Exploring the Impacts of Technology in Rewiring Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/04/2019 - 9:00pm in



As technology continues to grow at incredibly fast rates, those working to improve democratic practices are often left scrambling to keep up a with rapidly changing environment. NCDD member organization Public Agenda released the paper, Rewiring Democracy: Subconscious Technologies, Conscious Engagement, and the Future of Politics, a follow-up to the earlier-released Infogagment paper. Rewiring Democracy identifies several digital trends and each of their potential consequences on democracy. We encourage you to read the article below and find the original version on PA’s site here.

AI, Blockchain, VR, and the Complicated Future of Democracy

All kinds of changes, many of them driven by technology, affect how we live, work, vote, interact, and get information.

Too often, the people working to strengthen democracy have been caught flat-footed by the pace of new trends and innovations. All kinds of changes, many of them driven by technology, affect how we live, work, vote, interact, and get information. It’s always been difficult to understand the implications of trends in the moment, but it’s even harder today because knowledge is so vast and specialized with experts on each trend often isolated from one another, without an overarching map for everyone to see.

Rewiring Democracy: Subconscious Technologies, Conscious Engagement, and the Future of Politics is an attempt to anticipate how the next set of changes will affect democracy, map the intersections of different trends and inform how we should respond. It’s a sequel to the Infogagement report, published by Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement in 2014 and re-released with a new introduction, foreword, and commentaries in 2018. The original Infogagement described trends that later erupted into controversies over “fake news,” voter disenchantment with politics, and Facebook’s abuse of user privacy.

Like Infogagement, Rewiring Democracy is based on the assumption that transformative moments often happen when trends come together—when the wires of innovation cross. Think, for example, of how the combination of personal computers, credit cards, and the internet transformed how we shop, leading in turn to dramatic changes in fields like journalism, as newspapers lost the revenue that classified ads used to bring. Well known, slowly progressing changes like the rise in literacy rates or in economic inequality might interact with new developments like blockchain or the rapidly-growing capacities of artificial intelligence (AI).

There are great challenges and potential catastrophes at these intersections, but there can also be great benefits. The intent of the paper is to begin identifying how these trends present significant dangers, as well as opportunities, for democracy.

Many of these dangers and opportunities have to do with the interplay between two major forces. One is the growth of what we call “subconscious technologies,” driven by the new capacity of AI to make decisions and predictions, most of which are unknown to most of us, based on the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data we now generate every day. The other is the increasing determination among citizens to make their actions and opinions matter in public life, an impulse we are calling “conscious engagement.” These two forces are rampant, and the ways in which they conflict with or complement one another may be critical to the future of politics and democracy.

To explore these forces, we relied on expert interviews, conceptual mapping, and a broad-based systemic analysis to gauge the force of different trends, understand their potential implications, and show how they connect and build on one another. The experts we spoke with include:

  • Jaimie Boyd, Director of Open Government, Treasury Board Secretariat, Government of Canada
  • Peter Eckart, Data Across Sectors for Health, Illinois Public Health Institute
  • Allison Fine, author, Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age
  • Nigel Jacob, Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, City of Boston
  • David Lazer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University
  • Josh Lerner, Participatory Budgeting Project
  • Peter Levine, Academic Dean and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Jonathan Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University
  • Abhi Nemani, Ethos Labs
  • Darrell West, Vice President and Director, Governance Studies, Brookings
  • Ethan Zuckerman, Director, Center for Civic Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

We also hope that this paper serves as an antidote for what seems to be the prevailing sentiment about the fate of democracy: deepening frustration and even resignation that our political system is ineffective and unpopular, without serious attention to how that system could be changed.

Collectively, there’s been a lot of hand-wringing about democracy, as if we were standing at the bedside of a slowly declining patient. We know frustration with American politics is higher than ever before. Trust in government and other public institutions has been ebbing for decades, and it has now reached unprecedented lows. Election after election, voters of both parties are attracted to “outsider” candidates who promise to “change the system.” The trends we describe in Rewiring Democracy bring with them tremendous implications, and they should prompt us to think more carefully about how people interact with institutions and with one another. They can help us decide how we might redesign democracy so that it fits the new expectations and capacities of citizens.

