tiger Li’s (1990) study of political activity by Chinese students in the United States demonstrated the Internet’s ability to connect and organize citizens distributed geographically. In July 1989, Chinese students began lobbying Congress to pass legislation protecting them from reprisals by China for political protesting. Electronic mail and newsgroups were used to coordinate leadership activities, organize demonstrations and symposium, report on activities of Chinese consulate officers on college campuses, and provide a “comprehensive, timely, and economical source of information about China.” Li concluded that communication on the Internet played a key role in the communication among the Chinese student organizations in the U.S. Without such a network, the Chinese students who are widely dispersed geographically could not have organized as a whole to engage successfully in the highly coordinated democratic activities since June 1989). ... They could afford neither the money nor the time that would have been required for making phone contacts with more than 100 organizations at one time (128-9). Studies of the Public Electronic Network (PEN) also support the all-channel pattern. PEN was established in Santa Monica, California in 1989 as the first interactive, public computer network in a U.S. city. PEN provided free CMC services for Santa Monica residents, allowing them to send and receive electronic mail and participate in public conferences on a variety of topics. Through PEN, citizens were able to retrieve

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information, discuss local issues with each other, and, to a limited extent, interact with government officials (Varley 1991). The major product of the PEN system was a community project sourced and organized from communication on the computer network. The SWASHLOCK project obtained showers, washing machines, and lockers for homeless people. A survey of PEN users found that PEN had at least a “moderately positive” effect on “(1) information regarding local events, (2) ability to comment and organize around local issues, (3) contact with and understanding of diverse others” (Wittig 1996). The most important differences between the network and broadcast structures are the addition of new channels of communication between (A) political organizations and the public and between (B) the government and the public, (C) the introduction of twoway communication between the press and the public, and (D) a greater flow of information among the activist and attentive publics.

3.6

New Channels The new channels of communication between political organizations and the

public (A) and the government and the public (B) result from the capacity of the Internet to support low-cost broadcasting/narrowcasting and two-way communication. As leaders of two non-profit organizations have stated: Electronic networking should be a perfect medium for nonprofits. It offers broad and timely access to information; efficient tools for communication and dissemination; and increased opportunities for collaboration (Grunwald 1994).

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Numerous studies have demonstrated that political information is a principal reason why citizens join interest groups (Rothenberg 1992, Knoke 1988, King and Walker 1992). Using traditional broadcast media, organizations and interest groups spend a large amount of time and resources informing their members about relevant issues and events (Schlozman and Tierney 1986). Electronic mail distribution lists and web sites provide a low-cost and timely way of distributing targeted information to members and other interested parties. The low-cost of narrowcasting and anonymity of the Internet are particularly appealing as a way of distributing and publicizing confidential or controversial information to a select audience. An online organizer for a White Supremacist movement has commented that electronic communication has had a pretty profound effect on a movement whose resources are limited. ... Tens of millions of people have access to our message if they wish. The access is anonymous and there is unlimited ability to communicate with others of a like mind (Schneider 1995). Use of the Internet by government offices would be expected to vary according to the function of the office. Some government agencies, such as the Bureau of the Census, are chartered to provide information to the public. The Internet provides these offices with a low-cost medium for receiving and granting requests for information. The combination of asynchronicity and narrowcasting enables an office to post information on a computer server for retrieval at the user’s convenience without any subsequent human intervention. This capability should be appealing to budget-constrained offices. The Internet also provides government offices with a convenient way of fulfilling the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. Enacted by Congress in 1966, the Act gives the public access to information held by the federal government. With a few

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restrictions, the Act gives any person the right to request and receive any document, file or other record in the possession of any agency of the federal government. The ability to make information available to citizens and comply with the Act without the need for human labor recommends the Internet as a desirable medium. For legislators, the ability to make information available to constituents should encourage the distribution of information on the Internet. However, the incentive to receive information over the Internet is low. The non-geographic nature of the Internet fits poorly with the geographic basis of our representative system. Legislators typically focus their attention on their constituents (Fiorina 1974). The inability to distinguish the geographic location of a citizen from his or her email address prevents the filtering that would be necessary to avoid this problem. Furthermore, the ease with which citizens can send email is a benefit for citizens but is likely to be a disadvantage for legislators. Legislators tend to look for signals of strong constituent opinion (Hansen and Miller 1987). The low cost of sending email, like preprinted letters, tends to increase the volume of correspondence. The “price of openness [in the all-channel pattern] may be debilitating communications overloads for all network members” (Graber 1992:173). Legislators typically discount the strength of the sentiment behind low-cost correspondence. Although electronic mail is not weighted very heavily in their decisionmaking for this reason (Browning 1996), many legislators still feel obligated to reply to their mail. The result is a low-cost communication for the constituent but a high cost for the legislator. The incentive for a legislator to communicate with constituents over email may therefore be limited. As a result, the ability to broadcast information directly to

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constituents may be more appealing to legislators than the ability to receive information interactively.

3.7

The Press Interactivity and the opportunity for a two-way flow of information between a

sender and an audience adds a new dimension to the relationship of the public to the press (C). With the new capacities of the Internet, we would expect journalists to locate and interview sources, conduct background research, and test story ideas online. We would also expect the Internet to become a new medium for distributing journalistic content. Reporting produced for offline media can be distributed over the Internet either simultaneously with the offline version or as an archival copy. New content can be produced for the Internet to take advantage of its interactive, hypertext, and multimedia capabilities. Reporting can be customized for specific groups of readers, and interactive capabilities can provide customization and instant feedback from viewers/ listeners/readers. The ease with which information can be produced and distributed on the Internet means there is still a need for gathering, editing, and filtering information. There is also a need for credibility and context so that citizens feel that they are receiving accurate information and can map the information into their existing knowledge base (Sniderman, et. al. 1991). Because of their broadcasting experience and operations, the press is well suited for these activities. The difference in the network model is that citizens have a much larger range of information sources available to them. Geographic constraints and capital requirements for newspaper delivery and television and radio broadcast do not

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apply on the network. The press no longer has a monopoly position as an information source. The role of the press in the network model would therefore be as an information broker, rather than a gatekeeper, connecting suppliers and consumers of information by providing expertise, context, and credibility.

3.8

The Public The flow of information among the activist and attentive publics (D) changes in

the network structure because mediation, virtual organization, and the ease of propagation makes it easier for groups to organize and maintain themselves. Olson (1965:47) has described how the formation of groups is inhibited by the costs of communication among group members, the costs of any bargaining among them, and the costs of creating, staffing, and maintaining any formal group organization. ... The larger the number of members in the group the greater the organization costs, and thus the higher the hurdle that must be jumped before any of the collective good at all can be obtained. Political entrepreneurs establishing voluntary organizations face the challenge of maintaining a flow of information and communication sufficient to coordinate political activity without a formal organizational structure or established roles and responsibilities. Communication becomes a cost. As with any other cost, [the political entrepreneur] has an incentive to communicate as cheaply as possible and, hence, to use the most efficient means available for obtaining and exchanging information with clients. ... Because he needs to know certain things about members, then, as well as to transmit information to them, it is important that the flow of information be two-way. ... It would be very difficult and highly costly, after all, were [a political entrepreneur] to try to make direct personal contact with hundreds or even thousands of potential members, and his problems increase if the clientele happens to be geographically dispersed or difficult to identify (Moe 1980).

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The Internet provides such a two-way flow of information and enables entrepreneurs to maintain low-cost communication with thousands of potential members. These networks of weak ties have been found to be vital to the success of political mobilization and education. The Internet is particularly well-suited to maintaining large networks of weak ties through mailing lists and web sites. The ability to establish a wheel pattern on the Internet within the larger all-channel pattern is particularly valuable. It is not weak ties, per se that are useful but their tendency to be centralized. Residents who are all bridged by the same weak tie—to a parish priest, for example, are more likely to be mobilized than those linked by the same number of weak ties distributed more widely through cross-cutting associational memberships (Marwell and Oliver 1988). The ability to centralize weak ties enables groups to reach “a critical mass of interested and resourceful individuals [who] can coordinate their efforts.”

3.9

Netcast What happens when the all-channel structure of the Internet is combined with the

wheel pattern of the broadcast world? If history is a guide, we would expect augmentation rather than replacement. As new media have come into being, old media have been used in new ways or become less important but they have not disappeared (Abramson 1988). Newspapers and letters have persisted into the electronic age, and radio has survived the growth of television. Broadcast media have their own unique properties that suggest their continued viability. The newspaper is superior in its portability and its ability to be scanned for information, radio is superior in its ability to deliver information while people are engaged in other activities, and television is superior

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in its ability to deliver real-time video. We would therefore expect the network structure to supplement and augment the broadcast structure, not replace it. The combined broadcast and network structures are represented in Figure 10 below. This Netcast structure includes all of the agents and channels contained in the broadcast and network structures. Personal media connect government, organizations, and the press within issue networks and activist and attentive publics in social networks. Broadcast media distribute information from the press to the activist and attentive publics in a one-way flow of information. Network media cross issue and social networks, creating new links between the public and both political organizations and the government. Two-way flows of information are introduced between the public and the press. Information flow is also enhanced between members of the public as citizenpublishers come into being and geographically distributed and marginalized individuals are brought together in virtual organizations. Figure 10: Netcast Structure

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One important aspect of the Netcast structure becomes apparent when the broadcast and network structures are examined in juxtaposition. Access to the broadcast structure is much wider than to the network structure. Most citizens have access to newspapers, radio, or television. But, as indicated by the dashed line representing computer networks, only a subset of the population is on the Internet. Network access and usage requires financial resources, technical skills, cultural familiarity, literacy, and language skills (Dutton 1987). Internet users therefore tend to be English-speaking, male, younger, affluent, White, educated, and technically skilled (Fischer 1995, Tehranian 1990). Furthermore, income, education, and social status are correlated with both computer usage and political participation (Verba et al. 1993, Verba et al. 1995). Political communication and participation on the Internet is therefore likely to be particularly skewed in favor of resourced individuals and organizations (Rubinyi 1989). A second feature of the Netcast structure is cross-media migration. The coincidence of personal, broadcast, and network media gives political agents a multiplicity of channels for the receipt and distribution of information. In the broadcast structure, information migrates from personal media to broadcast media and then back to personal media as information moves from issue networks to social networks through the press. The introduction of network media extends the opportunities for movement of information across different media. Because digital information can be stored, copied, and edited so easily, we would expect information to move back and forth between network media and both personal and broadcast media. Two factors motivate this migration of information onto and off of the Internet. First, media differ in their distributional properties. Some media are therefore

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better suited for some information than others. The optimal distribution of information received in one medium may recommend a different medium. A citizen may post a news item from the newspaper to an e-mail mailing list, or a reporter may use downloaded information in a television report. Second, many citizens and organizations are not online. In a modified two-step flow (Katz 1957), information can be downloaded from the Internet and distributed using personal or broadcast media to reach populations without network access.

3.10 Hypotheses In this chapter, we have seen how media properties and social behavior determine the communication structures that carry the flow of political information. The wheelpattern of the broadcast model is shaped by the use of one-to-one, personal media such as face-to-face meetings and telephone calls, and one-to-many broadcast media such as television and newspapers. The flow of information through these channels is shaped by social behavior. Political organizations, government and the press organize themselves into issue networks (Heclo 1978). Information flows from these issue networks to politically active and attentive individuals through broadcast media. Within the general public, information flows via geographically-based social networks. The central features of this broadcast structure are the press as a gatekeeper between issue networks and social networks, the one-way flow of information from issue networks to social networks, and the reliance on personal media for distributing information within social networks. The all-channel pattern of information flow on the Internet differs from the wheel pattern of the broadcast structure. Electronic mail provides rapid and inexpensive

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communication between individuals regardless of distance. Newsgroups, electronic mailing lists, and bulletin boards allow groups to coordinate activities and share resources. World Wide Web and gopher sites provide customized, inexpensive, and timely distribution of text, audio, and video. Each political agent on the Internet is connected with every other agent; each agent is a potential supplier and consumer of information; and the transfer of information is relatively unrestricted by geographic or temporal barriers. In this network structure, Internet users are able to distribute and target information inexpensively to other network users, obtain information specific to their interests at their convenience, and locate and organize other users with shared interests independent of geography. Combining personal, broadcast, and network media yields a Netcast model that is denser, less centralized, and carries more information than the preceding broadcast structure. Able to distribute and retrieve information directly from each other, individuals and organizations are less dependent upon the press as an immediate source of political information. The ability to transmit information independently of time and space broadens the distribution of information and enables citizens to become less reliant on sources in their local geographic areas. Because digital information can be stored, copied, edited, and transferred easily, information migrates between personal, broadcast, and network media.

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Overall, the emergence of a Netcast communication structure is hypothesized to result in a variety of effects on the flow of political information. These effects are summarized in Table 1 below. The left-hand column provides the label for the effect; the middle-column provides the hypothesized effect including its causal factors. The righthand column indicates which chapters in this study specifically test the hypothesized effect. Table 1: Hypothesized Effects of the Internet on the Flow of Political Information
Effect 1. All-Channel Structure Hypothesis Because the Internet can be used for many-to-many, two-way communication, and because the Net is accessible to all types of political agents, the Internet will exhibit an all-channel pattern of information flow among active and attentive citizens, political organizations, government, and the press. Because of the Net’s all-channel structure, and because traditional intermediaries act as gatekeepers by editing and filtering the delivery of political information, political actors will use the Internet to communicate directly with each other and bypass information gatekeepers. Because the Internet reduces the transaction costs of communicating across space and time, and because these transaction costs are important barriers to collective action and group formation, the Internet will be used by groups to organize themselves around shared interests rather than shared geography. Because social networks and issue networks are typically separate, and because the Internet allows for social interactions in groups spread out geographically and organized around shared interests, social networks and issue networks will merge on the Net. Because the Internet reduces the cost of maintaining weak ties and redistributing information, and because weak ties are central to the flow of information across social networks, the Internet will be an effective medium for the propagation of political information across social networks. Because the Internet lowers the cost of distributing information, because automation lowers the cost of retrieving information, and because political agents are typically constrained by communication costs, political agents will both distribute and retrieve more information. Chapter (4) Mailing Lists (8) WH Docs

2. Disintermediation

(5) Usenet (7) Web (8) WH Docs

3. Virtual Organization

(5) Usenet

4. Integration of Social and Issue Networks

(4) Mailing Lists

5. Propagation

(6) Petitions (8) WH Docs

6. Volume of Information

(7) Web (8) WH Docs

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7. Integration of Media

Because digital information can be easily copied and translated across multiple media, and because people use multiple types of media to receive information, political information will move between personal, broadcast, and network media. Because resources such as education and income are critical factors in both Internet usage and political participation, highresource individuals and organizations will be more likely to use the Internet for political communication. Because the Internet allows anonymous communication with people from different social networks, and because members of the same social networks typically have the similar political views, the Internet will increase heterogeneity in people’s sources of information. Because distributors can readily identify, target, and customize the presentation of information to specific interest groups on the Internet, political communication on the Net will consist of many messages delivered to many small audiences (narrowcasting) rather than few messages delivered to few large audiences (broadcasting).

(5) Usenet (7) Web (8) WH Docs

8. Resource Bias

(6) Petitions (8) WH Docs

9. Heterogeneity

(5) Usenet

10. Narrowcasting

(7) Web (8) WH Docs

3.11 Testing The following chapters test these hypotheses using a combination of case studies and a statistical analysis of results from an original, online survey of Internet users. The case studies cover all of the major applications on the Internet: e-mail mailing lists, Usenet newsgroups, electronic mail, and the World Wide Web. The survey was administered to users of the White House electronic document publications service, one of the first, and most widely utilized, sources for political information on the Internet. The case studies and survey results are examined for evidence supporting or contradicting each of the nine hypotheses. Before testing each of the nine flow effects hypothesized to distinguish the Netcast structure from the Broadcast structure, we must first establish the validity of the communication structures model.

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In the case of (1) disintermediation, the hypothesis will be supported if political actors are using the Internet to connect directly with each other and bypass traditional intermediaries. On e-mail mailing lists, for example, individuals and organizations would be establishing and subscribing to mailing lists and distributing political information directly to each other that would otherwise go through the press. The hypothesis would be disproven if newspapers and television stations were the primary administrators of email mailing lists, and citizens received the same information via e-mail instead of from newspapers or television broadcasts. The hypothesis of (2) virtual organization will be supported if the Internet is being used for group communication among individuals and organizations distributed geographically. There should also be evidence that these groups would not have formed or would not communicate as frequently if not for the low cost of communication on the Internet. Signators of an online petition, for example, should be distributed widely across the country, rather than concentrated in a particular metropolitan area as we would find in a traditional, hand-signed petition. The primary evidence for (3) the integration of social and issue networks is the creation of new strong ties and social connections on Net-based forums organized around specific issues. Discussions on issue-based e-mail lists and Usenet newsgroups should reveal the formation of new strong-tie relationships. The hypothesis would be disproven if group discussions on the Net are merely extensions of group communication already taking place in other media. In this contrary case, the MN-Politics list would consist of government officials, reporters, and lobbyists who already know each other through their

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political activities, while private citizens would participate in discussions on other lists with people who they know through their primary social networks. Propagation (4) would be supported by the redistribution of information across weak ties. Political information such as news, petitions, and official documents should be passed along by individuals and organizations to others who might be interested in such information. The hypothesis would be disproven if information is redistributed only to political agents’ strong-ties or not redistributed at all. In increase in the volume of information (5) should be apparent in both the volume of distribution and of retrieval. Individuals and organizations should be making more information available to others than they did previously or than they could with other media. They should also be retrieving more information than they could or would without the Net. On the World Wide Web, for example, Web sites should make new information available and not just duplicate information otherwise available on other media. Integration of media (6) would be supported by the distribution of the same information on network, broadcast, and personal media. Distribution can be simultaneous, as when a news event is broadcast on television and posted to a Web site at the same time. Distribution can also be sequential, as when a newspaper article is published, and then excerpted into an email message and redistributed to others on the Net. Information can also be pulled off of the Net and passed along using traditional broadcast media or personal media. The hypothesis would be disproven if the

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information on the Net originated on the Net and did not show up in personal or broadcast media. The hypothesized resource bias on the Net (7) towards higher income and more educated political actors should be revealed in a disproportionate participation in political communication and exchange of political information by high-resource individuals and organizations. A representative sample of Net users, particularly politically active Net users, should reveal a higher income and educational attainment than a representative sample of the general population. The hypothesis would be disproved if politically active Net users exhibit no statistically significant difference from a comparable group in the general population. Heterogeneity (8) should appear in the composition of political discussions on the Net and the diversity of political agents’ information sources. The hypothesis would be supported if agents use the Net to receive information from new sources and if this information is more likely to contradict their existing beliefs. Evidence of heterogeneity in newsgroups and mailing lists would be found in the presence of multiple viewpoints in the discussions. The hypothesis would be disproven if agents’ use the Net to continue gathering information from their primary social networks and if that information reinforces their existing beliefs. Homogeneous discussions on newsgroups and mailing lists would be evidence against the hypothesis. Narrowcasting on the Net (9) would be apparent in the customization and delivery of messages for specific constituencies. We would expect distributors to identify specific target audiences (taking advantage of the virtual organizations in hypothesis 2) and

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customize their message to that audience. Messages should be sent only to those mailing lists and newsgroups likely to be read by interested individuals. There is some narrowcasting possible with broadcast media, i.e. advertising on a sports program rather than a soap opera, but we would expect a much finer granularity on the Internet. The hypothesis would be disproved if the same messages were being distributed ubiquitously on the Internet. Web sites, for example, would offer few choices and present the same information to all visitor.

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4 Mailing Lists
The following chapters test the ten hypotheses laid out in Table 1 using a combination of case studies and statistical analysis. (1) Is there evidence for an allchannel, Netcast structure of political communication? (2) Is the Internet establishing direct connections between the public, political organizations, the press, and government, shifting the role of the press from gatekeeping to brokering? (3) Are virtual groups forming on the Net based on interests rather than geography? (4) Are these groups primarily informational (issue networks), or do personal relationships form to produce social networks? Are citizens and political organizations using the Internet to (5) redistribute information more widely, and (6) distribute and retrieve a greater volume of information? (7) Does information move between the Internet and traditional media? (8) Are Internet users an elite population compared to non-users? (9) Are political discussions on the Internet heterogeneous, or do groups use the Internet to become more insular and homogeneous? Finally, (10) are messages distributed on the Internet customized and targeted at small, focused groups, or are they standardized messages broadcast to large audiences? The case studies and statistical analyses test subsets of hypotheses on various protocols and applications on the Internet. This chapter tests the hypotheses of allchannel structures, and the integration of social and issue networks with the flow of information in a sample mailing list, MN-Politics. The next chapter examines disintermediation, virtual organization, media integration, and heterogeneity in a Usenet newsgroup, alt.politics.homosexuality. The third chapter examines propagation of

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political information and resource bias through the distributional flow of e-mail petitions. The fourth chapter examines disintermediation, volume, media integration, and narrowcasting on World Wide Web sites for the Republican national convention and the 1996 Presidential candidates. The purpose of these inquiries is to demonstrate consistency with the model. Do these instances of political communication on the Internet exemplify the hypothesized effects of the Netcast model on the flow of political information?

4.1

Netcast Structure If Internet mailing lists and the MN-Politics list follow an all-channel, Netcast

structure, we would expect that all four elements -- content, agents, networks, and channels -- would be represented. The following analysis of the MN-Politics list finds support for all four elements. Political content is exchanged among organizational, governmental, press, and public agents in an integrated, all-channel structure combining issue, social, and computer networks. Overall, the MN-Politics provides evidence for all of the network media links in the Netcast structure (see Figure 11).

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Figure 11: Mailing List Structure

4.2

Political Content E-mail mailing lists are frequently organized around political topics,

demonstrating the presence of political content on the Internet. E-mail mailing lists work by having individuals subscribe to the list through an electronic mail message sent to a subscription address. A software program called a list manager automatically adds the address to a subscription list stored on the host computer. Once subscribed, an individual receives all submissions from other members of the list and is able to submit his or her own comments. The list manager program automatically redistributes these messages without need for human intervention. As of July 1996, there were 54,704 publicly available mailing lists on the Internet (http://www.liszt.com). It should be noted that this is a only a fraction of the total number of mailing lists. Most mailing lists are private, internally managed by groups or organizations and not available for public subscription. The MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, for example, has nearly a thousand mailing lists for various projects, classes, working groups, and activities.

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The subjects of public Internet mailing lists are diverse. As examples of this diversity, of the 54,704 lists, thirteen relate to baseball, fifteen to gardening, eleven to paganism, and three to the dulcimer. There are thousands of lists that address political issues in some fashion, and hundreds that focus exclusively on politics. Table 2 categorizes 350 of the most popular politically-related mailing lists. The two areas with the greatest number of lists are international affairs and public policy issues. Most countries and regions in the world have an affiliated mailing list for issues related specifically to that country or region. Similarly, most major policy issues have related mailing lists for distribution of information and exchange of ideas. Table 2: Political Mailing Lists
Domestic Affairs State and Local National Elections Sub-Total Politics Parties Ideology Elections General Sub-Total Groups Gender Sexuality Religion Race/Ethnicity Country Age Occupation Sub-Total 5.4% 2.0 0.9 8.3 International Affairs Countries Regions Organizations Sub-Total Issues Activism Economics Development Foreign Policy Education Environment Firearms Health Law Politics Public Policy Social Issues Technology Urban Misc. Sub-Total 21.4% 8.9 3.1 33.4

2.6% 2.6 2.0 0.6 7.8

2.6% 2.3 3.1 2.0 0.9 1.4 0.6 12.9

0.6% 3.7 1.7 5.7 2.3 4.0 1.1 3.1 4.9 3.4 1.4 2.3 1.1 2.0 0.3 37.6

Assuming a typical message volume of ten messages per list, per day, these three hundred and fifty lists generate over a hundred-thousand messages per month. Since the

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number of politically relevant sites is in the thousands, the total number of political messages on public Internet mailing lists exceeds a million messages a month. In order to determine the existence of agents, channels, and networks, a single mailing list was chosen for an in-depth content analysis. This analysis was designed to reveal who is on the list (agents), with whom they communicate (channels), and the nature of their relationships (networks). The MN-Politics list is an established public mailing list on the Internet. The list is organized by the Minnesota E-Democracy project, a non-partisan citizen-based volunteer project, whose mission is to improve Minnesota’s democracy through the use of information networks. It seeks to increase citizen participation in elections and public discourse through online civic forums and collections of important information. The project was launched in the Fall of 1994 as a way of improving voter participation in the 1994 elections. Citizens were able to ask questions of the candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate, monitor online discussions between the candidates, retrieve position papers and other campaign information online, and engage in online discussions with other citizens (http://www.freenet.msp.mn.us/govt/e-democracy/article.txt). Although established for voters to discuss the candidates and the campaign, the purpose of the list has broadened since the 1994 election to become an unmoderated Internet electronic-mail list for the sharing of information on and discussion of Minnesota politics and public policy. Members of this forum are encouraged to contribute campaign and election information, announcements from Minnesota-focused political and civic organizations, public policy and legislative information, and presentations on issues of public interest. The list encourages discussion from diverse political perspectives that is respectful in nature. This forum is more about the presentation of ideas
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and information than being right with one’s ideology. As the membership broadens, the forum will seek to informational postings that represent the diverse political scene in Minnesota. (http://www.freenet.msp.mn.us/govt/e-democracy/1994/MN-Politics.html) The MN-Politics list is tied to the mn.politics Usenet newsgroup through a oneway electronic mail gateway. Any message sent to the MN-Politics list is automatically submitted to the Usenet newsgroup as well. Citizens with a casual interest in the MNPolitics list are therefore able to benefit from the list discussion. The gateway is one-way in that Usenet postings are not automatically distributed to mailing list members. Data on the MN-Politics list was obtained from publicly available sources on the Internet. The E-Democracy project has established a World Wide Web site containing an archive of the messages posted to the mailing list (http://www.freenet.msp.mn.us/govt/edemocracy/mn-politics-archive/). Messages are collected for each month and a program called Hypermail provides a list of the author and subject lines sorted by date, subject, author, or thread (sequence of messages on a particular subject). Clicking on an entry in this list retrieves and displays the individual message. Volume on the list has varied with the election cycle. In October and November of 1994 message volume peaked at over 17 messages per day. After the election, message volume dropped to only a few messages per day until January of 1996 when message volume climbed to over 10 messages per day. Excluding the message peaks around election time, this level of message volume is within the typical range of a public mailing list.

