Date of Award

5-2002

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Political Science

Major Professor

Dr. Michael R. Fitzgerald

Committee Members

Dr. John M. Scheb, Dr. David Folz, Dr. Bob Gorman, Dr. Grady Bogue

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the issue of participation and civic engagement through the investigation of cyberspace as public space. The research systematically studied the development, nature, operation, and impact of k2k, a local cybergroup based in Knoxville, Tennessee. While the emergence of cyberspace as public space is no panacea for the ills of democracy in America, it is clearly a potential antidote to counter the more virulent dimensions of civic disengagement in the United States. However, for a cybergroup to serve as an antidote to civic disengagement, the participants must move beyond electronic discourse into the realm of action. This study found that as people participated in the cybergroup, they became more informed from the interaction with others and were motivated to bring more information to the group. This increased the knowledge of others in the group as well as the group’s overall perception of efficacy within the community. As more people participated and disseminated both knowledge and strategy for community action, the greater community itself was affected. As a result, more people participated: passive participants tended to participate more actively, and active participants were more likely to increase their participation. Finally, this study considers the implications of the findings and proposes areas for further study.

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