The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Information Technology and Political Islam

Paperback | September 1, 2010

byPhilip N. Howard

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Around the developing world, political leaders face a dilemma: the very information and communication technologies that boost economic fortunes also undermine power structures. Globally, one in ten internet users is a Muslim living in a populous Muslim community. In these countries, youngpeople are developing their political identities--including a transnational Muslim identity--online. In countries where political parties are illegal, the internet is the only infrastructure for democratic discourse. In others, digital technologies such as mobile phones and the internet have givenkey actors an information infrastructure that is independent of the state. And in countries with large Muslim communities, mobile phones and the internet are helping civil society build systems of political communication independent of the state and beyond easy manipulation by cultural or religiouselites. This book looks at the role that communications technologies play in advancing democratic transitions in Muslim countries. As such, its central question is whether technology holds the potential to substantially enhance democracy. Certainly, no democratic transition has occurred solely because ofthe internet. But, as Philip Howard argues, no democratic transition can occur today without the internet. According to Howard, the major (and perhaps only meaningful) forum for civic debate in most Muslim countries today is online. Activists both within diasporic communities and withinauthoritarian states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, are the drivers of this debate, which centers around issues such as the interpretation of Islamic texts, gender roles, and security issues. Drawing upon material from interviews with telecommunications policy makers and activists inAzerbaijan, Egypt, Tajikistan and Tanzania and a comparative study of 74 countries with large Muslim populations, Howard demonstrates that these forums have been the means to organize activist movements that have lead to successful democratic insurgencies.

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Around the developing world, political leaders face a dilemma: the very information and communication technologies that boost economic fortunes also undermine power structures. Globally, one in ten internet users is a Muslim living in a populous Muslim community. In these countries, youngpeople are developing their political identit...

Philip N. Howard is an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Washington. His previous authored book, New Media Campaigns and the Managed Citizen (2006), won the American Sociological Association's Communication Technology and Society Section Best Book Award and the International Communication Association's Outstand...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:September 1, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199736421

ISBN - 13:9780199736423

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgementsPrologue: Revolution in the Middle East Will be DigitizedIntroduction: Political Communication and Contemporary Muslim Media Systems1. Evolution and Revolution, Transition and Entrenchment2. Lineages of the Digital State3. Political Parties Online4. New Media and Journalism Online5. Civil Society and Systems of Political Communication6. Censorship and the Politics of Cultural ProductionConclusion: Information Technology and Democratic IslamReferencesIndex