Digitally Enhanced Civic Culture
Endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Internet and Politics
Political culture was famously defined as 'the particular distribution of patterns of orientation toward political objects among the members of the nation' (Almond/Verba 1963 14f).
Political culture is assumed to be directly connected to the attitudes, emotions, and beliefs related to a political system (macro-level). On this ground, the literature acknowledged that citizens’ beliefs, feelings, knowledge, and attitudes can make democratic regimes survive, flourish, or potentially collapse. Over recent years, democratic indexes show a drop in explicit democracy support rates, together with diminished political and social trust.
At the same time, research has identified a pervasive crisis affecting parties and party systems across established democracies. Voters increasingly endorsed challenger movements or parties. These phenomena take place in changing societies, which over the last decade have been crossed by recurring crises, i.e. the economic, health, environmental, and energy crises, up to the one generated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Simultaneously, longer-lasting transformations are developing at a rapid pace: the digital revolution and technological innovation are offering opportunities but also posing challenges to contemporary democracies. On this ground, this Section aims to provide a platform for contributions dealing with the intersection of digital social sciences and political culture. Research presented will cover:
• The theoretical adaptation of concepts associated with political culture to the context of digital societies.
• How web-based technologies can be used by governments, state institutions, political parties, or civil society agencies to strengthen the relationship between citizens and the state.
We encourage Panels and Papers that take an innovative and interdisciplinary approach, and comparative research designs and state-to-the-art methods linking political culture to the advances in digital technologies. Diversity in any regard is a goal in designing this Section.
1 Libertarian Paternalism: How to nudge citizens into meaningful participation
Chair: Marco Guglielmo
Co-chair / Discussant: Davide Vittori
Complementing the concept of political culture, libertarian paternalism is a useful approach to study how citizens can be nudged to participate and maintain democratic standards within their political systems. This Panel explores the overlap of political economy, political culture, and digital social sciences. Research is encouraged to highlight the impact that digital technologies provide to enhance civic culture.
2: De-digitalisation and democratic backsliding in European political parties
Chair: Oscar Barberà
Co-chair / Discussant: Giulia Sandri
The Great Recession and the subsequent political turmoil led to the emergence of a new wave of protests in many European countries. In some countries, such transformations favoured the emergence of new challenger parties willing to (re)connect with these new social movements. Many such new parties promoted an intensive use of digital technologies to favour new forms of direct political participation. However, since the mid-2010s, the mood has started to change substantially in light of the (un)intended organisational consequences, including disintermediation and hyperleadership trends. At the same time, there have been some setbacks in the way political parties are using digital technologies to enhance inclusion and participation: parties are reluctant to implement candidate and leadership selection procedures, some parties have closed some of their digital deliberative spaces, etc. This Panel welcomes theoretical, case studies and comparative empirical papers exploring de-digitalization or democratic setbacks in Europe and beyond.
3: Are digital parties a historical artefact of diminished subtypes?
Chair: Jasmin Fitzpatrick
Co-chair / Discussant: Ramón Villaplana Jiménez
Political parties are key actors in the development of state-citizen relationships. Digital parties were often charged with high expectations to create a strong connection between citizens and the state through digital means. Yet, we observe no successful, real digital party in most European countries but rather parties who semi-digitalize. This Panel explores these diminished subtypes: what aspects do parties move online? What determinants make them stay offline? What are the factors that can favour processes of organizations’ de-digitalization? Papers might be inspired e.g. by path dependency or process tracing and provide evidence from European countries or beyond.
4: Benefits of Gamification to Foster Citizen Participation
Chair: Davide Vittori
Co-chair / Discussant: Cecilia Biancalana
Gamification can take many forms. Sometimes it is obvious in its shape; sometimes more opaque. Examples include the collection of virtual points to lead volunteer charts in campaigns, learning about political processes through civic education platforms or even VAAs. This Panel encourages Papers addressing the many ways gamification can be used to engage people in politics.
5: Campaign Regulation as a Necessity to Fair Competition
Chair: Petia Georgieva
Co-chair / Discussant: Antonella Seddone
While political competition offline is strongly regulated in many countries, only a few have adopted regulations for online campaigning. This Panel intends to show the consequences of (non-)regulation in campaigns for elections, intra-party democracy, and policy formation processes (e.g. direct democracy).
6: Citizens' and political actors' perceptions of technology-driven tools in politics and policy
Chair: Giulia Sandri
Co-chair / Discussant: Patricia Correa
The wide spread of the platform society has accelerated the use of new technologies by institutions and governments, i.e. institutional platforms, online apps, or algorithms and artificial intelligence to promote new forms of e-government. This trend of digitalization escalated during the Covid pandemic. The accelerated pace of digital transformation raises important questions. Research on this field is, however, just emerging and we can’t yet be certain about its impact on the functioning of our democracy and how citizens or political actors feel about this change. This Panel welcomes theoretical and empirical papers exploring the perceptions and attitudes vis-à-vis the use of technology-driven tools in policy-making, public administration and/or political advocacy, either by citizens or political actors and elites (or both).
7: Fresh Perspectives – A Young Researcher Panel for Digital Political Culture Studies
Chair: Ramón Villaplana Jiménez
Co-chair/ Discussant: Jasmin Fitzpatrick
The field of researching digital technologies’ benefit for democratic development is based on a wide and fast-growing research community. This Panel provides a special opportunity for young researchers in this field, with exclusive slots for presentation and feedback from experienced researchers. The Panel seeks theoretical Papers as well as theory-driven empirical research (both qualitative and quantitative). We encourage the submission of early-stage research associated with the Section’s theme.