25th IVR World Congress: Law, Science and Technology
25th IVR World Congress Law and technology Frankfurt am Main 15–20 August 2011 Paper Series
- Internet (4) (remove)
- Proxy of democracy? : metaphors of connection as arguments against representation (2012)
- This paper aims to assess the arguments that claim representative democracy may be enhanced or replaced by an updated electronic version. Focusing on the dimension of elections and electioneering as the core mechanism of representative democracy I will discuss: (1) the proximity argument used to claim the necessity of filling the gap between decision-makers and stakeholders; (2) the transparency argument, which claims to remove obstacles to the publicity of power; (3) the bottom-up argument, which calls for a new form of legitimacy that goes beyond classical mediation of parties or unions; (4) the public sphere argument, referred to the problem of hierarchical relation between voters and their representatives; (5) the disintermediation argument, used to describe the (supposed) new form of democracy following the massive use of ICTs. The first way of conceptualizing e-democracy as different from mainstream 20th century representative democracy regimes is to imagine it as a new form direct democracy: this conception is often underlying contemporary studies of e-voting. To avoid some of the ingenuousness of this conception of e-democracy, we should take a step back and consider a broader range of issues than mere gerrymandering around the electoral moment. Therefore I shall problematize the abovementioned approach by analyzing a wider range of problems connected to election and electioneering in their relation with ICTs.
- From skepticism to mutual support: towards a structural change in the relations between participatory budgeting and the information and communication technologies? (2012)
- Until three years ago, ICT Technologies represented a main “subordinate clause” within the “grammar” of Participatory Budgeting (PB), the tool made famous by the experience of Porto Alegre and today expanded to more than 1400 cities across the planet. In fact, PB – born to enhance deliberation and exchanges among citizens and local institutions – has long looked at ICTS as a sort of “pollution factor” which could be useful to foster transparency and to support the spreading of information but could also lead to a lowering in quality of public discussion, turning its “instantaneity” into “immediatism,” and its “time-saving accessibility” into “reductionism” and laziness in facing the complexity of public decision-making through citizens’ participation. At the same time, ICTs often regarded Participatory Budgeting as a tool that was too-complex and too-charged with ideology to cooperate with. But in the last three years, the barriers which prevented ICTs and Participatory Budgeting to establish a constructive dialogue started to shrink thanks to several experiences which demonstrated that technologies can help overcome some “cognitive injustices” if not just used as a means to “make simpler” the organization of participatory processes and to bring “larger numbers” of intervenients to the process. In fact, ICTs could be valorized as a space adding “diversity” to the processes and increasing outreach capacity. Paradoxically, the experiences helping to overcome the mutual skepticism between ICTs and PB did not come from the centre of the Global North, but were implemented in peripheral or semiperipheral countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil, Dominican Republic and Portugal in Europe), sometimes in cities where the “digital divide” is still high (at least in terms of Internet connections) and a significant part of the population lives in informal settlements and/or areas with low indicators of “connection.” Somehow, these experiences were able to demystify the “scary monolithicism” of ICTs, showing that some instruments (like mobile phones, and especially the use of SMS text messaging) could grant a higher degree of connectivity, diffusion and accountability, while other dimensions (which could risk jeopardizing social inclusion) could be minimized through creativity. The paper tries to depict a possible panorama of collaboration for the near future, starting from descriptions of some of the above mentioned “turning-point” experiences – both in the Global North as well as in the Global South.
- The revolution will be tweeted : how the internet can stimulate the public exercise of freedoms (2012)
- This article discusses how new technologies of communication, especially the Internet and, more specifically, social network services, can interfere in social interactions and in political relations. The main objective is to problematize the concept of public liberty and verify how the new technologies can promote the reoccupation of public spaces and the recovery of public life, in opposition to the tendency to valorize the private sphere, observed in the second half of the twentieth century. The theoretical benchmark adopted for the investigation is Hannah Arendt's theory about the exercise of fundamental political capacities in order to establish a public space of freedom, as presented in “On Revolution”. The “Praia da Estação” (“Station Beach”) case is chosen to test the hypothesis. In 2010 in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, different individuals articulated a movement through blogs, Twitter and facebook, in order to protest against the Mayor’s act that banned the assembling of cultural events in one of the main public places of the city, the “Praça da Estação” (Station Square). By applying Arendt's concepts to the selected case, it is possible to demonstrate that the Internet can assume an important role against governmental arbitrariness and abuse of power, as it can stimulate the public exercise of fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of assembly and manifestation.
- Updating democracy studies: outline of a research program (2012)
- Technologies carry politics since they embed values. It is therefore surprising that mainstream political and legal theory have taken the issue so lightly. Compared to what has been going on over the past few decades in the other branches of practical thought, namely ethics, economics and the law, political theory lags behind. Yet the current emphasis on Internet politics that polarizes the apologists holding the web to overcome the one-to-many architecture of opinion-building in traditional representative democracy, and the critics that warn cyber-optimism entails authoritarian technocracy has acted as a wake up call. This paper sets the problem – “What is it about ICTs, as opposed to previous technical devices, that impact on politics and determine uncertainty about democratic matters?” – into the broad context of practical philosophy, by offering a conceptual map of clusters of micro-problems and concrete examples relating to “e-democracy”. The point is to highlight when and why the hyphen of e-democracy has a conjunctive or a disjunctive function, in respect to stocktaking from past experiences and settled democratic theories. My claim is that there is considerable scope to analyse how and why online politics fails or succeeds. The field needs both further empirical and theoretical work.