Australian Politics in a Digital Age

Australian Politics in a Digital Age

Peter John Chen
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: ANU Press
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Australian Politics in a Digital Age
    Book Description:

    Information and communications technologies are increasingly important in the Australian political landscape. From the adoption of new forms of electoral campaigning to the use of networking technology to organise social movements, media technology has the potential to radically change the way politics is conducted and experienced in this country. The first comprehensive volume on the impact of digital media on Australian politics, this book examines the way these technologies shape political communication, alter key public and private institutions, and serve as the new arena in which discursive and expressive political life is performed. Employing a range of theoretical perspectives, empirical data, and case examples, the book provides insights on political behaviour of Australia’s elites, as well as the increasingly important politics of mirco-activism and social media. Energetic and fast-paced, the book draws together a wide range of Australian and international scholarship on the interface between communications technology and politics. Crossing several genres, the book will find a wide audience amongst scholars of both politics and communication, among public relations professionals, and with members of the media themselves.

    eISBN: 978-1-922144-40-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. About the author
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  8. Acronyms and jargon
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  9. Chapter 1 Contextualising our digital age
    (pp. 1-16)

    Digital media has been increasingly making a mark on the practice of politics in Australia. In the days before the 2010 federal election, ‘progressive’ online public interest advocacy group GetUp! took a legal challenge to the Australian High Court. Based on concerns of its members that reforms to electoral enrolment laws made under the previous Coalition government had unfairly disenfranchised younger Australians in 2006, the group mobilised legal resources and supporters to successfully change the law. Similarly, the organisation forced the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to accept online enrolment, setting up an online system to aid in the registration of...

  10. Chapter 2 Obama-o-rama?
    (pp. 17-68)

    For the majority of Australians the political process is most visible during elections. In our system of government, elections serve a wide variety of perceived functions. Under therepresentativeform of decision-making they have a strict legal role in determining who gets to form part of the assembly of legislators and cast votes in the place of members of the public. The traditional justification for this is it serves to free individuals from the onerous labour of directly legislating (Kornberg and Clarke, 1992: 176). Thinking of political systems asinformationsystems, elections are also ‘focusing events’ (Kingdon, 1984: 98), which draw...

  11. Chapter 3 Social media
    (pp. 69-112)

    Elections play to a mechanistic model of politics. Rule-driven and highly structured events, they allocate power to political parties based on a specific formula: populations separated into electorates, Senate quotas, and 50 per cent +1 vote to win a lower house seat. Elections provide access to the institutions of government and legislative design, but they take place within temporal, economic and social contexts. The most significant of these is the cultural and symbolic. While classic institutionalists would explain electoral systems and constitutional design as determining political behaviour by elites (in terms of the impact on elite behaviour due to channelling...

  12. Chapter 4 Anti-social media
    (pp. 113-134)

    One of the more important observations in political science is that the study of political action can reflect a bias towards the exercise of power (Schattschneider 1960: 71). The notion of subaltern (non-hegemonic) counter-publics, championed by Nancy Fraser, picks up on this concept, arguing for the need to identify areas of political dialogue and discussion that lie outside dominant political strata (1990). This is important in seeing the extent of opinion in the community, as well as being able to identify the genesis and conceptual DNA of new ideas that enter into the public sphere (John, 2003). The idea of...

  13. Chapter 5 All your base
    (pp. 135-160)

    Jürgen Habermas’s public sphere presents a tale of decline. In this story, the public sphere builds political legitimacy through fostering rational debate and the achievement of a degree of consensus based on the shared — if limited — agreed objectives of the bourgeois class. As a liberal idea, this includes a fear of unrestrained democratic practice associated with the growth of the mass enfranchisement: that majorities will suppress minority interests (Dryzek, 2002: 12). The problem of majority tyranny is countered by building process legitimacy through ‘liberal constitutionalism’: the protection of a set of individual rights via constitutional law and the focusing of...

  14. Chapter 6 Elite digital media and digital media elites
    (pp. 161-188)

    Information is power and the ‘mainstream media’ in Australia — the established, commercial news organisations — are the most significant institutions in shaping public opinion. This occurs at two levels. The first is through the creation of information that forms the basis of democratic dialogue. While the classic model of the public sphere saw local information as filtering up to national elites, the modern public sphere requires news media to provide information upon which informed debate and deliberation can take place. In this, media organisations are often the origin of many of the issues that form the grist for the mill of...

  15. Chapter 7 Policy in an age of information
    (pp. 189-212)

    Governments have a long history with information and communications technologies (ICT). From the computerisation of census tabulation, to military calculation and code breaking, it was government need that drove the initial development of mainframe computers and networking technologies around the world. In Australia, computerisation was supported by governments as part of the nation-building activities of the Commonwealth, with the objective of developing an industrial economy. For example, the production of the CSIR Mark 1 mainframe in the late 1940s (one of the first computers in the world) was an early initiative of what would become the CSIRO (Pass and Hornsby,...

  16. Epilogue An invitation to readers
    (pp. 213-214)
    Peter John Chen

    This book is provided under a liberal licence that permits the creation and distribution of derivative works. It is part of an expanding body of writing, multimedia, and teaching resources being provided in open access repositories. As public servants, academics have an obligation to ensure the highest availability of our work to the public, to ensure barriers to participation are kept as low as possible, but also that the wider community has the opportunity to see and judge our work and the investment they put into it. Repositories like ANU E Press and licensing arrangements that encourage distribution and creativity...

  17. References
    (pp. 215-268)