You can find the original version of this article on the Public Agenda blog at

New: The Journal of Sociotechnical Critique

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/04/2019 - 12:07am in

There’s a new, open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal focusing on philosophy of technology and related fields, with an emphasis on public engagement.

The Journal of Sociotechnical Critique (JSC) “seeks to support theoretically-engaged critical, public, and activist work at the intersections of philosophy of technology, internet studies, communications theory, library and information science, environmental ethics, and related fields.” It has just begun accepting submissions.

JSC will publish research articles, public scholarship (“critical and theoretically-grounded writing for a general audience”), and reports on “field philosophy, action research, direct action, engaged or participatory research, activist scholarship, policy work, consultancy, and work in and with industry.”

The journal’s editorial commitments, laid out here, make it somewhat distinctive. They include the following:

  • Digital media and online culture call for new, agile social-critical theory that should be published quickly and without paywalls in order to ensure that high-quality research that takes place within swiftly-changing technological landscapes is available while it is as relevant and lively as possible, and to as many readers as possible.
  • The proper response to theoretical positions may be direct engagement or action and, conversely… direct engagement or action can provide insight and understanding at a theoretical level.
  • Public engagement and direct action can be a proper part of scholarship and research; that, as social-critical scholars, working on implementations suggested by our scholarship is legitimate research activity.
  • Insofar as scholarship makes normative claims about policy, public opinion, or contemporary activities or beliefs, it is a legitimate part of scholarship to engage directly with the public… this is not a derivative or mere application of research, but is itself a productive scholarly act which increases knowledge, information, and impact just as does any other original research.

JSC’s editorial team consists of D.E. Wittkower (Old Dominion) as editor-in-chief, associate editors Adam Briggle (North Texas), Sky Croeser (Curtin), and Shannon Vallor (Santa Clara), and managing editor Kilsa Benjamin (Old Dominion). It is published by ODU Digital Commons. Its main page is here. You can also follow the journal on Facebook and Twitter.

Laura Owens – from the “Ten Paintings” series

The post New: The Journal of Sociotechnical Critique appeared first on Daily Nous.

New Philosophy Research Institute in Australia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/04/2019 - 11:46pm in

Australian Catholic University (ACU) last month launched a new philosophical research institute.

The new institute’s director, as of this May, will be Stephen Finlay, who will also be remaining at his current institution, the University of Southern California (but with reduced service and teaching responsibilities). He shared a description of the new institute, which has yet to be named.

It will be “research only” institute, separate from ACU’s School of Philosophy, the goal of which is “to develop a world-leading research center for philosophy in the analytic tradition, encompassing all central areas of inquiry including metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and metaethics, logic, philosophy of mind, science, language, and religion, history of philosophy, social, political and legal philosophy, and aesthetics.”

Located at the Fitzroy campus in Melbourne, the institute already has philosophers working at it—eight full time Research Fellows and five affiliated Professorial Fellows—and has plans for a “rapid expansion over the next few years to ultimately reach a size comparable with other top-rated research departments in Australasia, the U.S., and Europe.” They’re currently hiring.

You can learn more about the new institute and the positions available at it here. For further information, write to Professor Finlay at, or to Professor Richard Rowland at

Bill Henson, untitled


The post New Philosophy Research Institute in Australia appeared first on Daily Nous.

Australia’s Research Assessment Exercise: Results in Philosophy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/04/2019 - 1:09am in

The 2018 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) report, a national assessment exercise that attempts to measure research quality at institutions of higher education in the country, has just been released.

The report is a retrospective measure of research quality, covering research from 2011-2016. It looks at various indicators and assigns universities scores in each field of research, with 5–“well above world standard”–being the highest score.

The results for the Philosophy category are reproduced below. The following universities received a score of 5: the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University, Monash University, Macquarie University, and the University of Sydney.

The report also includes scores for applied ethics and “history and philosophy of specific fields“.

