Policymaking in the Age of Internet: Is the Internet Tending to Make Policy Networks More or Less Inclusive?

Rethemeyer, R. Karl
April 2007
Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory;Apr2007, Vol. 17 Issue 2, p259
Academic Journal
Although many policy and political scientists have studied the Internet's role in electoral and organizational processes, there is little work that examines the Internet's effect on policy processes. Has the Internet tended to make policy deliberations more inclusive? Has it affected patterns of influence reputation among network participants? Has the Internet helped to bring new organizations into policy debates? This study provides preliminary answers to these questions. Treating policy networks as a type of interorganizational network, a "socialized" resource dependence framework is developed. Deployment of the Internet is conceptualized as an exogenous shock, where the shock alters the material resource base of a policy network and allows actors inside and outside the network to challenge structural power holders. Structural power holders attempt to "mold" use of the Internet to protect their position and its perquisites. To test this framework data were collected from two policy networks in "Newstatia"--one focused on adult basic education policy and the other on mental health policy. Both policy networks appear to have become more exclusive since the deployment of the Internet. Electronic central discussion networks (or "cores") were primarily populated by actors who were already entrenched in positions of structural power within the network and possessed very high influence ratings. Most Internet communication occurs between members of the electronic core. At least preliminarily, the Internet appears to reinforce existing patterns of authority and influence.


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