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4.3

Political Agents An analysis of MN-Politics subscribers was conducted to determine the types of

political agents represented on the list. Subscribers fall into two categories: active and passive. Active participants post messages for others to read and their names appear in the messages contained in the archive. Passive members, known as “lurkers,” are subscribed to the list and receive the messages of others, but do not post their own. Passive members complicate the analysis of a mailing list because their presence is not revealed in the message traffic. Fortunately, the listserv program used to administer the program can be used to reveal these passive members. A feature of the listserv program is the “who” command that allows subscribers to retrieve a list of all of the other members of the list. This feature is sometimes disabled by the list administrator for security reasons, but not in the case of MN-Politics. By subscribing to the list and sending the “who MN-Politics” command to the listserv program, a list of all subscribers was obtained. By combining the MN-Politics membership list with the list archive, a measure of active and passive participation could be calculated. At the time of this writing, participants were divided equally between active and passive. Of the 266 individuals subscribed to the list as of July 15, 1996, 133 had posted a message since May 1, 1996. An equal number were subscribed to the list but did not post a message. The data also indicate that participation is highly skewed among those who do participate. During the period of May 1 to July 15, 1996 there were 1049 messages posted to the list. The ten most active participants posted 40% of these messages; the top twenty percent accounted for 60%. The distribution of participation is listed in the table below.

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Table 3: MN-Politics Participation
Number of Messages 0 1 2-4 5-9 10-24 25-49 50+ Total Number of Participants 133 47 29 24 21 11 1 266 Share of Messages 50% 17 11 9 8 4 1 100%

A conversation on a mailing list is called a thread and includes the original message and all of the subsequent responses. For example, subscriber A might post a message, prompting subscribers B and C to reply. Subscriber A then posts a response for a thread with a length of four messages. Note that although the archive organizes the messages by thread, to the members of the list the messages appear only in chronological order. Because the communication is asynchronous and some people do not check their email regularly, replies to a posting may accumulate over a number of days. When multiple topics are being discussed simultaneously, members must use the subject lines to create a mental representation of the conversation. Some messages prompt more responses than others. The table below shows that over half of the messages did not receive a response. Slightly over a quarter of the messages received between one and four replies. Overall, 20% of the subjects account for 60% of the messages.

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Table 4: MN-Politics Discussion Threads
Number of Messages 1 2 3-5 6-10 11-25 26-50 Total Number of Threads 182 95 40 18 1 1 337 Share of Threads 54.0% 28.2 11.9 5.3 0.3 0.3 100.0

Messages may not receive replies for a number of reasons. Some do not generate sufficient interest to prompt discussion. Others are not intended for discussion. As we saw earlier, mailing lists can be used as a one-to-many or many-to-many medium. Some messages are intended as one-to-many broadcasts rather than as many-to-many discussions. A notice of an upcoming meeting, for example, would be read by members of the list but would not receive a posted reply. Since e-mail also supports one-to-one communication, there may be replies that do not appear in the mailing list archive. Some replies may be sent directly to the original author. Measures of frequency of replies are therefore an indicator primarily of the extent to which the mailing list is being used as a many-to-many medium. An additional analysis was performed to construct a demographic profile of the mailing list. The email addresses were parsed to determine the host computer of the member. An Alta Vista search was then performed on the host name to determine the nature of the host computer. For example, a member with an email address that reads “johndoe@aol.com” accesses the Internet through America Online, the largest online service, as indicated in the “aol.com” in the email address. As another example, a frequent host name on the mailing list is “mnsmc1.mnsmc.edu.” A search on Alta Vista

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reveals that this is one of the host computers for students and faculty at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. The breakdown of 251 mailing list members in the table below reveals a combination of educational, individual, organizational, governmental, and foreign participants. Individuals accessing through online services, Internet service providers, and freenets account for 58% of the membership. Individuals accessing through their corporations, non-profit organizations, or from media outlets account for 10%. Media members include subscribers from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Star-Tribune and National Public Radio. Students and faculty at schools and universities account for 23%. Most of these are at universities in Minnesota. Government sources at the local, state, and federal level account for 9% and members who live abroad account for 1%.

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Table 5: MN-Politics Point of Access
Private Internet Service Provider Online Service Corporate/Commercial Freenets Sub-Total Education Univ. of Minnesota Minnesota Universities Out of State Universities Tribal Colleges K-12 Schools Sub-Total Government State Agency State Legislature State Senate State Governor U.S. House Sub-Total Total

33.1% 25.0 6.0 2.8 66.9

13.9% 5.6 2.0 0.4 2.0 23.9

5.2% 2.4 0.8 0.4 0.4 9.2 100.0

From this analysis of the list membership, we have determined that all five of the agent types are represented on the list: activist public, attentive public, organizations, government, and press. The activist public can be considered those citizens on the list who post regularly, while the attentive public is represented in the lurkers who monitor the list by receiving messages but do not post any messages themselves. This analysis also supports the hypothesis of virtual organization (3) by revealing how the MN-Politics list provides a forum for individuals to organize themselves around shared interests rather than geography. As the case studies in the next section will demonstrate, the discussion on the MN-Politics list is unlikely to occur in personal media and could not occur in broadcast media.

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4.4

Political Channels The presence of political content and the five agent types on the MN-Politics list

is consistent with the concept of communication structures, but does not distinguish between the Broadcast and Netcast structures. The critical difference is whether the channels of communication form an all-channel or wheel pattern. To distinguish between these two patterns, the flow of information on the list was analyzed using a sample of discussion threads. The first thread involved an announcement of an outreach program to bring technology to outlying areas in Minnesota. The second included responses to a solicitation for individuals interested in joining the board of directors for Minnesota Common Cause.

4.5

Case Study: Access Council On Monday, June 3, 1996, Tom Satre sent an electronic mail message to Mick

Souder, the list manager for MN-Politics, about an upcoming series of events. Mr. Satre is the Director of the Government Information Access Council (GIAC), an office within the Information Policy Office of the Minnesota state government whose mission is “to improve public access to government information and help government become more efficient, effective and responsive through the use of information technology” (http://www.state.mn.us/ebranch/admin/ipo/giac.html). In addition to being the list manager, Mr. Souder is the Internet Curriculum Specialist for TIES, a non-profit computer consortium comprised of 49 school districts, and the President of Minnesota Citizens Online (http://www.ties.k12.mn.us/~souder/).

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Tom Satre’s message announced a statewide outreach plan called “’Plugging In’ Minnesota Communities,” an effort to “educate and inform communities on the value and use of emerging Information Technologies and telecommunications.” The GIAC would “lead the grassroots effort by hosting free, open-to-the-public town meetings in six regions across greater Minnesota, and four events in the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs.” The message described the organization, purpose, and schedule of the “Plugging In” campaign. At Tom Satre’s request, Mick Souder forwarded the message to the MN-Politics list. Mr. Satre and Mr. Souder would most likely have viewed the MN-Politics list as a promising setting for advertising the campaign since the members had already expressed their interest in the issue of government access and information technology by virtue of their membership on the list. The posting of the announcement prompted a response from Bob Shipman, a staff member of the Republican Caucus in the Minnesota House of Representatives and a list member. Bob Shipman asked the list members to respond to some questions regarding Mr. Satre’s post. Mr. Shipman wrote:
I’m concerned about what I see as the rapid growth a yet another state/local bureaucracy - driven, as all bureaucracies are, by other people’s money. The language of Mr. Satre’s message seems to suggest that internet access will soon become another “right” to be funded by the “haves” for the benefit of the “have-nots.” ... I am interested in your comments to the following (slightly biased) questions: What is government’s role in the expansion of information technology throughout society? Should this expansion be market driven, or should government (i.e. taxpayers) foot the bill to ensure that the “have nots” can go on-line?

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Bob Shipman’s post elicited five responses from list members over the next two weeks. One respondent posted his response from a University of Minnesota account, four from online services, and one from a member at Minnesota Public Radio. The eight-message thread about the outreach plan is consistent with the allchannel Netcast structure (see Figure 12 below). First, the list itself is an example of how the network serves as an intermediary bringing people together around shared interests, in this case electronic democracy and Minnesota politics. Propagation and low-cost broadcasting is exemplified by the way in which (1) the initial e-mail from Tom Satre was send to Mick Souder and then (2) forwarded to the entire list. Interestingly, the (3) first response to the posting was from another government staffer. Two areas within the Minnesota government were therefore connected in a public forum by way of the mailing list. The exchange enabled members of (4-7) the activist public and (8) the press to respond. It also enabled (9) members of the attentive public, i.e. passive members of the list, to “listen in.” Government, organizations, the press, activists, and attentive members of the public were all involved in a discussion about issues raised by a simple announcement of a program and its schedule. In the broadcast model, the GIAC announcement would have been issued as a press release that may or may not have been picked up by the press, would have been edited or amended for publication, and would not have prompted the debate over secondary issues that ensued on the mailing list.

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Figure 12: Flow of Information on MN-Politics List

4.6

Case Study: Common Cause The second thread concerns a discussion about Common Cause Minnesota.

David Schultz, the president of Common Cause Minnesota, posted a message to MNPolitics on April 27, 1996 notifying list members of openings on the board of the organization.
Common Cause Solicits Board Members David A Schultz (schul064@maroon.tc.umn.edu) Sat, 27 Apr 1996 09:58:01 -0500 (CDT) Common Cause Minnesota is seeking new board members to head its 4,000 plus member organization. Common Cause Minnesota is committed to addressing the issues of campaign finance reform, ethics reform, and other issues that influence the integrity of the political and election process. We are affiliated with the national Common Cause organization located in Washington, D.C., and we work with them on a variety of national issues. In the last few years Common Cause Minnesota has successfully lobbied on the state level for gift ban and campaign finance reform legislation, and we are currently

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working on proposals to revamp state ethics investigations; change the legislative reapportionment process; and institute limits on the ability of former executive and legislative officials to lobby their former employers for one year after leaving office. Additionally, we are currently developing a WEB page on political information. As a board member, you would help set policy for Common Cause Minnesota and have the opportunity to address political reform issues. If you are interested in finding out more about Common Cause Minnesota or would like to speak to someone about the organization, contact me via e-mail or call the Common Cause Office at 644-1844. David Schultz, president Common Cause Minnesota schul064@maroon.tc.umn.edu

Three days later, an active member of the list replied “Can anyone join the club, or is this strictly limited to Liberal Democrats?” Five hours later, Mr. Schultz responded with the following clarification:
Re: Common Cause Solicits Board Member David A Schultz (schul064@maroon.tc.umn.edu) Tue, 30 Apr 1996 20:03:27 -0500 (CDT) Common Cause is not limited to liberal Democrats, but instead is a nonpartisan organization committed to campaign finance reform and empowerment of citizens in the political process. A historical note about Common Cause is in order. Common Cause was founded by John Gardiner, a Republican who served in the Johnson administration. Through the years, Common Cause has continued to attract support from Republicans, including Linda Smith, Republican Congresswoman from Washington. She is one of the main authors of the current bipartisan campaign finance reform bill that has been introduced in both the House and Senate. Common Cause welcomes all who are concerned with the issue of money in politics or who otherwise care about the integrity of our political system. David Schultz, President, Common Cause, Minnesota

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Mr. Schultz’s response was poorly received by the original respondent, who replied:
Please don’t even try to tell me that Common Cause is nonpartisan - besides John Gardiner back in the Sixties and Linda Smith from Washington, I’d be very interested to learn just how many Republicans have received your blessings. Damn few, I’ll bet. I seem to recall a few years back Dave Durenberger put together the toughest campaign finance reform package to come out of Washington in years, but good ole [sic] Common Cause Minnesota failed to acknowledge its existance [sic]. A much weaker package bandied about by Paul Wellstone got all the Common Cause press. Common Cause’s ideology is based on the fraudulent assumption that government financing is the only pure way to fund congressional elections. Like motor voter and all the rest of your phony reforms, Common Cause exists to fool the public into adopting campaign reforms that play right into the hands of Liberal Democrats. How many registered Republicans are on your board, Dave? And it appears from your email address that you’re associated with the U of M. Your not writing this on the taxpayer’s dime, are you???? Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth. — Irv Anderson

Mr. Schultz responded to this post with the following reply:
Re: Common Cause Solicits Board Members David A Schultz (schul064@maroon.tc.umn.edu) Wed, 1 May 1996 09:51:39 -0500 (CDT) I appreciate your comments, but believe that many of them misconstrue what Common Cause is or what we stand for. First, you ask how many Republicans have received our blessings? The answer is the same number of Democrats who have received our blessings... zero. We do not endorse candidates, we simply advocate issues. As i noted before, the current bills on campaign finance reform before Congress have BIPARTISAN support, and even Ross Perot has endorsed it. At no point have we endorsed Linda Smith, Paul Wellstone, or Ross Perot. Public officials are agents of legisative [sic] change and we will work with individuals who support the issues we are working on... regardless of party or ideology. [section deleted]

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Again, I hold out an invitation to anyone, regardless of party or ideology, who supports campaign finance reform to work with us. According to a WALL-STREET JOURNAL poll (and confirmed by many other sources), that over 80% of the American public supports the type of political reforms that Common Cause is addressing. PS: Not that it is any of your business, but *no*, this email is not being undertaken at taxpayer expense. I have a legitimate account at the U of Mn. Also, Common Cause is not a tax-exempt nonprofit and therefore it receives no tax support and people who donate to Common Cause receive no tax benefit.

The response to this reply had a similar tone as the first, beginning:
Well Dave, I think the problem here is that Common Cause has positioned itself as the self-appointed regulator of human behavior when it comes to political campaigns. You don’t give voters the credit of having the intelligence needed to make informed decisions. Full disclosure - not spending limits and taxpayer subsidies of political campaigns - is the reform we need. Besides, the Supreme Court has rejected those Common Cause causes as unconstitutional.) If voters can look at a list of every contribution a candidate receives, they can make up their own minds and the candidates and their supporters are free to excersize (sp?) their rights. The fact that indicator of public support for mandatory taxpayer financing of campaigns. Common Cause is stuck in an ideological rut....

After two more messages in this exchange, David Schultz replied
It is perhaps time to end this exchange since I sense a certain frustration and lack of progress to your claims” and offered the following proposition: “Finally, to move this discussion into a new direction, let me pose two questions. 1) Is our political system more or less corrupt now than it was 20 years ago? If so, how is is [sic] more corrupt and why? 2) What changes do you think need to be made in our political system to make it more fair and democratic?”

At this point, the discussion branched into three directions with posts from three other members of the list. The first commented on the nature of the debate itself, remarking on heated rhetoric of the participants. The second answered Mr. Schultz’s two

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questions directly and summarized by saying that “despite Mr. Schultz’ articulate presentation and defense of Common Cause’s proposals, I am far from sold that they have the right idea.” The third took up the argument by Wally57823@aol.com that “Full disclosure ... is the reform we need” and posted a series of messages with campaign contribution information for leading Minnesota officeholders.
Full Disclosure Advance Warning Jules Goldstein (julesg@metro2.k12.mn.us) Wed, 5 Jun 1996 13:58:13 +0600 The June Federal Election Commission files are out and on their FTP site. The complete files are 20 megabytes zipped and 110 megabytes unzipped. they cover 5000+ candidates, 10000+ committees and 736,574 separate transactions. I am in the midst of crunching the data and will soon be posting contributor lists for federal candidates. The lists will be large and this time will include summaries by state of contributor and geographic state. I have no data on emotional state.

The posted files included the amount of the contribution, the contributor, and the city, state and occupation for individual contributors.
Amt 500 50 200 250 200 From City St Occupation First Bank System Political Participation Program Phil Gramm for President, Inc. Winthrop & Weinstine PA Political Fund Minnesota Power Active Citizens Team Northern States Power Employee Political Interest Committee 500 Dayton Hudson Corp. Citizen’s Federal Forum 1000 Natl Lumber & Bldg Material Dlrs Assn PAC 250 Ankeny, Marie Wayzata MN Housewife 800 Arnold, Mark North Hudson WI Painewebber ...

The exchange on the subject of Common Cause is consistent with the all-channel Netcast structure. As was the case with the outreach plan, the nature of the mailing list and the negligible cost of message delivery appears to have attracted the initial
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announcements. The alternative in the broadcast model for reaching politically active citizens interested in technology and democracy would have been to issue a press release, obtain or purchase a mailing list of some kind. The thread also illustrates the two-way flow of information between political agents who otherwise would have little contact. In the broadcast model, the announcement of board openings through a press release or mailing would not have elicited any feedback to the announcer. Because of the interactive nature of the mailing list and the low transaction costs in a reply, members were able and had an incentive to respond directly to the author. The fact that 264 other people were “listening in” on the discussion also supports the Netcast model. The exchange between Wally and David Schultz would have been private if done through personal media such as the telephone, fax, or letters. The mailing list combined personal and many-to-many media by facilitating a personal dialogue witnessed by an audience. Interestingly, members of the audience were then able to ‘take the stage’ by posting their responses and initiating new threads. The thread initiated by Jules Goldstein about full disclosure of information supports new connections between citizens and government, and citizens and citizens in the Netcast model. Through the Internet, contribution information is available to anyone online from the Federal Election Commission (http://www.fec.gov/). This information, otherwise difficult or expensive to obtain, can be analyzed directly by individual citizens through the use of computers and networks. Overall, the “full disclosure” thread on the MN-Politics list reveals a flow of information from the government to a citizen activist,

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analysis by the activist, and then the broadcast of the information from the activist to other activists, attentive citizens, government, the press, and organizations.

4.7

Social and Issue Networks The fourth hypothesis in Table 1 is the integration of social and issue networks

through the use of computer networks. The MN-Politics allows us to test this hypothesis because the members of the list form an issue network around the topic of technology and democracy. The hypothesis would be upheld if the list is also a social network, meaning the members of the list have personal relationships beyond their shared interests. Personal relationship theorists have found that socially-close, strong ties exhibit characteristics including a sense of intimacy, voluntary investment in the relationship, a desire for frequent contact, multiple social contexts, duration of the relationship, a sense of mutuality, and shared social characteristics (Wellman and Gulia 1996). The MNPolitics list displays many of these characteristics. Voluntary investment in the relationship is given by the nature of membership. Shared social characteristics are not known directly, but the nature of the subject suggests a fairly educated membership. The duration of the relationships was measured by comparing the addresses of members who posted messages over a one-year period. Of the 31 members who posted messages in April of 1995, 5 were still posting messages a year later in April of 1996. Of the 88 members posting in January of 1996, 38 were still posting three months later, when 90 members posted. Based on these figures, the annual retention rate is 16% and the three-month retention rate is 43%. It is not known how these compare to geographic

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social networks, but it does demonstrate that there is a core group of members who provide some continuity in the group. A sense of intimacy and mutuality is suggested by the colloquial and informal nature of the discussion. One message offered congratulations to a member of the list running for state office.
Congratulations Eileen P. Weber, RN (weber017@maroon.tc.umn.edu) Wed, 8 May 96 09:06:02 -0500 Congratulations to Marc Asch, frequent contributor to this network, on his DFL endorsement to regain his seat in the MN House representing district 53B! Good luck! Eileen Weber

Another message announced the birth of a child.
Forgive this nonpolitical announcement: ) Carmen Largaespada (clargaespa@hhh-1.hhh.umn.edu) Tue, 14 May 1996 17:33:48 -0500 My husband, Steve Boland, and I (sometimes mn-politics poster Carmen Largaespada) would like to announce the birth of our son, Andres Largaespada Boland. He was born on April 25, 1996, at 2:06 am. He was 7 lbs. 7.5 oz. and 19.5 inches. We’re all doing fine, and I’m especially happy I’m finally getting some time to log on once again. OK, I guess I really ought to make this a legit post and say something political. I think the good folks in Northern MN should not have a majority say in how the BWCA is regulated. They have a financial interest in the area. I’m a big fan of The Free Market, but I recognize that the market is not the best entity to enusre [sic] long-term environmental health. Carmen Largaespada clargaespa@hhh.umn.edu

Humor is part of the discussion as well.

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joke ChumBill57@aol.com Wed, 15 May 1996 14:21:09 -0400 I see where President Clinton has come out against same-sex marriages. Clinton thinks that same-sex marriage means having sex with the same person you are married to. --Jay Leno

4.8

Summary Overall, the MN-Politics list supports each aspect of the Netcast structure. Each

of the five types of agents are represented on the list: active and attentive citizens, the press, government officials, and political organizations. The topic of the list and the nature of the discussion is evidence for political content. The interactivity supports the all-channel pattern of information flow, and the combination of personal and issue-based interactions supports the merging of computer networks, social networks, and issue networks.

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5 Usenet Newsgroups
Usenet newsgroups are one of the most distinctive aspects of the Internet, and can be traced back to the Usenet network that preceded the Internet. Four of the hypothesized flow effects can be tested on newsgroups: (2) disintermediation, (3) the formation of virtual organizations, (7) integration of personal, broadcast, and network media, and (9) heterogeneity in sources of information. Virtual organizations result from lower organizational costs, which lower the barriers to collective action and group formation. No longer constrained by the cost of communicating across large distances and across time, groups are able to organize themselves around shared interests rather than geographic and temporal proximity. Heterogeneity results from the capacity for anonymous communication in expanded social networks. Lower communication costs enable individuals to maintain larger networks of weak ties. Because members of geographically-based social networks are more likely share political views, communication across weak ties promotes heterogeneity of information. Citizens are more likely to be exposed to new sources and new ideas from outside of their immediate social networks (Huckfeldt, et. al. 1995, Beck 1991, Huckfeldt and Sprague 1987). It would seem that heterogeneity and virtual organization are contradictory. How can groups form around shared interests and still produce heterogeneity? After all, virtual organizations should have a homogenizing effect, reducing exposure to new sources of information.

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This chapter evaluates the merit and compatibility of these hypotheses. Case studies of Usenet newsgroup discussions demonstrate that both homogeneity and heterogeneity are occurring simultaneously. Groups are forming around shared interests, but heterogeneity occurs within those groups as people are exposed to new ideas and new perspectives on the shared subjects of interest. This chapter also evaluates the hypotheses of disintermediation and integration of personal, broadcast, and network media. Disintermediation would be expected because of the capacity for low-cost broadcasting; integration of media because of the fungibility of digital information. Anyone with Internet access can freely post information to a Usenet group, and there are Usenet groups on almost any topic. Newsgroups are therefore expected to be alternative distribution channels for people excluded from traditional broadcast channels. In general, whereas the analysis of the previous chapter emphasized the network media links in the Netcast structure, this chapter addresses the interrelationships of personal, broadcast, and network media as shown in Figure 13. Figure 13: Netcast Elements in Newsgroups

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5.1

Virtual Organization Usenet newsgroups support the hypothesis of virtual organization (3) because

citizens use the newsgroups to organize themselves and communicate around shared interestes, independent of time and geography. Often described as electronic bulletin boards (Hardy 1993), newsgroups enable Internet users to post messages for others to read. Like posts to electronic mailing lists, posts to newsgroups are made using electronic mail. Unlike posts to electronic mailing lists, posts to newsgroups are available to anyone on the Internet. To read messages in an electronic mailing list, an Internet user must first subscribe to the mailing list. To read messages in a Usenet newsgroup, one need only type in the name of the group to widely available programs called newsreaders. Usenet postings are “threaded” in the sense that they can be organized according to the topic being discussed. The threading facility allows many conversations to occur simultaneously on the newsgroup without losing comprehensibility. The figure below shows a portion of the display on the Netscape newsreader for the alt.politics.homosexuality newsgroup.

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Figure 14: Sample Listing of Newsgroup Postings

As of July 27, 1996, there were 15,264 newsgroups on the Internet (http://www.liszt.com/). Usenet groups are divided into numerous categories. For example, newsgroups beginning with the word “comp” are about computer-related topics, while those beginning with the word “soc” are about social and cultural issues. Sample newsgroups include comp.sys.mac.advocacy for those who advocate the use of Macintosh computers, alt.music.beethoven for those interested in Beethoven’s music, and misc.fitness.aerobic for aerobic instructors and their students. Not all newsgroups are available to every Internet user. Site administrators determine which newsgroups are available to their users. For example, of the 15,264 newsgroups available on the Internet, 4,364 were available to users accessing the Internet through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There are at least 209 newsgroups specifically devoted to politics and political information. These 209 newsgroups are distinguished by the presence of “politics.”

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“policy,” or some other clearly political subject in its name. The distribution of these lists is given in the Table 1 below. There are hundreds of other newsgroups that carry politically relevant information. The alt.religion newsgroup, for example, frequently contains information about politics, but is not counted in the grouping. Table 6: Political Newsgroups
Topic News Issues International State Politics Organizations City Politics Activism U.S. Politics Political Parties Ideology Total # of Newsgroups 79 30 25 22 14 13 9 7 5 5 209 Share of Newsgroups 37.8% 14.4 12.0 10.5 6.7 6.2 4.3 3.3 2.4 2.4 100.0

The only scientific study of the size of Usenet was conducted by Brian Reid at DEC Network Systems Laboratory and revised by Benjamin Franz at Arbitron in 1995 (http://www.tlsoft.com/arbitron/). Their results are somewhat outdated as the number of Usenet hosts has doubled since the time of the study (Matrix 1996 http://www2.mids.org/growth/internet/index.html). The data therefore significantly underrepresent the size of the Usenet audience. However, they do provide an indication of which newsgroups are the most popular. The data were generated from a survey of Usenet newsgroup sites. Site administrators who volunteered to participate in the survey ran a program on their servers that automatically tabulated readership of Usenet newsgroups. A total of 357 sites participated in the survey, 0.11% of the total population of 330,000 sites, yielding a sample of 59,683 readers (Arbitron 1995 http://www.tlsoft.com/arbitron/jul95/arbitron.summary.txt%20).
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According to the study, in July of 1995 the top 10 newsgroups were related to use of Usenet, sex, humor, and job listings. The leading newsgroup was read by 5.7% of the total Usenet audience during the two-week period of the survey. Alt.activism was the leading politically-oriented newsgroup during the period, with 1.3% of the audience. Other popular political newsgroups included alt.rush-limbaugh, alt.politics.clinton, soc.politics, alt.politics.media, and alt.censorship. Interestingly, Reid study reveals that political newsgroups generate a disproportionate share of the message volume on Usenet. The 31 newsgroups with “politics” in the title have three times the message volume per reader than non-politics newsgroups. Politics-related newsgroups are therefore more discussion oriented than other newsgroups, which are more announcement-oriented. The newsgroup alt.politics.homosexuality was chosen as a case study of the flow of political information through Usenet groups. As its name suggests, alt.politics.homosexuality is a forum for people to discuss issues and distribute information related to politics and homosexuality. According to the 1995 study, 27,000 people read the newsgroup regularly with an average of 75 messages per day. Fifty-five percent of the Internet sites who received Usenet groups in 1995 subscribed to the alt.politics.homosexuality newsgroup. Sixty-eight percent of the messages were also posted to other newsgroups (http://tile.net/tile/news/altp29.html). We would expect virtual organization in the gay community, as exemplified by the alt.politics.homosexuality and other gay-related newsgroups. The ability to discuss gay politics anonymously suggests that the alt.politics.homosexuality would be used as a virtual meeting place for gay individuals. Because of psychological barriers, social taboos, and demographic distribution, some gay citizens find it difficult to meet other gay

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citizens. The Internet provides an opportunity to meet homosexuals in other geographic regions or other social networks. The ability to remain anonymous on the Internet is particularly valuable for homosexuals who may fear discrimination or recrimination if they were to communicate in other settings where their identity could be known. The messages used in the study were posted to the alt.politics.homosexuality newsgroup over a two-week period between July 9 and July 22, 1996. Like most news servers, the MIT news server keeps messages for a period of two weeks. There were 493 messages posted to alt.politics.homosexuality between July 9 and 22, inclusive. Each message contains 6 items of information, as shown below. The “Path” field shows the sequence of Internet host computers that the message took from its origin to its destination. In this case, the message started at ix.netcom.com, the computer used by the author of the message to connect to the Internet and was passed along by 10 distinct computers until it reached MIT and the Artificial Intelligence Lab where it was read by the author. The “From” field shows the email address and name of the author of the message as entered in his or her email software. The name can be actual or invented. The “Newsgroups” field shows the newsgroups to which this message was posted. A feature of the USENET system is that a single message can be posted to multiple newsgroups. In this case, the author posted the message to five newsgroups. The “Subject” field shows the topic of the message. A reply to an already posted message will default to “Re: [subject of replied-to message].” The Date field shows the time of posting. The remainder of the message contains the text of the message.
Path: ai-lab ! bloom-beacon.mit.edu ! tribune.meitca.com ! ulowell.uml.edu ! news.onramp.net ! news.netpics.com ! news.denver.eti.net ! panix ! news.columbia.edu ! sol.ctr.columbia.edu ! news.uoregon.edu !

