Technology for Governance, Politics, and Democracy
Guest Editors: Dr. Tom Kane  and Nick Novelli 
 School of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University, U.K.
 School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh, U.K.
We are starting to see powerful tools of artificial intelligence disrupting governmental activities. How our relationship with the world around us is modified by such tools, and how we can articulate and correct inappropriate activities in such tools become urgent questions. The situation is made more difficult whenever these tools are the intellectual property of a private company and not fully open to being scrutinized.
Innovative Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are already playing a crucial role in the emergence of e-governance and digital democracy, both at national and community levels. Parliaments can be petitioned on a large scale to influence debates in the legislative process. There is, for example, an unprecedented opportunity for community collective choice, whereby those affected by a set of governing rules can actively participate in the selection, modification and application of those rules, in consultation with their local government representatives, and can help select policy options and rank spending priorities.
Although (as always) the technologies themselves are neutral with respect to both “good” or “bad” outcomes, design, and the intentions behind the design, are never neutral. Moreover, digital technologies, unlike other tools, are never neutral with respect to influence and control. Thus, for example, although it is possible to engage communities in broader and more meaningful political participation, it is equally possible to manage, distort or manipulate the dissemination of information through technological and/or economic mastery of the platforms for communication. In electioneering terms, we see the emergence of such tools as Facebook for Politics, which played a signicant role in the 2016 Brexit referendum and U.S. presidential elections being lauded, on the one hand for helping campaigns to be more proactive on social media; and being critiqued on the other for enabling distorted political messages to be decisive in important elections.
In a similar vein, although electronic voting systems based on blockchain technology may make it possible to prove that a citizen’s vote has not been tampered with, in pursuing ethical use of such technology, we would need to ensure, among other things, that voting rights couldn’t be awarded to pre-programmed bots with a particular agenda. More widely, using technology to broaden civic participation in the political process should be accompanied by meaningful civic education: there is no point enfranchising people and making it “easier” for them to vote by using an app on a mobile phone, if at the same time the voter’s critical thinking skills are constantly being undermined. A key societal challenge is, where necessary, to perform dialectical engagements with governmental AI tools, and their developers, in a democratic and open fashion.
At the same time as we address these issues in ICT, more widely in society a political fault-line seems to be developing: just at the time when technology should make representative democracy richer than ever before in human history, so there is a breakdown of trust in politicians, loss of faith in the political process, marked polarization in political debate, and an unwillingness to compromise in political discourse. Will ICT be the final straw in this breakdown, or could ICT be used to set things right in the political world?
The aim of this special issue is to evaluate the social impact and social implications of new and emerging technologies on governance, politics, public administration, and policy-making, and to evaluate the future prospects of digital democracy, and its transformative potential for increasing public engagement, community empowerment, and social entrepreneurship.
- Digital democracy
- Technology for deliberative assemblies, debate and decision-making
- Technology for evidence-based policy making, legislation, and political journalism
- Role and use of technology in election campaigns
- Social engagement, ethics, empowerment, and entrepreneurship
- Civic participation, engagement, duty, and dignity
- Knowledge management: improving the “correctness” and legitimacy of decision-making
- Algorithmic governance and self-governance
- Community self-governance using socio-technical systems
- Bridging the digital divide
- Technology and education for teaching and understanding political processes
- Computational political science
- Case studies: applications of eGovernance in local or national politics
- Technology, political change, and transformative impact
September 30, 2018: Paper submission deadline
November 15, 2018: Notication of acceptance (or otherwise)
End December 2018: Final version
March 2019: Special issue published
Papers should be submitted as a standard magazine submission via ManuscriptCentral (https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/tsm) but should indicate in a cover letter that the submission is intended to be considered as a paper for this special issue. For any inquiries please contact the Guest Editors, Dr. Tom Kane (T.Kane@napier.ac.uk) or Nick Novelli (firstname.lastname@example.org).