Of possible interest may be the contrast between the ERA results and the ranking of philosophy graduate programs in Australasia from the 2017-18 Philosophical Gourmet Report (PGR), reproduced below:

Neither Adelaide nor Macquarie, which both received the highest possible score in the ERA, appear on the PGR rankings.

Those familiar with the ERA are encouraged to share their thoughts about it here.

(Thanks to Neil Levy for bringing the release of this report to my attention.)

The post Australia’s Research Assessment Exercise: Results in Philosophy appeared first on Daily Nous.

BiochemRN has hit the eLibrary Shelves

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/04/2019 - 3:59pm in


biology, research

When SSRN started to really break out of our mold as a social sciences repository, two of the very first networks we launched were Biology and Chemistry. Today, after many other networks and other functions have been added we let go a sigh of relief as we come full interdisciplinary circle to bring users of SSRN a fresh research network in Biochemistry.

To long-time users of SSRN, this new network will likely come as a welcome addition, rather than a pleasant surprise. We’ve always insisted on the interdisciplinary nature of our services. With our core disciplines established, we saw the gap in serving the researchers and scientists in the Biochemistry field.

As we’ve said before, no research should exist inside of a vacuum. The work that academics do is too valuable to be pigeonholed into one field. Our managing director, Gregg Gordon, once said “If you want to see an impact, share your paper; if you want to see a big impact, share it broadly.” Through our cross-network sharing, and now enhanced by BiochemRN, the papers that are shared on SSRN are intended to reach all researchers who will be interested and influenced by the content of the paper. So, in one stroke we enhance the reach of the authors and we enhance the future work of researchers who will read, cite, and make practical use of the papers they find on SSRN.

With the Biochemistry Research Network, we hope we can further improve the work that users already do through SSRN and offer a more complete view of meaningful research being done around the world.

For new researchers posting their papers through this network, we intend to showcase and distribute your papers with the magnitude we have shown to all of our networks over the past 25 years.

The start of this network marks a particularly joyful milestone at SSRN. We hope you’ll see the value in it as well, and celebrate with us as we clink glasses to its fruitful future.

Submit a Paper to an SSRN Network


Are you a happy researcher?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/03/2019 - 5:00am in

Are you feeling especially happy today? If you are following the Action for Happiness movement, like some of our team at SSRN does, we can probably guess why. March 20th marked the International Day of Happiness. People across the globe that day were collectively challenged to focus on what made them happy. Were you one of those people?

Maybe you’re practicing Mindful March along with our staff and maybe not. My question to our collective blog readers and researchers has much less to do with celebrating on March 20th (which I personally did with a loaf of homemade bread) and much more to do with the question of what makes you happy. Have you actively asked yourself what makes you happy recently? 

There is plenty of research discussing the science behind happiness. It affects us so deeply that even as a researcher you might not consider the real reasons behind you feelings. Feelings come and go so fleetingly and are easily influenced. For instance, I spent a full evening last week feeling irrationally sad because of the song I listened to in the car on the way home! Then there is the general question, the one we don’t ask ourselves often enough in a general sense “Am I happy?”

I ask you now, if you were to step back to March 20th, 2019 what would be the thing you focused on that day? What area of your life does that thing, or things, fall into? Is it part of your personal life or professional life? Maybe it is a hobby or a person you are especially grateful for.

In the past, psychologists have largely focused on how people deal with negative feelings. As we understand more about what we can do to make us feel happier overall we open a gateway to feeling more fulfilled. It may not be as simple in practice as it sounds, but it offers a place to start.

As we reach the end of Mindful March we’re very interested to hear from the researchers and scientists in our community. How do you understand the things that make you happy in your life? Do you actively influence your own feelings of happiness? Finally, how often do you focus on those things which do make you happy?

Now the super-grand question of them all- drumroll please- what aspects of researching, and the research process, make you happiest? 

Let us know in the comments! And if SSRN makes you happy, please let us know by leaving a review on your user homepage!

