Transforming democratic values in algorithmic media

Partners: University of Amsterdam & Erasmus University Rotterdam
Type: PhD
Duration: 2023—2026

The growing role of algorithms in media has brought fundamental advantages for democratic procedures and democratic values, for instance regarding political information and certain kinds of political communications. On the other hand, some values might be under threat, such as privacy and civic participation. This project analyses which democratic, public values are at stake when algorithms play an ever-growing role in the media. These might include privacy, agency, autonomy, equality, non-discrimination, and others. Which democratic values are particularly under threat in a technological democracy? How might they be safeguarded? And which values ​​only come to the fore as a constitutive element of democratic procedures through technological advances? The project will draw on the ongoing empirical research on new media technologies and their impact on democratic procedures, and connect these insights to debates in political philosophy. It will address questions such as: In what ways have these procedures been transformed (or could they have been)? How should the values at stake, and their changes in time, be contextualized? How can we bring out impediments for citizens’ autonomy, new forms of discrimination through algorithmic racism, and the values specific to the profession of journalism? And how should we deal with potential conflicts of values?

This project is part of the Gravitation program Public Values in the Algorithmic Society (algosoc). algosoc is a response to the urgent need for an informed societal perspective on automated decision-making. Funded by the ministry for Education, Culture and Science for a period for 10 years, research in the algosoc program will be grounded in a deep understanding of the systemic changes that ADS entail for core public institutions, for society, and for how public values are realized. The research will focus on three sectors: justice, health and media. The program brings together researchers in law, communication science, computer science, philosophy, public governance, STS, economy and social sciences from five Dutch universities (Amsterdam, Utrecht, Tilburg, Delft and Rotterdam). Together, the algosoc community will develop solutions for the design of governance frameworks needed to complement technology-driven initiatives in the algorithmic society.

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