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Resumen: There is a lot of controversy surrounding the issue of e-democracy and concerning whether and to what extent, ICTs can be used to reinvigorate public discourse, to strengthen participation in democratic processes and to enable better policy-making. Taking into account many different points of view about the topic, this paper argues that we still need to better understand contemporary changes in media landscape as a «phase transition» in our relational patterns. Assuming that a phase transition consists in an abrupt change in the probability of interaction between the elements of a system, phase transition with respect to the new media landscape consists in the unprecedented degree of fast and convenient interactivity offered by ICTs to all citizens who can connect to the Internet. The importance of such transition cannot be underestimated, but it doesn’t provide us with definitive answers to the dilemma posed by the alternative views of pessimists who fear an escalation of existing inequalities, and cyber-utopians who hold that new ICTs can achieve enhanced citizen engagement in policymaking processes and consequently widen opportunities for more democratic participation. The dilemma itself is not well posed: an examination of the literature and case studies shows that despite the growing opportunities to share ideas and information on the Internet, there continue to be several educational, cultural, organizational and constitutional barriers to meaningful citizens’ engagement in policy-making. Changes that are currently reshaping our media environment may lead to very different outcomes: the proposal of reshaping politics through the Web is compatible with the development of more and more meaningful interactivity between representatives and citizens, but also with new forms of autocracies and populist projects. Although there are many examples of the instrumental use of social media to spur political change (campaigning, petitioning online, organizing protest and mobilization initiatives, promoting participation, fostering revolutions), the application of ICTs for political change doesn’t automatically transform citizens neither into “Habermasian” individuals aiming and able to reach agreements through argumentation-based negotiation, nor into better-educated and vigilant multi-taskers, with an additional immunity to traditional and recent propaganda techniques. In conclusion, the article suggests that access to ICTs and the Internet alone are not sufficient to fulfil the unfulfilled promises of democracy (Bobbio). The political promises of the Internet are ambiguous, so that we need much more educational and political imagination now than in the past, in order not so much to fulfil, as to keep in contact with the promises of democracy.
Palabras clave: E-democracy. Media landscape. Phase Transition. Public Social Networks.