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vixen.cso.uiuc.edu ! howland.reston.ans.net ! ixnews1.ix.netcom.com ! ix.netcom.com ! ix.netcom.com ! news From: fireguy1@ix.netcom.com (Lawrence P. Kuscin Sr.) Newsgroups: alt.sex.homosexual, alt.politics.homosexuality, alt.sex.motss, alt.personals.motss, alt.politics.libertarian.gay Subject: FEEL THE HURT Date: 27 Jul 1996 17:32:07 GMT TAKE A LOOK at my new site..... http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/fireguyone The gays and others that can UNDERSTAND the hurt of being hated, need to join together and WANT to do something. They must be UNITED via spirit. This new site shows want it like in the ghetto’s of the United States of America. You may not have the GUTS to go there, let me show you. My FPT site is also still online, with lessons on “How To Have Gay Sex Right” and other stuff can be found at: ftp.netcom.com/pub/be/bensalem Also my original WWW site, is still online: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/LKuscin KEEP LOVING...SAFE SEX ONLY...IT’S GREAT TO BE GAY!!!! ======================================================

The 493 messages posted to the newsgroup contained 111 distinct threads. Each posting therefore generated an average of 4.5 responses. The 111 threads can be divided into eleven categories, or conversations. The most extensive conversation addressed the question of whether the bible condones or forbids homosexuality. Thirty different threads addressed this topic for a total of 243 messages, or 49% of the message volume. The second most extensive conversation addressed the issue of homophobia. Eleven threads totaled 72 messages, or 15% of the message volume. Other topics included the treatment of homosexuality in the movie Braveheart (8%), gay marriage (5%), positions of political parties on homosexuality (5%), political activism on issues affecting homosexuals (4%), personal or sexually-oriented subjects (3%), gay rights (2%), and AIDS (1%). Messages posted about political activism and personal or sexually-oriented subjects were primarily informational, prompted fewer than 1 response on average. In
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contrast, the Braveheart posting elicited 40 responses and the bible and homophobiarelated postings elicited an average of 8 responses each. There were 227 contributors to the newsgroup during the two-week period for an average of 2.2 messages per contributor. From the estimated 27,000 readers of the newsgroup, only 1 out of every 119 readers posts a message for others to read. The actual ratio is probably even lower than this, since the 27,000 figure is significantly outdated. If alt.politics.homosexuality and MN-Politics are indicative, the “lurker” population is much larger for newsgroups than for mailing lists. Approximately half of the mailing list members posted to the list. Within the newsgroup, there is substantial variance in the number of messages posted by contributors. As indicated in the table below, 71% of the contributors posted only a single message in the two week period. Eighteen-percent posted more than two messages. As was demonstrated in the MN-Politics list, this minority had a disproportionate impact on the nature of the discussion. Twenty-eight people accounted for half of the entire message volume on the newsgroup. This vocal minority is 13% of the contributors and 0.1% of the total readership. Table 7: Distribution of Posting Volume
# of Messages 1 2 3-5 6-10 10+ Total # of Posters 162 25 23 13 4 227 Share of Posters 71.4% 11.0 10.1 5.7 1.8 100.0

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Contributors to the alt.politics.homosexuality newsgroup connect primarily through online services or internet service providers. Two-thirds have email addresses with .com or .net domains. Only seven contributors (3%) are from an online service. Sixteen percent contribute from an educational institution and 13% from a foreign location. Noticeably absent from the contributor list are any .gov domains indicating a government server. Based on the name of the server from which the message was sent, the one military contributor is from an Air Force Base in the South. Table 8: Distribution of Server Domains
Domain .com .net .edu Foreign .org .mil other Total Contributors 104 45 37 30 6 1 4 227 Share of Total 45.8% 19.8 16.3 13.2 2.6 0.4 1.8 100.0

A feature of Usenet groups is that messages can be posted to multiple newsgroups simultaneously. Eighty-nine percent of the messages on alt.politics.homosexuality were also posted to other newsgroups. Two-third of the postings were posted to at least five other newsgroups. This degree of cross-posting is unusually high for this newsgroup, which average in the range of two-thirds. This is likely a result of the nature of the discussion during the sample period. The debate over homosexuality and the bible prompted a large number of cross-postings to religious newsgroups, which may have elevated the average.

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Table 9: Distribution of Cross Postings
Cross-Postings 1 2-4 5-9 10-14 15+ Total # of Messages 55 104 159 134 41 493 Share of Msgs 11% 21 32 27 8 100

The discussion about the bible and homosexuality is apparent in the ranking of other newsgroups to which messages were cross-posted with alt.politics.homosexuality. Over a third of the messages were cross-posted to alt.homosexual, a more general newsgroup addressing issues relating to homosexuality. The alt.censorship newsgroup receives cross-postings related to the homophobia discussion, while the religious newsgroups and soc.culture.israel receives cross-postings for the discussion about the bible and homosexuality. Table 10: Top Cross-Posted Newsgroups
Newsgroup alt.homosexual alt.censorship alt.christnet alt.atheism alt.christnet.sex alt.christnet.bible alt.mens-rights alt.fan.rush-limbaugh soc.culture.british soc.culture.israel # of Messages 166 145 145 143 110 109 101 100 100 96 Share of Msgs 34% 30 30 29 23 22 21 21 21 20

5.2

Heterogeneity Homosexuality is a controversial subject. Many citizens, particularly those

among the religious community, actively oppose homosexuality and work to restrict gay

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rights. Do gay-opponents participate in gay-related newsgroups? Or do they restrict their online participation to newsgroups more supportive of their political views? If gayadvocates and gay-opponents both participate in newsgroups such as alt.politics.homosexuality, then the hypothesis of heterogeneity is upheld. If not, then it is disproven. We would expect the hypothesis to be upheld because the newsgroup has no restrictions on usage and provides one of the few places where these issues can be debated anonymously without fear of recrimination. Sample threads were chosen from the newsgroup discussion to test the competing hypotheses. The criteria for selection was that there be an obvious political component to the subject and that the thread have more than five messages so that any disagreement among respondents would be apparent. The threads were tested to determine whether participants represented both sides of the gay-rights debate or only one side. The first thread is titled “Specialness Lost w/ Gay Marriage.” From the title, it is not clear how homogeneous the discussion would be. One can envision a series of postings agreeing with the premise that specialness would be lost with gay marriage. Alternatively, one can envision a series of postings on different sides of the issue. An analysis of the thread reveals a substantial amount of disagreement and heterogeneity. In particular, there was a lengthy exchange between two individuals, exposing the thousands of readers of the group to a diversity of opinion about the subject. One of the participants summarized the discussion for the benefit of other readers. An excerpt of the synopsis follows:
From: “David J. Saab” <djsaab@shore.net> Newsgroups: alt.politics.homosexuality Subject: Synopsis of “Specialness Lost w/ Gay Marriage”

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Date: Mon, 22 Jul 1996 10:37:54 -0400 Organization: Shore.Net/Eco Software, Inc; (info@shore.net) What follows is a synopsis of the discussion between Todd and myself concerning the question of same sex marriage. I have capsulized the discussion which was getting to be over 20K in length. Although I have reduced the discussion, I have made an honest attempt to use the original quotes of each person and not take things out of context. Also attached is a list of studies concerning the raising of children by same-sex couples. It is quite long. I have also sent this post and attachment to Todd via private email as to ensure he gets a copy. TA> Two arguments, equally strong. 1) Specialness lost, therefore higher divorce rate, therefore damage to the next generation. DS> (...and having pets other than dogs damages the whole institution of pet ownership and the concept of dogs being man’s best friend...) TA> 2) Society provides the benefit of marriage for the purpose of raising the next generation, which provides a benefit to society. Homosexuals cannot be as good parents, cannot raise children as effectively, so therefore society has no obligation to extend that benefit to homosexuals. DS> If society’s main purpose in providing the legal benefits of marriage is for raising of the next generation, what is the justification for withholding those benefits from persons who are doing so? TA> Because heterosexual parents are best for children, therefore society shouldn’t provide those benefits to an inferiour [sic] method of raising children. DS> But they’ll provide those benefits for those couples who are not even raising children?????????? TA> It’s impractical to deny such couples these benefits. DS> How is it impractical? TA> We cannot test people or fertility. DS> Why not? ... [posting abridged]

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Discussion on the newsgroup are frequently argumentative and interrogative. In a homogenous group, one would expect agreement and support among the participants. In this newsgroup, the discussion reveals substantial dissent and disagreement. The following excerpts are indicative of many of the discussions.
“I challenge you to prove, conclusively, and without hinting at “I SPAKE IT, AND SO IT SHALL BE!”, that there is anything wrong with gay marriage that it would somehow ruin every other marriage out there. Go right ahead. Any time now. I’m waaaaaaiiiiittttttttinng.” “Can’t you just admit that this is a political argument, and that it will be decided by the political process? And that if you lose, you will lose just like others who have lost battles in the political process?” “Please tell me what my false stereotypes [are]. And, to be intellectually honest, you must prove to me that my socalled “stereotypes” are wrong. If you can do this, then you can prove that “alot [sic] of my beliefs are based on false stereotypes.” You can’t just tell me that I can’t prove my beliefs - you have to show that they’re wrong.” “Isn’t this why the Federal government delegated so much authority to the states, to allow them to experiment? If Hawaii chooses to legalize same-sex marriages, it’s their experiment, and other states may use it to decide, based on experience, not irrational fear, on whether it is beneficial or not. You are obviously basing your arguments on the latter, irrational fear.”

The distribution of cross-postings in Table 10 also supports the heterogeneity hypothesis. Postings to alt.politics.homosexual were frequently posted to other groups such as alt.homosexual, alt.christnet.sex, and alt.christnet. Rather than self-selecting into their own homogeneous groups (Figure 15 below), Usenet authors tend to distribute their messages to heterogeneous groups organized around related subjects (Figure 16).

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Figure 15: Homogenous Groups

Figure 16: Heterogeneous Groups

To ensure that the alt.politics.homosexuality newsgroup is not anomalous, other politics-related newsgroups were examined for heterogeneity. Controversial issues such as homosexuality were found to exhibit the same heterogeneity. These groups include talk.abortion, talk.politics.drugs, alt.politics.clinton, soc.men, and misc.activism.militia. In the case of talk.abortion, of the 173 postings on December 23, 1996, 52% were prochoice, 26% were pro-life, and 22% were neutral or unclassifiable. Discussions in these newsgroups included debates over the admission of women to the Citadel, the legitimacy of private militias, legalization of marijuana, and the re-appointment of Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House.

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The heterogeneity of the alt.politics.homosexuality newsgroup, among others, suggests that newsgroups are capable of supporting new types of social networks with a distinct pattern of information flow. Most citizens use personal media to participate in homogenous social networks. Broadcast media have provided the dominant source of dissonant information (Beck 1991), but broadcast media do not afford any opportunity for discussion or interaction. The synchronicity, identifiability, and immediacy of personal media bring the disadvantage of escalation, physical reprisal, and reputational concerns. On a Usenet group, the asynchronicity gives participants room to consider their responses and the anonymity and physical distance prevent recrimination. If the alt.politics.homosexuality is indicative, newsgroups provide a distinctive arena in which citizens can be exposed to dissonant information and engage with citizens on the other sides of issues without fear of the implications of their remarks.

5.3

Media Integration Usenet newsgroups also provide evidence of integration between personal,

broadcast, and network media. Digital information is easily copied, edited, and duplicated. Information can therefore be taken from one type of medium and distributed over another. As an example, one contributor to the alt.politics.homosexuality newsgroup shared with the list the effect of a television show on his views about gay men. If this posting is representative, the Internet may provide an interactive forum to discuss for information broadcast on non-interactive media.
Subject: I Feel Bad About My Homophobia... From: E.G. Land, bard@smarty.smart.net Date: 24 Jul 1996 12:25:31 GMT

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Saw a very thought-provoking interview on the _Charlie Rose Show_ last night; a gay author who seemed a highly intelligent and courageous person. It made me think about some of the genuine gays out there and how they take a bad rap because of the 90% bad actors who think being gay is about screwing everything that isn’t nailed down. It also made me think that I have contributed little to help the resolution of the difficulties people like this gentlemen face. I will try to amend this in the future by posting articles of a more helpful nature. Fly On-The-Wall, Inc.

In another thread, a New York Times article on Congressional action banning same-sex marriages prompted this posting by Joe Zychik <jzychik@pacificnet.net.
(New York Times July 13th, pg. A1) The House of Representatives by 342-67 voted to “ban Federal recognition of same-sex marriages and to allow each state to ignore such marriages performed in any other state.” Once again the American public chooses hate, fear and ignorance over the Constitution which states in Article IV: “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records and judicial Proceedings of every other state.” The author of the bill ignoring the Constitution is “Representative Bob Barr, a freshman Republican from Georgia.”

The posting elicited this response from a contributor who maintained anonymity by using the name Batman <Batman@Burgoyne.com>:
Actually there is nothing unconstitutional about it. it is simply the full fiath [sic] and credit in reverse. Since no state yet has legalized gay marriage this law is the law that gets full fiath and credit not the yet to be enacted law.

This response generated a number of replies. The first reply is interesting because the author advises the second poster to read a newspaper or watch CSpan as a way to “get your facts straight.” The author implicitly suggests that broadcast media are a more reliable source of information than the Internet. The comment is therefore suggestive of

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the Internet and broadcast media as fulfilling different purposes as sources of information.
Subject: Re: Legalized Gay Bashing - Typical Republican hypocricy [sic] From: cliff hendricks, cliffh@freenet.fsu.edu Date: Mon, 22 Jul 1996 00:42:22 -0400 thank god someone actually knows what they are talking about on this newsgroup...its funny how people who calmly disagree with the gay agenda are “hateful” and “ignorant”. the only ingorant [sic] people are morons like Joe Zychik who dont’ [sic] even know the constitution...get your facts straight for once...watch CSpan or something..i dont know, maybe pick up a paper that isn’t a gay one and educate your head. You may get more respect when you post. Cliff Hendricks

The second group of replies is interesting because of the sophistication of their arguments. Although newsgroups are noted for the prevalence of “flaming” in the emotional appeals and argumentative attacks, there is a surprisingly high level of information and knowledge reflected in the remarks.
Subject: Re: Legalized Gay Bashing - Typical Republican hypocricy [sic] From: camplte1 Date: 22 Jul 96 19:31:54 CDT WHich thus makes the law unconstitutional. There is no provision for the full faith and credit proviison [sic] to be reversed. It says only that if a state allows a contract, then all states must recognize that contract. UNless specifically prohibited by the Constitution, all contracts between people must be recognized by the states if any one state recognizes the contract. The only role of the federal government is to ensure that such contracts are enforced as said in the Constitution. But the federal government has no right to bar any contract allowed by any single state. ANd since the federal government is not explicitly outlawing gay marriages (which would by unconstitutional by the 9th and 10th Amendments), but are only saying states don’t have rto [sic] recognize this particular contract, then it is unsconstitutional by this provision.

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Troy Camplin troyec@wko.com

Scott Carpenter <scarpntr@3-cities.com> wrote:
>On 18 Jul 1996 23:07:04 GMT, Batman@Burgoyne.com (Batman) wrote: There is no rational way to say this bill *doesn’t* violate the FF&C clause of the Constitution. It clearly says that a state doesn’t have to recognize a legal contract (marriage) that another state has declared legitimate. This goes against the essence and the letter of the FF&C clause.

Because of its reference to concealed weapons, the following posting was crossposted to a gun-related newsgroup.
Subject: Full Faith and Credit Clause (“Gay marriage”) From: John Payson, supercat@MCS.COM Date: 22 Jul 1996 20:37:57 -0500 Actually, _IF_ legitimate power can be found for the Congress to restrict peoples’ marriages, then the FF&C credit plause would not apply. The Constitution and all treaties and laws laws passed under it shall be “the supreme law of the land, the constitution or laws of any state notwithstanding” [quoting from memory]. Thus, any state judicial action which violates federal law is void on its face. As to Congress having the authority to restrict marriages, I think it would have the authority to require that any same-sex couple seeking marriage be a resident of the state where such action was to take place (going from one state to another for the purpose of marriage would be interstate commerce. I can’t see how to stretch the Interstate Commerce Clause much further than that. On a slightly different note, I think if a state were to impart, by judicial action, permission to carry concealed weapons and did not explicitly limit such permission to within the borders of that state, I think legally other states would be required to honor such obligation. Unfortunately, I suspect [sarcastic mode] the court would probably decide that since the Right to Keep and Bear Arms was not a privilege but a right, it was not within a judge’s power to “give permission” to exercise it [since

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the right is inherent]. And since the judge would not have such power, the action would be void and the person could be charged for carrying “without permission”. -------------------------------------------------supercat@mcs.com|“Je crois que je ne vais jamais voir.| J\_/L John Payson | Un animal aussi beau qu’un chat.”|( o o )

The posting elicited this reply from the alt.homosexuality.politics list. The author’s responses emphasized the marital aspects of the issue.
Subject: Re: Full Faith and Credit Clause (“Gay marriage”) From: Scott Carpenter, scarpntr@3-cities.com Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 12:59:54 GMT On 22 Jul 1996 20:37:57 -0500, supercat@MCS.COM (John Payson) wrote: >>Actually, _IF_ legitimate power can be found for the Congress to restrict peoples’ marriages, then the FF&C credit plause would not apply. DOMA doesn’t attempt to restrict marriage federally, it only attempts to allow states to deem invalid marriages performed in another state. Since marriage *is* considered a legally binding contract, it violates the FF&C clause. If it attempted to federally invalidate same-sex marriage, Hawaii’s actions would be useless, because same-sex marriage would be illegal everywhere. >>As to Congress having the authority to restrict marriages, I think it would have the authority to require that any same-sex couple seeking marriage be a resident of the state where such action was to take place (going from one state to another for the purpose of marriage would be interstate commerce. I can’t see how to stretch the Interstate Commerce Clause much further than that. That would affect hets too much to let them get away with it, I think. No more trips to Vegas for a quick marriage. No more trips to states with more liberal marriage laws to allow a marriage that isn’t valid in your own state (that happens frequently with age problems. >>On a slightly different note, I think if a state were to impart, by judicial action, permission to carry concealed weapons and did not explicitly limit such permission to

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within the borders of that state, I think legally other states would be required to honor such obligation. I’m not going to be drawn into a gun argument.

Because of the cross-posting, a respondent apparently viewing the message from the gunrelated newsgroup expressed some confusion about the previous message.
Subject: Re: Full Faith and Credit Clause (“Gay marriage”) From: Richard Popkin, popkin@ix.netcom.com Date: 24 Jul 1996 03:53:30 GMT In <31f4cb7f.37966949@news.3-cities.com> scarpntr@3cities.com (Scott Carpenter) writes: >I’m not going to be drawn into a gun argument. don’t want to be drawn into a gun argument? that’s what this news group is about... not gay marriages.

From the first author’s perspective, reading from alt.homosexuality.politics, the thread was about gay marriages. From the second author’s perspective, reading from the gun-related group, the thread was about concealed weapons and constitutional issues involving federalism. The thread on the Congressional vote against same-sex marriages indicates how information can flow between the mass media and newsgroups and between newsgroups on the Internet. The newsgroup provides a forum for individuals to discuss political events with individuals from other geographic areas in a forum that allows for deliberation and anonymity. As demonstrated by the crossposting to the gun-related group, there is also the opportunity to link to other related topics. Information received through the broadcast media can therefore be posted to the Internet and discussed.

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Through excerpting and cross-posting, specific dimensions of an issue can be used to connect issues and prompt discussion in related topic areas. The discussion on the newsgroup also illustrates the flow of information from personal media to network media. The author of the following message wrote a letter to her Representative about the same-sex marriage bill. She then posted the letter and the Representative’s response. A personal exchange of information was therefore broadcast to a wider audience through the newsgroup.
Subject: DOMA: My letter and Rep. Smith’s Response From: ‘Cricket’ C. Fauska, crik@u.washington.edu Date: Sat, 13 Jul 1996 12:56:23 -0700 I wrote this letter to my Representatives and Rep. Linda Smith wrote me a response back. I personally am far more concerned about the bill’s lack of federal recognition since it will affect immigration, and federal benefits. Dear Honorable Linda Smith, I am writing concerning the Defense of Marriage Bill currently in both the House and Senate. As a Washington State resident I am disappointed that you are sponsoring this bill. This bill affects me personally. I have been involved with an Australian Citizen of the same sex. Our relationship is very similar to a typical heterosexual marriage. I have a lasting committed bond with this person and plan to grow old with her. I am currently trying to immigrate to Australia because as an American citizen I am not allowed to marry and immigrate my partner over to the United States. I feel like a second class citizen. I am very close to my family and hate the idea of leaving them. My grandparents are getting older. Refusing to recognize lesbian and Gay marriages federally will prevent any possible future relief to immigrate my partner to the United States and allow me to live close to my family. It makes me choose between living with my partner and being with my family in Washington State. This does not defend families it tears them apart and I urge you not to support this bill.

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Regardless how you feel about Gays and Lesbians we should have a right to choose our partners. Please reconsider your position on this bill. Thank you for your time Sincerely Clarisa S.

Fauska

Linda Smith’s Response: ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Dear Clarisa: Thank you for contacting me regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (HR3396). I appreciate the opportunity to address your views. Recently, the state of Hawaii granted legal recognition to same-sex marriages. Pending a circuit court ruling expected this fall, states and the federal government may be forced to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in the state of Hawaii and grant all of the rights and privileges deemed to any married couple. This means that your tax dollars could be used to provide Social Security and veterans benefits to a homosexual couple. I am opposed to marriage outside the traditional heterosexual union. Western civilization for hundreds of years has recognized marriage as the sacred union between a man and a woman. Placing a homosexual relationship on the same level as a heterosexual marriage is wrong and would tear at the very fabric of our society. Recognizing this, I have cosponsored the Defense of Marriage Act (HR 3396) and will fight hard for its passage this summer. This legislation does two things. First, it clarifies that for federal purposes, a marriage is a legal union between one man and one woman. Thus, issues such as federal immigration, federal employment or health benefits, or federal withholding for income tax purposes, would not be effected by Hawaii’s decision. Second, the Defense of Marriage Act protects states from being compelled to honor another state law or judicial proceeding that recognizes marriage between persons of the same sex. Thanks again for taking the time to contact me. If I can ever be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to let me know. Sincerely

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Linda Smith Member of Congress (Except for criminalization of homosexuality I can not think of a law that discriminates more against us. We really need to put up a fuss about this bill and not vote for anyone who supports it. If we do they will feel free to stomp all over us as they are doing now. Cricket Fauska)

5.4

Disintermediation The alt.politics.homosexuality list demonstrates that citizens are using the Net’s

low-cost broadcasting capabilities to become their own information providers, bypassing traditional intermedies and increasing the volume of information available to politically active citizens. One author compiles a listing of resources about the causal link between HIV and AIDS. This listing is updated and posted periodically to the newsgroup.
Subject: AIDS Criticism Resources From: John Lauritsen, jlaurits@capecod.net Date: Thu, 18 Jul 1996 11:42:01 -0400 AGAINST THE HIV-CAUSES-AIDS HYPOTHESIS: AND OTHER RESOURCES July 1996 Compiled by John Lauritsen jlaurits@capecod.net There is great disparity between the political and the scientific strength of the HIV-Causes-AIDS hypothesis. Politically it prevails, through censorship revolving around the interests of the multi-billion dollar AIDS Industry. Scientifically, it was refuted decisively by molecular biologist Peter Duesberg years ago. A rapidly growing number of scientists are now convinced that the HIV-Causes-AIDS hypothesis is wrong, and that it was bizarre and foolish from the very beginning. [...] BOOKS, ARTICLES,

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For those who are open-minded, I have prepared a brief reading list. My objective was to include only the strongest and most readily available works. Neville Hodgkinson’s new book, AIDS: THE FAILURE OF CONTEMPORARY SCIENCE, is the best AIDS history to date. It presents comprehensive and objective analyses of all sides in the various controversies—“dissidents” as well as defenders of the prevailing orthodoxies. Beginning in 1985 Hodgkinson wrote on AIDS for the Sunday Times (London) as their medical correspondent, and then later as their science correspondent. [...] Several Internet web sites contain critical AIDS articles. The largest is the AIDS Information Bulletin Board System (AIB), whose vast archives can be accessed: By gopher: gopher://itsa.ucsf.edu:70/00/.i/.q/.d/ By ftp: ftp ftp://itsa/ucsf/edu:70/00/.i/.q/.d/ By web: http://itsa.ucsf.edu/~beng/aidsbbs.html In addition there is an impressive new Rethinking AIDS web site: http://www.xs4all.nl/~raido/ * * * * * * * Peter H. Duesberg (editor. AIDS; VIRUS OR DRUG INDUCED? (book. Articles by E. Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al., P.H. Duesberg, V.L. Koliadin, M. Craddock, M.D. Zaretsky, D.T. Chiu, R.S. Root-Bernstein, H.W. Haverkos, D.P. Drotman, B.J. Ellison, A.B. Downey, G.T. Stewart, K.B. Mullis, S. Harris, S. Lang, N. Hodgkinson, P. Johnson, T. Bethell, J. Lauritsen, and C. Farber. Kluwer Academics Press, Dordrecht, The Netherlands (1996). [...]

