Light and Shadow of Participation and Mobilization in Networked Digital Public Spheres

On November 30th and December 1st, Annett Heft (Freie University of Berlin/Weizenbaum Institute) had the opportunity to participate in the conference „Zwischen Gefährdung & Emanzipation: Demokratie unter Druck“ (Between Threat and Emancipation: Democracy Under Pressure) hosted by the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society, together with the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung, Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, and the Forschungsinstitut Gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt

With a regional focus on Germany, the conference addressed the pressures democracy faces, due to the increase of anti-democratic and anti-human ideologies. Such promotes exclusionary processes that restrict participation and question justice, while the performance deficits of the political system are increasing. In this light, the event aimed to raise awareness of the challenges of democracy and discuss perspectives for strengthening democratic processes and structures, from a scientific, institutional, and civil society perspective.

On the first day of the conference, Annett Heft talked about “Licht und Schatten der Partizipation und Mobilisierung in vernetzten digitalen Öffentlichkeiten” (Light and Shadow of Participation and Mobilization in Networked Digital Public Spheres). Focusing on the changes in opinion formation and public spheres in the fourth age of political communication, Heft highlighted both the potentials of political engagement under the “digital condition”, such as; more inclusive digital participation options for a variety of actors, while the networked architecture of digital communication and new communication modes likewise facilitate the spread of disinformation and hateful content. 

We thank the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society for organizing this event which enabled exchange between civil society organizations, practitioners, and scientific research.