We meet Saturdays, 9-4, in Communications 242 (wk1) and 302 (wk2-4)

COM597, Digital Democracy, examines how open, distributed, decentralized digital networks are affecting the dynamics of power in politics and society in the United States. This seminar focuses on the November 2012 presidential election and Washington statewide campaigns (initiatives, gubernatorial) as well as recent digital issue campaigns (such as StopKONY). Readings draw from political science, sociology and communication. Coursework includes writing for ElectionEye, the UW/Seattle Times collaboration, and, a project of this class in 2008 and 2010.

Schedule Details : Readings

  • Week 1 (June 23): Introduction, Political Systems (session notes)
    In order to make sense of the issues that are created by new technologies, we also need to understand the political systems being affected. Because everyone in the class is not a political scientist, part of this session is designed to familiarize students with deliberative democracy in the US, as practiced specifically in Washington State.
  • Week 2 (July 14): eGovernment (session notes)
    How (and why) elected and appointed officials are using digital technologies to communicate with the electorate. What does this mean for citizens and public officials?  Specifically, how has Washington employed these technologies to enhance citizen deliberation? What about the digital divide and other marginalized populations?
  • Week 3 (July 28): Digital Advocacy and Electioneering (session notes)
    Historically, political networks have been geographically-based or managed via an organization (political parties). Digital technologies are disrupting these patterns of control. How do digital technologies affect third parties, polarization. However, advocacy is more than getting people elected. Advocacy can be focused on making government more accountable. Historically, political campaigns (elections or advocacy) have been financed primarily through large-ish donations from a small number of people. How are digital technologies changing this equation? And what is the role of money in election campaigns? How are political campaigns using (and abusing) digital technologies? A historical and quasi-contemporary look at campaign use of technology, beginning with radio debates, moving on to the Kennedy-Nixon debates, and closing with the first campaign-oriented websites (1990s). Examine communication that is top-down as well as bottom-up.
  • Week 4 (August 11): Global Systems, Watchdogs and What Comes Next (session notes)
    How are other governments using digital technologies to facilitate citizen engagement? What about watchdog organizations like Wikileaks? Finally, an examination of electronic voting systems with emphasis on security/risk.