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The Great Equalizer? The Internet and Political (In)Equality

Presenter: Saifuddin Ahmed

Jan 18, 2018
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM

Kerr Hall 386

Presenter: Saifuddin Ahmed

Title: The Great Equalizer? The Internet and Political (In)Equality


The Internet and social media have contributed to new paradigms of communication and political processes. Although these technologies are widely heralded as a harbinger of equality, empirical findings of their effects on civic and political participation across societies are somewhat mixed. The academic scholarship is still far from a conclusive explanation for the question: can new media technologies reduce or even reverse political inequality?
In this talk, I will present two empirical studies which offer insights into the role of online technologies on facets of political inequality – the unequal distribution of political influence, observed both, among the political candidates and the citizenry. The first study focuses on the use of Twitter by under-resourced political candidates during the 2014 Indian general election, the biggest democratic exercise in the world. The second study, based on multi-level cross-national analyses of 100,687 respondents from 111 countries, analyzes the role of the Internet in socioeconomic stratification in civic participation.
Taken together, the findings highlight the need to move towards theorizing the socio-political effects of online technologies, by considering both the contextual factors (e.g., press freedom and government interventions) and the individual characteristics of the users in constructing theoretical frameworks. My work contributes to an understanding of the effects of technology use embedded within the larger context of governance, politics, and citizen mobilization.


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