Article. What is technopolitics? A conceptual scheme for understanding politics in the digital age

Cover of the article What is technopolitics? A conceptual scheme for understanding politics in the digital age

A year ago, Can Kurban, Maria Haberer and I presented a communication at the conference IDP2016 – Internet, Law and Politics. Building a European digital space, and it was published in its proceedings as What is technopolitics? A conceptual scheme for understanding politics in the digital age.

Now, an improved version of that paper has been published at the IDP. Journal of Internet, Law and Politics, in its issue #24.

Abstract

In this article we seek to revisit what the term ‘technopolitical’ means for democratic politics in our age. We begin by tracing how the term was used and then transformed through various and conflicting adaptations of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) in governmental and civil organizations and grassroots movements. Two main streams can be distinguished in academic literature: studies about internet-enhanced politics (labelled as e- government) and politics 2.0 that imply the facilitation of existing practices such as e-voting, e-campaigning and e-petitioning. The second stream of the internet-enabled perspective builds on the idea that ICTs are essential for the organization of transformative, contentious politics, citizen participation and deliberative processes. Under a range of labels, studies have often used ideas of the technopolitical in an undefined or underspecified manner for describing the influence of digital technologies on their scope of investigation. After critically reviewing and categorizing the main concepts used in the literature to describe ICT-based political performances, we construct a conceptual model of technopolitics oriented at two contra-rotating developments: Centralization vs. Decentralization. Within a schema consisting of the five dimensions of context, scale and direction, purpose, synchronization and actors we will clarify these developments and structure informal and formal ways of political practices. We explain the dimensions using real-world examples to illustrate the unique characteristics of each technopolitical action field and the power dynamics that influence them.

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Full article:
Kurban, C., Peña-López, I. & Haberer, M. (2017). “What is technopolitics? A conceptual scheme for understanding politics in the digital age”. In IDP. Revista de Internet, Derecho y Ciencia Política, 24. Barcelona: Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

IDP2016 (VII). New Political Parties & Cyber-activism

Notes from the 12th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Building a European digital space, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 7-8 July 2016. More notes on this event: idp2016.

Communications on New Political Parties & Cyber-activism
Chairs: Joan Balcells

Structural Conditions for Citizen Deliberation: A Conceptual Scheme for the Assessment of “New” Parties.
Maria Haberer, Doctoral Student, IN3, UOC; Ismael Peña-Lopez, Lecturer at the School of Law and Political Science, UOC.

Is there something like “new politics”? There are certainly recent social movements (15M, Occupy Wall Street) that look like what people like Lebkowsk (1997) called technopolitics. It seems that citizen deliberation is what lies at the core of these movements and the political parties that came after them.

Deliberative democracy is a form of communication to come to consensus-based decision that serve the public good.

Barcelona En Comú (BComú) is analysed to see whether it fits in this definition of new politics or deliberative democracy. What opportunities have the citizens to participate? What are the challenges these spaces are facing?

Four aspects or dimensions:

  • Structure and functionality.
  • Accessibility and transparency.
  • Hybridity and coordination.
  • Outcome and accountability.

What is technopolitics? A conceptual scheme for understanding politics in the digital age.
Can Kurban, Doctoral Student, New School for Social Research, New York; Ismael Peña-Lopez, Lecturer at the School of Law and Political Science, UOC; Maria Haberer, Doctoral Student, IN3, UOC.

What is the relationship between ICTs and democracy? Is it about online vs. offline? About Politics 2.0? The literature is not clear about what we understand by technopolitics:

  • “constitutional integrity” (Lebkowski, 1997)
  • “hybridity” (Hecht, 2001)
  • contingency and multiplicity of actors (Kellner, 2001)
  • contesting conceptions of citizenship, rights, and the polity (Hughes, 2006)
  • the closed vs. the open (Rasmussen, 2007)
  • power and strategy (Toret et al. 2015)

Two main origins of antagonism: the organizing role of communication (and Internet governance) and the value of information (big/pubic data). So, in the latest years we either see ICTs strengthening the status quo, making it more efficient, or as an antagonism of the status quo, empowering citizens with new tools and protocols. And since 2008, the acceleration of the antagonist approach has been quite evident.

Dimensions:

  • Context: we are in contentious politics, in a new digital media environment, living an organizational change.
  • Actors: new and plural actors.
  • Scale: we go from individuals, to organizations, to contentious networks.
  • Directions: contentious politics moving from outside to inside the institutional politics.
  • Synchronization: new spaces for activism, spaces that are not isolated but overlapping layers, and that synchronize through several practices.
  • Purpose: taking back politics in the short term, hacking the political system in the long term.

Are we witnessing a new constitutional process?

Online primaries and intra-party democracy: candidate selection processes in Podemos and the Five Star movement. Bálint Mikola, PhD Candidate, Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations, Central European University (CEU), Budapest.

To what extent do online primaries empower party members and supporters vis-a-vis the other faces of party organization?

