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Call for Papers. 2001-2011 Changing Internet Politics

14. July 2011 – 15:07 by University Bergamo

Call for papers

2001-2011: Changing Internet Politics

In the past decade, contrasting trends have alternately fuelled hopes and fears concerning the potential of the Internet and then new digital personal/social media for democratic participation.Despite the persisting problem of the digital divide, Internet users have grown in number from about 300 million to the 1.4 billion of today, and a new generation of tools, providing mobile and simultaneous ‘community’ services, seems to have reshaped the way in which people connect and communicate.

Whilst it is generally agreed that the new media have been important resources for social movements since the end of the 1990s, it is also apparent that they still to encounter obstacles against their systematic entry into the general public sphere and effective influence on political decision-making, with the exception of rare and brief episodes/events. In parallel, in many countries, digital participation seems to have gained a strong position in the rhetorics adopted by governments and institutional actors (under the labels of e-democracy and e-participation).

In spite of this institutional fascination with the Web, throughout the past decade the claim for an Internet Bill of Rights on the global multi-stakeholder agenda (WSIS) has had to face the ‘securitarian turn’ produced by the global terrorism alarm since the 11 September attacks. Moreover, Internet ‘politics from below’, in their collective as well as individual forms, like those emblematically practiced by bloggers and social networks, has suffered from the increasing processes of market colonization and corporate concentration deployed on the Net and their implications in terms of the privatization of privacy and censorship policies, with and without state intervention.

Nevertheless, there is considerable evidence for the Internet’s growing libertarian political impact. This is the case of the global challenge to state secrecy raised by WikiLeaks and also by the spring 2011 uprisings in the Mediterranean Arabian countries. But is also the case of recent developments in the contentious politics of some European countries (e.g. the Spanish ‘indignados’, or the successful Italian referendum movement) where digital social networks have proved powerful means to convey demands for a radical renewal of politics based on a stronger and more direct role of citizens, and on a critique of post-democratic functionings.

Sociologica invites scholars to analyze this decade of Internet politics with its ambivalent dynamics. Equally welcome are papers devoted to empirical analysis of specific aspects, or which seek to draw a wider picture of Internet political trends throughout the decade.
The final deadline for submission is December 20th 2011. The papers selected will be published according to the order of their final acceptance by the journal, and they will be commented on in the ‘Essay’ section.

Sociologica. Italian Journal of Sociology online is a peer-reviewed journal published three times a year. The journal publishes theoretical, methodological and empirical articles providing original and rigorous contributions to the sociological current debate. Founded in 2007 and published by one of the main Italian social sciences publishers, il Mulino, Sociologica is one of the first international journals of sociology published solely online.

Anna Carola Freschi
University of Bergamo
co-Editor of Sociologica

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“Le regole della partecipazione”. Due giornate di studio all’Università di Perugia.

5. March 2010 – 21:55 by University Bergamo

Per chi oggi è interessato alle pratiche emergenti della partecipazione – cittadini, associazioni, partiti, apparati amministrativi, parlamenti e governi – è sempre più cruciale mettere a fuoco lo statuto giuridico, gli spazi di istituzionalizzazione della partecipazione e l’attuazione concreta delle opportunità partecipative collegate.
I vincoli o i limiti delle sperimentazioni hanno spesso a che fare con i gap fra diversi livelli d’azione e possono soffrire di un debole o ambiguo raccordo con le normative. D’altra parte i problemi non sono solo ‘procedurali’, ma si pongono anche sul piano sostanziale: l’esclusione politica dei cittadini corrisponde spesso ad una esclusione sociale e rimanda quindi ai problemi dei contenuti della cittadinanza. Una comprensibile ansia di novità – ‘nuovi’ metodi per partecipare, ‘nuove’ tecnologie applicate alla partecipazione, come nel caso del Web 2.0 – può far dimenticare questi aspetti e può condurre a trascurare sia le opportunità già presenti negli ordinamenti giuridici dei sistemi democratici e forse poco valorizzate, sia i limiti delle sperimentazioni in corso. Allo stesso tempo è necessario tener conto dei caratteri delle culture giuridiche (e politiche) che caratterizzano ciascun paese.

