Political participation via the web: Structural and subjective contingencies | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 5, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1757-2681
  • E-ISSN: 1757-269X



The article offers an overview of key contingencies that shape the use of the web for democratic participatory purposes. I begin by probing the notion of participation, suggesting that we need to be specific in what we mean by it and how different contexts accord it very different significance. From there I examine the main parameters of the web’s structural contingencies, taking up its political economy and technical architecture. These parameters are bound up with power relations, an important feature too often ignored, with the result that the web erroneously is seen as a neutral terrain of communication. Thereafter I turn to the web’s subjective contingencies, looking first at the relationship between subjectivity and discourse. The subjective contingencies – the ‘inner realities’ of political actors – derive in part from the web’s structural power relations, but cannot merely be reduced to them, since human agency can never fully be predetermined. Further, I take up the theme of reason and emotion, as well as the notion of affect. This latter term points to experiential reality beyond the immediately personal/private one. I conclude with some brief reflections on the relationship between offline and online forms of participation.


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