"La liberté de la Presse",
engraving from the period of
the French Revolution.

The Politics of Cyberspace


Dr. Michael Dartnell
Department of Political Science,
York University

Fall 1999


Monday: 9h30 - 11h30
Classroom: 114 Founders College
Office: 359A York Lanes, Centre for International and Security Studies (CISS)
Office hrs.: Mons. 13h - 16h or by appointment
Telephone: (416) 736-2100/5156 (xtn. 30714) or 416.923.3854 (home)
E-Mail: dartnell@yorku.ca
Webpage: Online Resource Guide to Political Inquiry


As a component of the "information revolution" and globalization more generally, the Internet is rapidly emerging as a factor in many areas of political life. Unfortunately, the Internet is also especially subject to hyperbole and to competing claims regarding its allegedly negative and/or positive impact on individual identities and power relations. In order to evaluate the medium's impact, this seminar will focus on a variety of interpretative methods that have been applied to the Internet (communication theory, Marxism, international relations theory, feminism, identity theory, information theory, technological determinism, political economy and others) to the end of providing an overview of current issues and debates. Beyond this, discussion will also feature an evaluation of the influence of "non-place" communication on democratic development, social power and interaction as well as identity formation. Throughout the seminar, a characterization of the Internet as a new medium and its political significance will be emphasized.


Evaluation and Grades




Each student must submit a two-page summary of each week's readings, a total of twenty-six pages (26 pp.) for the entire course. The purpose of the summaries is to create a collective learning environment and stimulate class discussion by ensuring that everyone engages assigned materials. A summary might aim to synthesize the main arguments made by authors in weekly readings, focus on one author, concentrate on a specific theme in one or more authors or more generally provide a critical response to materials. In any case, it is not enough to state that you like or do not like an article or to provide an unsubstantiated criticism (ie. a "rant"). You must give specific reasons for whatever weakness, strength or problem areas you find in the readings. Students must submit their summaries each week in type-written form. Your summary grade will be accumulated throughout the year on the basis of the quality of your summaries. The maximum length for each summary is two pages. Summaries that are longer than two pages will not be accepted.


Paper Proposals, Presentations, and Papers

Each student must submit a twenty-five page (25 pp.) research paper by the end of the course. A list of topics will be handed out early in the year. Students may also choose their own topic, subject to my approval. In both cases, everyone must submit a proposal that outlines their topic, sets out an approach and includes a bibliography. If you do not provide me with a proposal, your paper will not be accepted for grading. The paper proposal is worth 15% (fifteen percent) of your grade.

After approval, your paper topic will serve as the basis for a fifteen (15) minute class presentation. The presentation will provide an opportunity to test ideas and research for the paper. Each presentation must include three questions that form hypotheses for your research. Students will choose a date for their presentation early in the term.

The paper proposal, presentation and paper are intended to provide a structure through which each student can explore themes/issues that interest them in particular. Your interest might very well change during the course of the seminar. In this case, please discuss your presentation and paper with me as soon as possible.

  • If it is not clear to you what is expected in summaries, paper proposals, presentations or papers, please say so in class or directly to me. Do not wait until the date on which the assignment is due (or the evening before).



    Participation and Attendance

    A portion of your grade (10%) is set aside for participation and attendance. Participation means that you show up for class and demonstrate that you are following discussion. Participation marks do not mean that one shows up for class and "zones out".

    If you miss a class and want to receive credit for the period, you must provide me with a note from your doctor, university health services or some other appropriate person that explains why you were absent. Otherwise, you will not receive marks for that class. In any case, you will not receive marks if you are not in attendance without reasonable justification.



  • Tim Jordan, Cyberpower: The Culture and Politics of Cyberspace and the Internet, London: Routledge, 1999.
  • Cynthia Alexander and Leslie Pal, Digital Democracy: Policy and Politics in the Wired World, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998.

    Additional readings are provided in a course booklet available in the bookstore. Readings in the course booklet are required.

    Additional readings may be added during the term at my discretion.

