The acronym INTERMOB stands for a comprehensive multi-level research project on the effect of Internet on citizens' participation and mobilization: does Internet, too, like traditional mobilization structures (e.g. political parties) or more recent agencies (e.g. mass media), functions as a mobilization structure, and if so, what are the democratic consequences of this new form of mobilization. In other words: can we expect Internet to have a positive or negative impact on the democratic character of participation and mobilization in Western societies.
The project starts from two main observations: In the first place, Internet has boomed since the 1990s and as such led to sweeping changes in many spheres of life, inluding politics. Secondly, far most scholars investigating the political impact of Internet have been focusing exclusively on data on individual users, demonstrating a digital divide with regard to gender, age and education level. Yet, political participation always involves three levels.
In that way the research consists of a series of substudies tackling three subquestions (six workpackages on the whole):
- does ICT reinforce or diminish existing individual-level participation inequalities?
- does ICT lower the threshold for collective political actors wanting to mobilize the population?
- does ICT augment the impact of political mobilization on political decision-making?
As a comparative approach strenghtens the validity of research findings, three of the six workpackages will be conducted simultaneously with an identical study in the US (as the country where use of Internet applications is most frequently adopted by citizens) as with Canada (as the country where forms of e-government are most strongly developed).