Christian Pentzold

There has been much enthusiasm around the use of digitally networked information and communications technologies to foster political participation. Given their potential to engage citizens in rural development via online tools and processes, there are particularly high expectations that these technologies will mitigate some disadvantages of nonurban places. Yet, even if these hopes are reasonable, there is still little knowledge about the enduring establishment of digital political participation for rural development. In response, our study centers on six exemplary regional case studies in Germany concerning the obstacles to and catalysts of digital political participation. The public administrators; members of associations, businesses, and nonprofits; and citizens we interviewed pointed to the importance of administrative infrastructures, tailored offers, and resourceful citizens. What these factors could, however, not achieve was a culture of participation that may inspire attitudes and lived practices. This has implications for understanding and facilitating digital political participation for rural development. By locating the incentives and barriers to civic engagement within a culture of participation, our work underscores the need for holistic, long-term endeavors to develop and encourage politically involved citizenship.