Cyberspace and the concept of democracy

Fred Evans

Abstract


We often speak of democracy as a mere decision-making procedure rather than as a "form of life." Part of the reason for this formalism is the difficulty of revealing the aspects of individual and social existence that provide the impetus toward democracy and that democratic practices should reflect and augment. I argue that the Internet's status as a "virtual" rather than actual reality (its status as a serendipitous form of what phenomenologists call an epochéor a "placing within brackets" of our standard beliefs) reveals some of the more important aspects underlying democracy. In particular, the Internet's virtual status indicates that society is what I term a "metamorphosing multi-voiced body." This implies that democracy off-line and online must support the interplay or solidarity among the "voices" of this body (as opposed to their mere plurality) and simultaneously respect their heterogeneity. It must adopt the "interplay of equally audible voices" as its political ideal. Because this interplay among voices produces new discourses, democracy's valorization of the multi-voiced body must also affirm the metamorphosis that society's creativity brings about. I also consider what this view of democracy means for current issues concerning the fate and character of the Internet as well for the clash between the liberal, communitarian, and deliberative views of online democracy.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v5i10.796



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