Democracy and Digital Technology in the Contemporary World

Democracy and Digital Technology in the Contemporary World
On balance, will the spread of digital technologies of work, production, and communication advance or hinder the success of Democracy in the contemporary world?
Obviously, this is a very open-ended question and you have great flexibility in how you approach it. Your essay should be focused around the approaches of one or more of the class readings on digital technologies. This includes Lanier’s book, Castells’ article on MyWestminster, and the articles I sent around via email. These leave you with important choices, as they approach the topic differently. Lanier is worried about the impact on the middle class and the underlying social contract that keeps a democracy together. (Remember Crick, Aristotle, Noah??) Morozov is also worried about democratic politics, but from the perspective of the impact of digital technologies on our ability to deliberate effectively about public problems. The piece on the Underground Railroad approaches democratic politics from another perspective. Nicholas Carr’s work, on the other hand, is related to the question of democracy, but in a more distant way. He is worried about our ability to be focused, independent, and clear thinkers more generally, but this obviously has relevance to the future of citizenship. Castells, on the other hand, sees digital technologies as promising tools that empower citizens to challenge power and organize themselves.
You can focus on one of these approaches or discuss a number of them. You should also look for connections to earlier course readings (and use these), and are encouraged to pursue outside sources to develop your argument. However you approach the question, though, be sure to provide a clear and direct – even if tentative – answer to the question above.

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