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Towards a Sustainable Information Society: Deconstructing WSIS

Editor: Jan Servaes, Nico Carpentier
Publisher: Bristol, UK and Portland, OR: Intellect Books, 2006
Review Published: March 2007

 REVIEW 1: Arthur L. Morin
 AUTHOR RESPONSE: Nico Carpentier

First of all, I want to express my gratitude towards the RCCS and David Silver for selecting our book as the RCCS' book of the month, and towards Arthur Morin for writing this fabulous review. Morin's interpretation is indeed very thorough and well-considered, and I see little reason to dispute its main claims. There is one argument that I want to emphasize -- given its importance -- and that is "the issue of the legitimacy of NGOs and civil society actors."

The analysis of civil society's role at the WSIS, and of the experiments with multistakeholderism, have indeed shown the complexity of our present-day democratic practices. Our conceptualizations of democracy, how we think, practice, and live democracy, are still (at least partially) given meaning through the traditional link with the nation-state and the translations of representation into universal suffrage. The WSIS experiment has shown the need to find a new balance between democratic pluralism, participatory democracy and liberal-representative democracy.

Part of my later work, still together with Bart Cammaerts, has taken us further on this road. The next book of the ECREA book series, edited by Cammaerts and myself, is not coincidentally entitled Reclaiming the media: communication rights and democratic media roles. It is the third book that arises out of the intellectual work of the ECREA membership, and especially out of the ECREA Communication and Democracy Section.

This new book aims to look at four thematic areas that structure the opportunities for democratizing (media) democracy. A first section is devoted to citizenship and the public spheres, giving special attention to the general theme of communication rights. The second section elaborates further on a notion central to communication rights, namely that of participation. The third section returns to the traditional representational role in relation to democracy and citizenship, scrutinizing and criticizing the democratic efforts of contemporary journalism. The fourth section moves outside of the (traditional) media system, and deals with the diversity of media and communication strategies of activists.

And as a final footnote: as Morin rightfully remarks, ECCR did indeed merge with ECA into ECREA, the European Communication Research and Education Organization. Only a few months ago, this new organization celebrated its first birthday, and the ECREA books are one of its important realizations. For that reason too, we appreciate the attention spent on the ECREA book series.

Nico Carpentier

<nico.carpentier@vub.ac.be>

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