Digital Democracy: Transformation and Public Contestations Mini-Workshop, 15 September 2018

Organized by Netina Tan ( and Tony Porter (

Digital Democracy in Today’s World: Citizenship, democracy and different forms of collective actions are increasingly digitally organized. Social media platforms are changing the public sphere, and data-scraping and algorithmic learning are shaping electoral campaigns, political communication, and voting behavior. While citizens can use digital space to call for increased transparency and accountability from governments, authoritarian governments can also use digital tools to bolster populist movements that undermine liberal norms.

Digital technology has transformed the lines between private and public spheres and has changed how politics are carried out across personal, local, national and transnational lines. Following 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. However, the enforcement of these regulations may affect freedom of speech, privacy and democratic governance in unknown ways.

Workshop Aims and Purpose: This workshop’s goal is to bring together researchers from McMaster and the surrounding area to identify existing areas of overlapping interest in digital democracy. Workshop participants are expected to circulate and present a short 1500-word paper and to take part in a discussion on another participant’s paper. Contributions are welcome from any discipline and Faculty, whether they focus on empirical, technical, policy, methodological or theoretical perspectives—so long as they relate to 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.

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, violent content
  • Rising cynicism and the participation gap
  • “Fake news”, politics of fear
  • Digital activism
  • Human rights online
  • Voter experience innovation
  • Surveillance and democracy
  • Digital literacy