In due dense giornate internazionali di lavoro l’Università di Perugia propone un’occasione preziosa di riflessione e confronto su questi ed altri temi più specifici collegati.

Al link indicato è possibile trovare tutte le indicazioni sull’iniziativa.

“Le Regole della partecipazione. Cultura giuridica e dinamiche istituzionali dei processi partecipativi”.
Università di Perugia, 11-12 Marzo 2010

Anna Carola Freschi
(Università di Bergamo) Read the rest of this entry »

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When bloggers and social networks succeed in mobilizing political elites. The case of

6. December 2009 – 14:55 by University Bergamo

In the public discourse about e-participation and e-democracy it is often undervalued the existing demands of participation arisen by citizens. In other words, too often citizens are represented as passive subjects that eventually became active if (when) stimulated by the institutions or experts.
Of course, to increase the number of politically active citizens is an important goal, as well as the direct participation on specific decision making processes. Nevertheless, it is also crucial to acknowledge the role of traditional channels of participation – as collective action, protest and claims by citizens – in controlling and stimulating the actions of the political elites.

Web 2.0 can be an important resource in these directions, by means of overcoming constrains due of the lack of access to ‘vertical’ media and the distance between political class and active citizenship. There are several recent examples of this kind of process (mainly in weak democracies and non democratic systems). In Europe, the yesterday’s demonstration in Rome seems to be a quite relevant case. A group of Italian bloggers and grassroots groups launched online this event and gathered about 350.000 fans on Facebook. Thanks to its wide resonance on the online sphere, the ‘purple’ demonstration – this colour has been identified both as a symbol of marked autonomy from political parties and of civil liberties – has then attracted also the interest of the Italian political parties of the Opposition. Even if one considers the difficult current situation of the Italian government, it should be admitted that, at least for a while, Italian citizens-bloggers and grassroots groups have succeed not only in mobilizing citizens (about 1million demonstrated in Rome and there were many local demonstrations in other Italian and European cities), but also in pulling a consistent part of the political class. We shall see whether this wide and successful mobilization, very critical towards the whole political class, may have a real impact on the institutional politics.

Have a look at:

Anna Carola Freschi

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Networking democracy? ECPR Standing Group Conference in Romania June 2010

4. November 2009 – 18:15 by University Bergamo

ECPR Standing Group on Forms of Participation

Conference calls
Networking Democracy? New media innovations in participatory politics

A three day Symposium to be held at Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj, Romania 25-27 June 2010.


Democratic politics worldwide are increasingly being conducted and re-configured through the domain of digital communications networks. The socio-technical developments, such as Web 2.0, facilitating these media-saturated public spheres are in little doubt. What is highly contested however is the interpretation of what these profound changes offer for democratic governance in the twenty-first century. At its heart is the recognition that these new media networks are themselves the crucial site for a historical confrontation between opposing political and/or business interests and discourses intent upon forging new forms of social relations.
We will address questions such as:

• What new forms and relations of power are produced in the digital network society?
• Who are the key social actors shaping the new public sphere and what are their respective strategies, framing, and repertoires of action?
• What is the democratic potential of Web 2.0 applications such as social networking, blogging and twittering?
• What empirical evidence do we have to understand and assess these developments?
• How is networked democracy influencing new democratic societies?
• What are its consequences for human rights, social sorting, migration, e-government, community politics, surveillance, protest, participation, culture, identity, mobilization, representation, nationalism, security, citizen journalism, trust, regulation, both exogenous and self-regulation and much more?

Speakers include:
• W. Lance Bennett, University of Washington, USA,
• Bruce Bimber, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA
• Donatella Della Porta, European University Institute, Italy
• William H. Dutton, Oxford Internet Institute, UK
• Brian Loader, University of York, UK
• Rodica Mocan, Babes-Bolyai University, Romania

We invite papers from all disciplines which have addressed these topics. Important dates: Submission deadline: 7 December 2009; Notifications of acceptance: 15 January 2010; Symposium: 25-27 June 2010.

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E-evaluating public policies (with citizens?)

22. October 2009 – 20:08 by University Bergamo

Next week at the University of Milano an interesting Conference (“Mettere i governi davanti alle evidenze. Valutazione delle politiche, web 2.0 e competenza dei cittadini”) will focus on the relevance of web 2.0 in the field of co-evaluating public policies with citizens.

