Call for Papers in Special Issue of New Media & Society: A Brave New Democracy: The impact of Social Media, Algorithms and AI on Politics & Citizenship

Contemporary understandings of democratic citizenship and their role in democracy have evolved over the
last five decades, generally following periods of change in society, politics, and communication. For example, the
mid-Twentieth Century was a period of prosperity and trust in political and media institutions which corresponded to
standard views of civic role performance centered on voting in elections and referenda, supporting the campaigns of
parties and candidates for office, contacting elected representatives to highlight issues of concern, and being involved
in cooperative activities (Verba & Nie, 1972). The subsequent era of economic globalization and related disruptions
of civil societies, labor markets and individual security, along with declining levels of institutional trust, shifted focus
away from earlier models of dutiful citizenship toward more fragmented repertoires of the monitorial citizens
(Schudson, 1998), engaged citizens (Dalton, 2008), or actualizing citizenship (Bennett, Freelon & Wells, 2011).
These new forms of citizenship are viewed as responses to challenges associated with globalization, growing
inequality and perceived institutional limitations; but also reflect the emergence of identity politics, culture wars,
political instability, and democratic erosion (V-Dem, 2022). In addition, the spread of digital communication
technologies has offered a broad spectrum of citizens means of connecting across social and even national boundaries,
to develop political networks and campaigns focusing on local, national or global issues (Bennett & Segerberg, 2013).

The current era is defined by a new set of social and political contexts that call for fresh thinking about citizenship
and communication, and how evolving new technologies such as algorithmic based social media, artificial intelligence
(AI), and the upcoming synthetic media will all sustain or challenge the future of democracy. Dalton’s
conceptualization of ‘the fifth state’ (2023) indicates a shift in power dynamics tied to developments in communication
technology. These developments have seen the emergence of networked individuals who play a strategic role across
different layers of society who are empowered ‘citizens of the digital age’. These actors eschew nation-state affairs in
favor of global politics, focusing on myriad cross-national causes.

The current era is also one of further technological opportunities and challenges. Digital technology has
provided spaces for good democratic citizenship (participation, deliberation, inclusivity and pluralism) as well as
destructive democratic citizenship (spreading disinformation and hate speech, silencing opponents aggressively and
trolling). As AI enters the common public consciousness due to easily available software, the emerging question is
how might AI impact upon our democracies (Jungherr 2023). On the one hand AI can be used to promote prodemocratic
behavior. AI tools may moderate deliberation, promote and help construct more rational arguments and
facilitate more inclusive consultation between institutions and citizens. AI could support informed discussions and
decision-making which close inequality gaps around political participation. At a basic level this could provide the
ground for electronic voting. But at a more fundamental level ensure voters feel empowered through having access to
sufficient information to participate not only in elections but directly influencing political decisions. These positive
views, however, are contingent on who determines the role AI plays. AI can promote disinformation, misinformation,
societal biases, and populist propaganda. Governments can harness AI to promote their policies, excluding
oppositional or civil society voices. Governments could also harness AI to depress political participation by controlling
the flow of information. We can see examples of the positive and negative uses of AI within a range of political

systems, but this area is underexplored. AI is currently under scrutiny, and conversations are taking place between

world leaders and tech moguls (such as AI Safety Summit 2023), and there are moves to develop a framework for

how AI should function or at least could be constrained to limit its possible harm to democratic institutions. But further

research from the fields of political science, and communication is needed to inform these debates, in particular to

consider how AI could and should be used and regulated for the enhancement of citizen engagement.

This special issue aims to understand the role of new communication processes, the development of multiple

platforms and the role of AI in reshaping political and social interactions, and how they are related to citizens, and

their role as active actors in democratic or non-democratic societies. It aims to explore the roles of networked active

publics within and across nations and the extent that their deliberative and communicative activities contribute

positively or negatively to civic and democratic culture, pluralism and societal cohesion. It also aims to understand

how organizations facilitate and employ AI, algorithmic based social media information, and other technological

developments in building citizenry or on the contrary how they limit the role of individual citizens. Topics may

include the construction of new norms and understandings of citizenship across the political spectrum, the replacement

of civic groups with networked-based communication, and the proliferation of identity-based language codes. These

features of changing citizen-communication ecologies may be involved in building a sense of community, altruism

and belonging, but they may also facilitate polarization, antagonism, isolation, and disruption (Koc-Michalska et al.,


Articles submitted to this special issue may address, but are not limited to, such topics as:

– the roles of different social media, algorithms, and platforms in facilitating or restricting active publics;

– the development of the usage of AI for politics, information, and communication;

– do these new media play a role in reshaping or constructing the common civic norms and citizen

identities, especially in times of crisis;

– how the adoption of new technologies creates differences in civic practice and mobilization across

different publics

– analyses of online public deliberation or lack of it; the role of digital public consultation;

– the politics of platform and AI products regulation and self-regulations.

In general, we are interested in studies depicting how such factors may affect the balances of political power in

democratic societies? The overall aim is to revise and update our understanding of citizenship and communication in

this era of democratic turbulence, and stark technological changes.

The proposed special edition will tackle questions relating to the role that new technologies play in facilitating and

sustaining the performance of citizenship with the following foci:

1. interdisciplinary theoretical approaches to understand the psychology, behavior and social context of

individuals functioning and communicating in relation to their own performances as citizens, to understand

the role of communication in shaping new forms of citizenship and democratic processes. We are also open

to manuscripts based on a wider inter-disciplinary cooperation (e.g. economy, law, engineering etc.)

2. Comprehensive methodological approach, especially global and inclusive contexts and cross-country

studies exploring comparatively the roles of active publics across diverse regimes and political systems.

We specifically invite submissions from CEE, Global South and other regions outside of the Western Democracies.

The special issue is open for sound theoretical and data-driven manuscripts, with no limits to the methods used,

however, a comparative approach will be privileged.