E-Net News

Janna Anderson joins essayists writing about technology and politics

Janna Anderson and four co-authors contributed essays for Zócalo Public Square.

Janna Quitney Anderson


Will new technologies encourage better political engagement? Associate Professor Janna Anderson, director of the Imagining the Internet Center, joined four other co-authors answering this question for Zócalo Public Square, a project of the Center for Social Cohesion, in advance of the event “Can Technology Save California Governments?” (http://zocalopublicsquare.org/upcoming.php?event_id=489).

Co-authors joining Anderson were: Jennifer Pahlka, executive director and founder of Code for America; Gregory G. Curtin, founder and principal of Civic Resource Group, and a fellow with the World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Council on the Future of Government; Maggie Jackson, an award-winning journalist and author of “Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age”; and Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, Stanford University psychiatrist and author of “Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the e-Personality.”

The five experts were asked to share their thoughts on the contributions new technologies might be making to public discourse, and their answers were compiled in the online article “Good Gizmos and Good Governance: Will New Technologies Encourage Better Political Engagement”: http://zocalopublicsquare.org/thepublicsquare/2011/10/25/good-gizmos-and-good-governance/read/up-for-discussion/

Anderson based her contribution on research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. She noted the following:

  • In a 2010 survey conducted by Elon University and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 72 percent of the nearly 900 respondents optimistically said technology will improve political engagement. We have been seeing this techno-optimism reflected in many studies of Internet users over the past decade. ( http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Impact-of-the-Internet-on-Institutions-in-the-Future.aspx)
  • Social media tools stole the headlines during the historic 2008 presidential race. Pew survey data from that period shows how vital the use of text messages, YouTube, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds were in fundraising and overall political engagement. ( http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/6--The-Internets-Role-in-Campaign-2008.aspx)
  • The 2010 elections showed further innovation. Fifty-four percent of U.S. adults (73 percent of adult Internet users) reported that they used the Internet for political purposes in the 2010 election cycle–far surpassing the numbers reported in the 2006 contest. ( http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Mobile-Politics.aspx)
  • A 2011 survey on local news sources indicates how Americans learn about local politics. Right now, most get it from a wide variety of sources, but overall most say they are generally still getting most of their information on politics from their local newspaper (26 percent) and local television news (28 percent). ( http://pewresearch.org/docs/?DocID=140)
  • In several Pew surveys, respondents have expressed serious concerns about certain negative effects of new information networks. These include the overt amplification of extreme viewpoints; the tendency for people to seek out only the information they want to hear and to “remain in their silos”; the diminishment of media organizations with well-trained journalists; and the vast amount of inaccurate and distorted information now influencing political engagement.
Dan Anderson,
10/28/2011 10:34 PM