This is a peculiar approach to e-participation. Is this focus on evaluating public policies a better way to involve citizens in the institutional action? Can we consider more urgent to involve citizens in strategic decision-making (for example evaluating a policy action as a whole) or in the evaluation of the public performances (i.e. testing a service)?
To establish the participation of the citizens to policy evaluation as a general principle of good administration can effectively increase transparency and accountability of the governement, and value the citizens competences: this seems the key message of the Conference. But which are the levels of the institutional activities addressed by this new practices of ‘policy’ evaluation?
I think that the answer to this question can help to make clearer if politics or management is at stake.

All the details on the Conference web-site:

Anna Carola Freschi
(University of Bergamo)

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A huge demonstration in defence of freedom of information in Italy. The Internet’s role in the mobilization.

6. October 2009 – 15:43 by University Bergamo

Saturday October the 3rd about 300.000 citizens demonstrated in Rome in defence of freedom of information. The demonstration was launched by the National Federation of Press and other civic and political organization (like Articolo 21 , trade unions, political parties of the opposition, etc.).
Why this news should deal with debate about (e)participation? Because of at least two of very good reasons …

Firstly, Internet has been a crucial tool for this mobilization, both in the preparation and during the event. A petition online drafted by three eminent Italian jurists (Franco Cordero, Stefano Rodotà, Gustavo Zagrebelsky) has been published on the website of “la Repubblica”, one of the most important Italian newspaper. The petition has been subscribed by about 500.000 citizens (among them, six Nobel). More than 9.000 comments were posted on the website of “la Repubblica” during the demonstration and appeared on the banner of the newspaper homepage. The website made possible a constant coverage of the demonstration and enabled a virtual interaction between participants to the event and people at home. In this case a virtuous circle of online/offline public spheres worked effectively.
The president of Reporters sans frontieres declared that this is probably the widest demonstration in defence of the freedom of press in the world. Of course, the big success of the demonstration doesn’t relay only upon the Internet, but also on the organizational/relational resources mobilized. Three ingredients have been important: the high reputation of who has drafted and launched the petition and its clarity, the national relevance of the newspaper “la Repubblica”, the role of the associations of the journalists. Nevertheless, due to the very restricted spaces on the Italian televisions (included public service) given to the issue arisen by the mobilization, the relevance of the Internet can’t be underestimated. Especially considering that the political opposition to the Government is involved in a phase of internal reorganization.
The second reason of interest of this news is more general. This Italian event reminds us how much freedom of information remains the very basic requirement of democratic political participation. It is impossible to immagine real new forms of citizens involvement in the public life without taking care of the freedom and openess of the public sphere.
Next thursday the European Parliament will debate about the Italian case.


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SISP-Conference 2009 and “Condividi la conoscenza 2009”. Two Italian events rich in suggestions about (e)participation.

16. September 2009 – 22:45 by University Bergamo

In the next days in Italy there will be some relevant events for researchers, decision makers, activists, ordinary citizens, interested in the state of the public debate about Internet, democracy and participation, particularly in this country, where even freedom of information has recently become an hot issue (see the petition launched by La Repubblica, which has gathered more than 370.000 signature in two weeks, and the demonstration announced for saturday 19th September in the capital.

The annual conference of the Italian Society of Political Science (SISP) will be held 17th-19th September at the LUISS University in Rome. This edition has a very rich program, and many interesting panels are directly or indirectly related to e-participation (for an overview see the conference website ( ). Particularly worth of attention is the panel about Citizenship rights and new digital environment. To acknowledge the centrality of the institutional contexts – too much often neglected in the discourse about e-democracy- is a fruitful way to frame the problem of citizens participation in the Internet era. Among the speakers the panel includes Francesco Amoretti (Professor of International relations, University of Salerno), Carlo Formenti (Professor of Sociology of new media, University of Salento), Claudia Padovani (Professor of International communication, University of Padova) and Stefano Rodotà (Professor of Law, University La Sapienza – Rome, and former National Authority on data and privacy protection). As a leading scholar of the Italian studies about network-society, Rodotà has advanced the proposal of an Internet Bill of rights at the WSIS of Athens (2006), then included in the agenda of the Internet Governance Forum.
The range of issues arisen along the panel is wide and very relevant: privacy and ‘securization’ of the cyberspace, human rights and digital exclusion, public policies focusing information society, privatization of the online public sphere, but also opportunity to support emancipatory approaches within digital communities. According to the abstracts, the need of a new affirmation of the fundamental citizens rights (from civil ones to, I would add, social rights) on the Internet emerges as a crucial variable for the development of the democratic potential of the new media. The prevailing pessimistic worry about the current international situation emerging from the panel makes more relevant the (need of) possible role of civil society and citizens in re-addressing the political agenda. In this direction, the diffusion of a more mature awareness of the Internet social, political and economic dimensions is essential.

