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Publication Date

May 2014

Publication Title

New Media and Society



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Civic engagement, digital technologies, distributed cognition, Indymedia, parallel polis, public sphere, social media, social movements, The 1491s


The role of the internet in large-scale demonstrations, as witnessed in the Arab Spring, has been debated and reflects continued interest in the intermingling of social movements and digital technology. Yet behind these large photogenic events stand other less obvious social activities that may be equally profound, particularly in the form of alternative institutional frameworks that better meet the social needs of individuals than current models. We categorize these “dissident” frameworks as “parallel poleis” as developed by Czech philosopher and activist Vaclav Benda and offer two case studies to support this contention. At the heart of parallel poleis lies the notion that digital technologies are uniquely positioned to reflect and facilitate the political expressions of individuals due to low-cost transactions, ease of use and large social network reach possibilities. The sociopolitical ramifications of a parallel polis as conceptualizing the social–technical interaction warrants further discussion.


This is the preprint of the following article: Lagos, Taso G, Coopman, Ted M, Tomhave, Jonathan. (2013). “Parallel poleis”: Towards a theoretical framework of the modern public sphere, civic engagement and the structural advantages of the internet to foster and maintain parallel socio-political institutions. New Media & Society, 16(3), 398-414. DOI: 10.1177/1461444813487953. Copyright © 2013 The Authors. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.
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