Digital technologies have the ability to stimulate political engagement and thus may foster representative deliberative democracy. However, digital technologies can just as easily become a challenge to democracy, either deliberately by obfuscation and manipulation or more intrinsically, as digital technologies as such are prone to bias. With a focus on transparency and privacy as underlying pillars of democracy, this chapter illustrates the challenges of digitalization for democracy. Such challenges do not pertain to one specific democratic stakeholder, but relate to the entire democratic ecosystem. Because of the complexity and variety of such ecosystems, further research should focus on better understanding the impact of digitalization on the pillars, values and interests underpinning democracy, taking into consideration the difficult interplay between the different stakeholders and technology as a separate – non-neutral – actor
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The aim of this chapter is twofold. On the one hand, the intent is to flesh out old and new challenges of today’s democracy and 14 ideal candidates for cases of general disagreement in the legal domain. On the other hand, in order to tackle such legal hard cases that concern either the meaning of the terms framing the legal question or the ways such terms are related to each other in legal reasoning, or the role of the principles that are involved in the case, three normative perspectives are employed. They concern the principles of justice, toleration and a mix of both. What ultimately is at stake has to do either with the risk of a toothless tolerance or the threat of an intolerant justice, and the ways in which we may avert the limits of this alternative.
Hoi L Kong, Nik Luka, Jaimie Cudmore and Andrea Dumas
This chapter focuses on a specific research project on digital democracy. The McGill Online Design Studio (MODS) deployed a mix of live and online consultation processes, targeted a sustainable land use development project in Montreal, and aimed to increase opportunities for meaningful citizen deliberation about urban design. The experience from MODS (1) reveals that non-state actors can generate institutions that serve rule of law functions but are autonomous from the state and are not in a hierarchical relationship with it and (2) demonstrates that particular attention must be paid to how online forums are designed, in order to ensure that they encourage effective deliberation.
It is the main postulate of this chapter that unlike conventional mass media focussed on content as a service, the commercial strategy in today’s social networking and media landscape renders communication an end in itself and thus significantly degenerates its politicizing effect. Accordingly, this brief text aims to address the burgeoning need for more critical and questioning approaches to the alleged democratic affordances of ICTs –seemingly through a more plural and participative communication environment. Considering the imminent moral, economic and environmental threats that humankind is facing, I raise the question whether our hyper-connected infosphere could help us build a collective awareness of the dangers ahead.
Edited by Corien Prins, Colette Cuijpers, Peter L. Lindseth and Mônica Rosina
Koen van Aeken
The question is how technologies characterized by ubiquitous networked computing and Web 2.0 interactivity may contribute to democracy. Following a case study design, two applications were evaluated: the Belgian CitizenLab, a mobile, social and local private application to support public decision making in cities, and the Dutch governmental website Internetconsultatie.nl. Available data suggest that the Dutch consultation platform is mainly visited by the ‘usual suspects’ and lacks participatory functionalities. In contrast, CitizenLab explicitly aims at policy co-creation through broad participation. Its novelty, however, prevents the making of sound empirical statements. A comprehensive conceptualization precedes the case studies. To avoid instrumentalist reduction, the social setting of the technologies is reconstructed. Since its constituents, embedding and expectations – initially represented as the nation state and representative democracy – are increasingly challenged, their transformations are consequently discussed. The new embedding emerges as a governance constellation; new expectations concern the participatory dimension of politics. Future assessments of technologies may benefit from this conceptualization.
Mônica Rosina, Luiz Fernando Marrey Moncau and Eduardo Alves Lazzari
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) open up new possibilities for engagement to individuals and to society as a whole. While some argue that these technologies have a strong positive impact on democracy, dramatically changing it for the better, others are less optimistic – even sceptical – about the promises ICTs can actually fulfil. This chapter takes both views into account, drawing its theoretical perspective from existing literature and analysing it in light of three concrete initiatives in Brazil that aim at improving democracy through the use of ICTs. We conclude that ICTs have, indeed, become an important instrument in terms of fostering democratic values, as they promote an open and robust public sphere that enables more debate and participatory action. However, the use of ICTs alone is just not enough to achieve concrete institutional changes, and resort to traditional means of communication and engagement (e.g. traditional TV) has been a strong feature of the cases studied.
Cynthia R Farina, Cheryl L Blake, Mary Newhart and Chaebong Nam
Open government enthusiasts have looked to a variety of web-based tools, platforms and media to promote transparency and empower citizen participation in government decisionmaking. Yet, when these efforts do not fully respond to the demands of specific policymaking contexts or democratic norms, they cannot effectively level the participatory playing field. In this chapter we focus on digital innovation aimed at increasing meaningful public participation in US rulemaking. We first examine why the US federal government’s e-rulemaking strategy has not successfully addressed the barriers to effective participation. We then introduce Regulation Room, a consultation platform using purposeful design of online tools, and human support strategies, to lower participation barriers and promote stakeholder engagement in complex policymaking.
Thorvaldur Gylfason and Anne Meuwese
This chapter maps the use of digital tools in the Icelandic constitutional revision process of 2011 and discusses its aftermath in subsequent years. Although causal links between the digital elements of the process and the content and fate of the constitutional Bill are impossible to establish, an analysis of the Icelandic constitution-writing efforts as ‘digital democracy’ reveals some important lessons. High-quality input into constitution-making processes through digital participation is possible, but the very threat of this to vested institutional interests also makes consensus on and enforcement of the ‘rules of the game’ of paramount importance.
Many observers have been mush impressed by the escalating, tough suppression of democratic activities by the Chinese State authorities in recent years. However, this could also be read as a strong response to some critical development in China’s democracy, which is enabled by new information and communications technology and substantially threatens China’s authoritarian regime. This chapter reviews how digitalization has made a solid contribution to China’s democracy development and the multiple responses from China’s one-party State in a trapped political transition since 1989. It explains why China’s democratization, though slow, is irresistible and irreversible in the long run, particularly in view of China’s present economic and social circumstances.