The working group named ‘PUNCH – for critical and human digital media’, consisting of La Concertation ASBL – Action Culturelle Bruxelloise, Action Ciné Média Jeunes, Arts & the Centre Librex, the CESEP, CFS-ep, Culture & Démocratie, Gsara, the Maison du Livre, PAC, PointCulture Bruxelles and the Revue Nouvelle, has initiated a series of talks on digital media in 2015. The goal of this series is to create a dynamic in which the sector can assimilate the challenges linked to the digital environment in a creative manner.
The series is aimed at workers in the cultural sector in the broad sense, but clearly it is also open to anyone interested in these issues.
Season #5: Is the digital environment democratic?
The ‘critical and human digital media’ series documents and stimulates exchanges on the impact of digital media on society and, more specifically, everything that constitutes ‘culture’ in terms of individual practices, the private realm, collective dimensions and public spaces. The programme is supported by several lifelong learning associations and cultural centres. The intention is to take the time to examine this subject area together and, simply by doing this, to make a small contribution to reducing a significant deficit in democracy: many decisions are made in the name of digital media that affect our ways of life without the slightest democratic debate. After all, the digital environment is not a natural setting but a network of private interests orchestrated by powerful corporations. This is one of the findings that seems to be more and more obvious to the cultural associations that facilitate these spontaneous studies: we are not clear enough about the anti-democratic bias of digital media!
This will be our guiding principle from December 2019 until May 2020. We will begin by returning to the concept of ‘algorithmic governance’ by organising a debate between ‘for’ and ‘against’. Governance is not limited to the official bodies that govern the State: it also includes many more informal institutions that moderate our behaviour from day to day. Along with our guests, we will continue to teach the process of fake news, exploring aspects of history that enable us to analyse the progressive rerouting of the internet utopia. We will also consider the democratic bias of search engines (gendered, racist). We are also concerned with proposing approaches that combine theory and conceptualisation with the imagination and the realm of the emotions through the use of fiction.
In the ‘critical and human digital media’ series, we will ensure that we never conceal controversies or aspects where digital media support democratic dynamics thanks to various ingenious appropriations by citizens. In particular, we will consider migratory movements both in Europe and Africa, which we will examine at an evening session dedicated specifically to this issue.
The concern to combine digital media and democracy also involves researching depth and distance: one session will be devoted to situating digital media within the wider history of writing. This is a crucial detour to gauge its real potential among the cultural tools for emancipation.