Influence of Communication Technologies on Political Participation and Social Interaction

Author: Ankney, Raymond
This study, using a new theoretical approach called cultural catalysis theory, argues that it was the diffusion of many communication technologies – not solely television – that contributed to a decline in Localism (participating in local political issues) and Cosmopolitanism (interest in presidential campaign). Cultural catalysis theory posits that there are four groups in society: Localists, Cosmopolitans, Community Leaders, and Displaced. The theory also posits that technologies changed the composition of these groups over time because they permitted people to look outside their local community for socializing and entertainment, and allowed people to entertain themselves alone in their homes. Two longitudinal datasets, the National Election Study (1960-2000) and the General Social Survey (1974-2000) were used to test the hypotheses.


“Our new wave of change is more in communication than transportation, and its effects may be no less profound. To understand the process while we are participants is very difficult. We need theoretical structures that help us see the system as a whole to understand what is happening….Ankney offers some unifying theory to begin to link these core concepts. The problem is not just one of substituting for traditional uses of time, but an interaction among communication systems and human behavior to create a different kind of society. The potential social and political significance is enormous…we may have to devise new institutions and methods for using the new technology. Before we begin, we need a solid structure of basic research. With this volume, Dr. Ankney provides a brick in that structure.” – Philip Meyer, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Table of Contents

Table of Contents (main headings):
1. Introduction: Externalizing and Internalizing Technologies
2. Literature Review: early communications technologies; telephone; radio; television; cable television; VCR; videogames; home computer and Internet; automobile; charitable, community, fraternal, and voluntary organizations; religious services; community socializing; voting and other political participation; forced local social capital; displacement; changes; demographics
3. Theory: uses and gratifications and play theories; community ties; cultural catalysis theory
4. Methods
5. Results
6. Discussion
Appendices: National Election Study Codebook; National Election Study Valid & Missing Cases; General Social Survey Codebook; General Social Survey Valid & Missing Cases
Bibliography; Index