Past Event

Sixteenth International Conference on Technology, Knowledge, and Society

2020 Special Focus—Solidarity in the Digital Public Sphere: From Extremes to Common Ground?


Event Type

Academic Conference

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Common Ground Research Networks 

Event Link



26 - 27 Mar 2020


iHotel and Conference Center, The University of Illinois Research Park


Champaign, United States



Founded in 2005, the Technology, Knowledge & Society Research Network is brought together by a shared interest in the complex and subtle relationships between technology, knowledge and society. As a shared common communicative space, the digital public sphere is everywhere and nowhere. Adding to this ephemeral quality, a foundational myth was for a while frequently presented, utopian in its dimensions. Digital communication technologies, it was argued, would in their nature expand the scope of public discourse by broadening the participatory possibilities for communicating actors, knowledge, and cultures. The emergence of the internet offered new possibilities in the form if its tools of deliberation and collective decision-making. Would this technology open new modalities of social solidarity? Could new processes of consensus-building emerge? Would this be a harbinger of transformative collective identities? During the early 2000s, this idea of solidarity goes in hand with the liberal democratic model of human development and the promise of neo-liberal equilibrium. This foundational utopian myth is now in ruins. Rather than broadening, we see more scaling down of political discourse: filter bubbles, discourse silos, and echo chambers. It seems there is not more transparency but less, with disinformation at the core of decision-making processes. At the same time, there has not been a rise in consensus; rather we have witnessed the rise of new agents of division, flamers, and trolls, with mechanized bots intensifying their incivility. In this year's conference, we will work on both diagnosis and prognosis. What is solidarity in the digital public sphere today? What might it be?

Video: Theodore Zeldin discusses the results of the Courage Beer Conversations Survey.

Philosopher and historian Theodore Zeldin discusses the results of the Courage Beer Conversations Survey.

Media Information: Image

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