Leave a Review for SSRN


Knight Public Spaces Fellowship Open Until March 22nd

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/03/2019 - 10:00pm in



We wanted to make sure folks in the network were informed about the Knight Foundation offering their Knight Public Spaces Fellowship and that submissions are being accepted until next Friday, March 22nd. From the site, “The fellowship recognizes leading civic innovators who have created or influenced great public spaces in U.S. communities, creating more opportunities for connection and civic engagement. Chosen fellows will share up to $1 million in grants to continue their work”. We know there are a lot of fantastic candidates in the Coalition and we encourage you to apply for a portion of that significant support. You can find more information in the post below and find the original information on the Knight Foundation’s site here.

Knight Public Space Fellows: Leading Change, Connecting People to place

Knight Foundation is inviting nominations for its inaugural Knight Public Spaces Fellowship.

The fellowship recognizes leading civic innovators who have created or influenced great public spaces in U.S. communities, creating more opportunities for connection and civic engagement. Chosen fellows will share up to $1 million in grants to continue their work.

From Feb. 21 to March 22 at 11:59 p.m. ET, we are inviting people to nominate their candidate of choice. Individuals can also nominate themselves. Those who choose to nominate a candidate are encouraged to alert the nominee about the opportunity.

We seek fellows with an exemplary track record of crafting public spaces—trails, parks, plazas and streets—that create opportunities for connection and civic engagement. The fellowship is open to a wide range of talented civic innovators with experience in urban design, planning, architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, government, technology, policy and programming.

Individuals with exceptional talent and leadership qualities who craft, develop, design, plan, manage and implement the use of public spaces to build the type of communities where people want to live and work are eligible to apply. Fellows must show potential to create larger, innovation and strategic momentum within the community.

In addition to the opportunity to create real impact in their city and beyond, fellows will receive:

  • Support: A small group of fellows will share up to $1 million grants which can be used for innovative, flexible projects, distributed over approximately two years.
  • Network-building opportunities: Support to work directly with peers and other experts who are passionate about using public space to transform communities.
  • Mentorship: Insight and guidance from experts to refine ideas and new thinking around public space work.
  • Public exposure: Fellows will be invited to present at Knight-supported events and other gatherings, and given opportunities to publish and share their work.

If you have questions about the application, you can watch a recorded informational webinar.

For additional questions, please email Follow #knightcities on Twitter for updates.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Knight Foundation site at

Trends in Philosophy Hiring by Area of Specialization

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/03/2019 - 9:36pm in

Aero Data Lab, “a collaboration of scientists, ethicists, and policy-makers interested in improving the quality of the clinical research enterprise,” has published an analysis of trends in the academic philosophy job market over the past six years.

The analysis, by Spencer Hey (Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital), tracks changes in the number of academic positions advertised for different areas of specialization in philosophy, based on data from PhilJobs.

The following graph shows the number of tenure-track job opportunities each year (blue bubbles) and fixed-term opportunities (yellow bubbles), classed by area of specialization. (Since the bubbles are semi-transparent and at times overlap, parts may appear taupe/dark pink.)

Philosophy Job Market Analysis: Trends by Area of Specialization. By Aero Data Lab.

I encourage readers to visit the Aero Data Lab post on this, as their version of the graph is interactive, and Hey provides an explanation of how it was made.

As for the results, Hey remarks that the positions in ethics “consistently sees 50+ opportunities both for tenure track and fixed term positions” and that jobs related to political philosophy and philosophy of science “are also looking relatively strong, with 20-30 opportunities each year.” He writes: “for new graduate students in search of a project that is likely to increase their job market desirability, working on the ethical, social, or political implications of science would seem like a safe bet.”


In terms of trends over time, most of the AOS’s fluctuate between 5-15 jobs/year. There appears to be a slight downward trend for “ancient” and “mind,” and a recent uptick of interest in “race”. However, the lack of big changes over time is also interesting, and worth thinking about for new graduate students as they develop and shape their projects. For example, in the past 6 years, there have only ever been a handful of opportunities in math, medieval, and aesthetics—even for fixed term positions. So if your main area of interest is more niche, it may be prudent to think about building a connection to a higher demand AOS in order to increase your future academic job opportunities.

