Critical Participation

Democracy is based on and guaranteed by equal participation among members of a political community. It is a polity open to change and collective deliberation, presupposing the right of citizens to participate but also continuously being realised by their vigilance to engage in political activities. In this sense, democracy is the constant determination of our common future through the interrelation between democratic forms of constituent and constituted political power.

Contemporary media and ICTs have been increasingly employed by citizens for co-ordination, collaboration, mobilisation and the reinforcement of the capacities of radical democratic social movements to intervene in the political arena. Furthermore, new media and ICTs open uncharted potentials for direct citizen participation and deliberation in formal institutions at the sectorial, regional and national level of governance. Representative democracies face a severe crisis of both disempowerment and delegitimisation, while vast asymmetries of power have rendered democratic institutions vulnerable to the influence of powerful private interests. In addition, nation-states are increasingly dependent on globalised economic forces and gradually displaced by transnational venues of decision-making. As a result, decisions taken by representative institutions are more and more divorced from social needs and desires, thus increasing their distance from the people. This historical retreat of the democratic ignites two divergent social phenomena. On the one hand, for large segments of the population, participation has given its place to social apathy and distrust in democratic processes and at the same time has led to the rise in popularity of extreme right-wing ideologies. On the other hand, the constituent social power of citizens has regained force in the informal forms of occupy movements, popular revolts, and the reclaiming of the commons throughout the globe. Democracy in the twenty-first century is a contested terrain where market forces and representative state institutions collide and contentiously interrelate with non-representative collective social forces with the equilibria of the new era not yet on the horizon.

In these constellations of power, Critical Citizens aims to liberate the capacities of existing media and ICTs for social change and engage in the establishment of media and ICTs infrastructure as a commons. By doing so, we aim to question existing power structures and their relation to processes of oppression, exploitation, and domination from the perspective of a normative judgement in solidarity with the dominated and in the direction of the abolishment of domination.

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