DigEnlight Conference: Democracy and Media in the Digital Age, 14 Nov 2019, Brussels

This is a preannouncement of the conference.


Democracy is in crisis. The enthusiasm in the western world that was generated after the second world war as a reaction on fascism, communism and colonialism seems to fade out. Even short flarings like the Arabic spring, have - as of now - led to more frustration than optimism.

There are many recent articles and books that address this issue. In his book “Against Elections” David van Reybrouck gives a sharp analysis how democracy originated and developed in Europe over the last 2 millennia and particularly since the Enlightenment. He notes that currently actual trust in democratic institutions and public services is decreasing in Europe at all levels. Many people start demanding strong leaders, populist parties enter in parliaments and governments, voting turn out decreases with their results becoming unpredictable, and political parties lose more and more members.

The efficiency of the democratic process is also in crisis. An important reason is the need for political actors to continuously get high scores in the public opinion polls and work on re-election. This encourages polarisation. Commercial media and social platforms are eager to provide their platforms leading to amplify differences and allocate blame to attract readers and hence advertising income. This – in turn - reinforces polarization.

The Internet, once seen as an excellent mechanism to enable and facilitate democratic engagement and knowledge for all, has become - to a large extent - an instrument for political manipulation by the powerful. Carole Cadwaller published on 18 March 2018 in the Guardian a powerful example of that in the article: “I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool – meet the data warfare whistle blower”. More on this can be heard in her TED2019 talk.

A large variety of experiments with forms of deliberative democracy, many of them combining representation by election and by lot is discussed or ongoing (https://participedia.net/en/browse/organizations ). Examples in Europe are in Ireland, Belgium, Iceland, The Netherlands and lately also in France with the “grands debats” of Macron. Some are inspired by 5th century BC Athens or Italian Renaissance cities (Venice, Florence, …).

We must however take digitisation into account - the hyper-speed and decentralised communication it provides. Which organization of democratic processes fit best in the digital world? Can digital tools support democracy and ensure transparency of data use?

This DigEnlight conference will present and analyse the important problems with current democratic organisation. It will describe and discuss ongoing experiments. It will also address related inherent problems our societies face due to increasing complexity. We will zoom in on ethical, market and policy dilemmas that come with the call for an end to anonymity, more choice in authentication, massive data collection and tracking, artificial intelligence and other aspects of digitisation. We seek to contribute to the search for ways of governance in the digital era that can be really called democratic and ethically responsible.

Program Committee

Patrice Chazerand, Digital Europe

Stefan Klauser, ETH Zürich

Jo Pierson, VUB Brussels

Emilio Mordini, Responsible Technologies

Paul Timmers, Un. Oxford, Board DigEnlight

Faruk Eczacibasi, Eczacibasi Holding, Turkey

Jacques Bus (Sec. Gen. DigEnlight)


For registration and information see HERE


If you have an interest in this conference and want to consider the possibility to act as a sponsor, please contact the Secretary General, Jacques Bus

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