by Karl Kurtz
The Monkey Cage, a blog that links political science research to current issues and events, recently was named blog of the year by The Week. It deals more with national politics than it does state government, but if you like The Thicket's occasional ventures into political science, you'll like The Monkey Cage. Its name is cleverly drawn from the H.L. Mencken quote, "Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage." The Week cited The Monkey Cage for "injecting the wisdom of the academy into everyday political discourse."
An interesting recent post in The Monkey Cage reports on Catie Ballard's field experiments in Tanzania and Bosnia to determine the effect of Internet exposure on citizens' attitudes toward government. She found that people who were given access to the Internet became more knowledgeable and critical of current affairs in their countries but that that did not necessarily contribute to greater engagement and democratization:
Thus, at first glance the Internet’s capacity to make citizens more critical of a poor-performing government seems a boon for transparency and accountability—integral components for building a robust democracy. But rather than encourage individuals to press their government to adhere to higher democratic standards, in this case disaffected individuals became increasingly willing to consider alternative forms of governance. This suggests that exposure to the Internet may prove a double-edged sword for democracy and democratization.
In other words, more knowledge about government and politics through the Internet can lead to greater distrust and cynicism--something that we have found in the United States as well.