Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

E-democracy and the Web – Sociology basics and relevant concepts   no comments

Posted at 5:10 am in Politics,Sociology

In an effort to organise my reading in a practical way, and keeping in mind that the disciplines of Sociology and Political Sciences may overlap, at least in the context of e-democracy, I have decided to start from the core principles of Sociology and then go on to more complex concepts.

The book that I have been reading this week is Sociology by John J. Macionis. As the title suggests it is an introductory textbook to Sociology. It is a well written textbook, up to date and quite successful, at least judging from the fact that I am using its eleventh edition.

Despite having already been in contact with some terms, principles and methods of Sociology (through the Foundations of Web Science module), I decided to go through them again and in more depth. So I read about the theoretical approaches that are used such as the structural-functional approach, the social-conflict approach and the symbolic-interaction approach. The book has a great example on how to use these approaches and also has a paragraph for each that serves as a critical review. These will be quite useful if I will need to apply theories during my analysis of e-democracy.

But besides the three theoretical approaches, there are also three methodological orientations when doing sociological research: scientific sociology, interpretive sociology and critical sociology. There are also various methodologies, which I already came to know through the Research Methods Group Project module.  Although it is not necessary to read research papers for the purpose of this module, been able to understand how sociologists work may be helpful in getting a general understanding of their discipline.

After reading the introductory chapters, reading about Society was the obvious way to continue. What I found particularly relevant, was the concept of socio-cultural evolution (Nolan & Lenski, 2004) that describes how societies change due to technological changes, which obviously is what the Web is doing to our society. After this, the book presents the 3 great sociologists of the past: Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim. Their (sometimes conflicting) analysis of modern societies roughly corresponds to the three theoretical approaches mentioned before. Concepts like capitalism, rationalisation, alienation and anomie were introduced.

Between the individual and the society, stand various groups and organisations. The groups that are relevant to e-democracy (such as political organisations) are mainly secondary groups, that is groups that their members have relationships that are often short term and usually less close and broad than in primary groups (such as families). Moreover, they are also based on the pursuit of a common goal. Group leadership and group conformity are two important factors affecting the operation of groups.

A more formal type of secondary group is a formal organisation. Normative organisations, that is organisations that their members have joined to pursue a morally worthwhile goal, are the organisations of most interest, as these include both political parties and voluntary political organisations, both instrumental to e-democracy. Organisational models are discussed, with an emphasis on bureaucracy, with its shortcomings such as alienation stressed. Modern democracies seem to suffer from such shortcomings and these are some of the problems that e-democracy may solve.

I briefly read about social stratification and social class as I believe that they will be necessary for my subsequent understanding of Political Science principles. Although I continued reading about Politics and Government (from a sociologist’s viewpoint) and to keep this post simple, I will add this section to next week’s post or incorporate it in a post about Political Science. For the following week, my reading priorities will be the chapters about social change, collective behaviour and social movements. I may also start reading about Political Science basics.

Written by el3e09 on February 27th, 2010

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Sociological Concepts, Structural Perspectives, Power, Politics and People   no comments

Posted at 1:57 am in Politics,Sociology

Currently reading: A New Introduction to Sociology – Mike O’Donnell

Brief overview of what has been read:

Currently I have been looking at the fundamentals of sociology, which includes the core principles and basic sociological concepts. Furthermore I have been reading about the founders of sociology: Marx, Durkheim and Weber, and how their views have influenced sociological theory and sociological structural prospective.
The book introduces also Functionalism, Marxism and social action theory, explaining their core differences.
This introduction is covered in good detail in Chapter 1.

Also directing my reading towards the political aspect of sociology, I have been reading about Power, Politics and People. The book explains the core principles of Weber and Marx’s power views. Also looking at the systems of government, such as Democracy, Oligarchy and Dictatorships have been discussed. A really relevant section is the voting models which where explained, including the party identification and social class model, the rational-choice model and the radical model. All arguing a different reason for why trends occur in voting behaviour.

This topic on political sociology can be read in chapter 14.

