Democracy in the Digital Era
Guest professorship lecture by George Metakides.
Mondays and Tuesdays
06.11.2023 - 28.11.2023
16:00 - 18:00
After successful completion of the course, students are able to examine the democracy technology interaction, identify threats and opportunities and, when possible, formulate proposals for sustaining democracy in the Digital Era.
Subject of Course
For more than a decade now, studies by different organizations on the state of democracy world-wide, while using different indices and methodologies, arrive at very similar conclusions: there has been a continuous quantitative and qualitative decline of democratic practices, including participation in and integrity of elections, civil liberties and the rule of law.
Many analysts trace the origin of this decline back to the period 1990’s, following the fall of the Iron Curtain and characterized by the euphoric belief that democracy was a sort of natural state that would be inevitably not only preserved but spread broadly via capitalism and globalization.
This optimism was further reinforced in the 1990’s and 2000’s by the “blossoming” of the internet and the World Wide Web which promised to usher in a digital cultural renaissance which would reinvent and strengthen democracy.
This optimism turned out to be utopic, as democracy today is seen to be facing threats some of which are in fact magnified by the socio-political impact of digital technologies.
While economic inequalities, the effects of uncontrolled globalization and constitutional fault lines are cited as the leading causes for the decline of democracy, these are more and more closely intertwined with the role played by digital technologies and the role of Big Tech and the social media platforms in particular.
As the digital ecosystem evolves there are two main sources of strain on democracy
Misinformation/manipulation (fakes, both deep and “shallow”). Already there via social networks, aggravated by the advent of generative AI and its prospects
Concentration of power (already there via Big Tech, aggravated direly by the advent of generative AI and its prospects)
In the current context with the potentially transformational generative AI developments, the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a very small number of very big companies further magnifies the threats to democratic processes and institutions and the erosion and manipulation of the public sphere.
Technology, since the beginning of history, had significant and occasionally transformational socio-political impact with, inadvertently, positive and negative aspects.
Governance, at its best, should aim to empower the positive and minimize the negative
The developments of generative AI has triggered a new impetus for proper governance both in terms of regulatory, protective legislation but, at the same time, for better harnessing the positive potential of the developing technologies.
The course aims to examine the democracy technology interaction, identify threats and opportunities and, when possible, formulate proposals for sustaining democracy in the Digital Era.
Themes / Modules
- Democracy in Decline? Latest studies, their methodologies and results
- A short history of democracy. Lessons relevant for the digital era
- Main causes for the decline of democracy identified. Role of digital technologies
- Critical points in the evolution of the digital ecosystem.
- The intersection of Democracy and Digital.
- Social Media Platforms and Big Tech
- Generative AI, its impact and prospects
- The evolving regulatory framework in a global geopolitical context
- Existing and prospective efforts to harness the power of digital for the benefit of both individuals and society
- Education, skills and critical thought for the digital era
Further details on this lecture can be found on the TISS page.
This lecture is a part of the Digital Humanism Guest Professorship Seminar Series.