About the Conference
New forms of information technologies have always been tightly linked with the development of political systems. Even before the emergence of what we call “IT” today, the distribution, selection, and forging of information has been an important element of democratic societies. The emergence of mass media is closely linked to the (in)formation of democratic societies (Marres, 2007).
This is just one way in which contemporary democracies are shaped and influenced by modern technologies. Digitization poses a grand challenge, as it questions and challenges the ways how democratic systems and its institutions are working to this day. New possibilities of reaching voters, enforcing laws, and enabling rights through algorithmic means, but also new forms of potentially overarching state power, e.g. through mass surveillance, call us to investigate the way how digital technologies impact and shape democracy at large. Personalized advertisement and voter information threaten the common public sphere, polarization hampers democratic discourse, algorithmic forms of social sorting create inequal treatment and infringe basic rights.
But the question is not only how digital technologies are threatening or damaging modern democracies (Sunstein, 2009). Rather we want to ask how we can shape digital technologies and the innovation systems that ‘make’ them in a way that could actually benefit our democratic societies. This goes beyond a traditional understanding of politics, raising the question of what processes, infrastructures, and institutions are necessary to enable and foster democratic systems in the digital age.