Knowledge gained and relevance to issue:

To begin with let’s look at the basic sociological concepts, these include self, which as Kuhn suggests is “the core of the personality system”. This can be genetically or socialisation. However sociologists take a minimal view on instinctive behaviour, suggesting that it is shaped by social behaviour instead.

Another concept is socialisation, which is the process of shaping human behaviour through experience in social situations. Cooley suggests that there are type types of socialism, primary and secondary, small groups involving face-to-face relationships and allow the individual to express themselves as a whole, or larger more impersonal groups, formally organised, and for a specific purpose.

Furthermore the concepts of Culture, Values, Norms, Status and Roles are discussed. These all form the basis of the concepts behind sociology.
Looking at the issue that is being addressed (in short, how the use of the web is changing the way society can communicate with the government), these concepts plan a large part on the interaction between both parties. Taking socialisation for instance, which is being defined as either primary or secondary, but the introduction of these new communication methods gives opportunities for the individual to express themselves.

The next thing that needs to be discussed is the founder’s perspective on Society. Marx, Durkheim and Weber all take a different view on sociological theory. Durkheim’s Functionalistic view is based on the prospective that social institutions (i.e. schools, governments) exist to meet basic human needs. Society operates comparative to a biological organism, where the institutions interact with each other for the benefit of society, and power is practically necessary. Marxism however is based on the view that class conflict is the fundamental social force. In a capitalist society, the main social classes are the capitalist class and the working class. These can be seen as the powerful and weakest classes (bourgeoisie or proletariat). Power is also based on class, which is down to wealth and property. Finally Weber’s work, referred to as Social Action Theory tries to integrate the structural prospective and also the interpretive perspective. This takes the view that society is constructed through social interaction, not class. And that power is needed, but tends to agree that power is based on class.

These theories can be discussed in regards to the issue trying to be addressed, especially looking at the relationship between the individual and society, and also what causes social change.

Looking at Politics, Power and Authority, Weber and Marx suggest two views, power is the ability to get ones way (even if it is based on bluff) and power lies in the relations of a group, respectively. These theories can be well discussed regarding the issue of web communications. For instance, if power is the ability to get ones way, they would online forum bulling / spamming show that they user has power; furthermore, just because of a hierarchical structure in a forum, do the higher rated uses have more power, hence more ‘political’ voice?

Looking at the different voting models is also an important aspect that needs to be discussed. If taking the party identification and social class model into consideration, which suggests that historically, and even in contemporary Britain the main factor to explain voting behaviour is class, how does this affect the Web model that is being seen? On the contrary to this, the rational-choice model suggests that voting is mainly the basis of self-interest in relation to the issues being presented. Extrapolating this to the Web, does this suggest that people are only interested in politics that affect them, either their local government or council? Finally the radical model argues that sectoral cleavages (private and public sector) explains trends in voting behaviour, this may in turn distract people from class

These so far are the basic concepts that I have studied in the field of sociology, which is also touching upon political sociology. Further reading now is required into political communications, and concepts being it.

Written by rt506 on February 26th, 2010

Politics and Law on Linked Data   no comments

Posted at 9:54 pm in Law,Politics

Note: this is a working draft, small changes to the brief will probably occur as research is done.

In order to keep these topics relevant to possible future work and research, the disciplines which will be summarised shall have tangible links to the topic of Linked Data.

A suitable and very current web phenomenon, linked data provides a new platform for society to share and creeat new information in much the same way as the original web. Understanding how this may effect various parts of our lives may help us guides its and the standard web’s development. However this requires some form of knowledge of the areas/relevant theories it may effect.

The disciplines that shall be explored are Law and Politics.

Law is a concern as new technologies such as linked data may offer new challenges to copyright, privacy and the standard raft of web based policies and laws. A key example of this is how the linked data service prompted the creation of a new form of creative commons license for government data which is aligned to the Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Key topics for law include:

  • Copyright and IPR
  • Confidentiality and Privacy
  • Jurisdiction
  • Law and the web (how the above translate into practice on the web)

Politics is relevant as governments attempt to use new technologies such as linked data to improve their key services as well as increase public opinion. Government linked data effort

Key topics for Politics:

  • Core government structure, services and aims
  • Transparency and openness
  • Policy making, the processes involved

Sources to follow. Look out for a revision on the key topics also.

