Digital Democracy Platforms

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By Adrian Smith & Pedro Prieto Martín:

"Digital democracy platforms have been pioneered and advanced the most within a discourse that contrasts sharply with the smart city. It is that discourse, known as technopolitics, that we analyze in this paper. Informed by sociological (cf. engineering) understandings of technology, technopolitics seeks more democratic forms of digital development (Kurban et al., 2016). We analyze how the discourse informed the practical implementation of democracy platforms in Madrid and Barcelona. Platforms for direct democracy introduced in those cities in 2015 and 2016, respectively, are now being adopted by other city authorities internationally: the software underpinning Decidim Barcelona has been adopted by 31 cities, 13 regions, and 23 organizations; and the Consul software in Decide Madrid is being used by over 130 institutions in 33 countries, mostly city and regional authorities.

What becomes apparent from the analysis is how, in addition to citizens, technopolitics has had to come to terms with the power of public institutions. Unlike corporate concessions towards smart citizens, however, we find that technopolitical commitments to open-source principles and commons-based approaches in technology introduces critically important advantages. Technopolitics lends itself to the continual development of platform processes and institutional embedding in an open dialogue with citizens, citizen groups, and wider reforms for democracy. Commitment to technologies built and operated as a commons consciously interacting with other democratic practices, distinguishes technopolitics from the growing market of proprietary vendors of citizen e-participation services (Morell, 2012; Graeff, 2018). By implication, using platforms as closed, consultative packages bolted onto the neoliberal smart city does not deliver meaningful democratic participation (Peña-López, 2017)." (

More information

* Article: Going Beyond the Smart City? Implementing Technopolitical Platforms for Urban Democracy in Madrid and Barcelona. By Adrian Smith & Pedro Prieto Martín. Journal of Urban Technology, August 2020

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"Digital platforms for urban democracy are analyzed in Madrid and Barcelona. These platforms permit citizens to debate urban issues with other citizens; to propose developments, plans, and policies for city authorities; and to influence how city budgets are spent. Contrasting with neoliberal assumptions about Smart Citizenship, the technopolitics discourse underpinning these developments recognizes that the technologies facilitating participation have themselves to be developed democratically. That is, technopolitical platforms are built and operate as open, commons-based processes for learning, reflection, and adaptation. These features prove vital to platform implementation consistent with aspirations for citizen engagement and activism." (