Discussion: Digital Dictatorship or Digital Democracy

Discussion: Peter Weibel and Gerald Bast
Fri. 26.6.2020 12.00 to 13.00 Uhr
Peter Weibel, Gerald Bast
Peter Weibel - Research Institute for Digital Cultures
The technology of information and communication in the digital age has moved faster than the political systems and structures. In this gap, private companies in the West have erected their regimes of private generation and control of information in the virtual space of online-communication. What does this mean for democracy? The aim of our online symposium in the virtual space is to reflect the fate of democracy in the age of digital media. In the 1990s, hope blossomed that digital media would open access to information for all people and empower individuals with the knowledge and competence necessary for a living democracy. Today, social media have become “asocial media” for many observers because they became the platform for conspirative themes and an echo chamber for prejudices and fake news that now serve more the enforcement of right wing interests as of liberal democracy. Unproved opinions (doxa), very often generated by chatbots, are virally spread and resonated as feedback mechanisms to form an affirmative majority of believers. A doxacracy dominates instead of a democracy of competent citizens. Digital technology allows for greater participance of the public (online petitions, rallies, marches, etc.). The new demand for participation and agency is not satisfied by representative democracy. Therefore we have new political movements, from  “liquid democracy” to Macron in France. The problem is that many citizens, because of lack of adequate education, do not understand the operations of algorithms and data management. Without knowledge they don’t know how digital tools function, they don’t know how they are governed and who controls them. Digital analphabets need the help of A.I. systems. For more information please visit In “liquid democracies”, A.I. systems could “vote” on behalf of citizens daily instead every few years to make a cross on a paper to choose a candidate instead of discussing, deliberating and deciding a case. But if the natural voters do not understand the mechanism of A.I. systems , again, we have a kind of digital feudalism. Therefore we need new education programs for digital competence. Technology and politics have a close relationship. Following Harold Innis’ “Empire and Communications” (1950) the first empires were based on the invention and use of writing. Thousand years later the Gutenberg revolution and the printing press, the dissemination of ideas nearly simultaneously, were one of the roots for the enlightenment and representative democracy. What can we expect for the future of democracy from digital tools? Digital democracy or digital dictatorship?

Dikussion: Digital Dictatorship or Digital Democracy