Briefing Materials

These briefing materials provide background and overview readings for some of the core questions that will be raised in the Berkman Center’s conference, “Internet & Society 2004: Votes, Bits & Bytes.” The conference will take a skeptical look at the internet’s effect on politics, both in the 2004 election in the U.S. and in politics around the world. These materials are intended to lay a foundation for the conference’s inquiry.

The first section of the document, the “Working Hypothesis,” offers a theory about the key areas in which the internet has made a difference in politics. The theory, which assesses the “state of play” regarding the internet’s effect, will be debated and refined in the course of the three-day conference. This working hypothesis was developed based upon input from conference participants who attended one or more planning meetings in preparation for the December event.

The three modules that follow are student reports that investigate different tracks of the conference: citizenship, business, and global voices. These case studies are not intended to provide comprehensive overviews of the topics but rather to raise provocative questions that will be explored in greater detail throughout “Votes, Bits & Bytes.”

We welcome your comments and input on the working hypothesis and on these student reports. Comments may be directed to John Palfrey at jpalfrey AT or Mary Bridges at mbridges AT