Democracy in the Digital Age

Democracy in the Digital Age explores the effects of digital tools on politics, journalism, and the economy in democratic cultures. Can freedom of speech survive fake news? Have social media platforms poisoned political debate beyond recovery? Conversely, can digital tools be used to shore up and support democratic politics? Will digital tools revolutionize our economy for the benefit of all—or merely allow the 1% to hide their dirty business? This is the main track of the conference, and it is primarily aimed at a hybrid audience.

Session Overview

Can Freedom of Speech Survive Fake News?

Time: Thursday May 27 at 13.00-14.45
Auditorium: Per Kirkeby Auditorium/Online

Digitalization has radically expanded the public sphere, by giving everyone a freely available platform on which to share their opinions. But social media have also exposed public debate to harmful disinformation, fake news, and baseless conspiracy theories, which have warped political debate all over the Western world. How can journalists, politicians, and engaged citizens tackle disinformation without compromising on the right to free speech? And what does the right to free expression even mean in the age of digitalization? 


Chair: Christoffer Green-Pedersen, Professor of Political Science, Aarhus University

Roger Buch, Senior Researcher in Political Science, Danish School of Media and Journalism
Fake news and the increasing trust in media: Why post-truth is a return to normal    

Frederik Stjernfelt, Professor of Intellectual History, Aalborg University Copenhagen
Fake news is no news  

Anja Bechmann, Professor of Media Studies, Aarhus University
Tackling disinformation and infodemics requires media policy changes  

Ulrik Haagerup, Founder and CEO of Constructive Institute
Access to trusted information is a new human right: How Constructive News can help journalism save democracy    

Can AI Solve Century-Old Social Problems?

Time: Thursday May 27 at 15.15-17.00
Auditorium: Per Kirkeby Auditorium/Online

To be updated


Chair: Andreas Roepstorff, Professor of Anthropology, Aarhus University
Exploring AI making sense; the case of COVID 19 experiences 

Catherine Hasse, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Aarhus University
Ultra-social AI?  

Virginia Dignum, Professor of Computing Science, Umeå University
Technological solutionism

Can Digital Tools Support Democratic Values?

Time: Friday May 28 at 10.30-12.15
Auditorium: Per Kirkeby Auditorium/Online

As recent experience shows, our current use of digital technologies facilitates ideological polarization and threatens the very foundations of democracy and moral autonomy. This multidisciplinary panel discusses visions and concrete strategies for how we can use digital technology to protect or even enhance political, social, and cultural values. A necessary requirement for these strategies is that expertise from the humanities is integrated into the development of new technologies from the very beginning. The panel discusses current initiatives aimed at cultural change, led by new alliances of researchers and professionals, and presents ideas for how to create extracurricular online education for better citizenship.


Chair: Johanna Seibt, Professor of Philosophy, Aarhus University 

Raffaele Rodogno, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Aarhus University
Models of democracy and digital tools

Jacob Sherson, Professor of Management, Aarhus University
Bridging the gap between human desires and AI implementations using Hybrid Intelligence  

Valentine Goddard, Founder of AI Impact Alliance, AI ethics expert for the UN 
How does art shape AI and the laws that govern its technologies?  

Hannes Werthner, Professor Emeritus of Informatics, Vienna University of Technology
Digital humanism  

Will the New Digital Economy Be a Business Revolution?

Time: Friday May 28 at 13.15-15.00
Auditorium: Per Kirkeby Auditorium/Online

The new digital economy will be a decentralized economy. Digital technologies have given businesses the tools to reroute the normal flows of trade and decision making, circumventing large, centralized actors. The privacy of information can be secured with multi-user tools like blockchain, and new forms of netbanking and online advising can empower citizens to take control of their own finances. Digital platforms can connect consumers and suppliers across borders and across sectors to ensure a smooth, tariffless trade. But what new challenges does this radical decentralization of the economy bring with it? Please note this session will be a panel debate.


Chair: Andrea Carugati, Professor of Management Studies, Aarhus School of Business 

Jesper Buus Nielsen, Professor of Computer Science, Aarhus University 

Lars Seier Christensen, CEO of Seier Capital, founder of Saxo Bank 

Stine Kalmer Jørgensen, Co-Founder and CEO of DreamPlan 

Rikke Zeberg, Head of Digitalization at the Confederation of Danish Industry 

Lars Rasmus Lundgaard Pedersen, CIO of Danske Commodities     

Are Digital Grey Zones a Threat to Democracy?

Time: Saturday May 29 at 10.30-12.15
Auditorium: Per Kirkeby Auditorium/Online

The increasing digitalization of our everyday lives has created a new social divide, between the seen and unseen: information about ordinary citizens is gathered in huge troves of data, but digital tools can also be used to escape the public eye and hide from democratic oversight. While some companies stockpile vast amounts of information about their users, some work to create digital grey zones that allow for tax evasion and shadowy financial flows. Over the past years, revelations about these grey zones have come from whistleblowers who have passed data on to journalists, raising broader and much-needed debates about democracy, information access, and regulatory oversight in the digital age. 


Chair: Thomas Olesen, Professor of Political Science, Aarhus University
Whistleblowing in the age of digital grey zones - and why we'll see more of it in the future  

Sune Lehmann Jørgensen, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, Technical University of Denmark
Algorithms are grabbing the headlines, but data is the real driver behind the AI revolution  

Niels Johannesen, Professor MSO of Economics, University of Copenhagen
How do we tax capital that can cross borders with a mouse click?  

Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier, journalists at Süddeutsche Zeitung
How journalists and whistleblowers taught fear to crooks and criminals  

Is the Internet Changing Our Political Behavior?

Time: Saturday May 29 at 14.45-16.30
Auditorium: Per Kirkeby Auditorium/Online 

How has the political behavior of ordinary citizens been reshaped by the advent of digitalization? According to cyber-optimists, the new digital sphere has allowed for a radical expansion of public debate, accommodating many more voices and letting them speak freely, unfiltered by officiating institutions. According to the pessimists, however, public debate has been warped and fractured by misinformation, hostility, and bubbles of selective exposure. The panel takes a fresh look at online political behavior, by combining perspectives from psychology, anthropology, computer science, and political science.


Chair: Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, Professor of Comparative Literature, Aarhus University

Lene Aarøe, Associate Professor of Political Science, Aarhus University
Elite communication on Facebook and citizens’ engagement: Negativity predicts engagement with political hard news content in politicians’ Facebook posts

Michael Bang Petersen, Professor of Political Science, Aarhus University
Misinformation and the distinct psychologies of believing and sharing on social media  

Leon Derczynski, Associate Professor of Computer Science, IT University of Copenhagen
Why we are failing to handle abusive language online  

Alberto Acerbi, Lecturer in Psychology, Brunel University London
Why is misinformation on misinformation successful?