Paper Information

Journal:   IRANIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY (ISA)   WINTER 2010 , Volume 10 , Number 4; Page(s) 130 To 159.
 
Paper:  THE INTERNET USE AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION IN IRAN EXPLAINING THE CORRELATION
 
Author(s):  ABOLLAHIAN H., HAGHGOEI A.
 
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Abstract: 

This paper attempts to study the rate and quality of the internet use amongst students of the University of Tehran. Following its focus, it measures the causal effect of the internet use on the students’ political participation. In order to address the above correlation, we will use a composite theoretical framework that combines conceptual considerations of Habermas’s "public sphere" and Michael Rush’s hierarchical model of political participation.
In our study we conducted a random sampling procedure that resulted in the selection of 730 students, and then we used a questionnaire to survey them. Moreover, in order to test the study’s hypotheses we used three analytical methods as follows: correlation analysis, regression analysis and directional analysis.
The study’s findings indicated that: the further the rate and quality of the internet use increase, the more the level of political participation would be. The quality of internet use, of course, has a larger share in the rate of students’ political participation. Accordingly, it can be argued that the findings confirm the fact that internet can result in increasing political participation. This result is in line with Habermas’s point on public sphere and here we witness that the internet transforms into means of acting as a major element of public sphere.
Other results also indicate that 56 percent of samples’ political participation is categorized as mid-level political participation. This is while Rush had evaluated this as low level of political participation. Accordingly and in contrast to Rush’s claim, politics in virtual world and among educated people, is not necessarily limited to a small group’s field of activity. Such level of participation is also an indicator of the fact that new media, in general, and the internet, in particular, can play a completely different role compared to the classic media in creating open space for free lance argument and contributing to formation of public opinion. This in turn can contribute to furthers claim, development of rational-critical arguments and development of political action. These findings indicate that Habermas’s point on low-level effect of the media in formation of public opinion and low-level of the new media effect on political participation is not confirmed among the internet users in Iran.

 
Keyword(s): THE INTERNET, POLITICAL PARTICIPATION, PUBLIC SPHERE, CIVIL PARTICIPATION, PUBLIC OPINION
 
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