How do political decision-making and social participation change in the context of digitalization?
The Corona pandemic has re-intensified the influence that technological possibilities have on social processes of negotiation. Bans on contact have made political gatherings such as party conferences and protest rallies more difficult, or shifted them entirely to digital spaces; decisions have often been prepared using video conferencing; and decision-making has also been conducted using digital tools. These developments are not new: participation in the political process and the making of binding decisions change with the technologies available for these purposes.
Data-oriented state vs. digital civil society
The research program has as its concrete starting-point a dynamic interrelationship. On the one hand is an increasingly data-oriented state that is emerging under the conditions of digitalization, a state that is developing new activities and routines. On the other and opposed to this is a digital civil society, which for its part is driving forward citizen-centered technological development and its use in order to secure self-determination and participation for a sovereign network citizenship. This field of tension is connected by a digital infrastructure (partly public, partly private) in which a multitude of media and market actors meet in fragmented, networked public spheres. This reveals the permanently ambivalent contours of a landscape of digital innovation that encompasses a broad spectrum of fields of inquiry: centralized databases in state hands offer the opportunity for a forward-looking provision of public services, but also harbor the danger of misuse and manipulation, while digital platforms express positions hitherto imperceptible in the public domain, but can also foster social polarization. A “smart city” opens up new options for urban life and intelligent mobility, but can always also be understood as an apparatus of surveillance. And, what is more, many people are denied participation in such modern processes of negotiation because they lack access, as well as media knowledge and competence. Against this background, the research program will examine democratic innovations that emerge from the use of data, algorithms, and digital practices. The central research question can be stated as: How do political decision-making and social participation change in the context of digitalization?