Weyand, Christian (2014). Can the Internet Empower People? Empirical Studies on Transparency, Accountability, and Open-Mindedness. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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Paper 1: “Can the Internet Promote Political Accountability? Evidence from a Laboratory Experiment” --- Abstract. We ask whether technical progress in information communication technology (ICT) can increase political accountability via a ‘Fire-Alarm Mechanism’: Despite ordinary citizens’ cognitive and motivational limitations to inform themselves about politics, ICT substantially increase the monitoring capability of those who act as watchdogs. Because of the resulting higher transparency, politicians anticipate that citizens at large might get more informed about their wrongdoings. To avoid electoral sanctions, they will act more representatively ex ante. Therefore, citizens do not need to be well-informed in actuality, it suffices that there is the potential to become well-informed through the watchdogs. We test this mechanism in a laboratory experiment that reflects the accountability relationship between a voter and a politician in information environments with increasing progress in ICT. In line with the predictions, subjects anticipate higher monitoring and justify their decision with the fear of being sanctioned more often. However, as an unexpected second effect, we find that they also justify their decision less frequently with fairness considerations. Overall, the two opposing effects do not lead to an increase in accountability. Our results imply that progress in ICT has the potential to increase accountability, but policy designers have to take negative side effects of higher control into consideration. ------------------------------ Paper 2: “Why German Political Elites Support Governmental Transparency – Self-Interest, Anticipation of Voters’ Preferences or Socialization?” --- Abstract. We compare three analytically distinctive motivations that could explain transparency support among German political elites: (1) Principal-agent theory suggests that elites have no incentive to reduce their informational advantage over voters. (2) From an office-seeking perspective, it is beneficial to support popular issues such as transparency. (3) Democratic-elitism suggests a specific elite-socialisation leads to high support of civil liberties like transparency. Analysing survey data of candidates for the German Bundestag 2009, we find high variance among elites and complementary influence of the motivations. Membership in left-leaning parties has the strongest positive effect. We find anticipation effects among candidates that are highly dependent on voters’ support and whose voters are in favour of transparency at the same time. Further, transparency support is higher among young candidates. The findings imply that more transparency policies might be implemented in the future if public support for transparency increases and older candidate cohorts are replaced. ------------------------------ Paper 3: “Online and Open-Minded. Cross-Country and Panel Analyses of the Impact of Internet Usage on Liberal Attitudes” --- Abstract. Does internet usage promote liberal attitudes? From our theoretical perspective, internet effects differ from those of traditional media: Via different technical mechanisms the internet changes who can broadcast and control information and it connects people with very different backgrounds. This leads to a more liberal agenda and an atmosphere of higher openness and tolerance. Our claim is tested with data from 57 countries of the World Values Survey. Multi-level analyses reveal that internet usage has a significant positive effect on liberal attitudes in many countries. The more liberal a country is, the stronger is the effect. In contrast, television viewing tends to have no effect in liberal countries and is even related with more conservative attitudes in conservative countries. Similar effects can be reproduced with fixed effects models and panel data from the Dutch LISS panel. Therefore, the effects are not caused by unobserved heterogeneity that would explain both internet usage and liberal attitudes. In conclusion, internet effects clearly differ from traditional media effects and the further diffusion of internet technology has the potential to increase open-mindedness.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
Weyand, Christianweyand@wiso.uni-koeln.deUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Corporate Creators: Universität zu Köln, Cologne Graduate School in Management, Economics and Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-56168
Date: 31 January 2014
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences
Subjects: Social sciences
Political science
Technology (Applied sciences)
Public performances
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Internet; Transparency; Accountability; Open-Mindedness; ICT; Attitudes; ElitesEnglish
Date of oral exam: 19 May 2014
NameAcademic Title
Andreß, Hans-JürgenProf. Dr.
Goerres, AchimProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/id/eprint/5616


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