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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


“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

Table of Contents

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


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