    Other Resources

    The Internet is currently subject to an explosion of publications, both in print and electronically. The following list is a sample of (non-required) materials that are available -


  • Roza Tsagarousianou et al, (eds.), Cyberdemocracy, Technology, Cities, and Civic Networks Routledge, 1998.
  • Ronald Deibert, Parchment, Printing and Hypermedia: Communication in World Order Transformation, Columbia University Press, 1997.
  • Benjamin Barber et al,
  • The State of "Electronically Enhanced Democracy": A Survey of the Internet, Walt Whitman Center for the Culture and Politics of Democracy, Department of Political Science, Rutgers University, 1997.
  • Howard Rheingold, Virtual Communities: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, Harper, 1993.

    Web Resources:

  • Online Resource Guide to Political Inquiry.
  • Ronald Deibert's web page.
  • Howard Rhiengold's web page.
  • "Does the Internet Create Democracy?" (Alinta Thorton, University of Technology, Sydney).




    1. Power and Cyberspace

    September 13 (77 pp.)

    Alexander and Pal, chap. 1, pp. 1-22.
    Jordan, chap. 1, pp. 1-19.
    Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, London: Verso, 1983, chap. 2, pp. 9-36.
    Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, Jr., "Power and Interdependence in the Information Age", Foreign Affairs, Vol. 77, No. 5, Sept.-Oct. 1998, pp. 81-92.

    2. Interpreting Media, Representation, Technology

    September 27 (102 pp.)

    Jordan, chap. 2, pp. 20-58.
    Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", in Illuminations, Glasgow: Fontana, 1977, pp. 219-253.
    Marshall McLuhan, "Understanding Media", in Essential McLuhan (Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone, eds.), Concord, Ont.: Anansi Press, 1995, pp. 149-179.

    3. Interpreting Communication, Information

    October 4 (87 pp.)

    Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999, chaps. 1-3, pp. 20-84.
    Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, Hacking the Future, Montréal: New World Perspectives, 1996, pp. 89-112.

    4. Socio-digital hegemony

    October 11 (100 pp.)

    Deibert, in Alexander and Pal, chap. 2, pp. 23-45.
    Jordan, chaps. 4 and 5, pp. 100-178.

    Nick Witheford, "Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High-Technology Capitalism", in Cutting Edge: Technology, Information, Capitalism and Social Revolution (Jim Davis, Thomas Hirschl and Michel Stack, eds.), London: Verso, 1997, pp. 195-242.

    5. Security

    October 18 (85 pp.)

    Catherine Alexander, in Alexander and Pal, chap. 3, pp. 46-62. Jordan, chap. 6, pp. 179-207.
    James Der Derian, "Virtual Security: Technical Oversight, Simulated Foresight, and Political Blindspots in the Infosphere", in Cyberspace and Outer Space: Transitional Challenges for Multilateral Verification in the 21st Century (J. Marshall Beier and Steven Mataija, eds.), Proceedings of the Fourteenth Annual Ottawa NACD Verification Symposium, Toronto: Centre for International and Security Studies, York University, 1997, pp. 105-130.
    Richard C. Barth and Clint N. Smith, "International Regulation of Encryption: Technology Will Drive Policy", in Borders in Cyberspace: Information Policy and the Global Information Infrastructure (Brian Kahin and Charles Nesson, eds.), Cambridge, Mass,: MIT Press, 1997, pp. 283-299.


    6. Digitized Democracy?

    October 25 (91 pp.)

    Michael Ogden, in Alexander and Pal, chap. 4, pp. 63-86. Cathy Bryan and James Tatam, "Political Participation and the Internet", in Liberating Cyberspace: Civil Liberties, Human Rights and The Internet (edited by Liberty), London: Pluto Press, 1999, pp. 161-168.
    John Streck, "Pulling the Plug on Electronic Town Meetings: Participatory Democracy and the Reality of the Usenet", in The Politics of Cyberspace (Chris Toulouse and Timothy W. Luke, eds.), New York: Routledge, 1998, pp. 18-47.
    John Goldring, "Netting the Cybershark: Consumer Protection, Cyberspace, the Nation-State, and Democracy", in Borders in Cyberspace, pp. 322-354.

    Inga Treitler, "E-Mail for Democracy? A Comforting Image", First Monday, Issue 3, 1997.
    Mark Poster, "CyberDemocracy: Internet and the Public Sphere", 1995.
    Olu Oguibe, "Forsaken Geographies - Cyberspace and the New World 'Other'", (5th International Cyberspace Conference, Madrid, June 1996), and "On Digital 'Third Worlds'", (interview, Springer Magazine).

