The Center for Critical Democracy Studies

Professor Culp on Democratic Citizenship Education in Digitized Societies

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Professor Culp

On Wednesday, March 23, 2022, Demos21, a series of lectures, roundtables and workshops organized by AUP’s Center for Critical Democracy Studies (CCDS), hosted CCDS fellow Professor Julian Culp, who led a discussion on his forthcoming paper, “Democratic Citizenship Education in Digitized Societies.” The hybrid event saw audience members attend both in person in CCDS’s conference hall in the Quai d’Orsay Learning Commons and online.

Professor Culp first situated his research within the work of scholars such as Habermas, whose ideas can be thought of as an origin point for the paper and its terminology. He also draws on the philosophy of education and political philosophy in the article, referencing thinkers like John Dewey and Axel Honneth. The paper weaves together two subjects: democratic theory education and digitized societies. Democratic theory education is education designed to foster citizenship, and Culp assessed the relationship between this and increased digitization, which he primarily understood as a communicative arrangement.

Culp argued that society must not assume its institutions are functioning well, but rather that it should operate critically to address potential problems. He offered a robust background against which to understand this argument, explaining that his work relies on the use of deliberative democracy as a normative framework, meaning that citizens must understand themselves as creators of the law, which is based on the communication of their desires. The paper also drew out differences in the processes of opinion and will formation, distinguishing between “core” institutions, such as the judiciary or legislature, and the “periphery,” which comprises civil society.

He went on to describe the significance of digitization in the transformation of the political public sphere, focusing particularly on the impact of a new media landscape, one characterized by the entrenchment of echo chambers and the fragmentation of discourse, and driven by the attention economy. Drawing on an interpolated analysis of deliberative democratic theory and technology studies, Professor Culp argued that practices of democratic citizenship education in digitized societies should not focus exclusively on the use of digital technologies. Instead, these practices would better serve society if they concentrated on the structural problems of political communication and addressed the democratic deficits that are reflected in inadequate communicative arrangements.

Following the presentation, audience members raised questions about the paper’s intended audience, its applicability to the Global South, and historical examples of factionalism.