The Libertarian party has used the low-cost broadcasting features of the Internet extensively. Without the resources or the public support necessary to gain mainstream media coverage, the Libertarian party, along with other fringe political organizations, have used the Net as an alternative broadcasting medium. As the following posting demonstrates, the Party has also taken advantage of the organization of groups on the Net around interests rather than geography. The listing of newsgroups to which this message was posted are all politically-oriented newsgroups focused on issues for which the
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Libertarian have particularly strong positions. Interested readers are referred to the Libertarians own newsgroups which has more focused discussion about Libertarian positions and policies.
Subject: Vote for FREEDOM - Vote LIBERTARIAN! Date: 21 Jul 1996 03:28:48 GMT From: Milehi@io.com (Milehi) Organization: Illuminati Online Newsgroups: alt.drugs, alt.drugs.caffeine, alt.drugs.chemistry, alt.drugs.culture, alt.drugs.hard, alt.drugs.leri, alt.drugs.pot, alt.drugs.pot.cultivation, alt.drugs.psychedelics, alt.drugs.usenet, alt.politics.datahighway, alt.politics.homosexuality, alt.politics.immigration, alt.politics.libertarian, alt.politics.libertarian.gay, alt.politics.media, alt.politics.sex, alt.politics.youth, alt.privacy, alt.privacy.anon-server, alt.privacy.clipper, alt.psychoactives Fellow netizens, this election year we have a unique forum for political discourse free from governmental or media interference. While the net has not yet come under the scrutiny of government censors, chances are that a vote for either the Republican or Democratic candidates will hasten that end. You see, the politicians know that he who controls the information source controls public perception. People’s perceptions (even false ones) are the only things that matter in politics. [...] While most people have heard of the Libertarian Party, few really know what it stands for. Partly, that is because Libertarians don’t spend massive amounts of money, donated, of course, with strings attached, to bombard America with our message. Fortunately for the first time, we have the Net, which has not yet come under the complete censorship of the U.S. government. Elect either the Remocrat or Depublican candidate, and that will probably change before the next election. So what is Libertarianism? Put simply, Libertarians believe indivdual liberty takes priority over governmental authority. We believe that every citizen is guaranteed the freedoms (and responsibilities) spelled out in the Bill of Rights - and that government has no right to interfere with those freedoms. We believe that individuals - not governments - are ultimately responsible for the successes

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or failures in our lives. When given the maximum amount of responsibility and resources, we believe individuals make the best choices for themselves. Here are a few specific planks from the Libertarian platform: [...] For more information on where Libertarians stand, check out the following: http://www.lp.org/lp/lp.html talk.politics.libertarian alt.politics.libertarian alt.politics.elections

Other postings on alt.politics.homosexuality reflect the use of the Net for low-cost broadcasting with the purpose of political recruitment and mobilization. Thom Klem wrote :
I am interested in hearing from other queers who might be interested in starting a boycott campaign against the two major parties in response to their relentless homophobia and AIDSphobia.

It is not known how many people responded to the request, since expressions of interest would most likely have returned via personal e-mail sent directly to Mr. Klem’s email address. What did show up on the newsgroup was a discussion of party politics. David Kaye (dk@crl.com) responded:
I’m simply voting Green in November. Yes, I know that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader doesn’t want to talk about “genital politics”, since this doesn’t appear to be any worse than what Clinton’s done to us, I at least want to make the statement and have my vote counted as a liberal, not as an ass-sucking conservative Democrat.

Jack Nimble replied:
While I commend you for at least rising above voting for the lesser of two evils, Ralph Nader has far too many negatives among the voting public to carry the banner of a

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consensus protest vote. Furthermore, the negatives are justified because the man is intellectually dishonest. [...] If you want to have your vote counted as a liberal, then all you have to do is vote Democratic, because that’s how your vote will be perceived.

G. Harrow (gharrow@dmv.com) replied by advocating a third-party vote for the libertarian party.
Why should straights be convinced to get involved in protests and demonstrations for gay rights, if “the majority won’t go along with it”? Why should anybody have gotten involved in the protests of the 1960’s? Why vote for a third-party candidate? Could it be that there is a very significant portion of the population that feels like “being on the winning team”, whose vote does not lie with strong issues but rather on the proverbial “blowing of the wind”? If that’s the case (and I believe it is), then you’re only harming the group you’re tyring [sic] to help by convincing them to remain in the same, old, dirty mold. Voting for a third-party candidate will fail PRECISELY because a minority of people convince a majority of people that it will fail. Self-fulfilling prophecy. It will succeed PRECISELY because a minority of people convince a majority that it can succeed. The only real hope I see, for the direction of this country, is toward the libertarian philosophy, but with some reasonable constraints placed on those areas of libertarianism which just aren’t sensible (i.e., the areas of drugs and immigration. To continue to expouse that voting libertarian is a wasted vote is self-fulfilling what you’re expousing (self, as in the societal sense. You’re harming what you say the others are harming, and what you’re trying to protect from harm.

Jon Petry replied (jonpetry@slip.net):
First of all I have seen nothing from the Libertarian Party that in any way indicates to me that they are friends of the gay community. They certainly are not as bad as the republicans but i would hesitate to throw to assume that they would assist the gay community in any of the various endeavors that are important to us.

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Secondly and more importantly, at this time we have Clinton who is a friend and we have Dole who is not. If the Repubs control the Congress and the White House in the next election as they will if Clinton loses, the results will be catastorphic for the gay community among others. I agree that we need to do something about the status quo that presently exists in this country but I do not see a gay boycott or a gay protest vote against Clinton and the demos doing anything IN THIS ELECTION but ensuring a Republican victory in the fall.

This discussion is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First, the initial posting was a request for political action, in this case a boycott of the two major parties. The author would not have been able to make a request to an audience of this size with this focused a request at this cost using a personal or broadcast medium. Second, the request initiated a discussion of alternative strategies for achieving the same goal: support for pro-gay policies. Such a discussion rarely occurs in the context of political mobilization through a broadcast medium. Usually the individual being solicited only has the choice of accepting or declining the request to participate. Discussion and counteroffer are rarely a part of the mobilization process. Third, the discussion is quite diverse and informed regarding the politics and voting strategies surrounding third-party candidacies. In particular, the issue of the “wasted vote” with a third-party is discussed quite well. Finally, discussions of party politics rarely involve third party politics. The discussion illustrates how the Net provides a forum for citizens with non-mainstream political views.

5.5

Summary An analysis of postings to the alt.politics.homosexuality newsgroup over a two-

week period reveals information flows consistent with the Netcast structure and provides some insight into the nature of discussion groups on the Internet. The integration of

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personal, broadcast, and network media, and disintermediation through low-cost broadcasting are all supported by the discussions. Individuals and groups otherwise excluded from the broadcast media are able to distribute information and solicit political activity conveniently and affordably through the newsgroups. Regarding the question of how virtual organizations can be consistent with heterogeneity, the Usenet groups are found to be both homogeneous and heterogeneous. They are homogeneous in their focus on specific issues, in this case the politics of homosexuality. They are heterogeneous within the specific issues due to the presence of multiple points of view. Usenet groups are therefore a source of dissonant information for their participants and readers. The combination of interaction and dissonance distinguishes Usenet groups from other media. Personal media are interactive but tend to be consonant, while broadcast media tend to be dissonant, but not interactive.

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6 Online Petitions
The fifth hypothesized effect of the Internet on the flow of political information is propagation. Propagation, the spreading of information from person to person, is expected to occur in the Netcast structure because the Internet reduces the cost of maintaining networks of weak ties. Weak ties are the principal means by which information flows across social networks. In strong-tie networks, overlapping relationships keep information inside the network. In weak-tie networks, lack of overlap moves information to other networks. The Internet also promotes propagation due to the ease with which information can be duplicated and re-broadcast. An email message, for example, can be rebroadcast to hundreds of people with a click of a button, in contrast to a letter that requires substantial duplication and mailing expense. This chapter tests the hypothesized effect of propagation by examining the phenomenon of online petitions. Online petitions are email messages in support of political issues. As messages are passed from one user to the next, “signatures” are collected and eventually submitted to political officials. If the hypothesis is true, we would expect petitions to pass across weak ties between social networks and to take advantage of the distance-spanning and broadcasting capacities of the Internet. In other words, we would expect the path of the petition to be independent of geography and to include a significant fan-out, in other words passed to an increasing number of people with each re-broadcast. If the hypothesis is not true, we would expect the petition to be passed to only a few people and for these recipients to be mostly strong ties from the

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sender’s primary social network. As the analysis will show, the hypothesis is upheld by the traced path of the petition. The analysis will also enable us to test the hypothesis of (8) resource bias on the Net. Internet access is one type of resource advantage. Citizens with more convenient or less expensive access to the Internet should be more likely to participate in the flow of political information. If the hypothesis of resource bias is upheld, we would expect citizens in state with higher levels of Internet access to more likely signators of the online petitions. If participation is unrelated to Internet access, the hypothesis would be rejected.

6.1

Online Petitions Online petitions provide a useful test case for radial patterns of interlocking

cliques on the Internet. Online petitions are a cross between chain letters and traditional petitions. An individual writes an electronic mail message describing a political issue, sends it to other individuals, and requests recipients to add their typed “signature” to express support for the position. The message is then copied and forwarded to other individuals who are asked to add their name and address to the bottom of the petition and forward copies to other individuals. Signators are asked to return copies of the petition to the original sender or some other organizer at period intervals, such as every hundred signatures. Once collected, the signed petitions are presented to the appropriate government officials.

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One such petition circulated the Internet in the summer of 1996. Originated by an individual with an account at the University of North Colorado, the petition is an effort to retain appropriations for public broadcasting and the arts.
Subject: Save PBS Funding Sesame Street (fwd)

PETITION INFORMATION - INSTRUCTIONS: ____________________________________ This is a petition to save Sesame Street. All you do is add your name on the list and then forward it to everyone you know. The only time you send it to the included address is if you are the 50th, 100th, etc. Send it on to everyone you know. PBS, NPR (National Public Radio), and the arts are facing major cutbacks in funding. In spite of the efforts of each station to reduce spending costs and streamline their services, the officials believe that the funding currently going to these programs is too large a portion of funding for something which is seen as “unworthwhile.” Currently, taxes from the general public for PBS equal $1.12 per person per year, and the National Endowment for the Arts equals $.64 a year in total. A January 1995 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll indicated that 76% of Americans wish to keep funding for PBS, third only to national defense and law enforcement as the most valuable programs for federal funding. Each year, the Senate and House Appropriations commitees [sic] each have 13 subcommitees with jurisdiction over many programs and agencies. Each subcommitee passes its own appropriation bill. The goal each year is to have each bill signed by the beginning of the fiscal year, which is October 1). In the instance of the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, the bill determines the funding for the next three years. When this issue comes up in 1996, the funding will be determined for fiscal years 1996-1998. The only way that our representatives can be aware of the base of support for PBS and funding for these types of programs is by making our voices heard. Please add your name to this list if you believe in what we stand for. This list will be forwarded to the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, and Representative Newt Gingrich, who is the instigator of the action to cut funding to these worthwhile programs.

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If you happen to be the 50th, 100th, 150th, etc. signer of this petition, please forward to: kubi7975@blue.univnorthco.edu. This way we can keep track of the lists and organize them. Forward this to everyone you know, and help us to keep these programs alive. Thank you. ----------------------------------------ADD YOUR NAME BELOW: 1) Elizabeth Weinert, student, University of Northern Colorado, Colorado. 2) Nikki Marchman, student, University of Northern Colorado, Colorado. 3) Laura King, Salt Lake City, Utah 4) Mary Lambert, San Francisco, CA 5) Sam Tucker, Seattle, WA 6) Steve Mack, Seattle, WA 7) Stacy Shelley, Sub Pop Records, Seattle, WA. 8) Amy Saaed, Seattle, WA 9) Jill Hudgins, Atlanta, GA 10) Alex Goolsby, student, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY 11) Aisha K. McGriff, North Carolina School of Science and Math 12) Amy Brushwood, North Carolina School of Science and Math 13) Mason Blackwell, student The College of William and Mary 14) Melinda Murphy, student, St. Mary’s College of Maryland 15) Amy Raphael, student, University of Pennsylvania 16) Nancy Adleman, student, Stanford University 17) Paul Bodnar, student, Stanford University 18) Kunal Bajaj, student, University of Pennsylvania 19) Sharon Seltzer, student, University of Pennsylvania 20) Sugirtha Vivekananthan, student, University of Pennsylvania 21) Ann Wang, student, University of Pennsylvania 22) Seth Resler, student, Brown University 23) Leslie Ching, student, Brown University 24) Sylvia Barbut, student, Carnegie Mellon University 25) Karri Plotkin, student, Carnegie Mellon University 26) Kamilla Chaudh, student, Emory University 27) Jon Gordon,student,Princeton University 28) Nadine Knight, student, Princeton University 27) Erica Amianda, student, Johns Hopkins University 30) Rachel Pletcher, student, Johns Hopkins University 31) Janet Aardema, student, Davidson College 32) Kelly Kiefer, student, Davidson College

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33) 34) 35) 36) 37) 38) 39) 40) ... 162)

Jane Ruschky, student, Davidson College Courtney Pace, student, Davidson College Allison Patten, student, Northwestern University Chad Ballentine, student, Franklin Road Academy Allison Patten, student, Northwestern University Rachel Allen, student, Rhodes College Mary Rose Herbert, student, Guilford College Christie Todd, student, Rhodes College Bill Kanzer, Lincoln, MA

All but one of the 162 signators gave sufficient information to locate their city and state. Some signators listed their actual city and state, while others listed their organizational affiliation which in all but one case was sufficient to locate the signator geographically. To ensure comparability, this signature was removed from the sample, yielding a sample size of 161 signatures.

6.2

Propagation The Internet facilitates the propagation of information to the extent that it follows

the optimal structure for distributing information. The optimal structure for distributing information is a combination of interlocking and radial personal networks. Interlocking personal networks consist of strong ties in which individuals’ communication partners also communicate with each other. Radial personal networks consist of weak ties in which individuals’ communication partners do not communicate with each other. Personal and broadcast networks are inefficient for propagating information through this optimal structure. Personal networks are time-consuming because of their one-to-one nature, while broadcast networks are expensive because of the capital investment involved in establishing the network.

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Rogers and Rogers’ (1976) depiction of the differences between interlocking and radial networks is reproduced in Figure 17 below. Individuals A, B, and C have personal ties with the sender who is indicated by an asterisk. In the interlocking network, A, B, and C communicate with each other, indicating strong ties. In the radial network, they do not communicate with each other, indicating weak ties. Figure 17: Interlocking and Radial Personal Networks

Radial networks have the advantage of distributing information more widely than interlocking networks. Interlocking networks direct the flow of information inward. Radial networks direct the flow outward. There is not much new information coming into an interlocking personal network; it needs some nonmutual communication flows to give it more openness. ... a new idea is communicated to a larger number of individuals, and traverses a greater social distance, when passed through weak sociometric ties (in radial personal networks) rather than strong ones (in interlocking personal networks). There is little informational strength, then, in interlocking personal networks. “Weak ties” enable innovations to flow from clique to clique via liaisons and bridges (Rogers and Rogers 1976:114). Because of their insularity, very little information moves into or out of interlocking networks. In contrast, radial networks are highly effective at bringing new information into the network and distributing it to other individuals. Interlocking networks have the

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advantage of moving information very quickly within networks. The source of this advantage is the overlapping nature of strong tie relationships. In Figure 17 above, individual C can receive a message directly from the sender (*) or indirectly from A or B. The optimal structure for information distribution is therefore a combination of interlocking and radial networks, as depicted in Figure 18. This optimal structure combines the distributive capacity of radial, weak-tie networks with the speed of interlocking, strong-tie networks. In this optimal structure, information moves quickly within the interlocking networks and then jumps to other interlocking networks across weak ties. This structure can be described as a radial network of interlocking cliques and is depicted in Figure 18 below. Figure 18: Radial Network of Interlocking Cliques

Does the Internet match the optimal structure for propagation more closely than personal or broadcast media? Three factors suggest that it does. First, computer networking expands individuals’ personal communication networks and the number of weak tie relationships than can be maintained simultaneously. The ease and low-cost of network communication enables individuals to maintain relationships with a larger number of people than with other media.

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The number of persons an individual can maintain active and close communications with on a [computer conferencing system] is between three and ten times that possible with current communications technology (Hiltz and Turoff 1993). Organizational studies have found that employees using computer networks increase the number of their personal connections, making contacts with new people and new groups within the organization (Sproull and Kiesler 1991). Second, the strength of a tie is related to the distance between the individuals. Geographic proximity promotes strong ties, while geographic separation promotes weak ties. Two individuals are more likely have a strong tie if they live in the same geographic area since their friends are more likely to know each other. Alternatively, they are more likely to have a weak tie if they live apart, since there is a lower chance that their friends will know each other. The Internet tends to collapse space and reduce apparent distance (Meyrowitz 1985). Information can be transmitted to the other side of the globe as quickly, accurately, and cheaply as to the office next door. The relative cost of communicating with geographically distant parties is lower on the Internet than with other media. The third factor is the ability to redistribute information quickly and easily on the Internet. Digital information such as an electronic mail message or sound file can be copied and redistributed more easily and accurately than analog information such as a newspaper article or radio broadcast. Since there is no degradation or loss of information as it is passed along, e-mail chains of virtually infinite length can be created. A message can be passed along thousands of times and returned to the original sender in exactly the

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same condition as when it was sent. The old parlor game of telephone poses no challenge on the Internet. Combining these three factors, we conclude that the Internet most closely approximates the optimal propagation pattern. Using the Internet, individuals can maintain weak-tie relationships with individuals participating in interlocking cliques in other geographic areas. E-mail messages can be sent easily to these individuals, who can distribute them in their own interlocking networks without loss of information. Members of these interlocking networks can then forward messages along weak ties to interlocking cliques in other areas. In contrast, personal media are limited by the expense of distance communication and the cost of replicating messages, while broadcast media are expense for the sender and do not allow for interactivity. We therefore expect an increase in the propagation of information on the Internet. Does the propagation of the PBS funding petition follow the distributionally superior radial pattern of interlocking cliques? If so, two criteria must be met. First, the petition needs to be passed between individuals who are members of personal networks. Second, the pattern must be a combination of both interlocking and radial networks. The literature on political recruitment suggests that petitions are typically passed between members of personal networks. It is widely agreed that participants in social movement organizations are usually recruited through preexisting social ties and that mobilization is more likely when the members of the beneficiary population are linked by social ties than when they are not. Marwell, et. al. 1988)

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At least one-third of all political activity occurs through personal recruitment (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995). Of this, half come from direct personal connections, with the majority of the rest coming from secondary connections in which the recruiter and the recruited share a personal connection. According to another study, as much as 63% of political activists are recruited through social networks, 30% through the mass media, and 7% through public places (Marwell et. al. 1988). Requests from members of social networks are more effective than requests from strangers, so the very fact that an individual responded to the petition suggests that there was a personal connection. Citizens who receive a request from a personal contact such as a friend, relative, neighbor, or acquaintance are more than twice as likely to agree to the request than those who receive a request from a stranger (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, 1995:142). The greater effectiveness of recruitment through social networks has been credited to the fact that “contact through social networks adds the power of social expectations to the message of mobilization.” With people they know, citizens feel a greater sense of obligation, have greater trust in the accuracy of the information being presented, and are more likely to “lose face” if they fail to follow through (Snow, et. al. 1980). “People rarely act on mass-media information unless it is also transmitted through personal ties” (Granovetter 1973:1374). Since each signator was not interviewed directly, the presence of a weak tie vs. a strong tie was inferred from the data. Since there is a strong connection between geographic proximity and interlocking networks, signators who live in the same city or are affiliated with the same organization are assumed to have strong ties and be members of the same interlocking clique. For example, signatures 18-21 in the petition are all

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from the University of Pennsylvania. All students and professors at the university are assumed to be members of an interlocking network and have strong ties with each other. Relationships between students or professors at different schools are assumed to be weak ties because their friends are much less likely to know each other than if they were in the same organization or city. For example, in signatures 21-23, Ann Wang at the University of Pennsylvania is assumed to have a weak tie with Seth Resler at Brown University who is assumed to have a strong tie with fellow Brown student Leslie Ching.
17) 18) 19) 20) 21) 22) 23) Paul Bodnar, student, Stanford University Kunal Bajaj, student, University of Pennsylvania Sharon Seltzer, student, University of Pennsylvania Sugirtha Vivekananthan, student, Univ. of Pennsylvania Ann Wang, student, University of Pennsylvania Seth Resler, student, Brown University Leslie Ching, student, Brown University

It is worth noting that the strength of the ties is overstated by assuming all residents of a city or members of an organization have strong ties. Even though they are socially proximate, most city residents and organizational members do not know each other directly. This bias tends to understate the propagation capacity of the network since the share of weak ties is positively correlated with propagation. The analysis is therefore subject to false rejection of the hypothesis more than false acceptance. The propagation hypothesis is tested by tracking the path of the petition. The hypothesis is upheld if there is a combination, radial pattern of interlocking cliques. The hypothesis is rejected if we find either a purely radial or interlocking pattern. We also reject the hypothesis if the path of the petition is restricted to a limited geographic area. The path of the petition is given in Figure 19 below.

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Figure 19: Path of Online Petition

The path is traced by a line connecting the cities in the order that they received the petition. Movement within a city is indicated by a bubble sized according to the number of signatures in ttrable he city during that stop along the path. For example, the large bubble in the San Francisco area indicates a stop of eight intra-city links. This means that the petition entered the San Francisco area from another city and was passed around by eight San Francisco residents before being sent on to another city. As indicated in Table 11, 18% of the links had no additional stops in a city; in other words, signators received the petition from one city and passed it immediately along to a different city. Eighty-two percent of the signators received the petition from or

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passed it along to someone in their city. The largest intra-city chain was thirteen links in Los Angeles. On average, each city had 2.4 signatures. Table 11: Intra-City Distribution
Length of Stop 1 2 3 4 5 6 8 13 Total # of Cities 29 21 4 5 3 1 3 1 67 Share of Cities 43.3% 31.3 6.0 7.5 4.5 1.5 4.5 1.5 100.0 # of Signatures 29 42 12 20 15 6 24 13 161 Share of Signatures 18.0% 26.1 7.5 12.4 9.3 3.7 14.9 8.1 100.0

The results of the path analysis are consistent with the hypothesis of a geographically-dispersed radial network of interlocking cliques. Interlocking networks are indicated by the frequency with which signators sent the petition to someone in their own city. Radial networks are indicated by the frequency with which signators sent the petition to someone in another city. The petition was sent to someone in one’s own city 58% of the time; to someone in another city 42% of the time. The path is therefore a combination of both strong ties and weak ties, indicating a radial network of interlocking cliques. Visual inspection of the map reveals the geographic dispersion. The petition crossed back and forth between the coasts as frequently as it stayed within a geographic region. The path of the petition therefore appears to be driven by the relationships of the signators more than the cost of the communication, as we would expect on the Internet.

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Further evidence for the radial nature of the network is apparent by comparing this version of the petition (petition A) with a second version (petition B) that also circulated on the Internet. The signatures on the second petition (http://www.cs.unca.edu/lists/ faboo/0047.html) are identical to the first up to signature number 24, at which point the signature pattern diverges. An excerpt from petition B follows:
Petition A ... 22) 23) 24) Seth Resler, Brown Leslie Ching, Brown Sylvia Barbut, Carnegie Mellon Karri Plotkin, Carnegie Mellon Kamilla Chaudh, Emory Jon Gordon, Princeton Nadine Knight, Princeton Erica Amianda, Johns Hopkins Rachel Pletcher, Johns Hopkins ... 22) 23) 24) Petition B Seth Resler, Brown Leslie Ching, Brown Sylvia Barbut, Carnegie Mellon Douglas Bramel, Carnegie Mellon Christopher Gaunt, Georgetown Sarah Battersby, U of Washington Candice Mack, UC Riverside Carmen Cheung, Harvard Irene Chen, Harvard

25) 26) 27) 28) 29) 30) ...

25) 26) 27) 28) 29) 30) ...

Comparing the paths of the two petitions reveals that Sylvia Barbut sent the petition to at least two fellow students at Carnegie-Mellon: Douglas Bramel and Karri Plotkin. Sylvia Barbut appears on both petitions, while Douglas Bramel appears only on Petition B and Karri Plotkin only on Petition A. Douglas Bramel sent the petition on to Christopher Gaunt at Georgetown University, and Karri Plotkin sent the petition along to Kamilla Chaudh at Emory University. Since they all attend the same university, Sylvia Barbut, Douglas Bramel and Karri Plotkin are assumed to share strong ties and be part of

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an interlocking network. Since Douglas Bramel and Christopher Gaunt as well as Karri Plotkin and Kamilla Chaudh are in different cities, they are assumed to be weak ties and part of a radial network. A diagram of this pattern appears in Figure 20. Figure 20: Combination of Interlocking and Radial Network

6.3

Resource Bias The distribution of petition signatures sheds some light on a second hypothesis of

the Netcast structure. Recall that we have hypothesized a resource bias among Internet users active in political communication. The online petition reflects this resource bias. Citizens possessing greater resources for Internet usage are more likely to use the Internet for political communication. The first observation is the prevalence of students among petition signators. Many signators listed their educational affiliation along with their signature. From these listings, the following affiliational distribution was determined.

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Table 12: Educational Affiliation of Signators
Affiliation High school University Private Number 5 97 59 Percentage 3% 60 37

College students typically have subsidized Internet access through their universities, and therefore greater resources. The availability of Internet access also appears to have an effect. The distribution of signatures closely matches the distribution of Internet access. According to a study by Moss and Townsend (1996: http://www.nyu.edu/urban/research/internet/internet.html), half of all Internet hosts are in five states: Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Texas, and California. As Table 13 indicates, there is a high degree of overlap between Internet hosts and petition signators. Pennsylvania and North Carolina are in the top 21 states in Internet hosts, which comprise 90% of all hosts in the U.S. There is also a high degree of correlation at the city level between cities with a high proportion of hosts and of signators. Table 13: Geographic Distribution of Signators
State California Texas Pennsylvania New York North Carolina Massachusetts Top 6 States Total in U.S. # of Signators 32 19 18 13 11 11 104 150 % of Signators 21.3% 12.7 12.0 8.7 7.3 7.3 76.0 100.0

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The correlation between Internet hosts and petition signatures suggests that Internet access is an important contributor to the flow of political information on the Internet. Areas with a high degree of Internet access, primarily educational and technology centers, are more likely to receive political information through the Internet. This evidence is supportive of the hypothesis that resources affect the flow of information, a topic addressed in more detail in Chapter 9.

6.4

Summary An analysis of online petitions supports the hypothesis that the Internet facilitates

the propagation of political information. Propagation is inhibited by the interlocking networks of strong ties in which most citizens take part. Without weak ties bridging these networks, information remains within isolated cliques. With personal and broadcast media, propagation is inhibited by degradation of message content or the expense of duplication and transmission. The Internet facilitates propagation by enhancing individuals’ ability to maintain weak ties, particularly with individuals distant geographically, improving communication within interlocking networks, and enabling inexpensive communication chains of unlimited length with no degradation of message content. The result is a combination of radial and interlocking networks that approximates an optimal structure for the propagation of information through social networks.