On the side of the civil society initiatives, it is worth of attention the third edition of the event “Condividi la conoscenza” (“Share the knowledge”), organized by a wide Italian network of activists, practitioners/stakeholders of free/open licensing: ICT professionals and entrepreneurs, politicians, journalists, associations devoted to digital rights, ICT researchers, teachers. Condividi3 will be hosted at the University of Milano on 23 September. The issue of free knowledge is the core-value of this civil society network. The different panels will deal with the benefits of open and free contents and software in fields like public administration, universities, public libraries, small enterprises, associations, etc. This is a very important aspect strictly connected to the pre-conditions of (e)participation, giving evidence to the continuity among the opportunities of social, cultural and political participation.

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The Blogger Grillo announces his candidature to the primaries for leading the Italian Democratic Party

14. July 2009 – 15:56 by University Bergamo

The Blogger Grillo, one of the most popular on the Italian blogosphere and famous comedian, has just announced ( ) his will to participate as candidate to the direct election of the national Secretary of the PD, the main Italian party of the Center-left (
The context of the Grillo’s provocative announcement is done by the recent results of the experimentation of the direct election of the party leadership promoted by the PD, born in 2008 from DS ( and Margherita ( The elections have been open to citizens non-members of the party and labelled as ‘primaries’. This experimentation has led to an upheaval of the internal balance, based on the previous electoral consent, concentrated in the left-wing and based on a territorial party structure, which has loosen much of its functions along the last two decades. The experimented model of primaries de facto made possible to the internal center-wing component to climb the leadership positions in the party.

According to the first declarations of the leaders of the Democratic party (PD), Grillo hasn’t the requirements established by the party’s Statute for being candidate to the primaries and the initiative of the famous Blogger seems untimely and “not worrying”. Nevertheless, the move of Grillo arises an interesting point about the relationship between emerging forms of online politics and the institutional domain.

As well know, the political movement of Grillo represents the most successful example of political usage of Internet in Italy, promoted by civil society. It is based on a Blog (, a networks of Meetup (, integrated with groups of activists routed all over the country and even abroad.
Among the huge of Italian online political experiences promoted by the institutional political actors (governments and political parties) no one has had the same success in terms of online audience involved and capacity of citizens mobilization.
It is to be stressed that the Grillo movement hasn’t a only-virtual nature: the former ‘actor’ Grillo has promoted several campaigns of petitions, class actions and so on, mainly focused on freedom of information, moralization of economic ( and political life (, culminating in mass events, involving hundreds of thousand of Italian citizens and in the participation to the last electoral competition at local level (
The case of Grillo political movement is also exemplary of the persisting gap between online sphere and the offline and mainstream media system, which play little attention to his initiatives, even in case of wide mass mobilizations (For the main features, limits and strengths of the Grillo experience in the Italian e-participation context see for example – pp. 66-85).

The announcement of Grillo adopts the rhetoric of an act of strong criticism against the political class, which wouldn’t be open to the new emerging contents and forms of citizens participation – such environment, consumers and digital rights and information freedom – particularly intermediated by the Internet. On the other side, the reaction of the PD (who is facing an important phase of internal transformation after the last electoral defeats) doesn’t seem to give evidence to a more cautious consideration about what is happening on the Net, independently of the specific case of Grillo, although relevant.
What is clear is that the accusation of ‘anti-politics’ arisen against Grillo in the past, both by the national media system and political elite, requires to be reconsidered, unless it is explicitly acknowledged that anti-politics discourse has increasingly become a fundamental arrow of the arch of many contemporary political leaders.

