A Collective Effort

Yesterday Bitcoin, today ChatGPT, and tomorrow the Metaverse? The developments of digital applications and technologies are advancing rapidly and unceasingly. This dynamic opens up a wide range of opportunities but also poses the challenge of not being able to keep up with the wave of innovations, new business models, and hype-technologies. For civil society actors in particular, the complexity and dynamics of digitalisation are often accompanied by a feeling of powerlessness. The power asymmetries in the digital space further exacerbate this sentiment. Public-interest oriented actors such as NGOs are often confronted with the strong lobbying power of profit-oriented large tech corporations. However, here comes the good news: digital transformation is not a force of nature but is made and driven by people. Accordingly, it can also be shaped by people.
We need a vigilant and strong civil society to shape digitalisation for the common good. Civil society must act as an early warning system, watchdog, and debate driver. After all, we can only get ahead of the wave of these developments if the dynamics of digitalisation are subject to early scrutiny and creative solutions for dealing with the challenges. However, to support civil society in fulfilling its role, sufficient political and social framework conditions are needed. The contributions in this chapter address the challenges for civil society actors and develop concrete approaches for dealing with them. Frick, Mollen, and Rohde propose steps to counter power asymmetries and empower civil society actors to lay critical foundations for political debate.
Exploring the concept of surveillance capitalism, Hennecke and Jung argue that we need to consider the logics of the corporations that own our communication channels if we want to shape public discourse. In their opinion, a first step to defining a different (digital) future could be taken by forging broad alliances that include people being affected by surveillance capitalism, the tech community, and advocates for social-ecological transformation. Parske and Kastner’s contribution introduces the potentials and challenges of crowdacting, a digitally supported concept that aims to mobilise people for collective action. Finally, Lamura and Lamura address the challenges that hypernudging poses for democracy. In their article, they propose top-down and bottom-up approaches to deal with these challenges.

Johanna Graf
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