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7 World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is a particularly versatile medium. Communication on the Web can be both synchronous or asynchronous, and one-to-one, one-to-many or manyto-many. The Web can transmit video, text, audio, and images alone or in combination. Hyperlinking enables Web users to jump instantly from one place on the Web to another according to connections suggested by another user. We would expect these unique properties to affect the flow of political information through (2) disintermediation, (10) narrowcasting, and (7) integration with other media, producing (6) an overall increase in the volume of information. Disintermediation would be expected from the low-cost broadcasting and search capabilities of the Web; narrowcasting would be expected from the ability to customize a Web document according to viewers’ interests and mental processes; and integration would be expected from the Web’s multi-media capabilities. Case studies of the Republican National Convention, press coverage, and campaignrelated Web sites in the 1996 Presidential election support these hypotheses. The case studies presented in this chapter fill in many of the links hypothesized by the Netcast structure. As shown in Figure 21, the links connecting political organizations and the press to each other and to the public are well represented on the Web. (The numbers in the figure designate specific links referred to later in the text.)

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Figure 21: World Wide Web and the Netcast Structure

7.1

Disintermediation One of the most important features of the Web is its capacity for low-cost

publishing. Individuals and organizations can make information available to anyone with an Internet connection and a Web browser. The user need only type in a URL address and be connected instantly to the distributor’s Web site. This site can include text, graphics, video, database search engines, services, chat rooms, and numerous other services. This direct connection between suppliers and consumers of information suggests that traditional intermediaries will be bypassed. If this hypothesis is upheld, we would expect political actors to create Web sites and post information typically transmitted to other political actors via the press or other intermediaries. We would also

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expect political actors to retrieve information from these Web sites that would typically be obtained from other broadcast intermediaries.

7.2

Narrowcasting Narrowcasting is the targeted delivery of information to a group expected to be

receptive to the information. In broadcasting, a message is delivered to a large group of people, only some of whom are expected to have an interest. Network television advertising is an example of broadcasting since only a fraction of the viewers of any given show are likely to have an interest in the product being advertised. The Web allows for narrowcasting because of its capabilities for interactive communication and automated information processing. In the case of broadcast media, the sender does not know who is receiving the broadcast, nor can the broadcast be customized for that particular receiver. On the Web, interactivity allows the sender to know who is viewing the Web page and automation allows the sender to customize the delivery of that information to the specific needs or interests of the receiver. The Web therefore supports customized delivery of information, or narrowcasting. Customized delivery of information is important for political behavior because of the way in which people process information. Whereas the Web makes narrowcasting possible, citizens’ mental processes make it desirable. Cognitive psychologists have found that people process information schematically (Fiske and Taylor 1984, Sniderman, Brody, and Tetlock 1991). Schema are abstractions in which people store knowledge to simplify perception and information-processing. The abstractions aid in interpreting new information by providing default values. A schema for a Republican, for example, might

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include default values of pro-life and pro-defense policy positions and wealthier, older demographics. People differ in the sophistication of their schemata (Lau and Sears 1986). Experts have sophisticated schemata; novices less so. A political expert, for example, might distinguish between moral and fiscal conservatives, while a novice might not have that distinction. Research indicates that experts process information differently than novices. Novices are more mechanical and more subject to misperception than experts (Lau and Erber 1985). People organize their information and knowledge about their environments differently. As a result, their schemata differ, even about the same subjects. In the arena of politics, citizens have been found to organize their political information into partisan, ideological, class, and racial schemata (Hamill and Lodge 1986). Some individuals are predominantly ideological in their schemata. They see the world along ideological lines. Others are class oriented, seeing the world as groups in conflict. Other studies have found citizens’ schemata to differ over political issues (Sears and Citrin 1985) and news (Graber 1988). Schemata are particularly relevant to campaigning. Conover and Feldman (1986) find that voters infer candidates’ positions from three schematic categories: party, ideology, and self-schemata. Lau (1986) find four categories: issues, group relations, party affiliation, and personality. Lau also finds that schematic sophistication affects voter behavior. The presence of an issue, group or party schema, indicating some degree of knowledge about that topic, doubles the impact of new information relevant to the

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voter’s evaluation of a candidate along that dimension. For example, information about a candidate’s position on an issue will have double the impact on a voter who is issueschematic than one who views the political world along group or party lines. By virtue of the Web’s capacity for narrowcasting and the advantages of schematic information processing, we would expect Web sites to be organized so that citizens can retrieve information according to their interests. For example, since some voters process campaign information according to candidates positions on issues, while other emphasize group endorsements or the candidate’s personality, we would expect Web sites to give users a choice among these dimensions.

7.3

Media Integration The Web’s capacity for digital, multi-media communication suggests the

integration and convergence of personal, broadcast, and network media. Audio recordings typically broadcast over radio, video transmissions broadcast over television, and text published in print can all be delivered over the Web for asynchronous retrieval. If the hypothesis of media integration is true, we would expect content typically reserved for personal or broadcast media to be converted into digital format and either posted on Web sites either for simultaneous broadcast or archived retrieval. Together with disintermediation, we would expect media integration to promote a shift in the role of the press from an information gatekeeper to an information broker. As individuals and organizations develop the capacity to publish their own information and as the Web integrates with personal and broadcast media for the delivery of information,

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the public may turn to the press not as a source of information, but as a guide. The need for a guide becomes apparent when one considers the millions of individuals and organizations who now have the capacity to be their own publishers. If the shift to a brokering role is true, we would expect to see media companies partnering with other companies for the delivery of information, repackaging other providers’ content, and emphasizing their ability to connect readers with the best content. (This shift might lead the New York Times to change its slogan someday from “All the News That’s Fit to Print” to “All the News That Fits Your Interests.”)

7.4

Case Study: Republican National Convention The presence of the 1996 Republican National Convention on the Web supports

the hypothesized effects of disintermediation and media integration. The Republican Party and other political organizations were able to broadcast news and events associated with the convention directly to the public. Left without exclusive coverage of the convention, the press partnered with other content providers and served a brokering role, repackaging other content and facilitating the sharing of information among interested citizens. As background, the 1996 Republican National Convention took place in San Diego, California from Monday, August 12th through Thursday, August 15th. The convention had its own Web page featuring official press releases, an online version of Rising Tide, the official magazine of the Republican party, a copy of the Republican Party Platform, and biographies of the convention speakers. Approximately 700,000

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people visited the site each day of the convention (http://www.att.com/press/0896/ 960822.bsa.html). The convention site was used to connect Web users directly with activity on the convention floor. The convention organizers arranged for “spotters armed with cellular phones [to] look for newsmakers, dial a special number, and have them record a message on the spot.” These messages were then posted on the Web site as sound files, retrievable by any visitor. Individuals who recorded messages included Former Gov. John Sununu, Mary Matalin, Sen. Trent Lott (MS-R), Jim Leach (IA-R), Gov. George Allen (VA-R), and Amy Allen, a young voter. In this way, personal media between the press and officials indicated by the symbol (6) in Figure 21 above, was integrated with network media broadcasts to organizations, indicated by the symbol (7), and the public, indicated by the symbol (2). During the convention, live audio and video was also available through the Net. Transcripts of speeches were posted on the site the same day as their delivery and remained available to Web users after the convention had finished. This direct broadcast enabled the RNC to bypass the press as an intermediary and deliver the convention content directly to citizens and other organizations. Chat rooms were held to let citizens ask questions of notable officials at the convention. Web users could view the questions and responses live during the chat room or afterwards in posted transcripts (http://bronze.rnc.org/convention96/allchat.htm). The respondents during one session included Virginia Governor George Allen, Ohio Congressman John Boehner, Missouri Senator Kit Bond, Former Delaware Governor Pete DuPont, Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords, California Secretary of State Bill Jones, New York Rep. Sue Kelly, Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, Florida Senator Connie Mack,

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General Colin Powell, and Missouri Senator John Ashcroft. Each answered a few questions. An excerpt of the transcript follows:
General Colin Powell and Missouri Senator John Ashcroft Gen Powell: Hi, I’m General Colin Powell. Who is out there?

Sen Ashcroft: It is a real pleasure and honor for me to have the opportunity to join General Powell tonight. What a great inspirational speech. TPearson: Hi Sen. Ashcroft, I’m a constituent from Southwest Missouri. Carterville to be precise. What are the chances of a filibuster-proof republican majority in the Senate in ‘97? Pilgrim: Good evening General. Your speach was well recieved by the nation. I realize it is early in the game, but have you at all considered the year 2000 presidential race? Sen Ashcroft: I think that the energy of the convention is going to greatly enhance the chance of candidates for the house and senaate. It would however be a real stretch to think that we would break over the 60 member mark. Gen Powell: I don’t know yet. I am enjoying private life and believe the decision my family and I made last year to not enter politics at that time was the right one. But in a country as wonderful and full of opportunity as ours, you never know what the future holds. For now I will continue to concentrate on charitable and educational activities as a way to continue serving the country. Carrie: General Powell and Senator Ashcroft...What do you each think of Jack Kemp being picked for the VP spot? General Powell and Senator Ashcroft had another commitment and had to leave the chat room... Thanks.

The connections between the Republican Party, a political organization, and both activist and attentive members of the public are indicated by the symbol (1) in Figure 21. The connections between government officials and members of the public are indicated by the symbol (5).

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The Web site for Children’s Express (http://www.ce.org/topnews/conven.htm), exemplifies how groups typically excluded from broadcast media associated themselves with the convention and made their information available to a wide audience, represented by the symbol (1) in Figure 21. Children’s Express is a national nonprofit youth leadership organization whose mission is “to give children a significant voice in the world.” Using the World Wide Web, the children involved with Children’s Express posted their campaign articles for retrieval by the public. In one article, posted during the convention and cross-linked with the AllPolitics site (see below), children between the ages of 11 and 15 interviewed San Diego Mayor Susan Golding. Family Research Council (FRC) posted press releases about the convention and transcripts and sound files of director Gary Bauer’s radio appearances during the convention (http://www.townhall.com/townhall/FRC/convent/). These commentaries were hosted by the Town Hall site, a joint site for 25 conservative organizations including National Review, Americans for a Balanced Budget, and the Heritage Foundation. Town Hall also hosts regular online “town halls” on CompuServe in which a few hundred audience members can ask questions and listen to notable political figures. Also on the town hall site, Media Research Council posted their Media Reality Check ‘96 bulletins each day to expose the “liberal bias” in the traditional media. The Democratic Party used the World Wide Web to respond to the Republican convention. The San Diego Democratic Party posted a schedule of events taking place in the Free Speech Area directly across from the convention to facilitate protests and demonstrations (http://www.netgaincc.com/sddemocrats/gopresp.html). The national

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Democratic Party posted press releases arguing that the Republican platform is extremist and reflect Pat Buchanan’s influence. AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is a 55,000 member advocacy group working on behalf of Israeli interests. AIPAC’s Web site served as a central resource for the pro-Israel community to follow convention events related to Israel. The AIPAC site featured live video of AIPAC events at the convention, background on Israeli-related planks in the Republican platform, and a transcript of AIPAC’s testimony to the Republican Platform committee. Interestingly, AIPAC advertised on the PoliticsNow site. The League of Women Voters used the MSNBC Web site to make information available to voters with the intention of improving their insight into the political process and their vote choice (http://www.msnbc.com/specials/decision96/vote/spin.asp). Documents available online included lessons in “deciphering campaign-speak” and “spin-doctoring,” how to evaluate a campaign debate, interpreting political advertisements, analyzing political surveys, and a guide to ballot referenda. The League of Women Voters’ section of the MSNBC site allowed feedback from visitors through a Web page that would send email to the League. The page also provided a link to the Rock the Vote/NetVote ‘96 site where visitors could register to vote online (http://netvote96.mci.com/register.html). Because of the Motor Voter Bill, there is a standard voter registration form that can be used in all states. Visitors to the site complete the form online, and submit it by clicking on the “submit” button. Within three weeks they receive a voter registration application card in the mail which they sign and mail. The card is pre-addressed and includes the necessary postage.

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The AllPolitics site, a collaboration of CNN and Time at http://www.allpolitics.com/, demonstrates the integration of media and the ways in which the press is serving as a broker rather than a gatekeeper (indicated by (2) in Figure 21 above). First, the CNN and Time partnership brings television and print media together in the online arena. Second, the collaboration is far more interactive and personal than television or print. CNN and Time journalists broadcast personal stories directly from the floor of the convention. The stories were composed at the convention, then sent via electronic mail to AllPolitics, which posted the messages onto their Web site for viewing by the public. Messages posted by Ed Turner, a reporter with CNN, are noteworthy for their frank and unedited tone. “Convention Day One and life in the anchor booth varies little convention to convention. We are on the first floor, directly under the anchor stars, and it is here we slant and distort the news.” Another message of Turner’s, titled “How Scoops Happen: Word Gets Out Because People Talk,” described the announcement of Jack Kemp as a Vice Presidential candidate and revealed the process by which journalists find out news before it is announced publicly. Citizens were able to provide some input into the press’s coverage of the convention through electronic mail. CNN correspondents answered questions submitted by visitors to the AllPolitics site periodically during the convention. There was also a connection between the Web site and the television coverage of the convention. Questions submitted by e-mail were posed to guests on the television show Crossfire during the convention. This flow between broadcast and network media is indicated by the symbol (3) in Figure 21.

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Other material on the AllPolitics site included convention schedules, campaign and election calendars, a history of the abortion issue in GOP platforms since 1976, a history of the Republican conventions and the Republican party, past Republican platforms, rules of the convention, state election data and delegation profiles, candidate profiles, and video excerpts of major speeches in previous conventions. The AllPolitics site also enabled a direct connection between delegates, members of the activist public, and site users, most of whom are members of the attentive public. Delegates to the convention were invited to submit “delegate diaries” on their thoughts during the convention. The entries were posted each night on the Web site for anyone to view. The diarists included Joan Haegerty, a leader of the California Federation of Republican Women, and Gary Risley, a lawyer for a regional airline in New Mexico. This connection between attentive and activist publics is indicated by the symbol (4) in Figure 21. The diary entries provided a personal account of the convention: One of the most exciting experiences that I have had so far was the ride down from Oakland to San Diego on the ‘Victory Express.’ Amtrak put together a train of all their dome cars and the last car was an old-fashioned political car with a platform on the back. The entries also provided an insight into areas of the convention to which most people do not have access and which are often not covered by the press. Gary Risley wrote about discussions involving the writing of the Republican platform: The topic at the dinner quickly turned to the tolerance plank. Rep. Hyde was surprised to hear that there was strong opposition to two portions of the paragraph: the laundry list of issues characterized as a source of Republican disagreement, and the language that “tolerance is a virtue.”

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Out of respect for the privacy of those involved, I will simply state that Mr. Hyde clearly got the message that no one in that room liked those particular phrases. Several did not want a tolerance plank at all, but the large majority of us were willing to tolerate a modified tolerance plank. The clear, unequivocal word was: The laundry list and tolerance phrase must go! This position would make Monday very interesting. This direct connection between delegates and the public is a new feature in the political system. For most of the public, delegates are nameless and faceless, individuating only when a reporter or journalist takes a minute to get a quote or a soundbite. Rarely does a delegate have an opportunity to present a full picture of their experience at the convention while it is still going on. Citizens had an opportunity to ask questions and discuss issues with members of the convention through chat groups. AllPolitics established nightly chat groups open to anyone with the appropriate chat software. The perception by the RNC that the Web is a way of reaching youth is suggested by the choice of Rachel Campos, GOP youth spokesperson, as the first guest in the chat room. The convention site also featured a prominent section for young voters. PoliticsNow is a collaboration of ABC News, the Washington Post, National Journal, Newsweek, the L.A. Times, and the Associated Press. The PoliticsNow site included articles about events away from the podium, audio and video excerpts from the best speeches in past conventions, gossip from the George magazine party at the San Diego zoo, spoof awards for network coverage of the convention, latest poll results with analysis, and free issues of HOTLINE, the political newsletter.

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MSNBC provided similar features connecting convention attendees with the public and allowing citizens to provide feedback about issues that interest them. The MSNBC site had delegate diaries from five delegates and a feature called “Vox Box” in which citizens could post responses to over fifty questions offered by MSNBC. To the question, “Is Dole trying to have it both ways on abortion?” Mathew Embury remarked I find it pathetic that NBC news asks such a question when the candidate that has clearly earned the title of “wanting both ways” is the one that told Americans he supports Tommy Thompson’s Wisconsin Welfare reform plan, family values, tax cuts, public school testing for teachers, and many other core ideas commonly associated with Republican issues. As a matter of fact Bill Clinton was against most of these ideas during his first two years in office. The only truth here is the typical preference given to the president by his willing accomplices at NBC news. MSNBC ran chat rooms with guests including Bill Pascoe, political director of the American Conservative Union, Michael Boskin, former Bush economic advisor, Republican Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa, and James Baker, former secretary of state. These direction connections between citizens and government officials is indicated by the symbol (3) in Figure 21. The MSNBC schedule of convention events also included hyperlinks to biographical profiles, speech transcripts, and audio clips for many of the speakers. A transcript and audio clips from former President George Bush’s speech was available on the MSNBC Web site the morning after its delivery at the convention. Pointers to the Web site from NBC television broadcasts integrated broadcast and network media, represented by the symbol (3) in Figure 21. The integration of broadcast and network media is apparent in the Web sites of NPR, PBS, C-Span, and MSNBC. MSNBC and AllPolitics featured many articles from their own news rooms as well as the Associated Press. NPR (http://www.npr.org/

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hotnews/convention.html), PBS (http://www1.pbs.org/newshour/convention96/), and CSpan featured schedules of their television and radio coverage of the convention. PBS arranged for 60 delegates to provide feedback on the convention. Questions submitted by visitors to the site were screened and given to eight delegates to answer as part of a delegate forum. The delegates were able to answer the questions on laptops set up at the convention by PBS. Other delegates contributed “Letters from Home” to the PBS Web site on their reactions and experiences at the convention. These features supplemented transcripts of PBS NewsHour stories on the election and historical transcripts of stories on Bob Dole from earlier campaigns. CBS News (http://www.cbsnews/campaign96/) provided live video, audio, and text coverage of the convention. The text coverage was a live real-time transcript of the convention as it occurred. Brief articles drawn from CBS News reports about the convention supplemented the live coverage. C-Span (http://www.c-span.com/) featured a direct hookup between the Web and their television broadcast so that visitors with the appropriate software could listen to the audio in real-time and obtain still video images of the television coverage every few seconds. C-Span also gave their crew a digital camera to document the setup involved in covering the convention. They then posted their pictures and writings on the C-Span site, giving the public an unusual behind-the-scenes look at the convention. NPR featured transcripts and sound files of their coverage for anyone who missed the broadcast. The San Diego Daily Transcript site (http://www.sddt.com/features/convention/), the New York Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today all included coverage of the convention on the Web sites to supplement their newspaper coverage.

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Alternative media used the Web to reach citizens typically beyond their reach. The San Diego Reader is the third largest alternative paper in the country, with a circulation of 158,000. Their Web site makes articles available to the rest of the world who otherwise would have very limited access to the paper. The paper’s Web site included a complete listing of protests, demonstrations, and political events happening around San Diego. It also included online versions of the investigative reporting about the convention. A representative article by Thomas K. Arnold covered the influx of gay and lesbian rights groups into San Diego to protest the convention and the cost to the city of providing policy coverage (http://www.sdscoop.com/~crowe/queer.html). A Web site called Source.Net covered much of the insider gossip circulating in San Diego and the convention center. The sponsorship of chat rooms and similar forums by the press at the convention exemplifies the expansion of the press’s role as information gatekeepers to information brokers. Like talk-radio and call-in television talk-shows, the chat rooms connect citizens directly with organizational and government officials. In their traditional role, the press has served as gatekeepers, gathering, editing, and filtering information to be presented to the public. In this new role, the press serves as an information broker, connecting citizens with each other, with political actors, and with other sources of information. Overall, the coverage of the Republican National Convention illustrates many of the links predicted by the Netcast Model. Organizations were able to use the Web to reach citizens directly, leading the press to shift from a gatekeeping to a brokering role in covering the convention. Information moved between personal, broadcast, and network media through retransmission, pointers, and simulcasts. Citizens had access to an

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increased volume of convention-related information and direct connections with other citizens, with political organizations, and with government officials.

7.5

Case Study: Campaign ’96 On October 6, 1996 in Hartford, Connecticut, at the first 1996 Presidential debate,

Bob Dole made a historical announcement from the perspective of media history. His last remarks were: This is important business - this election is important. I ask for your support, I ask for your help. And if you really want to get involved, just tap into my home page at www.dolekemp96.org. Thank you and God bless America. [Sound file: http://www.dole96.com/ra/d1closing288.ram] Of special interest is Bob Dole’s phrasing in this remark. He did not say, “if you really want to get informed” or “if you really want to learn about why Bob Dole should be President.” He said, “if you really want to get involved.” Why would Bob Dole suggest that a Web site could have citizens get involved? Based on the interactive structure of the Dole Web site, the Dole campaign seems to believe that the answer lies in giving voters the ability to customize their experience according to their personal interests and preferred ways of processing information. The Dole site (http://www.dole96.com) was designed to target delivery of information according to individuals’ purposes in visiting the site. The Dole site’s welcome letter describes these features:

Dear Mark: Welcome to the Dole campaign’s on-line headquarters - the first individually-customized political Web site. In the

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past, visitors to a political Web site have had to dig through reams of documents and data to find the material that interests them. Dole ‘96 Online is the first political Web site to bring your personal information right up front. Your “In Box” contains all of the press releases and other campaign materials posted since your last visit. Your personal tool bar on the main screen puts your top issues and state information at your fingertips. And after you review my position papers, I’d appreciate it if you’d give me your feedback and let me know what you think. While you’re here, you should also check out our interactive section where you can: Take a trivia quiz or do a crossword puzzle, Design your own campaign poster or button, Send a customized e-mail postcard to a friend, or Download some campaign wallpaper. If you’d like to get more involved, you can sign up for the regular e-mail mailing list, join one of our coalitions, or copy a Dole for President icon that will link your Web site to ours. If you want to help out in a more active role, you can also sign up as a volunteer for the campaign. So feel free to look around and have a good time. I’m glad you’ve taken the time to visit, and I hope I can count on your support in November. Sincerely, Bob Dole

The customization feature of the Dole site is accomplished by an online form through which visitors indicate personal information and preferences. Visitors are required to submit their name, email address, and state of residence. They are also asked for their geographic address and telephone as optional submissions. Visitors are asked to check off which of twenty-five issues they are interested in. The issues are: Balanced Budget, Civil Rights, Congressional and Campaign Finance Reform, Crime, Disabilities, Drugs, Economy, Environment, Foreign Policy, Health Care, Immigration, Juvenile Crime, K-12 Education, Legal Reform, Missile Defense, Senior’s Issues, Small Business,

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Student Loans, Tax Cuts, Tax Reform, Technology and Internet Issues, Values, Veterans’ Issues, Welfare, and Women’s Issues. Visitors are also asked to check off which of 29 coalitions they are interested in joining. The coalitions are Americans with Disabilities, Arab Americans, Armenians, Asian Americans, African Americans, Catholics, Central/Eastern Europeans, College Students, Democrats, Doctors, Educators, Families, Greek Americans, Haitian Americans, High Tech/Information Technology, Hispanic Americans, Independent Business, Italian Americans, Lawyers, Native Americans, Overseas Voters, Police, Fire, and Public Safety Officers, Rural Americans, Russian Americans, Seniors, Sportsmen, Veterans, Women in Business, and Young Professionals. Finally, visitors are asked whether they would like to receive weekly e-mail updates and occasional information from the Dole campaign. The name, state, issues and coalition information entered on the customization form are used to create a personalized home page as indicated in the figure below. The issues and state selected on the customization form appear on the left side of the home page.

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Figure 22: Dole/Kemp *96 Home Page

Selecting one of the three issues takes the visitor directly to the page on the Web site devoted to that issue, bypassing two levels in the site hierarchy. The Economy page, for example, contains a position paper on the economy, the Dole/Kemp economic plan, and press releases, speeches, and background materials from the campaign related to the economy. A map of the Dole/Kemp web site is listed below. The Dole site is designed to deliver information to the visitor in a way that fits his or her own interests and information needs. Visitors who are person-schematic can go directly to information “About the Team” and learn about Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, and the members of their

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family. Visitors who are issue-schematic can go directly to “The Dole Agenda” and learn about Bob Dole’s positions on various issues, how they compare to Bill Clinton’s positions, and differences across states. Visitors interested in participating in the campaign can engage in low-level activities such as games and button-making in “Dole Interactive” or more intensive activities such as volunteering to be a campaign worker or contributor. Figure 23: Map of Dole/Kemp *96 Web Site

The Dole page is only a single example of the thousands of Web sites featuring this schematic structuring of information. Because of the hyperlinked nature of the Web, visitors to Web sites can select what type of information they want to view without “paging through” the site. Table of contents and indices in print publications perform a similar function. The division of a newspaper into national/international news, sports, local news, business, and lifestyle sections fits with the categories that most people use to think about news and information. The advantage of a Web site is the ability to customize the information presented to viewers, to make more information available at a

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time, and to deliver information that is more focused and targeted to users’ information needs and interests. A particularly noteworthy example is Thomas, one of the first Web servers to make government information available to the public online. The Library of Congress brought Thomas online in January of 1995 to make information about the House of Representatives and the Senate available to the public. As of October 1996 featured searchable databases of floor activities, bills, the Congressional Record, committee reports, House-related Web sites, historical documents, background on how bills are made, and links to other Internet resources. The Thomas server transmits about 100,000 Web pages per day (http://thomas.loc.gov/stats/wwwstat.lastmonth.html). It is not known how many Web pages are viewed by each user. It is known that the home page was accessed 210,694 times in September of 1996. Some users would certainly have accessed the home page more than once, but the figure does give a general indication of the popularity of the server. With Thomas, users are able to conduct text searches of all bills in the House and Senate according to their status on the floor. A search for bills containing the words “Internet” and “information” for which floor action has occurred retrieved 855 bills. The list of bills included the Internet Election Information Act of 1996, H.R. 3700, an act “to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to permit interactive computer services to provide their facilities free of charge to candidates for Federal offices for the purpose of disseminating campaign information and enhancing public debate,” and the Telecommunications Act of 1996, S. 652, an act

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to promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies. The 855 bills are listed by their short title and clicking on an individual title pulls up the full text of the bill. John Irons, a graduate student in economics at MIT, ran a Web site called the Election Calculator (http://www.mit.edu/people/irons/myjava/ecalc.html). Irons uses the econometric analyses of voting behavior by Fair (1992, 1996), Hibbs (1987), and Tufte (1982) to predict the outcome of the 1996 presidential race. Figure 24: Election Calculator

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The two-way flow of information available on the Web, combined with the ability to process the information that is being received and distributed, enables real-time analyses of this kind to be made available to citizens with Web access. The delivery of election results is a particularly good example of narrowcasting. Given the number of different elections and referenda being voted on in any given election, voters are often frustrated by an inability to get information about the election or referenda they most care about on election night. Broadcast media such as radio and television are restricted by their ability to only transmit one message to their audience at a time. The ability to narrowcast election results on the Web has been utilized by the Digital Equipment Corporation through their election results server [http://ca94.election.digital.com/]. In the 1994 California General Election, the server provided information on the candidates and propositions in the state elections and real-time results from the election. Graphical maps such as the one below displayed the results in a visual format typically unavailable to most citizens (http://ca94.election.digital.com/e/returns/map.prop187/page.100.html). Clicking on a particular county on the map displayed the results for that county in a numerical format. The graphical display of the results was important because it showed the low percentage of voters supporting the proposition in the Bay Area and the high percentage in areas away from the Bay.

