Digital Governance and Democracy

A Report from Day 4

The last day of the Annual Conference of the Society for Advancement of Socio-Economics gave participants once more the opportunity to learn about research dealing with new modes of governance. Panels discussed global changes and how they are intertwined with political representation as well as digital governance, which has become essential in times of home-office and home-schooling.

The panel ‘Digital Data Governance from a Polycentric Perspective. Policies, Practises and Technologies’ opened up a dialogue about how and by whom information is being governed on the internet through the lens of polycentrism. Carolina Aguerre  opened the panel by debating the relevance a polycentric approach to digital data governance. She argued that until recently the focus of policymakers lay largely with protection. However, more recent debates have moved to recognize technical standards. Aguerre examined that initiatives by the EU, China, as well as antitrust cases against large companies of data-driven environments acknowledge a more comprehensive perspective. Malcolm Campbell-Verduyn elaborated on distributive forms of data governance, outlining that frequent challenges of instability are being reproduced. He presented his observations in regard the overarchingly aspirational visions of Bitcoin being a ‘currency’ without central authority. He concluded that, while the vision is not entirely new, the implementation is showing tendencies of underlying order catering towards young, white entrepreneurs in the global north. Nathalia Sautchuk-Patrício continued the panel with a discussion about net neutrality from a polycentric perspective. She explained that network neutrality is based around the principle of non-discrimination of data packages. She went on to highlight how such discrimination can take place and where tension between different actors on this issue stems from, concluding that a neutral internet would enhance innovation, competition, and access to services. Janet Xue concluded this session with an analysis of governing hybrid data networks through the example of the mobility application DiDi. She outlined how the platform is aimed at both the consumer as well as at investors, who sought the construction of trust-based relationships with the stakeholders involved. However, questions of the appropriateness of its self-regulation of consumer data and relationship with local stakeholders arose.

The theme of ongoing change was continued by Jane Mansbridge in her featured panel about ‘Our Democracies: Too Weak to Bear Burdens’, in which she explained that 18th century-style democracies have become outdated in regard to how representatives can communicate and relate to their constituents. She outlined that societies are faced with the free-rider problem, where individuals (or states) benefit from ‘free-use goods’ without having contributed towards their production, which would, over time, discourage contribution altogether. She argues, therefore, that intervention from the state is necessary to encourage individuals to contribute, but further outlined that today’s challenge is to find a way to legitimize this state coercion. Mansbridge explained that the issue of free riding will increase more in the future with regard to action against climate change. However, in order to find legitimate modes of state coercion, she argued that we need to look for the real interest behind a given position, stressing how important it is to ask the right questions and listen to what people are actually saying. Mansbridge referred to Mary Parker Follet’s ‘integrative negotiation’, through which participants in a discussion should recognize the conflict and seek understanding of what each participant is motivated by. She went on to suggest ‘recursive representation’ as a solution to the presented issue which she described as politics with the people. In this system a randomized group of constituents would be given the opportunity to talk to their representative directly about their concerns. She explains that in such a system, not only activists, but also reluctant participants would be incentivised to contribute. Moreover, she outlined that this system would also increase constituents’ understanding of one another.

If you want to learn more about the panel’s featured on this year’s conference, visit SASE on Youtube!

From the conference: Jasmin Schmitz

Upcoming Event

Border Violence: The Case of Melilla

4th Global Migration Lecture

Dr Estela Schindel
Associate Professor and Academic Coordinator of the Viadrina Institute for European Studies (IFES), Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)

Discussant:  Dr Bidisha Biswas
Professor of Political Science, Western Washington University & Senior Research Fellow at KHK/GCR21

Moderator:  Dr Volker Heins

Tuesday, 6th July 2021 (18:30–20:00, CEST) | Online Lecture via Zoom – Access will be provided after registration for the event.

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