International Symposium: Digital Participation and the Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion
In information societies, inequalities are significantly structured by exclusions: exclusion from access to technology, exclusion from data, exclusion from knowledge production and circulation, and subsequently exclusion from the networks of decision-making. Digital participation is no longer a supplemental set of activities but has become a key component of modern citizenship. With government, educational and commercial services increasingly provided online, requiring citizens to have internet access, those who are digitally excluded are experiencing deeper disadvantages. The adoption and use of digital devices reinforces the existing socioeconomic factors where social exclusion transfers to digital exclusion.
This symposium was concerned with the political aspects of inclusion and exclusion in information societies within three contexts: political parties and electoral contestation, news and information inequalities reinforced by levels of online engagement, and exclusionary practices that emerge as a product of asymmetry in the collection and analysis of personal data.
Themes of the symposium:
- Political parties and electoral competition: With the growth of professionalization within political parties we have seen a greater decoupling between citizens and political parties. The party roles once performed by amateurs have been ceded to professionalised communication staff guided by advanced poling, focus groups, and data analytics. Long since gone are the days when parties functioned as the organised expression of social cleavages. Instead, political parties are increasingly mining social media and pushing microtargeted ads based on online profiles. On the other hand, social media may enable dispersed citizens to participate in construction of party strategies, tactics, and policies.
- News and information inequalities: The term ‘fake news’ has received considerable attention in recent times. We have witnessed the proliferation of fake news during the closing days of the 2016 US election campaign and the Brexit referendum in the UK. The term ‘fake news’ has a long and varied history in journalism, referring to misinformation, disinformation campaigns, satire, and sometimes as a political retort to any claims one disagrees with or wishes to delegitimise. In an age of information abundance, the ability to filter fact from fiction is becoming an important aspect of civic participation.
- Data justice: As aspects of political and social life are increasingly rendered in forms of digital traces, wide varieties of political actors are finding ways to utilise these data to push for political and social change. Both commercial and public entities make use of digital data to better understand and inform their end-users, using advanced technologies such as low-cost satellite imagery, drones, and machine learning to detect and monitor the environment. Aggregate forms of personalised digital data and exclusion from the information and tools have implications to what it means to participate in the digital world.
Hosted by News & Media Research Centre and Institute for Governance & Policy Analysis, at the University of Canberra, the symposium brought together international scholars, practitioners and activists to engage with the contemporary issues in digital participation.
Our guest speakers included:
(click on presenter names for their short bios and presentation titles for an abstract)
Slides from selected presentations are avialable to view and downoad on the symposim resources page.
Symposium organisers: Sora Park & Michael Jensen