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Figure 25: Web Server for California Election Returns

The InPulse service provided by Digital Equipment for the 1996 Presidential and Vice Presidential debates is an interesting example of media integration. Web users were able to register for the InPulse service prior or during the debates, answering a number of demographic questions about themselves. During the debate, users needed to have access to their Web browser and to the debate simultaneously, either watching it on television or listening over the radio or Internet. At any point during the debate, users were able to

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click on one of four buttons to register their immediate reaction to the debate, either strong approval, approval, disapproval, or strong disapproval. The day after the debate, results of the audience’s reaction were posted on the Web site. A variety of perspectives on the data were made available, including graphs of the audience voting over time, a debate transcript with audience reactions (shown below), preferences for the candidates before and after the debate, demographic information about the participants, and two-way data tabulations of the demographic information. Figure 26: InPulse Presidential Debate Thermometer

7.6

Summary The coverage of the Republican National Convention and the 1994 and 1996

Presidential elections support the hypothesized effects of (2) disintermediation, (7) media integration, and (10) narrowcasting in the Netcast structure. Disintermediation occurred as individuals, organizations, and the government used the Web to publish information for direct retrieval by citizens. Media integration occurred as television, print, and radio companies partnered for the repackaging of broadcast content, the facilitation of dialogue between citizens, and the brokering of other providers’ content. Campaign sites took advantage of automation and interactivity to create customizable web sites that delivered

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targeted information to voters according to their interests and mental models of the political arena. The overall effect was a substantial increase in the (6) volume of information available to citizens about the campaign.

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8 White House Electronic Documents
An original survey of White House electronic document users was conducted using email and the World Wide Web to evaluate seven of the hypothesized effects of the Internet on the flow of information. The results from the survey uphold the hypotheses of (1) an all-channel communication structure, (2) disintermediation, (5) propagation, (6) increased volume of information, (7) media integration, (8) resource bias, and (10) narrowcasting (Bonchek 1996). On January 20, 1993, the White House inaugurated a free Internet service distributing electronic versions of official White House documents via electronic mail (http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/Publications/html/Publications.html). Prior to the service, White House documents were available only to citizens through libraries, government offices, or fee-based information providers at significantly greater time and expense. Because of the cost of acquisition, most citizens received the information in the documents indirectly through press coverage of the events transcribed in the documents. The electronic service was intended to give citizens direct, timely, and inexpensive access to official White House documents. In 1995, the World Wide Web was added as a distribution channel, and by the end of 1996 over 10,000 documents were being retrieved from the White House daily. The hypothesized all-channel structure of information flow and the integration of personal, network, and broadcast media can be seen in Figure 27 below. Initial distribution of the documents should bypass intermediaries and goes directly to the press, organizations, and the public. These recipients are likely to redistribute the information
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to other political agents via personal, broadcast, and network media in a pattern of secondary distribution. This all-channel structure and integration of media should result from the ease with which digital information can be copied, manipulated, and retransmitted and from the wide appeal of the information contained in the documents. Evidence for the all-channel structure would be found in the frequency of information flow between political agents other than the White House; while evidence for media integration would be found in the retransmission of document information through personal and broadcast media. Figure 27: Flow of White House Documents

Figure 27 also suggests that disintermediation and propagation should result from the White House service. Disintermediation should result from a reduction in the retrieval costs and making documents available directly. Individuals and organizations

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can download documents from anywhere in a matter of seconds for a negligible marginal cost. Evidence of disintermediation would be in the demographics of document users. If most document users are traditional intermediaries, i.e. if the press is merely augmenting their coverage of events with document retrieval, then disintermediation is not taking place. However, if individuals and organizations other than the press are using the service, then the pattern of information flow is consistent with disintermediation. Evidence of disintermediation would also suggest evidence for an increased volume of information. When the press was serving as an intermediary, the amount of information delivered to citizens and organizations was minimal. The press would rarely transmit the full text of White House documents, usually only for a major speech. With direct distribution of the documents, the amount of information flowing directly from the White House to the public would be expected to increase considerably. Propagation would be expected by the advantages of digital representation over analog. Analog, paper documents are expensive and time-consuming to duplicate and distribute. Electronic documents can be duplicated thousands of times and broadcast to thousands of users rapidly and with little marginal cost. Evidence of propagation would be in the pattern of redistribution. If documents are retrieved from the White House site and redistributed to other users, the hypothesis is upheld. If users download the documents but do not redistribute the documents, the hypothesis would be disproven. Note that to the extent that the media uses the document service as a content source for traditional broadcast purposes, we would find additional support for the hypothesis of media integration as well.

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Narrowcasting should result from the ability to distribute documents according to users’ specific interests. Documents are stored in a database and the interface for the service gives users a variety of search methods. Users are able to subscribe or retrieve only those documents that interest them. Evidence of narrowcasting would be found in the usage profile for document retrieval. The hypothesis would be disproved if users downloaded large sets of documents undifferentiated by subject or document type, or if users redistribute the documents to groups of users without targeting their likely relevance. We would find support for the hypothesis if users retrieve documents that fit their interests and redistribute the documents directly to audiences who share those interests. Resource bias would be expected because usage of the document service requires Internet access. Since computer access correlates with income and education, we would expect document users to be wealthier and more educated than the population as a whole. Evidence consistent with this hypothesis would be found in the demographics of document users. If document users are wealthier and more educated than the population as a whole, the hypothesis is upheld. If not, the hypothesis is disproven.

8.1

White House Publications System The White House electronic publications system provides direct access to official

documents through two channels: electronic mail and the World Wide Web. Individuals and organizations can subscribe to an automated electronic-mail delivery service or retrieve documents by sending requests to an email-server that delivers the requested documents automatically. On the World Wide Web, users can browse through listings of

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documents or search for documents within specified categories. As of October 31, 1996, there were 7144 documents available for retrieval in 174 categories. The documents are distributed to over 4000 direct email subscribers, including private individuals, journalists, organizations, and redistributors such as online services, government agencies, libraries, and newsgroups. Together with redistribution, the email stream alone was estimated in early 1994 to bring about 150,000 people into contact with one or more electronic documents on a near daily basis (Hurwitz and Mallery 1994). Since the size of the Internet has quadrupled between 1994 and 1996, readership since 1994 is likely to have increased as well. Documents are categorized by subject and document type to facilitate retrieval. Document types include:
• • • • Executive Acts Presentations by Staff Presentation by Principal Instructions for communicating with the White House.

Within each document type are sub-types. Users can select Presentations by Principal as a category, for example, and then particular document types and sub-types:
Document Type Speaker Question Taking Ceremonial Remarks Topical Remarks Document Sub-Type President, Vice President, First Lady Interview, Joint Appearance, Photo Op, Press Conference Award, Condolence, Recognition, Swearing-In Speech, Remarks, Letter, Statement

Subject categories include :
• • • • Economy Foreign Relations Politics Social Issues • • • • Environment Government Security US Regional Affairs

Within each subject category are sub-categories. Security, for example, includes:

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• •

Crime Disaster

• •

Defense International Security.

In both the e-mail and Web channels, users can obtain specific sets of documents by specifying the document categories in which they are interested. Documents fitting these specifications are sent by electronic mail as they are released or displayed in the user’s Web browser. As an example, a search for documents meeting the categories “Massachusetts” and “Photo-Op” retrieved a document containing the transcript of remarks made on September 12, 1995 marking the first anniversary of the AmeriCorps national service program. The President gave a brief statement followed by questions from the press. An excerpt of the document follows (http://docs.whitehouse.gov/whitehouse-publications/1995/09/1995-09-12-pres-in-photo-op-during-national-serviceanniversary.text):
THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary _____________________________ For Immediate Release September 12, 1995 REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY DURING NATIONAL SERVICE ANNIVERSARY MEETING The Cabinet Room 1:22 P.M. EDT THE PRESIDENT: I am glad to be here today with Senator Pell, Congressman Reed, Congressman Kennedy, Eli Segal, Senator Wofford, and the remarkable representative group of leaders from the state of Rhode Island, including leaders of the majority of the institutions of higher education there; business leaders, Mr. Fish, Mr. Romney, thank you for coming from Massachusetts; and young AmeriCorps volunteers; and of course, Senator Wofford. And Nick Lowry has been a great supporter of AmeriCorps from its beginning. We are here to mark AmeriCorps’ first year of accomplishment and to find ways to make it better in the second year when 25,000 Americans will be out serving their country and earning some money for their higher education

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AmeriCorps members have helped children to do better in school. They’ve helped to close crack houses. They’ve helped communities team up with police to keep themselves safe. They’ve cleaned mountain trails and urban waterways. And from Oklahoma City to South Florida, from the banks of the Mississippi to the streets of Los Angeles, whenever our people were faced with disaster in these last couple of years, AmeriCorps members have been there to help. AmeriCorps has truly brought out the best in America. Behind this success is a partnership that cuts across every line and sector in our country, where young people and others who work in the communities, leaders in business, education, community service and public service, work together to make lives better for ordinary Americans. ... Q Mr. President, do you think that the Republicans want to end the program simply because it’s so closely associated with you and because it has been one of your head programs? THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think they’d be that small. I think that would be an incredibly small thing to do. I don’t think they’d be that small. You know, I don’t speculate on people’s motives. But I believe that some people in the Congress really don’t believe that any spending program is as good as any tax cut. That’s what I think. I think that—and I believe that any new thing that’s been done—I happen to have been President the last two years—I think any new thing that’s been done is in their mind an easy thing to eliminate if you want to balance the budget. But it is not necessary. We have given them a balanced budget plan. They don’t have to cut this to balance the budget. This is a tiny, tiny budget item that does an enormous amount of good. ... END 1:30 P.M. EDT

Until late 1996, the White House document service was administered by the Intelligent Information Infrastructure Project (http://www.ai.mit.edu/projects/iiip/homepage.html) at MIT using the COMLINK system developed by John Mallery (http://www.ai.mit.edu/projects/iiip/doc/cl-http/server.html). In late 1996, the system was transferred to the White House for internal administration. The COMLINK system, written in the LISP programming language, manages document routing and retrieval and automatic form processing. Documents stored in a database can be retrieved according to

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specified search criteria and delivered automatically to searchers or subscribers. Documents sent to the system can also be processed according to a prespecified format. One application of the COMLINK system is the subscription and retrieval service for the White House. Another application is an automated survey system that can be used to deliver, collect, and tabulate online surveys over electronic mail and the World Wide Web.

8.2

Survey Methodology The COMLINK system was used to conduct an online survey of White House

document users, updating an earlier survey conducted in 1994 (Hurwitz and Mallery 1994). Online surveying is a new field with its own procedural and methodological issues (Danes 1996, Urken 1996). The primary advantage of online surveying is its low cost. Thousands of surveys can be administered and processed by computer without human intervention. The surveys can be electronically mailed or delivered over the Web, filled out by the user on his or her computer and sent back electronically for computerized processing and analysis. A primary challenge of online surveying is control of the survey sample. Posting a survey on a Web site or distributing it to a mailing list or Usenet group provides the researcher with no accurate measure of the sample population. Multiple submissions are also possible since there are no unique identifiers of individuals on the Internet. The population of White House electronic document users is too small to make a traditional sampling method such as random-dialing cost-effective. At the same time, the

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number of document users is too large to make a manual, or labor-intensive, procedure cost-effective. An automated, online survey provides a targeted, cost-effective method for surveying the user population. All users are online and the primary users and distributors can be reached through their email subscription address or through their visitation to the White House site. White House electronic document users differ along five dimensions: activity, beneficiary, organizational affiliation, re-distribution, and channel. Users can be active or inactive in their use of documents. They can retrieve documents either for their own benefit as individuals or for their organization. Their organizational affiliation can be commercial, educational, political, corporate, independent, or governmental. They can redistribute the documents to other users or use them for their own purposes. And they can receive the documents by e-mail, retrieve them over the Web, or both. The combinations of demographic and usage dimensions is represented in Figure 28 below. Since each branch in the tree represents a different combination of parameters, there are a total of seventeen user categories, e.g. Individual-Distributor-Receiver. Figure 28: Dimensions for White House Document Users

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In a traditional survey, a human administrator would build branching directly into the survey-taking process. Since there is no human involvement in an online survey, the branching must be designed into the survey. Instructing respondents to skip certain questions risks confusion, non-compliance, and inaccuracies. To prevent these problems, the White House survey was divided into two parts. The first part, common to all respondents, contained questions designed to categorize the user into one of the seventeen user categories. The second part, of which there were seventeen versions, contained questions specific to each user category. Respondents received the appropriate second part given their answers to the first part. This design can be described as a hierarchical, multi-part, branching survey. The survey was administered over both electronic mail and the World Wide Web. The process for the electronic mail survey began with receipt of the first part of the survey by the respondent. A user could receive a survey at their e-mail address from the survey system itself or from another document user, by requesting the survey from the COMLINK system using subject line commands such as “send survey” or by downloading the survey from a bulletin board or Internet site. The survey was then completed by entering the responses after prompts contained in the survey text (see below) and returning the survey to COMLINK survey system at a designated e-mail address.

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Figure 29: Sample E-Mail Survey Question
1) From what source(s) did you get this survey?

Answer: Select one or more letters from: A Online service such as America Online. B Dial-up computer bulletin board. C E-mail message. D Usenet/Netnews news group. E Gopher site. F World Wide Web site. G Got URL from E-mail survey. H Got e-mail address from Web survey. I Other. J Don’t know. K No answer. =>SURVEY-SOURCE=>A C

Upon receipt by the COMLINK system, the surveys were processed and analyzed for invalid or omitted answers. Incomplete questions were returned to the respondent for correction. Responses from completed surveys were automatically added to a database on the survey server. The process for the Web survey differed slightly from the electronic mail survey. Document users were made aware of the survey through Usenet groups, mailing lists, Web links, or electronic mail. By clicking on a hyperlink or entering the URL address, they could connect to the registration page for the survey (http://www3.ai.mit.edu/registration.html). Registration was required for the Web survey to prevent multiple submissions. Because of the design of the Web, there is no way to know exactly who is accessing one’s Web site without a registration process. Without a registration process, users could easily submit multiple surveys. To prevent this source of bias, passwords were sent to each user at his or her email address. Submitted surveys were checked for valid passwords. In this way, it was possible to restrict survey

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submissions to one per email address. No registration process was necessary for the email survey because a unique identifier could be obtained from the return e-mail address. The questions on the Web survey were identical to questions on the email survey. Users answered the questions by clicking on buttons next to each question, which would then fill themselves in to indicate their selection. When all the questions were answered, respondents clicked on a “submit” button at the bottom of the page. The respondents’ Web browser then transmitted the responses to the COMLINK server, which analyzed them for completeness. Any incomplete questions were returned on a new Web page for completion. If the first part of the survey were complete, a new page with the second part was presented to the respondent. The same procedure of answering, submitting, and checking the responses applied to the second part as to the first. The survey was announced and distributed by mailing e-mail surveys, which included the URL for the Web survey, to 18,000 current and past subscribers to the document service. An announcement of the survey and instructions for obtaining the email survey or accessing the Web survey was also posted on politically related mailing lists and USENET groups. From this announcement, 1472 document users responded over a two-week time period in February 1996 by completing the first part. Seventy-nine percent of the respondents took the survey using electronic mail, while 21% took the survey on the World Wide Web. All of these respondents received a second part. Of these, 1071 respondents returned the second part to generate a complete survey. Of these 1071

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respondents, 779 had used the document service in the last two months and were considered active users. These 779 document users constitute the primary sample used in this analysis.

8.3

Disintermediation Disintermediation was tested using questions about users’ affiliations and the

source of their documents. Recall that the hypothesis is upheld if users obtain documents directly from the White House and if all types of political actors obtain the documents. Overall, the hypothesis is upheld strongly. Eighty-five percent of the survey respondents obtain their documents directly from the White House: 52% by e-mail subscription and 33% from the White House site. This emphasis is likely a result of the way in which the survey was distributed, since more documents are distributed over the Web than over email. Nevertheless, the results do demonstrate a direct connection between users and the White House as an information source. Document users fall into all five categories in the Netcast structure. Nearly threequarters of document users are individual members of the public, i.e. they receive or retrieve the documents for their own personal use. Just over a quarter, 28%, are organizational users, i.e. they receive or retrieve the documents on behalf of their organization.

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Table 14: Individual vs. Organizational Document Users
Category Individual Organization Total Respondents 557 222 779
N = 1472, All Respondents

Share 72% 28 100

Among organizations, the majority are governmental, followed by corporate and then advocate and educational. Commercial organizations that redistribute information, i.e. intermediaries, represent the smallest fraction of users. However, the 1994 survey indicated that these organizations redistribute a large volume of documents and that their small numbers underestimate their impact on the flow of information. Table 15: Organizational Affiliation
Affiliation Advocate Commercial Corporate Educational Governmental Total Respondents 36 9 51 32 94 222 Share 16% 4 23 14 42 100%

N = 1472, All Respondents

Among individuals, 94% are end-users, meaning they do not redistribute the documents to more than 25 people. Six percent are distributors, passing the documents along to more than 25 people. This distinction can be used as an approximation for active and attentive publics. Politically active members of the public are engaged in lobbying, persuasion, and political recruitment—behaviors that correspond to the distribution of political information. Attentive members of the public stay informed about political affairs but do not engage in active methods of persuasion or recruitment— behavior that corresponds to usage but not distribution of the documents.
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Table 16: Distributors vs. End-Users
Distributor Individual Organizational Total 6% 75 25
N = 1472, All Respondents

End-User 94% 25 75

Total 100% 100 100

The data in Table 14 through Table 16 demonstrate that all types of political actors are active users of the White House service. The most common category of users are members of the attentive public, the group that would otherwise have the most restricted access to the documents. The distribution of users according to the categories of the Netcast structure are given in Figure 30 below. Figure 30: Netcast Distribution of Document Users

The disintermediation hypothesis receives additional support from responses to questions asking users why they use the document service. As indicated by Table 17, individual users found the service to be superior to other information sources for its speed, completeness, and ease of use. In addition, nearly half of the survey respondents (48%) cited “first-hand, direct news source” as a benefit of receiving the documents.

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Table 17: Motivation for Using Service
Motivation Quicker More complete Easier to use Cheaper More accurate Not available elsewhere More relevant to my needs Easier to pass information along No answer Share 32% 23 21 19 19 15 12 11 6

N=779, All Individual Respondents; Multiple Answers Possible

8.4

Propagation Propagation was tested by asking users how they redistribute the documents. As

shown in Table 16, one quarter of the document users redistribute the documents to more than 25 people. When the threshold is lowered to the redistribution of documents to at least one other person, the share of redistributors climbs to 67%. As shown in Table 18, e-mail is the preferred redistribution channel, used by 41% of document users. Personal conversations gathered 30% of the responses, followed by printed copies with 14%. Interestingly, document users were more likely to forward a document to someone by email than to talk about it with them.

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Table 18: Distribution Channels
Method of Distribution Forward by e-mail Personal conversations/presentations Distribute or mail printed copies Mention or quote in printed media Other computer network distribution Mention in online discussions Post on Web site Mention or quote on TV or radio Don’t pass document along
N = 1479, All Respondents

Share 41% 30 14 7 4 4 3 1 33

Of the two thirds who redistribute the documents, 70% have an audience size between one and ten people. Redistribution is therefore common among document users. In the wheel-pattern of the broadcast model, distribution is concentrated among a few intermediaries. The broadcast audience tends to be passive receivers of the information. In contrast, the Netcast audience is more active, serving as both audience and broadcaster. Table 19: Audience Size
Audience 1 - 10 people 11 - 25 26 - 100 101 - 1,000 1,001 - 10,000 More than 10,000 Share 70% 10 9 7 3 1

N = 991, Redistributors to At Least One Person

To gain a better understanding of document propagation, distributors were asked about their reasons for distributing the documents. “Providing information as a service to a specific group” was cited most frequently, followed by “part of an effort to raise public awareness” and “to support the administration or one of its policies” (see Table 20).

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Table 20: Reasons for Distributing Documents
Advocate To provide information as a service to a specific group. Part of an effort to raise public awareness. To support the administration or one of its policies. To provide information as a service to the general public. Part of organizing public debate on particular issues. Part of a lobbying effort on an issue. To criticize the administration or one of its policies. Other Corporate 69% Educational 78% Government 79% Individual 65% Total

79%

75%

48

23

43

14

58

31

38

11

17

16

45

23

38

11

17

4

48

19

38

11

4

3

32

15

31 17 3

11 9 14

13 4 9

5 3 12

26 29 10

14 11 10

N = Respondents who distribute to more than 25 recipients

29

35

23

73

31

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The map of information flow in Figure 27 represents the propagation of White House documents in the Netcast structure. In the initial distribution, documents flow from the White House to organizations, the press, the activist public, the attentive public, and back to other government offices. In the secondary distribution, documents are redistributed to other political actors. This map demonstrates the effect of propagation in combination with the all-channel pattern of information flow. The dense, interconnected network of links in the Netcast structure differs distinctly from the hierarchical network

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in the Broadcast structure. Together, evidence for the disintermediation and propagation hypotheses also give support to the hypotheses for an all-channel structure and increased volume of information.

8.5

Narrowcasting The importance of targeting specific groups with information as a motivation for

document retrieval supports the hypothesis that users are using the Internet as a medium for narrowcasting. As indicated by Table 20, “providing information as a service to a specific group” was mentioned more than twice as often as any other reason for distributing White House documents. Table 21 lends additional support to the narrowcasting hypothesis. First, within each category, users distribute documents to different types of groups. Advocacy groups, for example, are prone to distribute documents to the general public (41% of advocacy groups), but not to employees of forprofit companies (14%). Second, users also distribute documents to different types of groups across categories. Forty-one percent of advocacy organizations distribute documents to the general public, compared to only 9% for corporations. At the same time, 54% of corporations distribute documents to employees of for-profit companies, compared to only 14% of advocacy organizations. Overall, as indicated by the bold lettering in Table 21, distribution of the documents fits with the natural audiences for each type of distributor.

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Table 21: Distribution Audience by Distributor Type
Audience\Distributor Advocate Corporate 9% 6 17 0 14 0 54 40 3 11 Educational 17% 4 9 4 91 17 0 9 13 0 Government 5% 18 5 7 11 4 14 7 32 66 Individual 45% 13 45 35 39 19 23 26 13 32

The general public. Employees or members of public service organizations. Politically-oriented group(s) or their members. Members of a political party. University students, faculty, researchers, or staff. School teachers, pupils and/or staff. Employees of for-profit companies. Members of professional, trade or labor group(s) State or local government officials or employees. Federal government officials or employees. N = Distribution > 25

41% 48 38 17 41 17 14 28 17 14

29

35

23

73

31

Additional support for the narrowcasting hypothesis comes from survey questions asking each type of distributor why they specifically distribute the documents to their target audience. Table 22 shows the reasons why advocacy organizations, corporations, educational institutions, and government offices distribute documents (Responses given by over 10% of respondents are shown). As would be expected from the narrowcasting hypothesis, each type of user has different reasons that fit their organizational goals and their ability to target their audience with relevant information. Advocacy organizations are most concerned with keeping members informed and active; corporations with keeping employees informed, educational institutions with keeping students and faculty

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members informed; and government organizations with keeping their constituencies or affected parties informed. Table 22: Reasons for Distributing Documents by Distributor Type
Advocacy Organizations (N = 29) Keeping members informed. Keeping other organizations informed. Mobilizing people to take action. Gathering support for organization’s positions on issues. Corporations (N = 35) To inform employees about current events. As a source of ideas for research and writing. To inform employees about political issues that affect them. As a service to customers. Educational Institutions (N = 23) To inform others about current events. To inform others about political issues that affect them. As a resource for academic research. To inform others about White House activities Government Offices (N = 73) As part of my job. To inform others about current events. To inform others about White House activities. To inform others about political issues that affect them. As a source of ideas for research and writing. As an example of how new technology is being used. To enhance organizational credibility.

22 14 14 13

76% 48 48 45

22 18 15 11

63% 51 43 31

17 15 12 11

74% 65 52 48

59 43 35 33 20 14 10

81% 59 48 45 27 19 14

8.6

Resource Bias Survey responses indicate that users of the White House document service benefit

from timely, inexpensive, direct, and complete information about White House news and events. But do all citizens have equal access to this information resource? Scholars have noted how unequal access to information technology produces unequal access to the information necessary for full participation in the political process (Ide 1980, Hancock, 1995, Rubinyi 1989, Gillespie and Robins 1989, Katzman 1984, Tichenor 1970, Abel
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1981). Whenever access to the communications and information resources required for full citizenship depends upon purchasing power ... substantial inequalities are generated that undermine the nominal universality of citizenship. ... There is a greater need than ever for adequate and accessible information and communications resources. Yet people most adversely affected by these changes are the ones with least access to these resources within the new privatized system of communication (Murdock and Golding 1989). Do economic, educational, geographic, and cultural barriers prevent citizens from obtaining equal access to information in the Netcast structure? Because Internet access is expensive relative to other communication media, we would expect the answer to be ‘yes.’ In order to get online, an individual must have a computer, a network connection, networking software, and an Internet account. They must also have the requisite computer skills to operate the computer and navigate the Internet. Equipment costs for network access are typically over $1000 and network accounts average $20 a month. Computer skills include literacy, knowledge of how to use the computer, how to use the computer’s operating system, how to use the networking software, and how to send and receive messages or information. Although some individuals such as employees and students receive equipment and networking subsidies, they must still pay the training costs. A television, telephone, or newspaper, in contrast, have must lower costs. Telephones, televisions, and newspapers require minimal instruction on how to use them and are substantially less expensive. The hypothesized relationship between resources and access to information in the Netcast structure is therefore positive. Citizens with greater resources should be more likely to receive and distribute information.

