The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Andreas Møller Jørgensen: The question of technologically mediated civic political participation reformulated

Andreas Møller Jørgensen, Ilisimatusarfik - University of Greenland


The prefix ‘e’ in eDemocracy is silent with regard to democratic normative substance. That is, eDemocracy is not democratically qualified by a specific normative claim. This can explain why eDemocracy has been infused with all kinds of democratic normative substances ranging from representative and statistical democracy (McLean, 1989) through deliberative (Coleman & Gotze, 2001) and strong democracy (Anttiroiko, 2003) to radical and agonistic democracy (Dahlberg & Siapera, 2007). As such, eDemocracy can be said to function as an empty signifier – as ‘an empty place unifying a set of equivalential demands’ (Laclau, 1995: 155). It is an odd empty signifier, though, because this set of equivalent demands not only are motivated and unified by a joint opposition to the democratic status quo, an ‘absent fullness of the community’ (Laclau, 1996: 205), but also by a conditioning technological framework. Thus, eDemocracy postulates an interrelation between democracy and technology by explicitly politicising technology and simultaneously technologizing politics; this has to do with a governing of the people by the people by technological means. Taking this peculiar conceptual structure into account, research in eDemocracy tends to follow one of two tracks. Either a traditional democratic concept, e.g. deliberative democracy, is chosen as a scale against which the potentials of the internet or actual eDemocratic initiatives are assessed or then an appropriate democratic counterpart to these potentials and concrete initiatives are sought. This paper proposes a slightly different path: Applying Foucault’s knowledge/power analysis and Actor-Network Theory (ANT) the paper pursues the modest questions of how members of the legislative bodies and employees at the public administration in Greenland construct technological mediated civic political participation and why; how they struggle to fill out the empty signifier that is eDemocracy. It does so by posing three questions to which some initial answers are provided.

  • Who are relevant actors in a Greenland eDemocracy and why are they relevant?
  • How do actors conceptualize eDemocracy and why?
  • Which discourses prevail, which are excluded and why?
Andreas Møller Jørgensen