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The Bridges Retreat 2018: Reimagining the open society in the digital age

Bridges Publications and Articles

Our next retreat will be held in November 2018. The guiding question for the retreat is broad: if emerging digital societies supported social well-being and liberal democracy, what would they look like and how would they be governed? The best way to start answering this question is to put human beings at the heart of the discussion. This retreat therefore focuses on how digital technology is shaping human behaviour and emotions in ways that influence people’s engagement with politics. Insights from this project will inform better approaches to regulating the digital society in future, through a deeper understanding of how aspects of human nature are shaped by online interactions and emerging digital technologies.

During our discussions, we will examine the implications of technological change for public policies and institutions. How do we ensure that people remain critical and safe when they are online, all the while without encroaching on free speech? What are the mechanisms that increase vulnerability to propaganda and conspiracy theories in the digital era? Why do people freely give away their data? Are they becoming addicted to the forms of seamless interaction offered online? What are the repercussions on democratic institutions and practice?

Understanding how human behaviour is shaped by digital tools and interactions is necessary precursor to identifying what might benefit from regulation and in what ways. We will explore methods to support the open society and create resilience to propaganda and conspiracy theories. The below position paper provides further information on the issues we will be exploring at the retreat, and serves as a starting point for reflection.

The insights from the retreat will form the basis of a publication that we will share with policymakers and other stakeholders in this field.