This article explores the ways in which actor‐network theory (ANT) invites an alternative account of democratic process, namely in terms of issue‐formation, which is particularly well suited to the study of democratic practices facilitated by information and communication technologies (ICT). Engaging with arguments that have been made in political theory in favor of the re‐invigoration of institutional and extra‐institutional forms of democratic debate, this article argues that a re‐valuation of issue‐politics is more than timely. In this respect, actor‐network theory is a particularly fruitful approach, since it provides the conceptual and methodological equipment to account for democracy in terms of processes of issue formation. Such an account of democracy, it is argued, is particularly appropriate to the study of ICT‐based democratic processes, since in the context of ICT distributed networks that configure around particular issues can be seen to emerge as the carriers of democratic process. Moreover, ANT provides the conceptual and methodological tools for the development of a research practice of tracing public controversies as they are enacted in such networks on the Web. In tracing a particular controversy on the Web, around the Development Gateway, a portal for development information set up by the World Bank, one begins to articulate an alternative understanding of the significance of ICT for institutional as well as extra‐institutional forms of democracy. A number of requirements on effective democratic action, as facilitated by ICT, are derived from the case study, which move beyond the requirement of social networking, i.e. the building of partnerships, and informational networking, i.e. the exchange of knowledge and opinion. Issue‐networking here comes to the fore as indispensable to democratic politics.
Marres, N. (2004), "Tracing the trajectories of issues, and their democratic deficits, on the Web: The case of the Development Gateway and its doubles", Information Technology & People, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 124-149. https://doi.org/10.1108/09593840410542475Download as .RIS
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