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Master of Science Thesis On Politics on the Net

Title: Politics on the Net - NGO practices and experiences
ABSTRACT Of Thesis: This study investigates how different kinds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), operating in different national political contexts, perceive and use the Internet as a political space. The political space concept, as defined here, encompasses two dimensions of Internet use: one external, where organizations use the Internet for online activism and campaigning, and one internal, signifying organizational use of the Internet to promote engagement and interactivity with members and/or supporters. Another question raised is whether Internet use for political purposes by NGOs varies between different national political contexts. Moreover, do the organizations believe that the Internet has affected their political influence to any extent? The empirical data consist of the results of two surveys, one directed primarily to American NGOs, the other explicitly comparative, analyzing NGOs in Sweden and the USA. Furthermore, content analysis of NGO websites have been conducted and additive indexes constructed. The findings of the study suggest that, overall, the Internet is most important to the studied organizations as a space for external political initiatives. There were, however, important differences in this regard, which could be related to the organizations’ national political contexts. For example, the American NGOs have oriented their websites primarily towards relatively superficial forms of member involvement, while the Swedish NGOs provided more interactive grassroots features on their websites. Regarding political influence, the Internet arguably has the potential to make the most dramatic difference by reinforcing the organizations’ offline political activities. The present results indicate that, despite the possible converging effect of the Internet on NGO political activism, national political culture exerts an inescapable influence on how the Internet is used as a political space by the studied organizations.
Keywords: Internet, ICTs, politics, cyber-politics, NGOs, political culture, national political context, online activism, advocacy, interactivity, social movements, political influence, globalization, civil society, global civil
society.
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