Research page
Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy

Stories of the future: Youth shaping the role of artificial intelligence in democracy

Timeline: 2022-24

Keywords: Democracy; Citizen participation; Youth; Digital technologies;  Artificial Intelligence; AI; Narrative foresight; Storytelling; Art; Scientific communication; Switzerland. 

Funding Organisation: Swiss National Science Foundation, AGORA project n. CRAGP1_208333



Digital technologies and democracy have an ambivalent relationship. The predominant role of digital technologies in our society, particularly emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), raises many ethical, regulatory and governance issues. Recent scandals surrounding the collection and processing of big data for political communication and opinion manipulation have highlighted the ambivalent relationship between digital technologies and democracy. On the one hand, digital technology can foster innovative forms of citizen participation and give voice to social movements through social networks, online citizen consultations and other civic tech. On the other hand, persuasion techniques based on personal data and disinformation campaigns conducted during the last democratic elections put the trust of citizens in institutions, the press, and electoral processes at risk. 

AI plays a major role in three levels of citizen participation, i.e. information, consultation, and decision. AI is now at the heart of the information ecosystem by selecting the information that everyone consults online. AI is also present in surveillance practices, in political communication, and in some citizen consultations. However, its role in citizen-government intermediation remains invisible for a large part of the population. In this context, it is urgent for the population to position itself and choose the conditions for the use of AI. To do this, it is necessary first to raise awareness of the current use of AI in democracy, and, secondly, to bring the subject to the heart of the public space for debate. This is precisely what this project aims to achieve.



In the digital age, strengthening citizen participation is essential to building the resilience of the democratic model. To do so, digital literacy and political agency are particularly important. This project aims to (1) raise awareness, especially among youth, about the use of artificial intelligence in democratic processes and citizen-government interactions, and (2) encourage youth participation by engaging them in thinking about the futures of democracy. Through innovative forms of participation based on narrative foresight and art, this project hopes to spark debate and put the future of Swiss democracy in the hands of young people. Perhaps provocatively, this project questions the widespread use of AI in democracy.



The project is distinguished by its innovative and creative methodology based on narrative foresight and art. It is indeed an approach inspired by the Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) methodology that considers stakeholders as co-researchers throughout the project. Storytelling and foresight are among a multitude of creative and innovative forms of citizen engagement. In addition, this project draws on AI tools to critically examine the human-machine relationship, and rethink the futures of democracy.

Based on a participatory approach, we will organize more than 30 workshops throughout Switzerland, during which young people will create narratives of the future. Through their creativity, narrative foresight, and AI, they explore the future role of citizens in a world where AI is widespread. This approach also aims to strengthen their interest and trust in the democratic processes in Switzerland, emphasizing the importance and value of their participation in shaping the future of living together.

In cooperation with art schools in three cantons, young artists will be inspired by the stories to illustrate them artistically, and share their creations with the general public. The three linguistic regions of Switzerland, as well as the different types of secondary and tertiary education, are represented in this project.