Is this local e-democracy? How the online sphere of influence shaped local politics. Empirical evidence from the Manchester Congestion Charge referendum

Paul Anthony Hepburn


The debate on the potential of the internet to transform democratic practice appears to have settled around a balanced, empirically driven consensus that sees the internet as a political sphere of influence. This article acknowledges this and drawing upon a network ethnography approach provides empirical evidence demonstrating how this online sphere was used to influence the recent Manchester Congestion Charge referendum in the UK. It illustrates the online sphere as a locally contested political space where ‘politics as usual’ appears to prevail. Nonetheless, it also provides evidence of civic activists ably using the online network to get their voices heard and argues that prospects for this online sphere enhancing local democracy are in fact contingent upon the agency of these activists and local policy makers.


network ethnography, social network analysis, local online sphere of influence.

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