The full post is here.

The post Trends in Philosophy Hiring by Area of Specialization appeared first on Daily Nous.

The Historovox Complex

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/02/2019 - 6:49am in

I’ve got a new gig at New York Magazine, where I’ll be a regular contributor, writing on politics and other matters. Here, in my first post, I tackle “the Historovox” (my wife Laura came up with the phrase), that complex of journalism and academic research that we increasingly see at places like VoxFiveThirtyEight, and elsewhere. Long story, short: while I firmly believe in academics writing for the public sphere, there are better and worse ways to do it.

Here are some excerpts:

There’s a bad synergy at work in the Historovox — as I call this complex of scholars and journalists — between the short-termism of the news cycle and the longue durée-ism of the academy. Short-term interests and partisan concerns still drive reporting and commentary. But where the day’s news once would have been narrated as a series of events, the Historovox brings together those events in a pseudo-academic frame that treats them as symptoms of deeper patterns and long-term developments. Unconstrained by the protocols of academe or journalism, but drawing on the authority of the first for the sake of the second, the Historovox skims histories of the New Deal or rifles through abstracts of meta-analysis found in JSTOR to push whatever the latest line happens to be.

When academic knowledge is on tap for the media, the result is not a fusion of the best of academia and the best of journalism but the worst of both worlds. On the one hand, we get the whiplash of superficial commentary: For two years, America was on the verge of authoritarianism; now it’s not. On the other hand, we get the determinism that haunts so much academic knowledge. When the contingencies of a day’s news cycle are overlaid with the laws of social science or whatever ancient formation is trending in the precincts of academic historiography, the political world can come to seem more static than it is. Toss in the partisan agendas of the media and academia, and the effects are as dizzying as they are deadening: a news cycle that’s said to reflect the universal laws of the political universe where the laws of the political universe change with every news cycle.

The job of the scholar is not to offer her expertise to fit the needs of the pundit class. It’s to call those needs into question, not to provide different answers to the same questions but to raise the questions that aren’t being asked.

Everyone knows and cites Orwell’s famous adage: “To see what is front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” Less cited is what follows: “One thing that helps toward it is to keep a diary, or, at any rate, to keep some kind of record of one’s opinions about important events. Otherwise, when some particularly absurd belief is exploded by events, one may simply forget that one ever held it.” To see what’s right in front of one’s nose doesn’t mean seeing without ideology. It means keeping track of how we think and have thought about things, being mindful of what was once on the table and what has disappeared from view. It means avoiding the gods of the present.

The job of the scholar, in other words, is to resist the tyranny of the now. That requires something different than knowledge of the past; indeed, historians have proven all too useful to the Historovox, which is constantly looking for academic warrants to say what its denizens always and already believe. No, the job of the scholar is to recall and retrieve what the Marxist critic Walter Benjamin described as “every image of the past that is not recognized by the present.” The task is not to provide useful knowledge to the present; it is to insist on, to keep a record of, the most seemingly useless counter-knowledge from the past — for the sake of an as-yet-to-be imagined future.

The whole thing is here.

Nat’l Institute for Civil Discourse Offers Grant Opportunity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/02/2019 - 11:30pm in



NCDD member organization, the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) recently announced a call for proposals on a new grant opportunity to fund cross-sector research on American civic and political life. With funding from the Charles Koch Foundation’s Courageous Collaborations initiative, they seek to fund five projects, up to $25,000 each, for research projects across disciplinary and ideological lines on a core concept or institution in American civic and/or political life. Awardees would receive the grants to collaborate on research over the next 15 months then present their findings at future public events. Proposals must be submitted by April 1st. You can read the announcement below and find the original on the Charles Koch Foundation site here.

