FOR AND OF THE PEOPLE: A CASE STUDY OF HOW ONLINE PLATFORMS IMPACT U.S. CIVIC DUTIES
Miller, Yvette Irene
Today, online communication is a major tool in the development of public policy. It is used both by the federal government to express opinions and to inform and persuade the public, and by the public to express opinions and to inform and persuade the federal government. However, is the growing number of online platforms providing a better way for citizens to fulfill their civic duties?First, this thesis establishes a theoretical definition of a virtuous citizen, using the Federalist Papers as a guide. The theoretical rule for virtuous citizens that is established is threefold. The citizen must: 1) acknowledge the greater good of respecting the commons; 2) acknowledge an elected representative's ability to represent his interest (while deferring to the representative about matters of public good); and 3) elect virtuous statesmen. This definition will be examined alongside the practical interpretation of that definition in the late 18th and early 19th Century, which highlights love of both competition and perceived equality as hallmarks of the American citizen. These hallmarks influenced how Americans fulfilled the role of the theoretical virtuous citizen.The focus then turns to the role that the media has played in affecting the way that citizens fulfill the three rules of virtuous citizenship. Using the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA (as introduced by the House of Representatives) and its Senate equivalent, the PROTECT IP Act, or PIPA, as a case study, this thesis aims to capture a snapshot of what place the Internet currently has in political discourse and to show how that compares to and contrasts with early political discourse.This thesis has found that the love of both competition and perceived equality are still hallmarks of American citizens and still influence how citizens fulfill the role of the theoretical virtuous citizen. Based on the defined role of the virtuous citizen, the conclusions of this thesis are that the Internet: erodes the trust needed to allow for removed representation; has a mixed impact on a citizen's ability to recognize the commons; and positively impacts a citizen's ability to fulfill his obligation to elect a virtuous statesman.
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