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Digital Technology and Democratic Theory

One of the most far-reaching transformations in our era is the wave of digital technologies rolling over—and upending—nearly every aspect of life. Work and leisure, family and friendship, community and citizenship have all been modified by now-ubiquitous digital tools and platforms. Digital Technology and Democratic Theory looks closely at one significant facet of our rapidly evolving digital lives: how technology is radically changing our lives as citizens and participants in democratic governments.
To understand these transformations, this book brings together contributions by scholars from multiple disciplines to wrestle with the question of how digital technologies shape, reshape, and affect fundamental questions about democracy and democratic theory. As expectations have whiplashed—from Twitter optimism in the wake of the Arab Spring to Facebook pessimism in the wake of the 2016 US election—the time is ripe for a more sober and long-term assessment. How should we take stock of digital technologies and their promise and peril for reshaping democratic societies and institutions? To answer, this volume broaches the most pressing technological changes and issues facing democracy as a philosophy and an institution.
 

344 pages | 2 figures | 6 x 9 | © 2021

Computer Science

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society

Media Studies

Philosophy: Political Philosophy

Political Science: Political and Social Theory

Reviews

“At a moment when democracy around the world is being weakened, challenged, and attacked, this volume is a timely and essential addition that will help its audience understand the affordances—but also the very real detrimental effects—of social media in society on our governing principles and institutions. We urgently need this expert realist approach and global perspective if we are to have any chance of effectively engaging with these tech firms and their technologies and any hope of guarding democracy against the outsize impact of both.”

Sarah T. Roberts, University of California, Los Angeles

“This book serves the much-needed purpose of advancing the conversation about the impact of technology on democratic theory and the role of democratic theory in helping us to understand the relationship between technology and power. This diverse collection of essays addresses how to reimagine the informational diet of democracy, free speech and association, the boundaries of the demos and political exclusion. An important and engaging read!”

Beth Simone Noveck, director, The Governance Lab

"Ten papers examine how digital technologies shape, reshape, and affect fundamental questions about democratic practice and theory, focusing on how democratic ideals might provide a framework for understanding and shaping today’s digital transformation."

Journal of Economic Literature

"Each of the chapters is written in a clear and engaging manner and will not exclude students, nonspecialists, and, indeed, a wider interested and informed audience. This is to the editors’ credit. The drawback of tackling questions related to new technologies in book form is, as the authors admit, that the speed of events in the digital world means the arguments made here might be left behind very quickly. However, the timing of this book’s publication leaves it feeling instead rather prescient, in the sense that much of its content is now of a far wider interest than might otherwise have been the case. The call made by the contributors to this collection is now urgent, rather than just timely, and the arguments made here will be of significant influence on the theoretical reimagination of democracy that must surely follow."

Perspectives on Politics

"Drawing a necessarily wide scope, the volume includes theoretical work alongside the kind of novel empirical input necessary to give a full account of the ways in which democracy and digital technology intersect. Indeed, a strength of the book is that it does not focus solely on contributions from 'traditional' democratic theorists but includes researchers working in fields as diverse as communications, economics, and computer science. . . . As is made clear in the
opening pages, this breadth is both a strength and a necessity, because the kinds of challenges presented to democratic theory by the structural changes brought by new technologies are unlikely to be resolved through conventional means."

Dacombe Review

"Digital Technology and Democratic Theory is an important contribution to a field previously overlooked by democratic theorists. In an age in which digital environments create new barriers to equal rights and political participation, the volume carefully assembles an array of cross-disciplinary perspectives and asks the question: is there a need for a digital democratic theory?"

LSE Review of Books

Table of Contents

Introduction
Lucy Bernholz, Hélène Landemore, and Rob Reich 

1 Democracy and the Digital Public Sphere
Joshua Cohen and Archon Fung

2 Open Democracy and Digital Technologies
Hélène Landemore

3 Purpose-Built Digital Associations
Lucy Bernholz

4 Digital Exclusion: A Politics of Refusal
Seeta Peña Gangadharan

5 Presence of Absence: Exploring the Democratic Significance of Silence
Mike Ananny

6 The Artisan and the Decision Factory: The Organizational Dynamics of Private Speech Governance
Robyn Caplan

7 The Democratic Consequences of the New Public Sphere
Henry Farrell and Melissa Schwartzberg

8 Democratic Societal Collaboration in a Whitewater World
David Lee, Margaret Levi, and John Seely Brown

9 From Philanthropy to Democracy: Rethinking Governance and Funding of High-Quality News in the Digital Age
Julia Cagé

10 Technologizing Democracy or Democratizing Technology? A Layered-Architecture Perspective on Potentials and Challenges
Bryan Ford

Acknowledgments
Index

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