This piece originally appeared on InternetLab. It has been reposted here with permission.
On February 21st 2017, we hosted the event “What is the Internet’s role in Brazilian politics?”, with the aim to foster in the public sphere some of the debates we consider important from internal discussions motivated by two of our research projects: Voice or Chatter and #OtherVoices: gender, race, class and sexuality in the 2016 elections.
Voice or Chatter is a project coordinated by the Indian organization IT for Change and aims at building a comparative panorama on whether and how participation mediated by information and communication technologies (ICTs) has been empowering citizens and transforming democracy. InternetLab is responsible for the research in Brazil, which will result in two products: an article with a “state of the art” revision of the literature about participation and ICTs in Brazil (the complete report is available here); and a case study, comparing the public consultations of the Brazilian Civil Rights Framework and the reform of the Copyright Law (still in development).
In the panel “Listening challenges: the future of participation and the State’s role” we presented the main results of our state of the art research. Some of our conclusions were:
As it has been noted by the classical Political Science literature, the permeability of the decision making processes to civil society not only depends on normative provisions (Federal Constitution, laws and decrees), but also on the context and political will of the rulers;
The use of new technologies such as online platforms has advantages, like a greater transparency in relation to those who took part and which were the interests at stake;
The interface of the online tools influences the way through which citizens engage and interact among themselves, which has direct consequences for the quality and the pertinence of the contributions. Technological decisions, therefore, are more and more turning into political decisions;
Especially in Brazil, where only 50% of the population has access to the Internet, one of the main worries in the use of ICTs is with regard to eventual distortions in the participation due to the lack of representativeness in the online processes. Thus, these tools should not be seen as replacements of traditional forms of participation, but as complementary methods;
The State still has difficulties to provide feedback to the population in terms of which contributions were taken into consideration and on which criteria they were based on, something that could contribute to the establishment of a more profound and organic relationship with civil society.
The project #OtherVoices: gender, race, class and sexuality in the 2016 elections, in its turn, monitored and registered the discussions related to gender, race, sexuality, regional origin and social class that happened during the 2016 electoral period and their relationship with the Internet.
In the panel Acting challenges: activism and (in)visibility on the Internet we presented the main results of the research and, at the end of the event, distributed copies of the report (in Portuguese), which we comment in detail and made available for download here.
Watch videos from the event
Listening Challenges: The Future of Participation and the State’s Role
Acting Challenges: Activism and (In)visibility on the Internet