Future of Democracy Roundtable

May 1st, 2019

Please note this workshop is invitation-only and not open for RSVPs.


Much has been made of the role of Facebook, Twitter and social media in general for the current chaos in democratic states. And although most of the attention has gone to the virality of fake news and the impact of politically divisive memes, the most important aspect of the challenge may be the character of the persuasive architecture itself and what behavior it incites from its user.

Human behavior is significantly determined by context. Character, far from being stable, is less reliable predictor of behavior than is the situation in which one finds oneself.

Extended to the online environment, the architecture of digital spaces provides the context in which interactions take place. That context is influential to the nature of those interactions.   Just as we create physical spaces purpose built for human activity – and in which we behave in predictable ways – digital spaces are built with similar intent. The tools made available, the functionality embedded, the signals in the system both explicit and implicit, can influence behaviors. In many instances, it seems to bring out the lesser angels of our nature. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It can be different. Together we want to imagine a different virtual universe, one that inspires us to come together, helps us understand each other. One that supports compromise, bridges divides and preserves the democratic values we hold dear. 

The Berggruen Institute is convening a one day roundtable workshop, hosted at Stanford University by the Project on Democracy and the Internet, to examine the future of democracy. Policymakers, industry representatives, civil society leaders and members from academia will come together to discuss:

  • Session I: How context affects our behavior online
    • How our environment affects behavior
    • Tech culture, design, and outcomes
    • How the architecture of social media interacts with our psychology
  • Session II: What a new digital public space might look like
    • Civic imagination for digital public spaces
    • Building friendly digital public spaces
    • How our digital public spaces can be reimagined
  • Session III: Building a road map to a different online experience 
    • Envisioning the aspiration
    • Identifying the categories and recognizing the paradoxes
    • Identify what needs to happen to make the new reality possible 
    • Develop the narrative for the new reality
    • What can be done now 

Learn more about the Future of Democracy Project at the Berggruen Institute here: https://www.berggruen.org/work/the-future-of-democracy/