National Institute for Civil Discourse Projects to Provide Models for How to Restore Civility

Though Americans of varying worldviews share a concern over the health of our country’s institutions, the way in which we discuss the topic differs across communities—including academic disciplines. The University of Arizona-based National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) aims to bridge those gaps. In a new project announced today, NICD is issuing a request for proposals to scholars with different ideologies and from different disciplines who seek to come together to research the core concepts and institutions that are vital to American political and civic life.

NICD will select 10 scholars for a total of five projects. Each group will receive grants to enable them to conduct research over 15 months and present their findings at events around the country. Additionally, to demonstrate how – and why – researchers of varying backgrounds and beliefs can work together, each grantee group also will write at least one paper that documents how they collaborated.

Read NICD’s full request for proposals below and find the original here, and read a recent Washington Post article highlighting NICD’s work here.

Call for Proposals: Creating Research Projects across Disciplinary and Ideological Lines February 4, 2019

The National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) is pleased to announce its intent to oversee, fund, and promote five projects in which pairs or teams of scholars with different political views or areas of academic specialization conduct research together on some of the core concepts or institutions in American political or civic life. We are open as to the precise subjects of these projects, but we do propose that many such political and civic concepts – for instance, civility, community, freedom, and tolerance – are subjects of inquiry in many different fields. Moreover, many Americans across the political spectrum share a concern that the health of American institutions – not only governmental institutions such as congress or political parties, but social ones such as the media, organized religious groups, or even the established business community – is in question at the moment, although the way in which this subject is discussed varies across academic and political communities. The funding for these projects would be sufficient to enable the researchers to play a role in helping to develop joint projects. That is, we are interested in ensuring that constructive criticism across political and disciplinary lines is raised before the research is undertaken, and that the criticisms are raised by people who have a stake in the work itself. If we are to take seriously the occasional criticisms about the insularity of academic work, it is vital to provide models of how this work might be done differently.

Our intent here, however, is not just to fund research but to encourage reflection on this research. The research teams will be asked to write a paper or set of papers that outline the process of their collaboration. What steps were taken? What did the participants learn that they could not have learned from working with someone closer to their field of specialization? How would the collaboration of, for instance, a historian and a sociologist concerned with defining what moderation is, or a political scientist and an expert in classical and religious philosophy working to understand what the corruption of political institutions is, proceed? In short, how would participants in this study offer their work as a model for others, not only in terms of the quality of the research but as a tool for building tolerance and civility within the academy?

NICD will provide $25,000 for each project. All grants are to cover research conducted during the 15½ month period from June 1, 2019 to September 15, 2020. Eligible expenses include course buyouts, research travel, or any other research-related expenses. At the end of this period, grantees will submit drafts or final versions of their work, along with a reflective essay on the work process, and will make themselves available for events designed to explore the merits of the project. NICD public relations staff will work with the grantees to ensure that the collaborative nature of this project is presented as a model that others might follow in working to promote civility and tolerance and to overcome divisions within the academy.

1-2 page proposals, with a description of the project and the nature of the collaboration, biographies of the collaborators, and a budget, should be submitted to NICD Research Director Robert Boatright ( no later than April 1, 2019. Inquiries about potential projects are also welcome. Grant recipients will be notified by May 1, 2019.

This grant is made possible through the support of the Charles Koch Foundation, as part of their Courageous Collaborations initiative. NICD is a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization affiliated with the University of Arizona. It was established in 2011 with the goal of encouraging and studying civility in American political and social discourse. For further information on NICD, consult the organization’s website at

Proposed Timeline for Projects

  • Feb 4, 2019: Call for proposals for research projects issued
  • Apr 1, 2019: Deadline for proposals
  • May 1, 2019: Select and notify grant recipients
  • June 1, 2019: Research period for grantees begins
  • Sept 2019: Researchers invited to participate in 3rd NICD Research convening, Tucson, AZ
  • Jan 15, 2020: Informal midterm report from grantees due to NICD
  • Sept 15, 2020: Close of research period for grantees; research summary and reflective essay due to NICD
  • Fall 2020/Winter 2021: NICD public events and/or academic conference presentations on results Publication of reflective essays

You can read the original version of this announcement on the Charles Koch Foundation’s site at