Digital democracy – CFP for the RGS annual conference

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about digital participation and digital democracy lately, and hope to be able to do more writing on this topic and get some projects off the ground in 2019. I’m also hoping to connect with others with similar interests – thus this call for papers for the RGS annual conference in London this summer (28th-30th August). I’m also thrilled that the Digital Geographies Research Group of the RGS-IBG has agreed to sponsor this session at this year’s conference!

Digital democracy: Geographies of trouble and geographies of hope

Panel for RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 28th-30th August 2019

Panel Sponsor: Digital Geographies Research Group

Depending on who you believe the increasing incursion of digital technologies into our daily lives, our markets and systems of governance, is either the greatest threat democracy faces or its ultimate saviour. On one hand, emerging methods associated with digital democracy offer hope, including: new opportunities for openness and transparency; new tools for listening, mapping and responding to public voices; and a greater variety of possible ways for citizens to participate. On the other hand, these emerging methods raise new troubles and threats, such as: the potential to manipulate democratic processes; the de-facto privatisation of the administration of democracy; the masking of the subjectivity of decisions made during democratic processes through an over-reliance on machines and algorithms; and the straight-forward exclusion of citizens who lack access to the internet and smart technologies.

It is clear that emerging approaches to digital democracy vary greatly in terms of their digital affordances (Dahlberg, 2011), publics and models of democracy (cf. Chilvers & Kearnes 2016), spatial and temporal dimensions, and scales (cf. Ash et al., 2018). Therefore, it is important to understand and map out current practices, and to study how they play out in context, rather than approving or tarring them all with the same brush, as much of the hyperbolic coverage of these emerging approaches tends to do.

This panel aims to explore both the geographies of trouble and geographies of hope which emerge from the accelerating adoption of digital methods of engagement by the state and in other democratic contexts (such as smart city projects, local government initiatives, activist movements, and research projects). Contributions to this panel could include, but need not be limited to:

  • Empirical studies of the use of new digital methods of engagement in governance and other democratic contexts.
  • Empirical studies of recent controversies surrounding digital democracy and emerging tools for digital engagement.
  • Surveys / mappings of emerging practices of digital democracy in a particular domain or geographical context.
  • Methodological innovations using digital tools to help understand aspects of democracy and the state.
  • Conceptual explorations of digital democracy, participation and related concepts.
  • Reflections on involvement in inter or transdisciplinary projects involving digital participation.

Please send abstracts of no more than 200 words to Helen Pallett (h[.]pallett[at]uea[.]ac[.]uk) by Tuesday 12thFebruary.

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