ICTs, Democracy, Activism and Dictatorship: Comprehensive Literature Review

Building on my previous post with respect to Howard Philip’s “Origin of Dictatorship and Democracy,” I’ve completed a draft of my dissertation chapter which comprises a comprehensive literature on the impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on Democracy, Activism and Dictatorship. This is a 54-page document (17,000+ words)  which I believe represents the most up-to-date and in-depth review of the literature currently available. The chapter reviews both the quantitative and qualitative literature in this space.

You can download the chapter here (PDF).

I’m actively looking for feedback to make the chapter even stronger and more useful to scholars and practitioners interested in this space. So please do add any recommendations you may have in the comments section below. Thank you very much!

21 responses to “ICTs, Democracy, Activism and Dictatorship: Comprehensive Literature Review

  1. This looks great, and I look forward to reading. It would also be great to see a bibliography along with it, for those references I don’t know by author and date.

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  3. Pingback: Activism, Repression, and ICT: What We Know Now | meta-activism project

  4. I really enjoyed this, Patrick. It’s an important step in field-building, not only for the study of liberation technology in general but for digital activism in particular. I wrote quite a lengthy blog post about it, summarizing your arguments for the TL;DR crowd and also giving some critique:


    You did really excellent work, Patrick.

  5. Hi Patrick

    I have written these notes as I have read through your chapter. Statistics is not my forte so my comments are general, my interest in community informatics arises from an interest since the early 1980s in health and nursing informatics. So I have wittered on and will e-mail you the full ramblings. They may be off-beam, but thanks for a very interesting – past building : future facing – chapter – I also look f/w to the bibliog.

    From the outset you highlight the exceedingly difficult challenge in disentangling political, social, and technology – especially trying to derive causal connections. This immediately makes me wonder whether ‘time’ – the temporal dynamics should also be in there with the political, social, and technology factors? This is no doubt where a lot of the difficulty lies (as I subsequently read in your analysis)? Time has a varying impact across these three:

    POLITICAL: governments, policy, democratic processes, activism, economics, employment, trade, accessibility…
    SOCIAL: cohesion, passivism, cultural mix, repression – media.., quality of life, employment, education, demographic change, politicization…
    TECHNOLOGY: life-cycle – hardware & software, infrastructure – maturity & access.

    There are several time-frames at work and perhaps a question is how does a change in time frame in one – say a new government after 20+ years affect the technological time frames and social that have pertained to date?

    When you note:

    … causal dynamics that may explain the many links between access to new digital technologies and an increase in protests against authoritarian regimes. p.1

    How do we define ‘new’ socially and technically? It is often said that technologies follow generational development (Internet years), can we consider that there are windows of opportunity with each technological turn? The window may vary (in size) in the extent to which it facilitates communication, protest, political change, but it may be there?

    The quantitative studies are mixed you note. They don’t capture the tactical dynamics which denotes time, and suggests perhaps the prospect of emergent social movements with each cycle of SOCIO-technological (S-T) development. We tend to think SOCIO-technically when trying to assure ICT project success? Is it not possible to turn the S-T torch around and shine this light on this subject? There are undoubtedly complex dependencies at work, which qualitative studies and indeed triangulated approaches may be needed to reveal. I greatly appreciate your highlighting the work of Garrett (2006) “explains the emergence, development and outcomes of social movements by addressing three interrelated factors: mobilizing structures, opportunity structures and framing processes”.

    Clearly the literature has tried to address the before – after (access, maturity) status of the Internet (Best and Wade 2009). The criticism of Kedzie’s data from 1993 highlights again the issue(?) of time frames and cycles – Internet, social, political.

    Reading your notes on Eyck (2001) is fascinating: What are the key communicative acts that provoke, empower, enactment of assembly, protest (one-off, successive). Is there a relation to the response – is a ‘crackdown’ immediate, or delayed? I don’t want to cause confusion using the term – but what ‘degrees of freedom’ are there in alternate communication / technology resources and channels should national telecomms be restricted? I suppose all of these are put in the mix within the papers explored? In the quantitative papers you study, ‘time’ IS there throughout, I wonder if there are nuances – subtleties beyond time-series?

    If there are problems defining ‘new’ do we need to be able to define ‘archaic’ in these contexts, especially when telecomms / ICT is basic BUT political change (still) happens. Are there any examples?

    Livingston’s complex of process to which you refer brings home the need to reconcile (impossible currently) purposes (individually and socially defined), practices (access to education, training – informal and formal) and policy. I have long stressed the need to concurrent consider 4P’s not one – process. Thanks for GDADS – I must follow this up as it progresses.
    Just one thing before I close here Hodges’ model can provide a high-level conceptual framework upon which to represent the various concepts and relationships at hand in your work and this community.
    I will e-mail you the rest Patrick!
    Kind regards,
    Lancashire, UK
    Hodges Health Career – Care Domains – Model
    h2cm: help 2C more – help 2 listen – help 2 care

    • Wow, thanks a million for such detailed feedback, Peter, I’m incredibly grateful! This will be super helpful when I revise the chapter in the coming weeks. Thanks again, really appreciate it!

  6. Hi Mr. Meier! I am reading the chapter and I am liking what I´m seeing. When I finished probably it will be cited on my master´s dissertation. Currently I am studying at University of São Paulo, Brazil. Furthermore, I would like to introduce my personal website with several articles about e-gov and e-governance, telemedicine and e-participation. If you are interested: http://translate.google.com.br/translate?hl=pt-BR&sl=pt&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fsites.google.com%2Fsite%2Fricardomatheus%2F.

    Kind Regards!

    Ricardo Matheus

  7. Thank you for the post and making your information public. As a huge fan of open source principles as they can be applied to decentralized and democratic movements, there is a real lack of this information online right now, since it is largely being defined in the present.

    Great to see some more real information out there.

  8. Hi Patrick, Hopefully our actions will be of interest. The latest of these is in leveraging liberation technology for economic development in Ukraine. In the paper offered to government 4 years ago the case for it supporting social economic and democratic evolution is aligned with the call for deploying an economic paradigm of profit for social benefit:


  9. Pingback: Access to Mobile Phones Increases Protests Against Repressive Regimes | iRevolution

  10. Pingback: ICTs, Democracy, Activism and Dictatorship: Comprehensive Literature Review | iRevolution | De camino a la abulia

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  12. practitioners interested in this space. So please do add any recommendations you may have in the comments section below. Thank you very much!

  13. Ukraine. In the paper offered to government 4 years ago the case for it supporting social economic and democratic evolution is aligned with the call for deploying an economic paradigm of profit for social benefit:

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