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Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy

Moving frontiers of the demos: Enfranchisement, youth participation, and digital technologies

Timeline: 2023

Keywords: Democracy; Digital; Youth; Policy; Demos

Funding Organisation: Swiss National Science Foundation, Scientific Exchange (project n. 217679)


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Democracy is a space in permanent flux, which is shaped by a variety of political, social, institutional and technological factors. With the proposed conference, we seek to understand in which ways the frontiers of the demos have been moving in recent years and which key elements have been driving past - and will presumably further drive future - transformations. We build on the analysis of three drivers of frontier changes either expanding or shrinking the demos: voting rights, youth participation, and digital technologies. We will investigate these expansionary and exclusionary dynamics within three types of frontiers of the demos: 1) legal frontiers; 2) intergeneration frontiers; and 3) virtual frontiers. By identifying and analysing the most recent and innovative (youth-led) political participation practices (i.e., what we consider weak signals), we will also identify common elements and differences among innovations, whether they are led by youth, migrants, in the physical or digital realm. Technology is not only a new frontier; it is also a transversal theme throughout the conference that we use to explore the technological dimensions of innovations, especially when focusing on youth activism. Ultimately, our goal is to identify and analyse “weak signals” on which future research and policy intervention may build, and what is needed to support those that can reinforce the resilience and attractiveness of the democratic model. Our main objective is to develop a common understanding and language across academic disciplines and identify research gaps in order to work together on a joint project application.