Monthly Archives: October 2011

Google is an interesting company and not only because it has superbig data centers and mighty algorithms. It is also interesting because it controls a pretty big pie of the Internet advertisement market and uses a fascinating auction system to sell ad space. Need traffic? You can either SEO your site to the max or just buy some advertisement. Google apparently has good prices and good results. At least Microsoft seems to think that:  Yes, this is an ad for Bing in the first line. What is even more wondrous though is why Google would advertise (right column, third from the top) on the query “search engines” on their own site. AdWords must be very effective indeed.

This preprint of a paper I have written about a year and a half ago, entitled Institutionalizing without Institutions? Web 2.0 and the Conundrum of Democracy, is the direct result of what I experienced as a major cultural destabilization. Born in Austria, living in France (and soon the Netherlands), and working in a field that has a strong connection with American culture and scholarship, I had the feeling that debates about the political potential of the Internet were strongly structured along national lines. I called this moral preprocessing.

This paper, which will appear in an anthology on Internet governance later this year, is my attempt to argue that it is not only technology which poses serious challenges, but rather the elusive and difficult concept of democracy. My impression was – and still is – that the latter term is too often used too easily and without enough attention paid to the fundamental contradictions and tensions that characterize this concept.

Instead of asking whether or not the Internet is a force of democratization, I wanted to show that this term, democratization, is complicated, puzzling, and full of conflict: a conundrum.

Published as: B. Rieder (2012). Institutionalizing without institutions? Web 2.0 and the conundrum of democracy. In F. Massit-Folléa, C. Méadel & L. Monnoyer-Smith (Eds.), Normative experience in internet politics (Collection Sciences sociales) (pp. 157-186). Paris: Transvalor-Presses des Mines.