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Department of Political Science

Democracy in Digital Public Spheres


Ulrike Klinger
European University Viadrina



Frank Esser
University of Zurich, Switzerland


Keywords: digital media and communication, network media logic, opinion formation, transformation of democracy

Description: This panel addresses innovations in and challenges for democracies in the age of digital public spheres. Digital media and digital communication shape how core democratic processes work, how people form opinions, make voting decisions, participate, protest, or debate. While early research on democratic transformations under digital conditions have focused on the beneficial aspects (no more censorship, connective political action, access to information), there has been a turn to more dystopic aspects in the past years (the spread of disinformation, hate speech, inauthentic coordinated mobilization by bots and trolls). The past decade has shown that digital media and digital communication can both be beneficial and disruptive for democratic regimes as well as non-democratic regimes, who profit from digital surveillance and innovations to control their citizens.

Against this background, our panel will address (but is not limited to) questions about network media logic and network propaganda, disinformation, connective action, filter bubbles and echo chambers. We will trace key developments of how public spheres transform, the role of algorithms and discuss why technologies matter for democracy.