Many empirical studies have demonstrated a positive interplay between the Internet as a radically new form of media and democratic politics. However, two gaps can be identified in the literature: research on the Internet use is centered on a “micro-level” approach and its role is often analyzed in the context of established democracies. The present master’s thesis widens this empirical focus, by investigating the Internet use from an institutional “macro-level” perspective in the context of a country at a critical transition point: Iraq. The purpose of this study is to explore to what extent the institutional Internet use can serve as an instrument to enhance the flaws in the functions of information-provision and bottom-up communication characterizing Iraq’s fragile representative institutions. More specifically, it aims at assessing how the country’s legislative, executive and political parties are adapting to cyberspace and exploiting its potential as a channel for more informational transparency and bottom-up communication. Through a quantitative methodological approach, the performance of these institution’s websites (n=95) is measured using a content analysis technique. The results point to a mixed account: a rapid enhanced institutional presence on the www, a notable progress in the learning to use the top-down online information provision, and a largely unexploited bottom-up communication through the web. The findings, discussed in the light of theoretical expectations and contextual factors, reveal that the unidirectional Internet use in Iraq is not contributing to the “stable and bi-directional flow of communication” necessary to strengthen Iraq’s nascent representative institutions. While the Internet role may seem unimportant compared to the bigger security challenges facing Iraq since 2003, studying the potential of this instrument at this time where the country is in urgent need to strengthen its democratic practices should not be ignored. This study is a first attempt to map Iraq’s institutional adaptation to cyberspace, and the primary results reached could provide an early benchmark against which to judge future advances.
|School:||University of Westminster (United Kingdom)|
|Source:||MAI 50/05M, Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||International Relations, Web Studies, Mass communications|
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