On the last page of his three-volume masterpiece Information Age, Manuel Castells arrived at a fairly optimistic conclusion. On the last page of his three-volume masterpiece Information Age, Manuel Castells arrived at a fairly optimistic conclusion. On the eve of the 20th century Castells contended that human society might well stand on the doorstep of a bright future: ‘The dream of Enlightenment, that reason and science would solve the problems of humankind,’ Castells writes, ‘is within reach.’ Far from being naively utopian, however, Castells made it clear, that he considers the door closed at present, even blocked. ‘Our economy, society and culture’, Castells argued, ‘are built on interests, values, institutions and systems of representation that, by and large, limit collective creativity, confiscate the harvest of information technology, and deviate our energy into self-destructive confrontation.’
The aim of this project, which comes in two parts, was to explore what consequences the emergence of New Media had, has and could have for ‘modern’ democracies and community engagement. The issue under scrutiny is whether ‘electronic democracy’, ‘internet democracy’, ‘digital democracy’, ‘social media democracy’, ‘user-generated democracy’ and so on, could turn out to be the very ‘institutions and systems of representation’ Castells had in mind.