Anna Carola Freschi

(University of Bergamo)

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“Partecipazione e conflitto”

1. April 2009 – 16:06 by University Bergamo

Call for paper from a new Italian journal focused on conflict and participation
and on building bridges between social actors and academic researchers. This issue of “Partecipazione e Conflitto” aims to collect empirical contributions focused on results, opportunities and problems emerging from different deliberative practices (i.e. managed by political institutions or enacted by the civil society), as well as the interactions between different political actors and dimensions of deliberation, informal and institutional, micro and macro, online and offline.
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Gender divide and the access to Information society. News from the Conference on “Women&Technologies: research and innovation” Milan, 8th September

10. November 2008 – 18:58 by University Bergamo

The conference “Women&Technologies: research and innovation” was held in the context of IFIP WCC World Computer Congress ( The whole day of the conference aimed to reflect, at the international level, on the situation of the presence of women in the scientific and NICTs worlds, on female contributions to innovation, creation and production of ICTs, on progress in the overcoming of gender stereotypes in this scientific and working area, and on good practises for engaging young women with NICTs.

Four themes were tackled: “women and ICTs in Europe”, Art and affective computing”, “Interaction and dialog in the community on the web of the future” and “Innovation in the enterprises e in the Institutions” ( During the second section in the afternoon, about Art and affective computing: Interaction and Dialogues in Communities on the future Web”, e-participation and e-inclusion were also discussed. The web is the biggest public space we have ever known, with all the potential and risks linked to that: the web provides enormous opportunities to extend social relationships, to enrich and share knowledge; but this implies also problems of inclusion, inequalities in web access and use, and the necessity of rules (a sort of Bill of Rights for the Internet).

Covering e-inclusion, Fiorella De Cindio focused on e-citizenship for women too, and on the need to create suitable tools for the enlargement of e-participation and e-deliberation, processes which she regards with a general optimism, notwithstanding the fact that the results of many Italian experiments in the area have not been flattering. Her data about citizens’ participation in some civic networks and e-participation experiences in Lombardia (Northern Italy) show low rates of participation, mostly in cases in which public administrations have not invested concretely in the e-projects; in the same contexts there is a much lower participation of women: 20% of the participants in the experiment of Mantova’s civic network, 30% in Vigevano and in Milano, 16% in Brescia (from a total of 78, 120, 2130 and 137 participants respectively).

So, how can more women and marginalized groups be involved in these e-processes? And is it a priority? From the top-down opportunities to the potentialities of net communities and web 2.0: Paola Bonomo (senior marketing director, eBay Italy) looked at the characteristics of digital communities, about their functioning, the incentives they are based on, and about the characteristics of their leaders. Why are most of the leaders men even in a community such as eBay: a space of self-entrepreneurship where the barriers to access (a part the structured ones) are very low and where the first contributors are mostly women (56%), but the first 10 sellers remain men?

Very interesting was also the speech by Christine Lisetti who presented her studies about affective computing (a field of research where there have been many pioneer women since the ‘90s) and its different possible practical applications: not only the avatars’ expressions, but also emotion recognition to recognize the emotions of the faces of pilots, astronauts and scuba divers; and technological tools to monitor veteran patients who are far from medical centres and to establish an effective/operative communication between patients and doctors in difficult contexts.

The meeting was also the occasion to award the Le Tecnovisionarie® 2008 prize to Fiorella Operto (Deputy Chairperson of the School of Robotics, Genova) for her commitment to the fight against gender inequalities, involving young women in science and technology, and creating self-confidence in girls technology-related abilities, particularly in her field (robotics) that seems to be the discipline of the future. Robotics is one of the most male dominated disciplines, but creative minds of both men and women, if free to express themselves, can overcome conditioning and ideological obstacles: so it’s necessary to find more opportunities of access for young women and to fight against old dichotomic stereotypes about the pretended differences in capacities of men and women that relegate both to a rigid division of duties, experiences, skills: snuffing out every potentiality of each person.

Michela Balocchi (Research fellow, University of Bergamo)