Fifth Estate

Overview

The Fifth Estate is a research project designed to examine critically the Internet’s role in enabling new forms of democratic social accountability and voice, comparable to the Fourth Estate enabled by the press in an earlier era. This work developed out of Bill Dutton’s 2007 Oxford Inaugural Lecture Through the Network (of Networks) – the Fifth Estate (webcast). It is anchored in themes emerging from, and studied through, the Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS) and related empirical research. The concept has been further developed in a series of publications and forms the basis for a set of ongoing spin-off research projects.

The Concept of a Fifth Estate

The rise of the press, radio, television and other mass media enabled the development of an independent institution: the ‘Fourth Estate’, central to pluralist democratic processes. The growing use of the Internet and related digital technologies is creating a space for networking individuals to provide a new source of accountability in government, politics and many other sectors of networked societies. This project is centered on the emergence and sustainability of this ‘Fifth Estate’ and why it could challenge the influence of other more established bases of institutional authority.

The project addresses ways the rise of this new social and political phenomenon could support the vitality of liberal democratic societies, refine empirical research on its role, and examine threats posed by ‘enemies’ of such a Fifth Estate, often from other estates of the Internet realm.

Activities and Targets

The idea of a Fifth Estate was developed to sensitize people to a wide array of concrete trends and developments around the societal implications of the Internet. In the first years, this concept has been further developed and presented in a variety of forums. In the coming years, this work will be extended as a means to provide a wide ranging synthesis of research on democracy, social accountability, and the Internet. A book is also planned that will ground the notion more comprehensively in a range of empirical settings and case studies, and bring it to a wider audience. Current work on and about the Fifth Estate can be found here, along with blogs and related links to research and discussion of this work.

Work on the Fifth Estate is linked with a number of related research projects. The project benefits from support of the Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS) and World Internet Project (WIP), which undertake empirical research that underpins the concept of a Fifth Estate. Bill Dutton is associated with a research project at the Danish Technology University (DTU), entitled The Governance and Design of Collaborative User-driven Innovation Platforms, which is funded by the Danish Council for Strategic Research. This project builds on Dutton’s work on collaborative network organizations, which is one central aspect of the development of the Fifth Estate. Bill Dutton is also collaborating on a project at the University of Jyväskylä, entitled ‘The Fifth Estate – Case Finland’ with Professor Epp Lauk, Turo Uskali, and Niina Niskala, where colleagues are developing case studies of the Fifth Estate in Finland.

Webcasts

  • Through the Network (of Networks): The Fifth Estate

    Through the Network (of Networks): The Fifth Estate

    Recorded on: 15 October 2007 Duration: 00:48:27

    The Internet and web are creating a new space for networking people, information and other resources: this has the potential to become an important ‘fifth estate’ to support greater accountability in politics, the media and other institutional arenas.

Support

This project is currently supported by a DTU project, and has been sponsored since 2009 by gifts from June Klein, Chief Executive Officer of Technology & Marketing Ventures, Inc., a US firm that created and implemented Electronic Board Room TMVI(R) Solutions. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) has provided matching funds for these gifts.

Additional support would be greatly welcomed through donations or sponsorship of specific projects in order to support student research assistance, field research, and publication of our research findings.

Sponsors

Articles

Chapters

  • Dutton, W. H. (2012), ‘The Fifth Estate: A New Governance Challenge’, pp. 584-98 in Levi-Faur, D. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Dutton, W. H. (2012) The Internet and Democratic Accountability: The Rise of the Fifth Estate. In F.L.F.Lee, L.Leung, J.L.Qui, and D.S.C.Chu (eds) Frontiers in New Media Research. Abingdon: Informa, Taylor and Francis / Routledge.
  • Dubois, E., and Dutton, W. H. (2012), ‘The Fifth Estate in Internet Governance: Collective Accountability of a Canadian Policy Initiative’, Revue française d’Etudes Américaines RFEA, 143, (4): 81-97.
  • Dutton, W. H. (2013), ‘The Internet and Democratic Accountability: The Rise of the Fifth Estate’, pp. 39-55 in Lee, F.L.F., Leung, L., Qui, J. L., and Chu, D.S.C. (eds), Frontiers in New Media Research. Abbingdon: Informa, Taylor and Francis/Routledge.
  • Dutton, W.H. (forthcoming) The Fifth Estate: Democratic Social Accountability through the Emerging Network of Networks. In: P.G.Nixon et al. (eds) Challenges to E-Government in Europe.
  • Huan, S., Dutton, W. H., and Shen, W. (2013) The Semi-Sovereign Netizen: The Fifth Estate in China. In Nixon, P., Rawal, R., and Mercea, D. (eds) Politics and the Internet in Comparative Context. London: Routledge.
  • Dutton, W. H., and Dubois, E. (2013), ‘The Fifth Estate of the Digital World’, pp. 131-43 in Youngs, G. (ed.), Digital World: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights. London: Routledge.
  • Dutton, W. H. with the assistance of Elizabeth Dubois (2014) (ed.) Politics and the Internet, Volumes 1-4. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Dubois, E., and Dutton, W.H. (2014), ‘Empowering Citizens of the Digital Age: The Role of a Fifth Estate’, pp. 238-53 in Graham, M., and Dutton, W. H. (eds), Society and the Internet. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Dutton, W. H. (2015), ‘The Internet’s Gift to Democratic Governance: The Fifth Estate’, pp. 164-73 in S., Moss, G., and Parry, K. (eds), Can the Media Save Democracy? Essays in Honour of Jay G. Blumler. London, Abington: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Dutton, W. H. and Dubois, E. (2015), ‘The Fifth Estate: A New Pluralistic Force of Accountability’, pp. 51-66 in Coleman, S., and Freelon, D. (eds), The Handbook of Digital Politics. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Presentations

