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Digital Participation

digital participation

International Symposium: Digital Participation and the Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion

Wednesday 18 July 2018
Ann Harding Centre, University of Canberra
Co-hosted by News & Media Research Centre and Institute for Governance & Policy Analysis

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:

John Keane, University of Sydney
Karen Mossberger, Arizona State University
Eli Skogerbø, University of Oslo, Distinguished International Visitor at the University of Canberra


(click on presenter names for their short bios and presentation titles for an abstract)

09:15-10:00Keynote 1Karen MossbergerInformation inequalities in an era of digital citizenship
10:00-11:15Panel 1: News and information inequalitiesDan AndrewBloody Ads!: How more cost effective online advertising has contributed to information inequalities
  Michael Jensen & Titus ChenChinese language media in Australia: Diaspora media as a form of political influence
11:15-11:30Morning coffee
11:30-12:15Keynote 2John KeanePost-truth politics and the unfinished communications revolution
13:00-14:15Panel 2: Political parties and electoral competitionNikolai Glad

Revitalising Intra-Party Democracy through Digital Democratic Innovations: The case of Danish Political Party Alternativet

  Francesco BailoLocal participation and the Five Star Movement’s results in the 2018 General Election
  Temple UwalakaSocial media as the fifth estate in Nigeria: An analysis of the 2012 Occupy Nigeria protest
14:15-14:30Afternoon tea
14:30-15:15Keynote 3Eli SkogerbøCampaigning without media: Indigenous politics in a non-Indigenous setting
15:15-16:30Panel 3: Data & social justiceDeborah LuptonHow do data come to matter? Living and becoming with personal data
  Nina LewisEnduring data: Segregation, stigma, and children’s rights in records
  Tom SearThe last post: Shadow archive and the role of commemoration in the online politics of exclusion and inclusion


Slides from selected presentations are avialable to view and downoad on the symposim resources page.

Symposium organisers:  Sora Park & Michael Jensen