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

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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, young people are developing political identities online, and digital technologies are helping civil society build systems of political communication independent of the state and beyond easy manipulation by cultural or religious elites.

With unique data on patterns of media ownership and technology use, The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy demonstrates how, since the mid-1990s, information technologies have had a role in political transformation. Democratic revolutions are not caused by new information technologies. But in the Muslim world, democratization is no longer possible without them.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A long-awaited inquiry into the politics of the Internet...Howard's book is an innovative contribution among the overwhelming amount of writings about the role of the Internet in the Middle East...Howard puts much effort in explaining the multifaceted results, adding tables to summarize important findings. This nuanced approach is a pleasant break from the often-found urge for absolute (utopian or dystopian) claims...The book is highly recommended as required reading for technology experts, graduate students, and longer serving academics alike."—Political Communication

"At a time when everyone is asking whether new media affects politics in the Mid-East, Philip Howard has produced the definitive answer in his book. This is an impressive work of scholarship, both in its quantitative approach to international affairs and in its conclusions, which will be of interest to social scientists and policy makers alike."—Clay Shirky, New York University and author of Cognitive Surplus

"This book presents a most challenging and original analysis of the cultural and political dynamics of the Muslim world through the lens of the interaction between communication technology and politics. It breaks new ground in our understanding of the implications of digital technology for socio-political change. It will become a reference in political communication for the years to come."—Manuel Castells, Wallis Annenberg Chair of Communication Technology and Society, University of Southern California-Los Angeles

"For too long the literature on the politics of the new information technologies has been empirically thin and theoretically overheated. By substituting systematic empirical analysis for anecdote and nuanced interpretation for hyperbole, Howard has written an original and important book that scholars of comparative politics, democratization, contentious politics and the new information technologies will be obliged to read. As he provocatively reminds us (quoting Kranzberg), 'technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral.'"—Doug McAdam, Professor of Sociology and Director of Urban Studies, Stanford University

"In contests between dictatorship and democracy, new media exert increasingly determinative influence. Philip Howard provides a detailed, thoughtful analysis of how the flow of information and tools of communication are reshaping global politics."—Philip Seib, Director of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy

"Philip Howard develops an empirically grounded case for the role that the Internet and related communication technologies are playing in supporting democratic developments within Islamic states. This would be an excellent book for courses on 21st Century politics and the Internet."—William H. Dutton, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

"[Howard's] meticulously researched account stands in stark contrast to two rather simplistic narratives that have become extremely popular with pundits and journalists, who like to view the Internet either as a breeding ground for terrorists or as an almighty force that causes revolutions anywhere it goes. EL a well-informed and ambitious study that expounds on the historical relationship between technology diffusion and democratization in Muslim countries in a very nuanced and technologically literate manner." - Perspectives on Politics

"In this timely, erudite, and well-written book, Howard captures the multifaceted dimensions and transformative power of new technologies. Empirically grounded and analytically rich, the reader will find much that is informative and insightful."—CHOICE

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Philip N. Howard is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, with adjunct appointments at the Jackson School of International Studies and the Information School. His book New Media Campaigns and the Managed Citizen won the American Sociological Association's Communication and Information Technologies Section Best Book Award and the International Communication Association's Outstanding Book Award.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Revolution in the Middle East Will be Digitized
Introduction: Political Communication and Contemporary Muslim Media Systems
1. Evolution and Revolution, Transition and Entrenchment
2. Lineages of the Digital State
3. Political Parties Online
4. New Media & Journalism Online
5. Civil Society and Systems of Political Communication
6. Censorship and the Politics of Cultural Production
Conclusion: Information Technology and Democratic Islam

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