    7. Gender: Embodying Power in a Non-place

    November 1 (77 pp.)

    Dineh M. Davis, in Alexander and Pal, chap. 5, pp. 87-104.
    Anna Sampaio and Janni Aragon, "'To Boldly Go (Where No Man Has Gone Before)': Women and Politics in Cyberspace", in The Politics of Cyberspace, pp. 18-47.
    Kate Burke, "AVIVA: The Women's World Wide Web", in Liberating Cyberspace, pp. 187-197.
    Clem Herman, "Women and the Internet", in Liberating Cyberspace, pp. 198-205.
    Annabelle Sreberny, "Feminist Internationalism: Imagining and Building Global Civil Society", in Electronic Empires: Global Media and Local Resistance (Daya Kishan Thussu, ed.), London: Arnold, 1998, pp. 208-222.


    8. Sexuality Online

    November 8 (66 pp.)

    Michael Mehta, in Alexander and Pal, chap. 9, pp. 165-180.
    Angus Hamilton, "The Net Out of Control - A New Moral Panic: Censorship and Sexuality", in Liberating Cyberspace, pp. 169-188.
    Sherry Turkle, "Tinysex and Gender Trouble", in Liberating Cyberspace, pp. 206-236.

    9. Identity: Virtual Self Plus Virtual Community

    November 15 (85 pp.)

    Ann Cavoukian, in Alexander and Pal, chap. 10, pp. 181-194.
    Jordan, chap. 3, pp. 59-99.
    Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, New York: Touchstone, 1995, pp. 177-209.

    Ronald Deibert, Parchment, Printing, and Hypermedia: Communication in World Order Transformation, New York: Columbia University Press, 1997, pp. 177-201.

    10. Communication as Power, Information as Property

    November 22 (73 pp.)

    Julie Thorburn, in Alexander and Pal, chap. 8, pp. 149-164.
    Mark Alleyne, International Power and International Communication, London: MacMillan, 1995, chap. 1, pp. 1-20.
    Dan Schiller, "How to Think About Information", in The Political Economy of Information (Vincent Mosco and Janet Wasco, eds.), Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988, pp. 27-43.
    Jim Davis and Michael Stack, "The Digital Advantage", in Cutting Edge, pp. 121-144.

    11. Digital Democracy II

    November 29 (86 pp.)

    Bill Cross, in Alexander and Pal, chap. 7, pp. 132-148.
    Juliet Roper, "New Zealand Political Parties Online: The World Wide Web as a tool for democratization or for political marketing?", in The Politics of Cyberspace, pp. 69-83.
    Douglas Kellner, "Intellectuals, the New Public Spheres, and Techno-Politics", in The Politics of Cyberspace, pp. 167-186.
    Jordan, "New Space, New Politics: The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Definition of Cyberpolitics", in Storming the Millennium: The New Politics of Change, London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1999, pp. 80-107.
    Ken Hirschkop, "Democracy and New Technologies", in Capitalism and the Information Age: The Political Economy of the Global Communication Revolution (Robert W. McChesney, Ellen Meiskens Wood and John Bellamy Foster, eds.), New York: Monthly Review Press, 1998, pp. 207-217.

    Leslie Pal, in Alexander and Pal, chap. 6, pp. 105-131.
    James H. May, in Alexander and Pal, chap. 12, pp. 220-237.
    Tim Luke, "The Politics of Digital Inequality: Access, Capability and Distribution in Cyberspace", in The Politics of Cyberspace, pp. 120-143.
    David Capitanchik and Michael Whine, "The Governance of Cyberspace: Racism on the Internet", in Liberating Cyberspace, pp. 237-257.


    December 6 (67 pp.)

    Jordan, chap. 7, pp. 208-218.
    Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation, chaps. 15-18, pp. 230-271.
    Sally Lerner, "How Will North America Work in the Twenty-First Century?", in Cutting Edge, pp. 177-193.


    Back to Online Resource Guide to Political Inquiry


    If you have questions, please contact Michael Dartnell at: dartnell@yorku.ca.