Panel: Tyrannies of Participation
Similar to the cultural zeitgeist in the 1970s, the past several years have been marked by an optimistic discourse about the technologies of political participation in American government. From electronic town hall meetings to President Obama’s Citizen Briefing Book to the Facebook pages of politicians and political institutions, the current political climate is committed to instantiating ideals of participatory democracy in technological tools for citizens. But what power have these tools created? In this presentation I apply a seminal discussion of participatory politics written in the 1970s in relation to modern day experiences of citizen participation. Written by Sherry Arnstein, A Ladder of Citizen Participation, looks at the palliative effects of participatory projects, citing the problem of “participating in participation”. Seen in relation to current efforts to harness citizen power in political decision making, the problem of “participating in participation” unmasks the superficiality of participatory projects and practices. Examples will be drawn from the Unites States’ premier regulatory body for media, communications, and information policymaking.
- Dr. Seeta Peña Gangadharan recently completed a Ph.D in the Department of Communication at Stanford University, US. She is a postdoctoral fellow in the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Her dissertation interrogates conventional theories and designs for public participation in communication policymaking. She has secondary research interests in the cultural history of communication technologies. She has also worked with advocacy and activist groups, including Center for Media Justice, Public Knowledge, Media Alliance, and Prometheus Radio Project.
Full text (PDF) p. 890-893