Nonprofit Organizations' Perceptions and Uses of the Internet
This research examines how nonprofit organizations perceive and utilize the internet through the framework of Habermas’s theory of the public sphere. In seven focus groups across the country, 52 people responsible for creating internet strategy and/or web content for nonprofit organizations participated. Claims of sweeping improvements in democratic participation through the internet were not supported. Almost no organizations utilized the technology for horizontal or vertical flows of communication, data communality, interactivity, or engaged participation. Furthermore, these nonprofit organizations believed the internet offered little democratizing power but paradoxically provided instant credibility. Those making communication decisions overwhelmingly performed in technical rather than strategic roles as they pushed their message out to the public without any regard to feedback or communication strategy. These individuals also believed the corporate model would drive future internet growth, although they rarely trained internet workers. Possible reasons for these findings and implications for nonprofit organizations are discussed.
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