  • Dutton, W. (2007) Through the Network (of Networks) – the Fifth Estate. Presented at ‘Through the Network (of Networks) – the Fifth Estate’, University of Oxford, 15 October 2007.
  • Dutton, W.H. (2007) The Rise of Electronic Democracy and the Fifth Estate: Lessons Learned from Thirty Years of Research. ‘Electronic Democracy’, a European Science Foundation and Linköping University Conference, 21-25 November 2007. Vadstena Klosterhotell, Vadstena, Sweden.
  • Dutton, W.H. (2007) The Rise of Electronic Democracy and the Fifth Estate: Lessons Learned from Thirty Years of Research. Presented at ‘Electronic Democracy’, a European Science Foundation and Linköping University Conference, Vadstena, Sweden, 21-25 November 2007.
  • Dutton, W.H. (2008) e-Government and the Rise of the Fifth Estate. ‘E-Leaders Conference 2008’ on the Future of e-Government – Agenda 2020, 6-7 March 2008. Steigenberger Kuhaus Hotel, The Hague, Netherlands.
  • Dutton, W.H. (2008) e-Government and the Rise of the Fifth Estate. Presented at ‘E-Leaders Conference 2008 on the Future of e-Government’, The Hague, Netherlands, 6-7 March 2008.
  • Dutton, W.H. (2008) The Fifth Estate: Democratic Social Accountability Through the Emerging Network of Networks. Internet Research 9.0: Rethinking Community, Rethinking Place, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 18 October 2008.
  • Dutton, W.H. (2009) The Rise of the Internet and the Fifth Estate. Internet Research Conference, 4 November 2009. World Internet Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Dutton, W.H. (2010) The Fifth Estate of the Internet Realm. Networking Democracy: New Media Innovations in Participatory Politics, 25 June 2010. Universitatea, Babes-Bolyai, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
  • Dutton, W.H. (2011) The Fifth Estate of the Internet Realm. The Centre for Research in the Arts, 24 February 2011. Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Cambridge Digital Humanities Network, Cambridge University.
  • Dutton, W.H. (2011) The Future of the Internet and the Fifth Estate. Alpbach Technology Forum, European Forum Alpbach, 25-27 August 2011. Alpbach, Austria.
  • Invited Keynote, ‘The Future of the Internet and the Fifth Estate: The Internet’s Gift to Democracy’, General Online Conference, Mannheim, Germany, 6 March 2013.
  • Invited speaker, ‘The Fifth Estate’, for Oxford University Society, Cumbria, 23 March 2013.
  • Invited speaker, ‘The Fifth Estate”, for the 750th Anniversary, Balliol College Master’s Seminar Series on Major Global Issues, San Francisco, CA, USA, 28 June 2013.
  • Invited speaker, ‘The Fifth Estate’, for Citizenship and Social Inclusion: a Multidisciplinary Dialogue’, Kingston University, UK, 5 September 2013.
  • Invited speaker, ‘The Internet’s Fifth Estate: a New Business Reality’, Presentation for faculty, students & guests of the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Business, Copenhagen, 31 August 2015.
  • Invited speaker, ‘The Internet’s Fifth Estate: Net Delusion or Democratic Potential’, a seminar for faculty, students & guests of the School of Communication, and Institute for Creativity, Hong Kong Baptist University, 16 October 2015.
  • Invited speaker, ‘Why Journalism Needs the Fifth Estate: Networked Individuals in the War for Information’, presentation delivered via video conferencing for several hundred students of the Free Journalism School, Kiev, Ukraine, 29 October 2015.
  • Invited speaker, ‘Power Shift: Rise of the Internet and a Fifth Estate’, a presentation for the Rob Kling Center of Social Informatics and the Department of Informatics and Library Science, School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University, Bloomington, 13 November 2015.
  • Windsor Lecture, ‘Power Shifts and the Rise of a Fifth Estate’, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 14 March 2016.
  • ICA Fellows Lecture, ‘Communication Power Shifts and the Rise of the Fifth Estate’, presentation for the 66th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, Fukuoka, Japan, June 10, 2016

Reports

  • Dutton, W.H. (2010) The Fifth Estate Emerging Through the Internet and Freedom of Expression. In A News Future and the Future of the Journalism Profession: An IPI Report, pp. 22-25. International Press Institute and the Poytner Institute.
  • Dutton, W. H. (2011), ‘A Networked World Needs a Fifth Estate’, Wired Magazine, 22 October, www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2011/11/ideas-bank/william-dutton

Working papers

  • Huan, S., Dutton, W.H., and Shen, W. (2012) The Semi-Sovereign Netizen: The Politics of the Fifth Estate in China. OII Working Paper for the 5th Estate Project. Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.

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