Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor's Name

Clement Fatovic

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Ronald Cox

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Alexander Barder

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Whitney Bauman

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Politics, Digital Politics, Democratic Theory, Normative Theory

Date of Defense



In the last two decades, the internet has become a site for political power to be gained, lost, and exercised. Despite some scholarly optimism about the potential for the communications technologies of the internet to empower citizens and improve the quality of democracy, recent years have seen an increase in violence, bigotry, and misinformation stemming from digital political practices.

To better understand digital power dynamics, this work seeks to develop a critical history of the internet informed by new materialism and Actor-Network Theory. In developing that critical history, I make the case that the contemporary internet is an actor-network that in its early development empowered the states, and, in its current form is feudalizing around corporate actors as a center of power, leaving internet users relatively disempowered from being able to participate in ideal democratic deliberation.

In this research, I challenge earlier thinking about the democratic potential of the internet and offer a mapping of digital power that suggests that the current internet is relatively hostile to empowered users’ ability to participate in democratic discourse.



Available for download on Sunday, October 27, 2024



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