The Internet and Political Organizations: Force, Tool, or Wildcard?

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2007-11-26

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The effect of Internet usage on political organizations is largely assumed in the literature, which limits our understanding of the topic. Three dominant perspectives have developed, viewing technology alternately as a Force that transforms organizations (Techno-determinist), a Tool that organizations can utilize (Situationalist), or as a Wildcard that will have unpredictable effects even on similar organizations (Techno-skeptic). This dissertation examines each of these perspectives in detail and tests their predictive elements against case studies of four political organizations: the Dean for America campaign, MoveOn.org, and the Green and Reform Parties. Cases were chosen due to their innovative usage of the Internet, their outsider status, their status as contemporaries, and being active at the national level of American politics. The results demonstrate that while each perspective provides some insight, they are individually inadequate to explain the subject in its entirety and, therefore, a new approach to the topic is necessary. Suggestions for future research and steps to construct a new, more complete, model are presented along with recommendations for the application of these findings by political organizations.

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