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The use of information and communication technology has been leading to foundational changes in democratic society. In the US, new forms of information distribution, citizen discussion and citizen-to-citizen exchange, including content syndication, tagging, and social software, are changing the ways that citizens access information and participate in democratic discussion with other interested citizens as well as government, especially at the local level. We are interested in how local governments and citizens act as agents of change in the community-wide use of social media (also known as Web 2.0). To what extent and for whom does citizen exchange, discussion and collective decision-making supplement offline communication. What is lost in the migration from direct democracy to digital democracy? There are perils as well as opportunities to civic life with the advent of new forms of interaction. Some traditionally politically active participants in the US, such as the older generation, are often uncomfortable with computers. Has their access or participation declined with the migration to electronic forms of government? Conversely, could young adults become more active in civic life through new forms of online social interaction around local or national issues? We report here on changes in civic awareness, political participation, political and collective efficacy, and knowledge sharing among diverse community members based on a decade of research on the social and political use and impact of community-wide computer networking.
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