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Roundtable 2: Illiberalization and the (Ab)use of the public sphere

14.00-15.30, October 7

Participants: Balazs Vedres (CEU); Carsten Schneider (CEU/DI); Kate Coyer (CMDS/DI); Sian Brooke (London School of Economics)
Moderator: Zselyke Csaky (CMDS/DI, Freedom House)

The concept of the public sphere plays a central role in democratic theory: until recently the idea of strengthening the legal-institutional autonomy of a social sphere between the domestic realm and the state was seen as deepening democratic systems. The digitalization of the public sphere in recent years changed this picture radically: what is still commonly imagined as a sphere where autonomous individuals can organize and debate is today populated with unprecedented technologies of surveillance and social control used by public and private actors to alter narratives, identities, choices and policy preferences. This roundtable examines the challenges that these transformations pose for collective deliberation, political participation and solidarity in democratic societies.

Watch the panel here

Read the summary here

About the speakers:
Balazs Vedres

Balazs Vedres is associate professor at CEU, Department of Network and Data Science, and Sociology. Vedres' research furthers the agenda of developing data science and network science with social theoretical insight.  His research results were published in the top journals of data science, network science, and sociology, with two recent articles in the American Journal of Sociology developing the pragmatist notion of structural folds: creative tensions in intersecting yet cognitively diverse cohesive communities.  Vedres' recent research follows entrepreneurs, video game developers, jazz musicians, programmers, and graphic designers as they weave collaborative networks through their projects and recording sessions, analyzing questions of the sources of creativity, gender inequality, and the historical sustainability of innovation systems. In another line of work, Vedres has analyzed historical network evolution in the areas of transnational civic activism, politicized business groups, and the evolution of global economic flows. 

Carsten Schneider
Carsten Q. Schneider is Professor of Political Science at Central European University (CEU) and MA Program Director of the Department of Political Science. His research and teaching interests focus on the study of political regime change processes in different world regions and on comparative social science methodology, especially set‐theoretic methods. 
Kate Coyer
Kate Coyer is a fellow with the CEU Democracy Institute's Center for Media, Data and Society, and visiting professor in the Department of Public Policy at CEU. Kate's research is primarily concerned with media, technology, and social change, including the impact of digital platforms on politics and public participation. She holds a PhD from Goldsmiths College, University of London and has held fellowships with the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University, and the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She is co-author of Routledge’s Handbook of Alternative Media and recently published a co-authored report examining sovereignty and digitalization, and her work has been featured on NPR, BBC, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, New Scientist, Wired, and others. 
Sian Brooke
Dr Siân Brooke is an LSE Fellow in Computational Social Science in the Department of Methodology. With a background in political philosophy, sociology, and methodology, her research examines how technology can intervene in discrimination. She has recently been awarded a Leverhulme ECR Fellowship, commencing April 2022, to investigate sexism on collaborative computing platforms. Her current projects study intersectional discrimination in online labor markets and is funded by the British Academy and STICERD. Siân completed her PhD at the University of Oxford, Oxford Internet Institute in September 2020 as a Clarendon Scholar, supported by the ESRC. Her thesis was a radically interdisciplinary project that combined machine learning and ethnography to characterize gender prejudice in programming. 
Zselyke Csaky
Zselyke Csaky is the Research Director for Europe and Eurasia at Freedom House. She oversees Nations in Transit, Freedom House’s annual survey of democracy from Central Europe to Central Asia, and has written extensively on democratic governance and media freedoms in Central Europe and the Balkans. Her comments and writings have appeared in the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Politico Europe, and the New York Times, among others. Prior to joining Freedom House in 2012, she served as researcher at Amnesty International, the International Service for Human Rights, and the European Parliament. 

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