In recent years - and in particular since the explosion of the financial crisis of 2008 - we have witnessed the rise of an array of new political parties - sometimes described as 'digital parties', 'internet parties' or 'network parties' - that attempt to utilise digital communication technologies as means to construct new forms of political participation and organisation against a background of widespread political disaffection with mainstream politics.
From the 5 Star Movement in Italy, to Podemos in Spain, and the Pirate Party in Iceland, Sweden and Germany, to the municipalist formations that recently won the mayoralties of Barcelona and Madrid, the signs of this surprising revival of the political party in digital times are growing. These new political organisations that are entering the political arena in a number of countries in Europe and beyond make use of the tools and practices that typify the present digital era, from Twitter channels and Facebook pages to Whatsapp groups and decision-making platforms. Furthermore, they embody the new demands that reflect the ways of life, fears and desires of an era of mass digital connectivity: demands for free information, privacy, connectivity and basic income.
What is the meaning and what the implications of these emerging digital parties? How do they reflect and respond to the current phase of economic and political crisis? What are the new issues and policies they bring to the fore? What are their forms of organisation, participation and leadership?
The Cyberparty conference hosted by the newly formed Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London will explore these issues by bringing together experts and activists from the forefront of political innovation. It will ask what is specific to the emerging ‘digital party-form’ underpinning these formaions, how it compares with the mass parties of the industrial era and the electoral-professional parties of the neoliberal era and to what extent it can become a vehicle for social and political change. Furthermore, it will inquire in which ways more traditional political phenomena such as the Labour party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders' campaign in the US are trying to adopt some of the emerging organisational structures and practices coming from digital parties.
Different aspects of digital parties will be examined: their forms of communication and propaganda; their decision-making platforms; their policy platform and social base, with dedicated panels on these issues.
The conference will also host a special panel on digital activism in Eastern Europe.
Confirmed speakers include
Birgitta Jonsdottir (Pirate Party), Davide Barillari (5 Star Movement), Bernardo Gutierrez (journalist and activist), Arnau Monterde (Universidad Oberta de Catalunya), Francesca Bria (Nesta), Jodi Dean (Hobart and William Smith Colleges), Andrew Chadwick (Royal Holloway), Sofia de Roa (Podemos), Miguel Ongil Lopez (Podemos), Richard Barbrook (Westminster), Emmy Eklundh (King’s), Emiliano Trere (Autonomous University of Queretaro), Marco Deseriis (Northeastern University), Cristian Vaccari (Royal Holloway), Aaron Bastani (Novara Media), Paolo Gerbaudo (King’s), Francisco Jurado (Podemos), Alex Williams (City University), and Alex Clarkson (King’s).