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White House document users were asked questions about their income, education, occupation, and access cost to determine their relative ability to use the Internet. Only responses from individuals who retrieve documents for their own behalf were included in this analysis. Table 23 shows the income of individual White House document users compared to the U.S. population as a whole. Document users are significantly wealthier than the general population. Half of the survey respondents have a family income over $50,000, compared to 30% for the population as a whole (Bureau of the Census: http://www.census.gov). Table 23: Income
Family Income < $20,000 $20 - 30,000 $30 - 50,000 $50 - 75,000 $75 - 100,000 > $100,000 WH Doc Users 13% 11 26 30 14 6 Cumulative 13% 24 50 80 94 100 1994 U.S. Population 27% 16 27 17 13* Cumulative 27% 43 70 87 100

N = 665 Individual Respondents (779 Total - 114 Don’t Know/No Answer); * = over $75,000

Education shows a similar bias. Seventy percent of document users are college graduates, compared to 29% in the general population. Individuals with a post-graduate degree account for 36% of the sample, also well above the 8% in the general population.

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Table 24: Education
Family Income Grammar & High School Some College College Graduate Master’s or Professional Doctoral Other WH Document Users 5% 25 33 26 10 1 Cumulative 5% 30 63 89 99 100 1994 U.S. Population 44% 27 21 8* Cumulative 44% 71 92 100

N = 779, All Individual Respondents; * = Master’s, Professional, and Doctoral combined

The income and educational bias among document users is also apparent in the occupational distribution. The majority of document users are professionals (29%), employed in technical areas (32%), or students (23%). Only 16% are in some other field with another 1% not working (N=733). The importance of access costs to usage of the document service is suggested by the relationship of point of Internet access to monthly Internet access costs. As indicated in Table 25, users accessing the Internet from school or work are most likely to do so over a local area network and have a much lower average monthly cost. Professionals and technically employed individuals are the most likely to have subsidized Internet access at work. As a result, there is a correlation between subsidized Internet access, low access costs, and usage of the document service.

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Table 25: Point of Access and Monthly Cost
Point of Access School Work Home Office Home LAN Share 66% 64 14 8 Ave. Monthly Cost $4 8 18 17

N = 779, All Individual Respondents

The importance of income, education, and access subsidies to document usage supports the hypothesis that economic and human resources are positively related to document usage and access to the Netcast flow of information. This conclusion is dependent upon the assumption that document users are representative of Internet users as a whole. An alternative hypothesis is that the resource bias is unique to White House document usage and that Internet users are representative of the general population. Since political interest is positively related to income and education (Verba et. al. 1995), the resource bias could be an effect of the document content rather than its distribution medium. Surveys of Internet usage disprove this alternative hypothesis. The 1995 CommerceNet/Nielsen Demographics Survey used a random sample of telephone numbers in North America to measure Internet access and usage patterns. Telephonebased interviews were completed with 4,200 individuals. Results from the CommerceNet/Nielsen study reveal that White House document users are slightly more educated than Internet users, but that both document and Internet users are significantly more endowed with economic and human resources than the general population. As shown in Table 13, 57% of Internet users have a household income over $50,000, compared to 30% for the population as a whole and 50% for White House document

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users. Regarding education, 26% of Internet users have a post-graduate degree compared to 8% for the general population and 36% for White House document users. Table 26: Comparison of Internet Users and Document Users
Category Income > $50,000 Post-Graduate Degree
N

WH Document Users 50% 36%

Internet Users 57% 26%
4,200

U.S. Population 30% 8%
NA

Inc: 665; Ed: 779

8.7

Summary An original survey was conducted of individuals and organizations who retrieve

and re-distribute electronic documents from the White House publications service through e-mail and the Web. Results from the survey support the hypothesized allchannel, Netcast structure and the flow effects of disintermediation, media integration, propagation, and narrowcasting. Political agents use the service to obtain documents directly about subjects that interest them and many are redistributing those documents through a variety of media to targeted audiences. The demographics of document users are biased towards wealthier, educated individuals. As corroborated by data from a general survey of Internet users, lowresource individuals are disadvantaged in their access to the flow of information on computer networks. In contrast, the subsidized access, better training, and education of students, professionals, and technical employees corresponds to greater levels of Internet usage and online political communication.

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9 Political Participation
This chapter draws on the case studies in the previous chapters to test the model of media, information, and behavior presented in Chapter 1. The previous chapters have examined the link between media and information and the hypothesis that the unique transmission properties of the Internet affect the flow of political information. In this chapter, we turn to the link between information and behavior, examining the hypothesis that changes in the flow of political information affect political behavior. The model from Chapter 1 asserts that communication media affect political behavior through the intervening variable of information. Changes to the transmission properties of communication media affect the flow of political information. In turn, these changes to the flow of political information affect political behavior. In particular, the behavior to be examined here is participation in political activity intended to influence the political behavior of others. According to the empirical literature, citizens participate in politics because they have the resources to participate, because they are engaged in the political process, and because they are mobilized to participate. If changes in the flow of political information increase citizens’ resources available for participating, engagement in the political process, or mobilization of others to participate, then we would expect participation to increase as a result of the Internet (see Figure 31).

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Figure 31: Model of Media, Information, and Participation

As we will see, survey responses from White House document users support the hypothesis that the Netcast structure increases political participation. Disintermediation, propagation, increased supply of information, and virtual organization appear to facilitate participation by lowering the cost of participation, increasing political engagement, and expanding the opportunities and effectiveness of political mobilization. However, resource bias in Internet access affects the distribution of these participatory benefits.

9.1 Political Participation Political participation refers to the set of actions and processes by which individuals are engaged in the political process. According to Verba and Nie (1972), “political participation refers to those activities by private citizens that are more or less directly aimed at influencing the selection of governmental personnel and/or the actions they take.” Political participation is distinguished from other activities by the relationship between citizens and their government. Interactions between government agents qualify as political activity, but not political participation because no citizens are involved. Presidential lobbying of Congress is political activity, but not political participation. Similarly, membership in a hunting club qualifies as civic participation, but not political participation because the government is not involved. However,

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activities by members of the club to lobby for firearm legislation would be considered political participation. Political participation takes a variety of forms. Some acts are symbolic, expressing an aspect of citizens’ relationship with their government (Edelman 1985, Hinckley 1990). Marching in a parade, for example, is a symbolic activity expressing one’s support or allegiance to one’s country or government. Recently, politics has become a source of entertainment as well (Parenti 1992, Postman 1985). Instrumental participation, the type most often studied by political scientist, has the specific intent of changing government behavior. A citizen may sign a petition, write to Congress, vote, or make a political contribution in order to change an officeholder, law, or regulatory action. The activities of political participation have been grouped by scholars into a variety of modes. Verba and Nie (1972) found four modes: campaign activity, voting, communal activity, and particularized contacting. Activities within each of these modes are more highly correlated with other activities in the mode than with activities in other modes. Campaign activity includes persuading others how to vote, working for a party or candidate, attending a political meeting, contributing money to a party, distributing materials, and belonging to a political club. Voting includes casting ballots in presidential and local elections. Cooperative activity includes forming a group and working with others on local problems, active membership in a community problemsolving organization, and contacting government officials concerning public issues. Particularized contacting includes contacting leaders concerning personal problems. Olsen (1982) adds cognitive and expressive participation top these four categories. Verba Schlozman and Brady (1995) refine the category for campaign activity by

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differentiating political contributions, which are money-based, from other campaign activities, which are time-based.

9.2 Resources Political activity requires the expenditure of resources. Standing in line at the polls, traveling to meetings and events, and making phone calls requires time and money. Writing letters to a government official requires literacy and political knowledge. Organizing a demonstration requires planning skills and personal connections. Citizens’ ability to bear the costs of an activity influences their participation in that activity. If the cost of an activity exceeds the benefit, a citizen is unlikely to participate. To the extent that the Internet lowers the cost of communicating and gathering or distributing information, we would expect participation to increase. Evidence for the importance of resources to political participation comes from research by Brady, Verba, and Schlozman (1995) and Verba, Schlozman, Brady, and Nie (1993). Free time, family income, years of education, and adult civic skills were four of the top five determinants of overall political participation. Citizens earning over $50,000 are typically twice as politically active as citizens earning less than $20,000, while college graduates are two and a half times more active than citizens without a high school degree. Reducing the cost of participating is therefore equivalent to increasing the resources available for participating. The relationship of costs to participation can be seen in Figure 32. Political participation is considered a good whose consumption is

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evaluated relative to all other goods and activities. Political participation consumes resources such as time, money, and attention, making fewer resources available for other activities. This tradeoff is represented in the straight, downward-sloping budget lines. As in traditional microeconomic analysis, each citizen is assumed to maximize his or her utility given a budget constraint. The chosen level of participation is determined by the intersection of the budget constraint with the utility curve (Varian 1984). Figure 32: Transaction Costs and Participation

The effect of a reduction in transaction costs is represented by the arrow in the chart. Lower costs shift the budget constraint out along the participation dimension, from the line labeled “Budget Before” to the line labeled “Budget After.” For any level of consumption of other goods, more participation can be consumed. This allows citizens to reach a higher utility curve, labeled “Utility After.” As long as the goods are normal (lower cost leads to higher consumption), the consumption of political participation increases from Cb to Ca. Transaction, or in this case participation, costs are therefore inversely related to participation.

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This simple microeconomic model shows how participation costs are related to participation levels. As participation costs increase, participation falls; as participation costs decrease, participation rises. Information costs and communication costs are an important component of participation costs. If the model is correct, we would expect a reduction in these costs to have a positive effect on participation. There is evidence that reducing the cost of participating increases participation levels in that activity. In voting, lowering the cost of voting has led to higher voter turnout. Some communities have switched to mail-in ballots to reduce transportation expenses, queuing time, and lost wages. A mail-in ballot used by the city of San Diego in 1981 precipitated the highest turnout in the city’s electoral history (Sparrow 1995). Reviewing the evidence, Wolfinger and Rosenstone (1980) conclude that “the easier it is for a person to cast a ballot, the more likely it is for him to vote.” In contacting, the costs of communicating with one’s legislator has fallen considerably as a result of recent technological changes in calling and printing. Known as “astroturf lobbying,” lobbying groups provide pre-printed letters, postcards, and tollfree 800 numbers to citizens as an incentive for them to contact their legislators. Interest groups and lobbying firms inside the beltway are utilizing new and sophisticated technologies to water the grassroots outside the beltway. ... Technological advances have made it feasible for groups to generate, virtually instantaneously, thousands—and even hundreds of thousands— of letters, faxes, phone calls and telegrams when issues or bills come to a head (Goldstein 1995). The central feature of astroturf lobbying is the convenience with which citizens are able to communicate their sentiments to Congress. By reducing the cost of contacting, groups are able to increase participation on issues that matter to them most.

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Coincident with this cost reduction has been an increase in the volume of communications sent to Congress and the White House by constituents. Brady, Verba, and Schlozman (1995) provide evidence that citizens choose modes of participation according to their relative costs. The relative cost of participating varies across modes of participation because political activities vary in their resource requirements. Voting and campaigning require time and civic skills, while contributing requires mostly money. Citizens with higher resources in a particular area participate more in activities that require those resources. Brady, Verba, and Schlozman regressed voting, money-intensive acts (i.e. contributing), and time-intensive acts (i.e. meetings, campaigning, contacting, and protesting) on civic skills, time, and money. The resource types found to predict participation were the same resources types that are consumed most heavily in each activity. Free time and civic skills were significant predictors of voting and time-intensive activities, while money was a significant predictor of contributions. Relative costs of participation therefore predict the ways in which citizens choose to participate in the same way that absolute costs predict the levels of participation. To summarize, the literature indicates that participation is affected by the costs of participation and the resources available to pay those costs. If the cost of an activity falls, participation in that activity is likely to go up. In addition, citizens who have greater endowments in a particular resource are more likely to engage in activities that require that resource.

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Downs and Olson contend that communication and information costs are important factors in political participation. In his Economic Theory of Democracy, Downs’ emphasizes the effect of information costs on political activity. Downs describes how the costs of obtaining political information affect levels of both political awareness and political activity. In the case of voting, Downs asserts that “the cost of information acts in effect to disenfranchise low-income groups relative to high-income groups when voting is costly.” Mancur Olson examines the effect of information and communication costs on group formation. Olson describes how the formation of groups is inhibited by “the costs of communication among group members, the costs of any bargaining among them, and the costs of creating, staffing, and maintaining any formal group organization.” The larger the number of members in the group the greater the organization costs, and thus the higher the hurdle that must be jumped before any of the collective good at all can be obtained. In Olson’s view, reducing transaction costs lowers the barrier to collective action and increases group formation. We know from earlier chapters that the Internet lowers the cost of communication. “Transaction costs fall with the advent of telecommunications [because] modern telecommunications sharply reduce the costs of transmitting information over space and time” (Norton 1992:178; also Leff 1984, Pool 1984). Our analysis of the literature in this chapter suggests that costs affect participation and that communication costs are an important type of cost. We would therefore expect participation to increase for activities which are dependent on communication and information. Table 27 lists some of the most common political activities and their degree of dependence on

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communication and information. If participation is affected by changes in the flow of political information, we would expect contacting and distribution of political materials to be most affected, followed by petitioning, campaigning, and joining an organization. Attending meetings and making contributions should be relatively unaffected. Table 27: Communication/Information Intensity of Political Activities
Political Activity Contacting government officials Distributing political materials Organizing or signing a petition Campaigning for party or candidate Joining a political organization Attending a political meeting Making a campaign contribution Communication/Information Intensity High High Medium Medium Medium Low Low

9.3 Engagement Political resources are an important piece of the participation puzzle, but not the only piece. Even with all the resources in the world available for participation, citizens must have an interest in participating. In economic terms, they must derive some utility from participating. The more engaged citizens are in the political process, the more likely they are to participate. If changes in the flow of information produced by the Internet affects citizens’ engagement in the political process, then participation levels would also be expected to change. Verba, Schlozman and Brady (1995) describe political engagement as having four components: political interest, political efficacy, political information, and partisanship. Political information measures the sophistication of an individual’s understanding and knowledge of the political process. Citizens with greater information are more aware and

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more engaged in politics, hence more likely to participate (Luskin 1990, Zaller 1992). Political interest measures the desire that a citizen has to participate in political activity. This desire can come from civic duty, expectation of material benefits, or emotional rewards (Lawrence 1982, Netemeyer 1990, Sarver 1983). As one would expect, interest in participating leads to higher levels of participation. Political efficacy is a subjective measure of how much influence a citizen believes he or she has over the political process. Conway distinguishes two aspects of political efficacy. An internal sense is “the belief that one can understand politics and that political events can be influenced by the activities of individuals like oneself.” An external sense is “the belief that one’s public officials are responsive to the interests of individuals like oneself and that governmental and political institutions help make them responsive.” It is not important how much influence the citizen actually has; it is the perception matters (Conway 1985; also Milbrath and Goel 1977). Partisanship refers to the strength with which citizens identify themselves with a political party. Partisanship is related to participation for a number of reasons. Identification provides citizens with a reason to follow political events and develop attitudes and beliefs. Partisanship also helps to structure the political universe and give citizens a more coherent way of formulating opinions and making arguments. Finally, party activities increase the number of recruitment opportunities that bring citizens into the political process (Campbell 1960, Wolfinger and Rosenstone 1980). One of the strongest effects of computer networks on political engagement should be through political information. As we saw in the previous chapters, networks

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significantly reduce the cost of acquiring information. This cost reduction “makes it rational for economic agents to acquire additional intelligence that is pertinent to their decisions” (Leff 1984:258). Pennsylvania State Representative Italo Cappabianca (DErie) has written to his constituents: While I try very hard to provide excellent constituent service, my district office is not open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With [the] Internet I can provide important state government information in a (sic) extremely inexpensive way. Members of the public, libraries, schools and businesses can all access this information. I have discovered that for [the] cost of one postage stamp a day we can make hundreds and thousands of documents available for you to read, print or download (http://moose.erie.net/~italo). By lowering the cost of providing and accessing information, computer networks increase the supply and availability of information. But a greater supply of information available to citizens does not necessarily produce greater knowledge of that information. Studies of media and political knowledge suggest that a greater supply of information does increase levels of political information. Dimock and Popkin (1995) have found that media usage is strongly correlated with knowledge about politics. Countries that rely on newspapers for their news are more politically knowledgeable than countries that rely on television. The authors attribute the difference to newspapers’ ability to convey more factual information than television. Since the Internet conveys even greater amounts of information than a newspaper, we would expect greater levels of political knowledge and more participation. This effect is strengthened by the ability of the Internet to customize the presentation of political information. As we saw in the chapter on the World Wide Web, information on the Net can be customized to individuals’ needs, interests, and political schemata. Retention and assimilation of information is thereby improved.

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Political interest arises largely through a process of political socialization. Political participation is a learned social role which predisposes a person to select out and act on political stimuli, thereby inducing much higher rates of participation than persons who do not accept political activity as part of their self-definition (Milbrath 1981). Childhood experiences, organizational involvement, and personal relationships are critical to individuals’ sense of themselves as responsible citizens. For computer networks to affect political interest, they need to impact individuals’ sense of themselves in the polity and the political process. They need to provide an educational function that alters citizens conceptions of themselves and their place in society in such a way that a user sees political activity as more important or more interesting than he or she did before (Berman 1993). The few studies of network usage and political interest support the hypothesis that network usage promotes political socialization. Through bulletin board systems such as the WELL, groups of people are using [computer-mediated communication] to rediscover the power of cooperation, turning cooperation into a game, a way of life—a merger of knowledge capital, social capital, and communion (Rheingold 1993). Wellman finds that computer-supported social networks “sustain strong, intermediate, and weak ties that provide information and social support in both specialized and broadly based relationships” (1996b, also 1996a). A study of one computer bulletin board on political issues found that it provided “users with a better social understanding of community, nation, and world with the increased information available about events and processes on all three levels.” Users of

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the bulletin board also “acknowledged the importance of group identity, describing a feeling of belonging to a community, no matter how far away other members might be” (Ogan 1993). The evidence suggests that he Internet provides the structure, content, and relationships necessary for processes of political socialization leading to higher levels of political interest. Political efficacy is the sense that one can influence the political process and that the political system is responsive to one’s concerns. The ability of the Internet to impact political efficacy is most likely to occur through disintermediation and the ability to connect citizens directly with the government. When one feels that one has been able to state one’s opinion or viewpoint, there is usually a greater willingness to consent to the outcome and feel a part of the process than when one is not heard. An acknowledgment of one’s opinion reinforces the feeling of inclusion even further. Better communication technologies that create more efficient, more extensive and more intensive interaction between public figures and their constituents may reduce the sense of alienation by making the public figures better able to respond to their constituents and to influence them (Pool 1973:242). The ease with which citizens can send messages to their representatives suggests an increase in communication between citizens and government officials. However, it is not known whether this communication increases efficacy. Inundated by electronic communication, officials often must rely on automated responders to answer their e-mail. Anyone sending electronic mail to the White House, for example, receives the following automated reply within minutes. Whether the immediacy of the reply outweighs the impersonal nature of the process in producing political efficacy is unknown.

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From: autoresponder@WhiteHouse.gov Date: Thu, 9 Jan 1997 12:15:39 -0500 (EST) Subject: Re: Message to White House To: “Mark S. Bonchek” <bonchek@ai.mit.edu> Thank you for writing to President Clinton via electronic mail. Since June, 1993, whitehouse.gov has received over one million messages from people across the country and around the world. Because so many of you write, the President cannot personally review each message. The mail is first read by White House Correspondence staff. Your concerns, ideas, and suggestions are carefully recorded and communicated to the President weekly with a representative sampling of the mail. We are excited about the progress of online communication as a tool to bring government and the people closer together. Your continued interest and participation are very important to that goal. Sincerely, Stephen K. Horn Director, Presidential Email The Office of Correspondence P.S. Please read on - you may find the following information useful. -- This is the only electronic message you will receive from whitehouse.gov. No other message purporting to be from the President or his staff with an address at whitehouse.gov is authentic. If you have received such a message, you have been spoofed. -- You will receive only one autoresponder message per day. -- The only personal addresses at whitehouse.gov are the following: President@whitehouse.gov Vice.President@whitehouse.gov First.Lady@whitehouse.gov Please write to Mrs. Gore and other White House staff by regular mail. The address is: The White House, Washington, D.C. 20500). -- On October 20, 1994, President Clinton and Vice President Gore opened a World Wide Web home page called “Welcome to the White House: An Interactive Citizens’ Handbook” and it remains one of the more popular spots on the Web. The White House home page provides, among other things, a single point of access to all government information available

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electronically on the Internet. “Welcome to the White House” can be accessed at: http://www.whitehouse.gov -- White House documents and publications are available on the World Wide Web (see above) and by email. To receive instructions on retrieving documents by email, please send a message to the following address: publications@whitehouse.gov In the body of your message, type “Send Info” (without quotes); do not include other text (such as message headers or signature lines (.sig files). The instructions will be sent to you automatically. ***************************************************** List of Clinton Administration Accomplishments (three documents compose the whole): To: publications@whitehouse.gov Message body: send file 317571 send file 317573 send file 317575 ****************************************************** -- The White House Public Access Email FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document is available at the following address. The FAQ, among other things, lists alternate sources of government information, i.e., the Congressional email projects. Send an email message (no text necessary) to: faq@whitehouse.gov (This FAQ address is an autoresponder only; any comment sent to this address will not be acknowledged.)

Political efficacy could also be heightened through disintermediation in citizens’ ability to obtain information directly from governments and political organizations. Within the media intervening between the public and political institutions, citizens may feel more a part of the political process. Efficacy could also be enhanced if the enhanced ability to organize through computer networks gives citizens the actual or perceived feeling of a greater influence on the political process.

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Partisanship has a positive influence on participation because it has people be engaged in the political process. The Internet could enhance partisanship if people use the Net to participate in partisan discussions, learn about and coordinate party activities, and monitor partisan voting records. On the other hand, the Internet might weaken partisanship if the ability to form virtual organizations leads to alternative movements. Theodore Lowi believes that virtual organization and the speed of communication will produce a far looser political situation than any we have known in the twentieth century. Traditional party loyalties are likely to weaken. Given the referendum potential of the new media, politics for the average citizen is likely to be [a] good deal more issue-oriented. Still more significantly, the lag between the emergence of new interests and their recognition as public issues will be drastically reduced. Distance will no longer limit the discovery of common interests. In the place of party loyalty, Lowi sees new organizations forming and the emergence of other, newer forms of mass organization. The trend is likely to be towards increased direct action through social movements. Ease of communication and rising expectations, as well as an easing of access to political institutions, will on the whole increase the “movement capacity” of the country. ... United States history shows ample precedents for the notion that a change in information technology will help spawn new social movements. Lowi also predicts an increase in withdrawal movements, since “easy access to information resources facilitates permanent withdrawal into tribes and communities, and conventional new towns.” If Lowi’s hypothesis is upheld, then we would expect a decline in partisanship, but an overall increase in political engagement through involvement in alternative movements and political organizations.

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9.4 Mobilization People participate in political activity either because they are recruited, i.e. asked to participate, or because they decide on their own. Activity arising from requests to participate is considered mobilized activity. Activity arising from citizens’ personal initiative is considered spontaneous activity. The most recent data on political recruitment suggests that at least one-third of all activity is mobilized activity in which a citizen receives a request to participate. Approximately one-half of all activity is spontaneous (Verba, Schlozman and Brady 1995). Within recruited activity, people are recruited most frequently (47%) by people they know. Half of all requests come from personal connections. The second most frequent (30%) source of recruitment is secondary connections—people with a shared personal connection (Verba, Schlozman and Brady 1995). These results are upheld by other studies. A survey of university students found that 63% of activists were recruited through social networks, 30% through the mass media, and 7% through public places. Overall, Participants in social movement organizations are usually recruited through preexisting social ties and ... mobilization is more likely when the members of the beneficiary population are linked by social ties than when they are not (Marwell, Oliver, and Prahl 1988:502). Requests from members of a social network are not only more prevalent, but also more effective, than from strangers. Citizens who receive a request from a personal contact such as a friend, relative, neighbor, or acquaintance are more than twice as likely to agree to the request than those who receive a request from a stranger (Verba, Schlozman and Brady 1995). The greater effectiveness of recruitment through social

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networks has been credited to the fact that “contact through social networks adds the power of social expectations to the message of mobilization.” With people they know, citizens feel a greater sense of obligation, have greater trust in the accuracy of the information being presented, and are more likely to “lose face” if they fail to follow through (Snow, Zurcher and Ekland-Olson 1980). How will the Internet affect political recruitment? Verba, Schlozman, and Brady contend that the impersonality of electronic technologies makes them poorly suited to the personal connections that “play a significant role in the civic life of citizens.” An unambiguous trend in the politics of the second half of the twentieth century has been the impact of electronic technologies and the consequent impersonalization of certain modes of citizen involvement. We were curious to know whether ... the process by which potential activists are recruited to political activity has been transformed by the electronic revolution. That is, are the networks of recruitment that bring people into politics rooted primarily in personal ties to friends and neighbors or in the impersonal world of computer-generated mailings and mass-market telephone solicitations. Based on our findings in the previous chapters, we would expect the Internet to be an exception to Verba, Schlozman, and Brady’s prediction. Unlike “computer-generated mailings and mass-market telephone solicitations,” the Internet has the capacity for many-to-many communication, communities of affinity, and the enhancement of existing social networks. Tehranian (1990:236) writes: There is sufficient evidence in the advanced industrial countries to show that as costs decline and accessibility increases, the new interactive communication technologies (audio, video, and computer teleconferencing) can generate communities of affinity well beyond the communities of vicinity that have so far been the backbone of communitarian democratic movements. Ogan’s study of Listserv groups leads (1993:56) her to conclude that

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The technological capability to connect individuals in far-flung regions has provided an opportunity to define and assist in maintaining new social groups that organize themselves around interest areas. Civille (1993) contends that networks organized around shared interests produce fertile ground for political recruitment. In these networks, “there is the potential for transforming weak ties of acquaintance formed over the network by way of mailing lists into strong ties which can result in instrumental actions and productive gains.” He adds that citizens “who are integrated within informational networks that expose them to larger environments of opinion” are the most likely to be engaged in politics. Consistent with our findings from the chapter on online petitioning, we would expect the enhanced flow of information on the Internet through weak tie networks to facilitate political mobilization. There is some evidence that the interactivity and engagement of media used for mobilization does affect the subsequent involvement of citizens in political organizations. Godwin and Mitchell (1986) find that citizens who join organizations through direct mail differ from those who join through social networks. Those who join through direct mail are less committed to bargaining and compromise, more accepting of aggressive political participation, and less attached to their organization. Overall, we expect political participation to be enhanced by changes in the flow of information produced by the Internet. The reduced cost of communication and information-supply and acquisition enhances citizens’ political resources. In the area of political engagement, the greater supply of information and the ability to narrowcast directly to citizens’ interests increases levels of political information. Political efficacy is

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enhanced through disintermediation as citizens communicate directly with political organizations and government officials. Political interest could increase if computer networks are used for processes of political socialization, and although partisanship is likely to decline, new organizational loyalties are likely to arise that promote engagement in the political process. Mobilization is enhanced by propagation and the formation of virtual organizations around shared interests. Enhanced strong and weak tie networks on the Net are likely to lead to greater opportunities for and effectiveness of recruitment efforts.

