Digital Democracy: Transformation and Public Contestations Mini-Workshop, (Sept 15, 2018)

Organized by

Netina Tan, Tony Porter and Sara Bannerman

Citizenship, democracy and different forms of collective actions are increasingly digitally organized. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, are changing the configuration of public spheres in both democracies and authoritarian regimes. Data-scraping and algorithmic learning are shaping electoral campaigns, political communication and voting behavior. Authoritarian regimes are using what Christopher Walker and Jessica Ludwig term “sharp power” to meddle in elections, and bolster populist movements that undermine liberal norms. Mainstream media and journalism now face speedier reporting and dissemination of news by anonymous online citizens to mobilize or offer counter-narratives. Areas formerly under state jurisdiction such as taxation, diplomacy, policy-making and national security are being transformed as whistleblowers and hackers demand accountability, transparency and inclusiveness. In the wake of the Facebook data breach in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, governments in both democracies and authoritarian regimes are looking to new legislation to regulate fake news, hate speech and private communications.

Digital technology has transformed the lines between private and public spheres predicated on the nation-state and the boundaries it created and sustained. It has changed how contentious politics are battled across personal, local, national and transnational lines. In the era of big data, profiling and predictive decision-making, there is an intensified focus on regulation by governments, big tech companies and private actors, which are exercising powers to surveil, censor, manipulate or profit. But how these regulations are enforced and the effects on freedom of speech, privacy and democratic governance are unclear.

This workshop aims to bring together researchers from McMaster and the surrounding area, to identify existing areas of overlapping interest in digital democracy and challenges listed above. We welcome contributions from any discipline and Faculty, whether they focus on empirical, technical, policy, methodological or theoretical perspectives on any of the challenges associated with digital technology and democracy. Selected papers from the workshop will be assembled and submitted for consideration as a peer-reviewed Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition Working Paper.

Workshop Highlights:

  • Participants will present a 1500-word paper and act as a discussant on another participant’s paper
  • Selected papers from the workshop will be assembled and submitted for consideration as a peer-reviewed Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition Working Paper

Workshop Agenda (Coming Soon!)

Relevant Topics:

  • Democracies at risk
  • Contested elections and political legitimacy
  • Digital divides
  • Inequalities in the governance of the internet
  • Impact of digital technologies on public and private governance strategies
  • Online discrimination, hate speech and violent content
  • Rising cynicism and the participation gap
  • “Fake news” and the politics of fear
  • Digital activism and human rights online
  • Voter experience innovation
  • Surveillance and democracy
  • Digital literacy

If you are interested in attending the workshop, please contact: Netina Tan (; Tony Porter ( or Sara Bannerman ( for more details.