Digitally Mediated Political Participation: Understanding the Democratic Impact of Internet Diffusion in the Asian Media Systems
LEE, SHIN HAENG
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This dissertation is devoted to an examination of the democratic impact that internet diffusion has on political participation in East and Southeast Asia. To begin with, I conceptualize digitally mediated political participation in which internet use affords an unconventional pathway of individual citizens toward collective action. The mechanism of micro-mobilization lies in the technological capacity that enables structural ties to digitally networked activism. But unconventional mobilization involves contextual variation in opportunity structures across countries. Therefore, I compare eight Asian countries in relation to media systems as well as regime types: South Korea and Taiwan in East Asia, and Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam in Southeast Asia. Based on this comparative analysis, I study the mechanism of unconventional mobilization that is predicted by internet use at the individual level. Data came from three cross-national surveys undertaken in the mid-2000s and early 2010s: Asian Barometer Survey, World Press Trends, and World Values Survey. The findings show that the “Asian internet” has distinctive mobilizing features: 1) that it provides communication and organizing capacities for the individual pathway to unconventional political participation; 2) that it exerts greater effects on participation in non-democracies or poor democracies than in wealthy democracies; and 3) that it is nevertheless constrained by national mass-media systems. In conclusion, digitally mediated political participation sheds light on a new individual pathway to citizen engagement in politics that is distinct from traditional communicative or organizational structures.
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