This week’s issue of Weizenbaum Colloquium was held by our fellow Irina Kalinka, who presented us her dissertation topic „The Political Imaginary of User democracy“.
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? Irina’s dissertation project instead shifts the focus to the normative conceptualizations of democracy that are embedded within the platforms themselves. How do they define citizenship, „healthy“ public discourses and the associated practices and pedagogies? Irina understands these underlying assumptions and efforts as the political imaginary of „User Democracy“. She criticizes this notion of democracy, in which subjects are encouraged to imagine themselves as ‚citizen-users‘ of the digital public space provided by platforms. In contrast, she 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.
Thank you very much, Irina, for your insightful presentation and the subsequent fruitful discussion!