Four dimensions:

  • Who can be selected: from all citizens to only some specific party members.
  • Who selects: from all the electorate to only the party leader.
  • Is the process decentralized: functional and territorial.
  • Voting/appointment systems.

Comparison between Movimento 5 Stelle (Italy) and Podemos (Spain).

Primaries are much more regulated in Podemos, but on the contrary they are more inclusive and open to the outside of the party.

In Podemos, block voting was possible and the result was a certain skewness towards the party leader’s preferences. Indeed, party leadership can control candidate selection through block voting and licensing of candidates. On the other hand, coalition agreements dilute members’ influence.

Europeanization and left-wing populism in southern Europe: the case of Podemos.
Juan Roch González, Phd Candidate in Political Science at Freie Universität Berlin.

What are the discursive formation represented by Podemos around EU issues? What is the role of the EU, in relation to Spanish politics, facilitating or constraining framing opportunities to the Spanish political agents?

The issue of Europe has been crucial for Spanish politics, especially since Spain became part of the EU but most especially in the latest years when European politics have been quite hard on budget issues for the member states, even more for southern states like Greece, Portugal or Spain. This has put the European issue in the very centre of Spanish Politics, affecting budget policies, employment policies and, all in all, leading to a Europeanization of the economic policy area in Spain.

During this period of Europeanization (2010-2012) the Spanish government generated framing opportunities mediated by national (the context of crisis in Spain), the lack of political culture about European issues, etcl.), and agential factors (the new social movements, etc.).

It seems that Podemos has not entirely grasped these opportunities, they are perceived as risky opportunities.

Discussion

Rosa Borge: are participation rates of 15% really low? Mikola: it is true that they are not “that low” in relationship with other parties, but it is also true that, in general, Internet-based parties are usually much more mobilized and one would expect much higher degrees of participation, circa 50%, as it happens in other tasks.

Rosa Borge: is Podemos becoming more hierarchical? Mikola: maybe not hierarchical, but certainly more oligarchical in order to become more electoral.

Q: how does participation changes participants? how does participation changes their own views? Haberer: it is true that participation usually precedes deliberation, but our analysis is more about what makes possible deliberation, and not what happens with it or with the citizen. The crucial thing here is, beyond normative approaches about deliberation, what makes it possible and how is it deployed within the party.

12th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2016)

Communication at IDP2016. What is technopolitics? A conceptual scheme for understanding politics in the digital age

What is technopolitics?. There are many definitions (or attempts to define), approaches, contexts. But the truth is that the concept is gaining momentum and catching the attention of scholars. Since the publication of Jon Lebkowsky’s TechnoPolitics and Stephano Rodotà’s Tecnopolitica, both in 1997, the topic has seen an increase of popularity.

Can Kurban, Maria Haberer and I have made an attempt to define an conceptualize the term at What is technopolitics? A conceptual scheme for understanding politics in the digital age which will be presented at the conference IDP2016 – Internet, Law and Politics. Building a European digital space, organized by the School, Open University of Catalonia, and taking place in July 7-8 2016 in Barcelona (Spain).

Cover of What is technopolitics? (IDP2016)

We here share a pre-print version of our communication, before the last, official, one comes out with the proceedings of the conference.

Abstract

In this article, we seek to revisit what the term ‘technopolitical’ means for democratic politics in our age. We begin with tracing down how the term was used, and then transformed through various and conflicting uses of ICTs in governmental, civil organizations and bottom-up movements. Two main streams can be distinguished: studies about internet-enhanced politics, labeled as e-government and Politics 2.0 that imply facilitating the existing practices such as e-voting, e-campaign, and e-petition. The internet-enabled perspective on the other hand builds up on the idea that ICTs are essential for the organization of (or organizing of) contentious politics, citizen participation and deliberative processes. Under a range of labels studies have often used concepts in an undefined or underspecified manner for describing their scope of investigation. After critically reviewing and categorizing the main literature towards concepts used for describing ICT-based political performances, in this article we construct a conceptual model of technopolitics: A schema consisting of the six dimensions context, scale, direction, purpose, synchronization, and actors systematizing informal and formal ways of political practices. In the following section we explain the dimensions by real-world examples to illustrate the unique characteristics of each technopolitical action field and the power dynamics that influence them. We conclude by arguing how this systematization will help facilitating academic research in the future.

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Full paper:
Kurban, C., Peña-López, I. & Haberer, M. (forthcoming). “What is technopolitics? A conceptual scheme for understanding politics in the digital age”. In Balcells, J. et al. (Coords.), Internet, Law and Politics. Building a European digital space. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Internet, Law & Politics. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, 7-8 July, 2016. Barcelona: UOC-Huygens Editorial.

About Me

    I am Ismael Peña-López.

    I am professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia, and researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute and the eLearn Center of that university. I am also the director of the Open Innovation project at Fundació Jaume Bofill.