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A theory of the digital democratic affordance

Lunch seminars

Giovedì, 12 Dicembre 2019
Sala Simone del Pollaiolo, palazzo Strozzi, Firenze
Dipartimento di scienze politico-sociali

One of the thorniest questions in the field of digital democracy (or e-democracy) is whether digital media can foster the democratization of political systems or whether this is entirely dependent on socio-political and socio-economic factors. The paper begins by noting how digital tools can be either intentionally designed for political participation or can be subsequently adapted to it. This distinction is important to frame the digital democratic affordance as a concept that denotes the intersection of democratic participation with the material properties of digital media, none of which can be reduced to the other. The paper goes on to distinguish between two types of digital democratic affordances (DDAs): DDAs that modernize and work in the service of representative democracy, which I will call instrumental; and DDAs that democratize and put pressure on representative democracy, which I will call emerging. Instrumental DDAs are primarily employed for their capacity to reduce both the costs of governance and citizen participation, modernizing and reinforcing political representation. On the contrary, emerging DDAs allow citizens to represent and govern themselves, disrupting the logic of political representation. The paper concludes by noting that while this distinction is useful for analytical purposes, on the level of identity construction both types of affordances imply a redefinition of the relationship between the individual and the collective, political subjectivity and sovereign power.