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Democracy by Design: Activists, Apps and Activist Apps

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S2, Alison Richard Building,

West Road

Cambridge

CB3 9DT

United Kingdom

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A digital methods workshop organised by Cambridge Digital Humanities

Guest speaker: Marianne Maeckelbergh, Associate Professor, Institute of Cultural Anthropology, University of Leiden

Abstract

This workshop explores the question of design through the lens of two connected spaces of political innovation: 1. activist meetings and 2. the development of an “app” for democratic decision-making. I compare the practice of political design across these two spaces by drawing on my ethnographic research of decision-making within transnational social movement networks (from alterglobalization to Occupy) and my participation in the design of an App for democratic assembly and collective action at the University of California, Berkeley. I explore how activists intentionally design horizontal and participatory models of democracy and how these principles/ideas (and others) were translated into the online decison-making platform Appcivist. The talk explores the potentials and limits of the move from social to technological design, the role of the facilitators/designers, and the creation of ‘participants’/‘users’ through the design process.

About the speaker

Marianne Maeckelbergh studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where she obtained her MA in Social Anthropology of Development in 2002. She obtained her PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Sussex, UK in 2008. In February 2008, she became Assistant Professor in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at Leiden University.

Since May 2015 she is Associate Professor at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at Leiden University. In 2014 she was at the University of California at Berkeley on a Marie Curie Fellowship. Since August 2016 she is back at Leiden University.

In her research Marianne Maeckelbergh explores everyday practices of democracy and radical politics within social movements and citizen projects. She studies prefiguration as a strategic-movement practice to raise questions about how democratic values change when practiced on a global scale through network structures instead of nation-states.

Since the start of the economic crisis, her work has focussed on the growing distrust of representative democracy and capitalism that is currently being expressed transnationally. Most of her recent fieldwork has explored responses to the economic crisis in Spain and the US, but this research has been contextualized in relation to small amounts of research in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, Greece, Portugal, Turkey and the UK. She explores what this multiplicity of struggles across geographic distance share in common, as well as how each location's particular history shapes the protests' trajectory.

The development and use of new digital technologies within these movements has been a key research interest, particularly how the diffuse networked space of digital technology functions in combination with the centralizing spacial configurations of urban space and place. The research has been disseminated through written publications as well as an online film series available at Global Uprisings.

In 2015 she received the NWO Aspasia grant through which she will be able to expand her a multi-sited ethnographic research on political engagement and citizens' use of digital technology as Associate Professor at Leiden University.

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S2, Alison Richard Building,

West Road

Cambridge

CB3 9DT

United Kingdom

View Map

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