9.5 Data To test the hypothesized increase in political participation, users of the White House document service were asked a series of questions about their involvement in political activities online and offline, their experience of using the White House service, and their experience of using the Internet. The results are far from conclusive and are subject to both sample and self-reporting bias. Nevertheless, the results are consistent with the hypothesis that the Internet is having a positive affect on political participation in some groups because of changes in the flow of political information.

9.6 Resources Document users were asked whether they had participated in a variety of political activities during the past year. Activities were chosen which have both online and offline counterparts. The purpose of the question was to determine if use of the Internet was creating new participation. Evidence for new participation would appear as a significant

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number of citizens participating in an activity online who do not participate in the activity offline. In particular, we would expect citizens to participate in communication and information intensive activities online who do not participate offline. We would expect this result because the cost of the activity is lower online than offline. Table 28 shows the results from these questions. The activities are listed in each row of the chart. The four columns correspond to the different combinations of participation that are possible. For example, the upper leftmost cell indicates that 39% of the respondents have contacted officials both online, e.g. through electronic mail, and offline, e.g. through letters or phone calls. Thirteen percent of the respondents have contacted government officials online but not offline. Table 28: Comparison of Online and Offline Activity
Active Online? -> Active Offline? -> Political Activity Contacting officials Distributing information Signing a petition Campaigning for a candidate Joining a political group Attending a meeting Making a political contribution Yes Yes 39% 19 15 15 3 2 1 Yes No 13% 12 6 2 2 1 0 No Yes 14% 11 32 30 14 30 17 No No 34% 57 47 53 81 67 81

N = 779, Individual Respondents

Three features of the chart are relevant to our hypothesis. First, there is a sizable portion of the sample who have participated in four of the activities online: contacting officials, distributing information, signing a petition, and campaigning for a candidate. Second, a significant portion of online contacters, distributors, and petitioners had not participated in the offline equivalent during the previous year. Third, the activities most

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frequently engaged in online are the most communication and information-intensive. All three of these findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the Internet facilitates participation in communication-intensive activities by reducing the cost of participating.

9.7 Engagement To test whether the Internet is increasing citizens’ engagement in the political process, document users were asked to self-report the effect the Internet on their involvement in the political process on three dimensions. First, users were asked about their political awareness as a proxy for political information. Question wording and results are given below: Table 29: Political Information
“Complete the following sentence in the way that comes closest to your own views: ‘Since getting on the Net, I have ...” A ... become MORE aware of issues that affect me. 64% B ... become LESS aware of issues that affect me. 2 C ... remained EQUALLY aware of issues that affect me 34 D No answer. 1

The results show that almost two-thirds of document users see themselves as become more aware of issues that affect them since getting on the Net. These results do not demonstrate a causal connection between Net usage and awareness, but they are consistent with such as a connection. Interestingly, only 2% of users believe they are less aware. At the end of the White House survey, respondents were asked to relate any stories as to how they used the document service. Their comments support the hypothesis that the Internet enhances citizens’ level of political information. They also

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support a number of the individual hypotheses regarding the flow of information. For example, a consultant noted the importance of disintermediation, heterogeneity, and the integration of social and issue networks across geographic boundaries.
My political IQ has increased in the last year thanks in large part to the internet. The two influences the internet has exerted on me are from: 1. Presidential speeches from the White House email server. 2. Discussions about issues and candidates with others. 1. Presidential speeches It is very instructive to actually be able to read the *entire* speech. The first few weeks I received the speeches and press briefings by email I felt very empowered and liberated. No longer did I depend on a middle-man media spokesperson and their inherent biases to get an analysis of the president's remarks. It was very interesting to see the media select a soundbite from a speech I later read in its entirety. At times, it seemed they picked the least interesting remark. My respect for this president has also increased because I now read his speeches. Although I often do not agree with his conclusions I am often impressed by his ability to grasp and frame the problems facing the nation. Finally, I feel that by reading the press releases, press briefings, and remarks of the president that I have learned more about the duties of the president and the processes involved in the White House. 2. Discussions with others I subscribe to several political newsletters. At times, an issue or candidate will arise to spur me into the debate. The debates not only challenge my intellect and force me to think through issues and how to advocate, but they also give me insights into other people's frame of mind in far away places. I have conversed with individuals from England, California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, etc. They range from young white males to middle-aged black females; from shopowners to chemists; from ex-military to new immigrants. My most recent dialog was with a new US citizen who immigrated from the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Getting his take on the "welfare state" and "big government" is especially enlightening. No one in my nearby community has such a perspective. It is invigorating to see his enthusiasm over this upcoming presidential election. I can only hope the outcome, whatever it may be, will not diminish his enthusiasm for democracy.

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A high school student wrote of the convenience of information retrieval:
I just wanted to tell you a little story. I was assigned to do a story on Presedential accomplishments and I had a tough time, that is until in my email box there it was. It made my story so much easier.. I love the service and keep up the good work.

One citizen became his own information broadcaster:
I am much more in touch with the democratic process via the Internet. I collected so many Web sites relating to Government and Politics that I created my own Web page that focuses on Govt. and Politics in the region in which I live: New York's Capital District. That web page probably tells the story about how much information I have at my fingertips better than any E-mail message. It's a personal/volunteer effort for now. The URL is [withheld to maintain confidentiality].

Another noted the increased volume of information and the value of non-mediated content:
I'm eager to open my e-mail each evening and read the White House material. It's clear, concise and, above all, it's important stuff. I read two major daily newspapers, watch the news on t.v. and read online services like Reuters, but I realize now how severely edited they are. When the President has 800 words to say on an important subject like Japanese trade or the status of nuclear negotiations with the entities of the former Soviet Union, I find the next day that the New York Times and the Los Angeles times (forget t.v. and radio!) have reduced his statement to a sentence. Even if the sentence is accurate, it does not convey the information I want about my world. I have always been a newshound, but since I started my White House e-mail subscription I have never been as well informed! And as long as you continue this service, no one can ever stand between me and the President's and Vice-President's words!

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Political efficacy was measured in the second question in the series by asking users whether the receipt of government information online had affected their perception of government. Question wording and results are as follows: Table 30: Political Efficacy
“Complete the following sentence in the way that comes closest to your own views: ‘Since I began getting government information directly over the Net, government seems ...” A ... more personal and accessible. 60% B ... less personal and accessible. 4 C ... equally personal and accessible as before. 28 D No answer. 8

As with political awareness, a majority of users find government to be more personal and accessible since receiving government information directly over the Net. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that disintermediation produces a greater sense of political efficacy, leading to greater participation. Comments by survey respondents showed some frustration that “some of the main politicians I communicate with .. still have not a presence on the net. I am guessing out of fear and trepidation about taking the plunge.” However, where government has been accessible through the Internet, it seems to have improved efficacy. One citizen noted the value of the Internet in assisting a grant application.
I have submitted an ISTEA Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 to the Va. DOT and have been successful at soliciting grant supporting endorsements from a senator (Warner) and congressman (Goodlatte) for my project via the net, a suprise to me when I had not had any luck via phone. The application itself is asking for funding to develop heritage tourism in the Shenandoah Valley battlefields area and funds would be used to acquire a GPS field backpack unit to digital [sic] record location & elevation along the Trails bike Ways and Civil War sites then post this

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information to the Net for Visitors to explore in cyberspace then Hopefully in person hence economic Development. I also use [the Internet] extensively in research, communication, tracking legislation (both state & federal). I am involved in political issues out of personal interest and concern and have been gratified at the growing presence of connectivity to the resources on the net. Living in rural Virginia, the net has brought Washington & Richmond closer in effect.

9.8 Mobilization Mobilization was tested indirectly by asking users whether they have become more connected with people who share their interests. As we have seen, mobilization occurs most frequently and effectively through personal connections. An important source for new participation is the creation of new connections providing new opportunities for political mobilization. As shown in Table 31, document users on the whole see themselves as becoming more connected with people like themselves. Although not as strong as increase as with political information and efficacy, the direction is nevertheless strongly in the direction of greater connectedness, consistent with our hypothesis. Table 31: Mobilization
“Complete the following sentence in the way that comes closest to your own views: ‘Since getting on the Net, I have ...” A ... become MORE connected with people like me. 37% B ... become LESS connected with people like me. 1 C ... remained EQUALLY connected with people like me. 56 D No answer. 6

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Comments from survey respondents support the mobilization hypothesis. One father has used the Net to involve his daughter in political affairs.
I have a 15-year-old daughter living in Cincinnati. I try very hard to interest her in politics and world affairs. You have made it immensely easier. I select stories from the White House that might pique her attention and hit the "forward" button. Later that evening, by telephone, we discuss the item. On Martin Luther King Day, the President delivered a moving address in Atlanta. I knew my daughter was only vaguely aware of MLK and his significance in American history. The "magic" of your service and e-mail allowed me to put the full text of Mr. Clinton's speech in this girl's hands within a couple of hours. She, too, was moved.

A professor of public affairs has used the Internet to educate others and to stay connected with students and other teachers.
I have been an active participant on both disciplinary and methodological listservers. This along with the lists and WWW sites devoted to teaching and research have enhanced both my ability to teach about politics and public policy as well as the frequency of my contacts with both peers and students.

A similar experience of feeling more connected was related by a preservation professional.
My work as a preservation professional is national, we have jobs from Alaska to New York. Not only is it easier and cheaper to send e-mail to a colleague in Fairbanks, for instance, but I feel closer to that person when we exchange information and comments on the Internet. I personalize my contacts and have found that e-mail offers the opportunity to engage in correspondence. People writing thoughtful, professional, occasionally funny letters to each other have no choice but to think of their correspondent as a person much like themselves even If that person is several thousand miles away. People do have fears about e-mail, about computers and about word processing software but email cuts across borders and time zones and enables each of us to enjoy the fascination of the written word. Computers even enable us to open the doors of the White House.

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One citizen was mobilized into political action by information gathered from the World Wide Web. The information, a detailed listing of contributions to Speaker Gingrich, is not generally available in the broadcast media. This example illustrates how disintermediated information can mobilize political behavior by circumventing potentially biased sources of information.
Recently, while perusing the NewtWatch Home page, I stumbled upon a list of Newt's individual contributors. Although I am not particularly interested, nor care about who supports Speaker Gingrich, I was amazed to see Representative Nancy Johnson's name on the list. The most fascinating part of this story is that I had just received a letter from Mrs. Johnson stating, rather emphatically, that the allegations that she had a conflict of interest with Newt's political arm--GOPAC--were outrageous. Her letter, combined with my new found knowledge from the Internet sent me into motion. I called Mrs. Johnson's office to ask about her personal conflict of interest with the Speaker (after all, she had donated $640 to Mr. Gingrich in June of 1993) and her New Britain office indicated that they did not know anything about Mrs. Johnson's contribution to Speaker Gingrich, but, that they would find out and call me back. As of today, nearly two months since my original request, Mrs. Johnson's office has been unresponsive to my inquiry. Quite honestly, I think she has a conflict of interest with the Speaker and her unresponsiveness only makes me more skeptical of exactly what she is doing in Washington-protecting her Republican friends, or looking out for my best interests. I think I know the answer, as a matter of fact I know the answer to that question, and, because of the Internet I was able to confront Mrs. Johnson's office on the issue.

One survey question was used to test the overall effect of the Net on political participation. Users were asked how their involvement in political issues has changed

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since getting online. As shown in Table 32, users show a strong response towards greater participation. Table 32: Participation
“Complete the following sentence in the way that comes closest to your own views: ‘Since getting on the Net, I have ...” A ... become MORE involved in issues that interest me. 43.0% B ... become LESS involved in issues that interest me. 0.2 C ... remained EQUALLY involved in issues that interest me. 53.0 D No answer. 4.0

A statement by a grassroots organizer shows how citizens can be more involved in issues that interest them as a result of the Internet.
100s of volunteer advocates have been coordinating their hopes for increases in federal funding for research for Parkinsonss Disease related disorders, the Udall Bill, now in its 2nd year. Most of these advocates are young, under 50, and have Parkinson's. All of the leadership in this grassroots lobbying effort communicates by e-mail and thru several donated web sites. Updates, encouragement, and advice is posted to the PARKINSN listserv which reaches over 2,000. Daily summaries of the annual Parkinson lobbying forum were posted from Washington DC during each of these past first 2 years. Last year by me. Net-aholics, like myself, download info from the internet and distribute it among local Parkinson support group leaders, who distribute it to their members. I periodically use Thomas to search for disability issues.

Although survey respondents’ statements are generally positive regarding the effect of the Internet on their political participation, some noted the effect of limited resources on government’s own presence on the Net:

Here in Arizona the state legislative web-server is new, periodic and slow. As a primary caregiver for an elder relative, I have been trying to keep abreast of legal issues relevant to keeping the disabled healthy and at

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home. I find it faster to drive 15 miles to the state capitol to locate proposed legislation than to use their web-site.

9.9 Summary Based on the results of the White House document survey, disintermediation, propagation, increased supply of information, and virtual organization appear to be facilitating participation, at least among some groups, by lowering the cost of participation, increasing political engagement, and expanding the opportunities and effectiveness of political mobilization. It is important to emphasize that these results are based on a survey of individuals actively retrieving government information. Their above-average rates of political participation are not representative of the population as a whole. For example, 70% of document users voted in the most recent state, city, or town election; 65% in the most recent national legislative election; and 62% in the most recent Presidential election. Despite the potential bias in the sample, the results are nevertheless useful in providing an initial validation of the hypothesized effects of the Internet on the flow of information, and in turn, on participation in political activity.

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10 Conclusion
The flow of political information is vital to the functioning of any political system. Individuals, organizations, and governments depend on accurate and timely information to make decisions and coordinate their activities. Given the complexity of contemporary political life, it is virtually impossible to obtain enough information from face-to-face communication and one’s immediate environment. As a result, communication media are required to transmit information across time and space and coordinate collective political behavior. Modern societies have relied on two types of communication media to transmit information and support political communication. Personal media such as face-to-face meetings, the telegraph, and the telephone have been used by individuals to transmit messages back and forth to each other. Broadcast media such as newspapers, radio, and television have been used by individuals and organizations to distribute messages unidirectionally to large audiences. With each development in communication media, the flow of political information has changed. The telegraph and telephone enabled individuals to communicate and coordinate activity over large distances and govern remote areas more directly. The television enabled entire nations to know the same things and experience the same events together. These changes in the flow of political information were caused by changes in the transmission properties of our communication media. And in turn, these changes resulted in new patterns of political behavior.

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The relationship of media to political behavior can be understood as a two-step causal process. Media affect the flow of information according to their transmission properties. In turn, the flow of information affects political behavior by determining what people know about the world around them and how they expect their actions to affect their environment. Changes to communication media therefore produce changes to political behavior through political information as an intervening variable.

10.1 Theory This thesis has evaluated the hypothesis that the Internet is changing the flow of political information in the United States and thereby changing the pattern of political participation. This hypothesis is based on the premise that the Internet is a distinctly different communication medium from other media. If information is an intervening variable between media and behavior, then these differences should result in changes to information flow, and thereby to political behavior. One of the most important differences between the Internet and other media is that, unlike personal and broadcast media, the Internet is capable of many-to-many communication. Personal media are one-to-one, connecting a sender with a receiver. Broadcast media are one-to-many, connecting one sender with many receivers. The Internet, as a network medium, connects many senders with many receivers. The Internet also has the advantage of being both synchronous and asynchronous. With synchronous media, such as the telephone, the message is received without any delay after it is sent. With asynchronous media, such as a newspaper or answering machine, the message is stored until receipt is convenient for the receiver.

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Whereas personal and broadcast media transmit analog information, the Internet is designed for digital information. Messages can be duplicated, stored, edited, and rebroadcast cheaply, easily, and without any loss of information in the process. The cost of transmitting digital information over the Internet is virtually independent of time and space. Sending a message across town is the same as across the globe. The result is a highly versatile medium capable of personal, group, and broadcast communication at a local, regional, or global level with a low cost of transmission and a rapid delivery time. No other medium has combined all of these transmission properties and features. The effect of the Internet on information flow can be understood in the context of communication structures. A communication structure is a system comprising channels of communication, the agents who use those channels, and the information carried over those channels. The primary agents in the U.S. political communication structure are the public, the press, government organizations, and political organizations. Political agents are connected by a variety of information channels, which can be categorized as personal, broadcast, or computer network media. Some agents are intermediaries, gathering information from suppliers, processing, filtering, and interpreting the information, and then re-distributing it to consumers. Communication networks are substructures that lie within the larger communication structure. Issue networks are typically organized around common tasks and interests; while social networks are typically organized around relationships and geographic proximity. Before the Internet, the communication structure in the United States could be described as a Broadcast structure, depicted in Figure 33.

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Figure 33: Broadcast Structure

The press, government, and political organizations are connected via two-way personal media in issue networks organized around political issues. The press draws information from these issue networks and uses one-way broadcast media to distribute the information to the public. Information than circulates within geographically-based social networks comprised of co-workers, friends, and family. With the Internet, all political agents are connected directly to each other in an allchannel structure of communication. Digital information is able to move easily between personal, broadcast, and network media. Network media cross issue and social networks, creating new links between the public, political organizations and the government. Twoway flows of information are introduced between the public and the press. Information flow is also enhanced between members of the public as citizen-publishers come into being and geographically distributed and marginalized individuals are brought together in virtual organizations. The result is a Netcast structure, depicted in Figure 34, which combines the existing features of the Broadcast structure with the unique characteristics of a computer-network based communication structure.
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Figure 34: Netcast Structure

10.2 Hypotheses The Internet is hypothesized to affect the flow of political information in ten specific ways. The hypotheses are derived from the transmission properties of the Internet and our understanding of how people organize themselves and communicate about politics. 1) All-Channel Structure Because the Internet can be used for many-to-many, two-way communication, and because the Net is accessible to all types of political agents, the Internet will exhibit an all-channel pattern of information flow among active and attentive citizens, political organizations, government, and the press. 2) Disintermediation Because of the Net’s all-channel structure, and because traditional intermediaries act as gatekeepers by editing and filtering the delivery of political information, political actors will use the Internet to communicate directly with each other and bypass information gatekeepers whose role shifts to that of information brokers. 3) Virtual Organization Because the Internet reduces the transaction costs of communicating across space and time, and because these transaction costs are important barriers to collective action and group formation, the Internet will be used by groups to organize themselves around shared interests rather than shared geography.

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4)

Integration of Social and Issue Networks Because social networks and issue networks are typically separate, and because the Internet allows for social interactions in groups spread out geographically and organized around shared interests, social networks and issue networks will merge on the Net.

5)

Propagation Because the Internet reduces the cost of maintaining weak ties and redistributing information, and because weak ties are central to the flow of information across social networks, the Internet will be an effective medium for the propagation of political information across social networks.

6)

Volume of Information Because the Internet lowers the cost of distributing information, because automation lowers the cost of retrieving information, and because political agents are typically constrained by communication costs, political agents will both distribute and retrieve more information.

7)

Integration of Media Because digital information can be easily copied and translated across multiple media, and because people use multiple types of media to receive information, political information will move between personal, broadcast, and network media.

8)

Resource Bias Because resources such as education and income are critical factors in both Internet usage and political participation, high-resource individuals and organizations will be more likely to use the Internet for political communication.

9)

Heterogeneity Because the Internet allows anonymous communication with people from different social networks, and because members of the same social networks typically have the similar political views, the Internet will increase heterogeneity in people’s sources of information.

10) Narrowcasting Because distributors can readily identify, target, and customize the presentation of information to specific interest groups on the Internet, political communication on the Net will consist of many messages delivered to many small audiences (narrowcasting) rather than few messages delivered to few large audiences (broadcasting).

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10.3 Evidence The ten hypothesized patterns of information flow in the Netcast structure were tested using a combination of case studies and online surveys. The case studies included e-mail mailing lists, Usenet newsgroups, online petitions, and the World Wide Web. In Chapter 4, the MN-Politics mailing list was examined to determine the extent to which all types of political agents are represented in the list and whether their discussion includes both issue and personal-oriented communication. As shown in Table 33, the mailing list was found to include all types of political agents, indicating an all-channel communication structure, and to combine personal and topical discussions, integrating both social and issue networks. Table 33: Evidence for Netcast Hypotheses
(4) Mailing Lists 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. All-Channel Structure Disintermediation Virtual Organization Issue/Social Networks Propagation Volume Media Integration Resource Bias Heterogeneity Narrowcasting 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 (5) Usenet Groups (6) Online Petitions (7) WW Web (8) WH Docs 4 4 (9) Participation 4 4

In Chapter 5, the alt.politics.homosexuality newsgroup was examined to determine the ability of the newsgroup to organize individuals around a common interest, to measure how well different viewpoints are represented in the discussion, and the extent to which information is shared between the newsgroup and other media. The analysis found that the newsgroup served as a forum for the gay community to discuss issues and

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exchange information, an indication of virtual organization. At the same time, the discussion included sometimes heated debate between citizens on both sides of gay-rights issues. Heterogeneity was therefore present in the newsgroup. Information was broadcast directly by newsgroup participants, bypassing the traditional press, demonstrating disintermediation. And information was frequently posted to the newsgroup from the traditional press, suggesting integration of personal, network, and broadcast media, as shown in Table 33 above. Chapter 6 used an analysis of the signatures to an online petition for PBS funding to evaluate the hypotheses of propagation and resource bias. The path of the petition indicates that citizens tended to forward the petition to friends and family outside their own cities and towns. Geographically distant relationships tend to be weak-ties bridging disjoint social networks. The path of the online petition followed a radial structure of interlocking networks, the optimal pattern for propagation. Signators also tended to be students and live in states with high levels of Internet access, supporting the hypothesis that resources affect the use of the Internet for political communication. As shown in Table 33, the petition analysis is therefore supportive of the propagation and resource hypotheses. Chapter 7 examined the flow of information on the World Wide Web. Web sites related to the 1996 Presidential campaign were examined, including the Republican National Convention, the official Dole/Kemp site, and the California election server. Overall, the Web sites were found to provide a forum for citizens to connect directly with government officials (disintermediation), enable political organizations to publish information directly to the public (volume), allow the simultaneous distribution of

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information over the Internet, television, and newspapers (media integration), and target messages to specific groups of voters based on their expressed interests (narrowcasting). Chapter 8 used the results of an online survey to evaluate seven of the hypotheses from the perspective of Internet users themselves. The survey was conducted over both e-mail and the World Wide Web and yielded a sample size of 1472 responses. Respondents were users of the White House service that distributes electronic versions of official documents over the Internet. The service itself is an example of disintermediation and greater volume, while the frequency with which respondents redistributed the documents to all types of political agents and over other types of media supports the hypotheses of an all-channel structure, propagation, and media integration. That users tend to only retrieve documents that fit their interests and selectively distribute those documents to specialized groups supports the narrowcasting hypothesis. And the above-average education and income levels of document users supports the hypothesis of a resource bias, as shown in Table 33. Collectively, the case studies and survey results are consistent with the patterns of information flow predicted by the Netcast model. They are also inconsistent with the pattern of information flow typified by the Broadcast model. The all-channel structure, disintermediation, integration of issue and social networks, and narrowcasting are unique to the Netcast model. Virtual organization, volume of information, media integration, and heterogeneity are present in the Broadcast model, but not nearly to the degree predicted by the Netcast model and found in the case studies and survey results. The Broadcast structure therefore can not explain the results found in this research.

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Based on the two-stage model of media, information, and political behavior, we would expect the observed changes in information flow to have an affect on political behavior as well. The causal connection between information and behavior is often difficult to establish; however, the White House survey results suggest that disintermediation, virtual organization, propagation, volume of information, and resource bias can facilitate participation among resource-advantaged groups by lowering the cost of participation, increasing political engagement, and expanding the opportunities and effectiveness of political mobilization. Political activities that are information and communication intensive, such as contacting government officials, distributing political materials, organizing petitions, and campaigning for candidates and parties, are particularly affected.

10.4 Implications The fundamental changes to the communication structure outlined in this thesis are likely to have important consequences for our society. The connection between media and social organization has been noted by many scholars. Innis (1951) writes that “marked changes in communications ... are reflected in cultural disturbances.” Schramm (1973) sees changes in “the state of information” accompanying “any major social change.” Thompson (1990) observes that “new technical media ... restructure existing social relations and the institutions and organizations of which they are a part.” Habermas (1989) has written of the “public sphere” in which people create shared meaning (Danowski 1991) through conversation (Gamson 1992). Public discourse is seen as vital to citizens’ understanding of issues and events (Stanley 1983, 1989).

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Without such debate, democracy suffers as citizens withdraw from their communities and view their governments as separate and beyond influence (Barber 1984, Bellah et. al. 1985, 1991). Without engagement in the public sphere, public life atrophies (Arendt 1979). Many believe that contemporary American society is suffering from a shrinking of the public sphere. Oldenburg (1989) notes that there are fewer opportunities for people to meet in public places such as coffee shops and bars, the “third places” of which Habermas writes. Putnam (1993a,b; 1995a,b) similarly notes the decline in membership in civic associations as an indicator of falling levels of social capital. Some observers see computer networks as an antidote to falling levels of social capital and a shrinking public sphere (Schneider 1995, Chapman 1996, Schuler 1995, 1996). Bulletin boards, newsgroups, mailing lists, and community networks are believed by some to create virtual communities that re-engage citizens in their communities and create the trusting relationships that provide the foundation for social capital and successful civic life (Rheingold 1993; Schell 1996). With the exception of a few critics (Stoll 1995), the rhetoric about the Internet’s affect on society has often bordered on the evangelical. The Tofflers (1994, also 1971, 1980) predict that “we may well be on the edge of another great democratic leap forward [with] exciting prospects for a radical expansion of political participation.” Smith (1984) has said, “the new media technologies have the potential to dramatically transform our system of national government by building democratic institutions at a level never before achieved.”

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We are not yet in a position to evaluate fully the merits of these predictions. The research presented in this thesis suggests that we may be witnessing a profound change in the communication structure of society, and that these changes may be altering the way that political agents communicate and exchange information. There is some theoretical and empirical evidence that these changes can lead to an increase in political participation. However, the evidence also indicates that Internet users may be the affluent and educated populations that already participate in politics. For the Internet to produce “a radical expansion of political participation,” groups that typically do not participate in politics or use computers must get online and get engaged in political affairs. For this reason, many advocates have called for universal Internet access along the lines of universal telephone access. The problem is that computers are more complex than media such as televisions and telephones and require an educational process to teach people how to use the technology effectively. Will the Internet change the way that people communicate? The evidence suggests that it will. Will it increase participation? The evidence to this question is a qualified affirmative, most likely among those who already participate or are likely to participate. Will it bring alienated or indifferent citizens back into the political process? The answer to this question, which may be the most important of all, is unknown. The answer, I predict, has far more to do with educating people than networking computers.

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