Increased democratic participation thanks to digitalisation?
There is a global trend towards more intensive involvement of citizens in political decisions by means of participation formats such as citizen meetings. Although the digital transformation offers numerous options in this respect, the range of digital participation formats available today is still quite limited.
In this project, we will test two prototypes of digital citizen participation: firstly, eligible voters will draw up a Smartvote questionnaire to be presented to candidates in municipal elections. Secondly, voters will put together a set of arguments for federal proposals submitted to the vote of the people. We postulate that careful design increases the political legitimacy of online participation formats. On the one hand, we will rely on the random selection of a representative sample of citizens. On the other hand, technical innovation will be used to ensure that a maximum diversity of arguments and positions is included in the discussion, and that participants can play an autonomous role in the political design process.
The negative effects of digitalisation on democracies have been widely researched: studies have for instance determined to what extent digital communication channels reduce trust and mutual respect, and in what way they strengthen populism. However, very few projects have for example analysed how digitalisation can be used to strengthen democracy. By proposing two digital participation formats, our project offers such a perspective.
The primary aim of our project is to find out whether the two digital participation formats are able to meet high democratic theory requirements in terms of process, outcome and political legitimacy.
We will also address the following questions:
- Is the population sufficiently motivated to participate in such formats?
- What effect does civic participation have on the participants, for example in terms of civic competence?
In theory, digitalisation offers numerous opportunities to enliven democracy. Above all, its spatial independence opens up new perspectives for active and comprehensive citizen participation. In addition, digitalisation can be a means to generate enthusiasm for democracy among digital natives. For these reasons, it is crucial to identify the conditions under which online forms of participation are effective.
Digital Democratic Innovations to Empower Citizens in the Digital Age