Media Publics and Democracy

Media Publics and Democracy from Techno-Anthropology Lab CPH on Vimeo.

“..precisely because of their unsettling effects on public controversy, the emergence of digital forms of publicity requires our empirical attention” (Marres, 2015)

Digital media and methods offer an opportunity to trace how citizens discuss topical issues and for making public engagement visible in its many forms. We commit to a pragmatist understanding of the public as ignited by controversial issues. As an alternative to using surveys to represent the electorate, we aim at understanding the dynamics of issue publics on the basis of the digital traces their engagement leaves.

We have specific interest in the notion of publics and we believe that digital tools offer important opportunities for tracing publics and foregrounding public engagement in its diverse forms. More specifically, we pursue the theoretical idea that publics can be understood as ignited by controversial issues. As an alternative to using surveys to represent the electorate, we aim at understanding the dynamics of issue publics on the basis of the digital traces their engagement leaves.

We call this ‘scoping issue publics’ and we believe that this change in the way publics can be understood and visualized, should be complemented with a reassessment of public engagement as a political practice. An important aspect of our research is therefore to ponder the roles that visualizations of issue publics could play in processes of deliberative democracy.

The Techno-Anthropology Lab (TANTLab) is a digital methods lab at the University of Aalborg in Copenhagen. We offer a hands-on workspace where students and researchers develop innovative approaches to the study of digita media in the social sciences and humanities. We work at the intersection between new data intensive methods, co-design and ethnography, and collaborate with a variety of public and private partners.