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Resumen: The scientific debate concerning the changes generated by the ICTs and, more precisely, by the advent and rapid spread of the Internet in contemporary democracies has often involved, in the last twenty years, considerations on the changes and the crisis affecting democracy. New information and communication technologies have often been considered a tool to revitalize democratic societies, especially to mitigate the increasing mistrust affecting the relation between governors and governed. The definition of the Internet —and which should therefore be its role in democratic regimes— is then a crucial issue. The meaning attributed to the Internet is not self-evident, as it may seem at first glance. In fact, the concept itself is open to many variations, sometimes very different from one another. In particular, the political and social actors emphasize those aspects that are functional and coherent with the attainment of their objectives. Their different concepts are very closely linked to the idea of democracy that they advocate or represent. From this perspective, the competition to define the type of regulations and the role that the Internet plays in contemporary societies seems to be attributable to a competition between alternative proposals for the establishment of a particular conception of democracy. The article explores the consequences of the current development and spread of the Internet on the functioning of democratic regimes. The main theoretical reflections on the so-called e-democracy are compared with the complexity that emerges from the empirical analysis of three case studies, highlighting alternative ideas and uses of the Internet: the Obama administration; the Indignados and the Occupy Wall Street movements; and the non-profit organization WikiLeaks. Although none of these experiences have discussed nor developed new models of democracy, their different actors use the Internet in a functional way to support a particular vision of society centred on institutions (Obama), citizens (movements) or the media and journalism (WikiLeaks).
Palabras clave: E-democracy. Public Sphere. Newsmedia. Indignados. WikiLeaks. Obama.