Weizenbaum Colloquium with Irina Kalinka

Tuesday, 23rd of February 2021, 2 pm – 3 pm
Weizenbaum-Institut, online

The upcoming issue of Weizenbaum Colloquium will be held by our fellow Irina Kalinka, who will give a presentation with the the title „The Political Imaginary of User Democracy“, based on her dissertation topic:

Contemporary debates about the political impact of digital platforms in the West often revolve around a central, limiting dichotomy: Does digital media revitalize or hurt democracy? This project shifts the focus to show how digital platforms are not only facilitators – of both democratic and anti-democratic endencies – but also engender their own normative conceptualization of democracy. This includes defining what information is in the public interest, what constitutes “healthy” public discourse, and what are good citizenship practices and pedagogies. What emerges from such efforts is a political imaginary I call ‘User Democracy.’

User Democracy is informed by a technocratic understanding of politics, including the valorization of data and automation, predictability, and systematization. Community and popular sovereignty are here imagined as operational and, thus, potentially programmable, which devalues the need for political contestation, inherent in questions of history, justice, and equality, to play out in a truly public setting. Instead, digital public life is facilitated for political subjects through the ‘service’ of interface-design, algorithmic filters, or user manuals. Under this framework, democracy is seen as a project of optimization and management, not common struggle. Subjects are encouraged to imagine themselves as ‚citizen-users‘ of the service of digital public space, where citizenship is an improvable and quantifiable skill – instead of a shared responsibility.

This dissertation, in contrast, argues for an emancipatory understanding of democracy rooted in the political ethos of (digital) agonism, which emphasizes that popular sovereignty is not an object to be facilitated from above, but a continuous, collective process of struggle around what it means to be in common with others.

If you are interested in attending the Weizenbaum Colloquium, please send us a mail (digidem@wzb.eu) and we will provide you with a link to the conference.