IDP2015 (IV). Internet, Politics and Society

Notes from the 11th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Regulating Smart Cities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 2-3 July 2015. More notes on this event: idp2015.

Internet, Politics and Society
Chairs: Rosa Borge

New democratic movements, political culture and models of democracy
José Luis Martí, Laura Roth

We are beginning to contest the assumption that not voting is not participating in politics. And it is increasingly clear that it is not so: participation in extra-representative politics is becoming more important and will most likely be. Under this new train of though, what should be the profile of the “good citizen” in terms of political participation and engagement?

There is a first factor that needs being reframed. Most literature on social capital, participation in organizations, etc. seems not to be fitting what current ways of participation are to be found in new social and political movements. It looks like citizens begin to have new approaches, new attitudes, new cultures of participation that are just not compatible with old school participation models.

Four models:

  • The traditional model: citizens are like readers that read the “book of ideas” of their representatives. But little more.
  • The accountability model: addedd to “reading the book”, they can comment on it, they can compare what they see with their own position, etc.
  • The participative model: citizens are also authors of the “book” while representatives are like “editors” who put the ideas or proposals into practice. New values like toerance, equity. Also new skills.
  • Networked democracy: citizens are authors, editors and readers of the “books” created by the collective. This model is a total rupture with the preceding models.

Open politics and participation. The case of Podemos
Vicenta Tasa Fuster, Anselm Bodoque Arribas

There is a confrontation between what some call old politics and new politics, the latter being characterized by an intensive use of technology and highly valuing participation.

Participation: in a democratic sense, participation only has sense if it is permanent, open, free and deliberative (Joan Subirats).

Podemos has fostered participation, but it has decreased over time, and never reached 50% of the members of the party. They use a combination of platforms and tools (Appgree, Loomio, Reddit, Impulsa, the Talent Bank, Doodle, TitanPad, Google Groups and Google Drive, etc.).

When it comes to internal organization, it is difficult to tell new from old politics. But in matters of participation, there may be a difference.

After several participation processes, the average in Spain is that only 27% of the members of the party participated in voting for their representatives to be secretary general in their respective regions. For the primary elections (March 2015) participation was even lower (circa 23%).

Why this low participation when the party self-defines itself as participatory? ESpecially relevant, as the newcomers should be, in theory, highly motivated. And the barriers to vote were very low, as they only required and ID and a connection to the Internet. Different reasons:

  • Different degree of organization and definition of the own interests: there are many ways in which people participate.
    • People that always participate.
    • People that only participate in some specific issues of their interest.
    • Partisans that are not very organized.
    • Partisans that never participate.
  • Gender divide. Women usually have less time to participate, due to domestic burdens, sheer discrimination, etc.
  • Digital divide. Relevant if the main (if not the only) means to participate is digital and requiring high digital skills. In addition, we know that there is a gender divide within the digital divide.
  • Different reasons of the partisans. Most leaders in Podemos are men, and many topics raised in the participation platforms are genuinely masculine.

Digital divide and gender
María José Senent Vidal

We see that the digital divide has an important gender component, especially when it comes to usage and advanced uses (second and third digital divides).

  • Ability to access.
  • Ability and control of use.
  • Advanced uses, participation in processes of decision and creation.

Proposals:

  • Right to digital inclusion.
  • Overcoming of stereotypes.
  • Technological empowerment.

Discussion

Albert Batlle: is Podemos faking participation but its design is aimed at making participation difficult? Bodoque: It is not clear. There seems to be an opposition of factors and values. On the one hand, Podemos was born thanks to participation, on the other hand, the more the party grows, the more difficult to manage participation. It is also true that the decrease in participation may also be due to the fading of the newness factor and tiredness of several participation processes.

David Martínez: how sustainable are these new forms of political participation? Can we put into practice such a model of democracy? José Luís Martí: the 15M was not about decision-making, was about deliberation. This is a difference with Podemos, which is a party and wants to make decisions, but it also gives some ideas on the nature of Podemos and what they think about participation: it’s about deliberation, and about doing it outside of the institutions, on one’s everyday life. On the other hand, it is not only internal participation that matters, but also general participation of the citizen.

José Luís Martí: it has been said that participation in Podemos was low. But, how do we tell low from high? How do we compare? Vicenta Tasa: there are two clear concentric circles in Podemos, one that leads and participates the whole time, another one in the periphery and with much less engagement. Anselm Bodoque: it’s true, that in general terms people in Podemos participate, deliberate and vote much more than in other political parties. But still, one would expect like more excitation in the ranks of Podemos.

Anselm Bodoque: it is important to highlight the motivation factor and the false sense of equality in participation. It is just not true that everyone participates in equal conditions in participatory processes: some people organize and some don’t. And the ones that organize are more effective and efficient that the lone wolves.

11th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2015)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2015) “IDP2015 (IV). Internet, Politics and Society” In ICTlogy, #142, July 2015. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=4335

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