Come Together: Digital Associations and Democracy

February 11th, 2019 - 9:00 am to 5:30 pm

University of Sydney

Digital technologies and democracy are topics of intense public discussion. Having swung from techno-optimism to dire concern in many developed democracies, the public conversation makes only sporadic reference to the decades of scholarship on many elements of this fraught relationship. Both the scholarship and public discourse, however, emphasize the ways digital technologies challenge expression and privacy.

This one day conference seeks to understand the state of research and practice regarding how digital technologies interact with our civic and political associational opportunities and structures. What new associational forms are being created to manage digital data for public benefit? How do technological design choices interact with our ability to associate with others? What are the ethical dimensions of data use by associations, and on community data as compared to individual data? Are new forms of inequality being exacerbated by digital technologies that digital associations can effectively mitigate?

Of particular interest are the interactions between algorithmic governance, political regulation, and collective action.

This one day conference will gather Australian scholars, policy makers, and civil society actors to consider existing research on digital technologies, associational life, and implications for Australian democracy.


  • 9:00 am - 9:15 am - Welcome
  • 9:15 am - 10:45 am - Digital Associations and the Ethics of Data Use: How are communities using digital technologies to strengthen their work, what are the ethical questions about digital data use that matter most to associations, and what new forms of association are being developed to take advantage of digital capacities safely, ethically and effectively.
  • 10:45 am - 11:00 am - Break
  • 11:00 am - 12:30 pm - Digital Design and Associations: The design choices of digital platforms – from core internet infrastructure to moderation and algorithmic prioritizing – shape our online associational options. How can design choices about data portability, self-sovereign ID, encryption, trust mechanisms, and algorithmic sorting foster strong civic associational opportunities?
  • 12:30 pm - 1:00 pm - Discussion
  • 1:00 pm - 2:10 pm - Lunch
  • 2:15 pm - 3:30 pm - Paying for Change: How are our digital dependencies shifting how we pay for and seek funding for associational activities? What benefits are to be gained from building digital resources and what new costs and skills need to be developed?
  • 3:30 pm - 3:45 pm - Break
  • 3:45 pm - 5:00 pm - Associations and Policy Making: Associations have always played critical roles in shaping public policy making. How is this changing in the digital age? Where are there new possibilities and what are the risks?
  • 5:00 pm - 5:15 pm - Discussion
  • 5:30 pm - Reception

Agenda - Come Together: Digital Associations and Democracy

Conference Summary and Reflections


Co-presented by the Digital Civil Society Lab, the University of Sydney, and the Sydney Policy Lab.

More Info

Please note this event is invitation-only and is not open to the public.