Written by tww106 on February 21st, 2010

E-democracy and the World Wide Web   no comments

Posted at 5:55 am in Politics,Sociology

E-democracy (electronic democracy or digital democracy) is a relatively new concept. It can be defined as the usage of information and communication technologies (ICT) for the enhancement of the participation of citizens in the democratic process. However, it can be argued that these technologies and especially the World Wide Web can play a bigger role in that process, by providing opportunities for reshaping the way democratic institutions currently work.

In order to evaluate the above statement, a thorough study of the way Democracy works is needed. Furthermore, prevalent ideologies within democratic states are factors that affect the degree of adoption of e-democracy, so studying Political Science textbooks is a way to be introduced to the most important ones.

The study of issues like collective action, discourse and decision making is crucial for gaining an understanding of the democratic process on both an offline context and the Web. For this reason, knowledge of Sociology and its basic principles is needed.

Some books to be used as an introduction to the aforementioned disciplines are:

Political Science:

  • Political Ideologies: an introduction – Eccleshal et al
  • Political Sociology: a critical introduction – Faulks


  • Sociology – Giddens
  • Sociology: A Global Introduction – Macionis, Plummer

Some other books that may be useful are:

  • The Myth of Digital Democracy – Hindman
  • Sociology in the Age of the Internet (Sociology and Social Change) – Cavanagh
  • The Social Net: Human behavior in cyberspace – Amichai-Hamburger

Written by el3e09 on February 20th, 2010

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Independent Disciplinary Review   no comments

Posted at 1:16 am in Politics,Sociology

This review will be focusing on how the Web is changing the way society is able to engage with the government, specifically with new forms of communications, such as E-Voting, E-Petitions (such as that on

Previously Society in general had a lack of contact with their government and local MP’s. However now with the Web, the general public can get in to direct contact with MP’s by the use of email, start political debate on Web based forums and have access to Government data / information much more easily. Furthermore as mentioned above, the ability now for E-Petitions could be seen to allow for a greater level of democracy. Furthermore from a MP’s prospectus, they can gain a greater national or even global reach very quickly, by use of such Web 2.0 tools as Twitter (or TweetMinster).

Not only are MP’s now using twitter to advertise their policies and everyday business involving government issues, but the general public are tweeting, blogging and using video media to actively engage and discuss such issues. Using trend trackers for tweets, governments have the ability to analyse key political topics which are being discussed. Reading different articles such as that of an article at corporate-eye suggests that such Web based tools are being used to a government party’s advantage.
Does this increase in communication methods available mean that the core structure of how governments operate is changing and do these changes change the fundamental principles of political and social structures? It is clear to say that the web is now one of the advertising/campaigning pathways for any government or political party, however what needs to be discussed is the changes that society will face in the near future.

There are several disciplines that can be examined, however two key disciplines, Politics and Sociology will be explored. The fundamental principles of both with be reviewed and then discussed in the context of the issue stated.

Exploring the sociological discipline, the topic of political sociology can be examined, which looks at the relations between state and society. Within this topic, there are certain areas which can be discussed in relation to Web Science: the socio-political formation of a state, how public movements and formal institutions outside the political power affect politics.

Exploring the Political discipline, political engagement is an area which may be changing due to the Web. Within this topic, such issues as Political campaigning can be discussed and then related to how the Web is changing the structure of such campaigns.
From gaining some understanding in the fundamentals of both disciplines, hopefully the key principles then can be applied to what is occurring on the Web (and in society) at present, hence forming a conclusion regarding whether the original political and sociological models are changing.


• Introduction to politics and society – Best, Shaun.
• Comparative Government and Politics, an Introduction – Hague, Rod.
• Internet politics: states, citizens, and new communication technologies – Chadwick, Andrew

• Thinking Sociologically – Zygmunt Bauman
• Introduction to Sociology – Theodor W. Adorno
• Approaching Sociology: a Critical Introduction – Coulson, Margaret A.
• Doing Sociology: A Practical Introduction, Harvey, Lee.

Written by rt506 on February 16th, 2010