Daniel Innerarity is a Philosopher and Director of the Institute for Democratic Governance. Researcher at the University of the Basque Country. Ph.D. in Philosophy, he expanded his studies in Germany, as a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Switzerland and Italy. He has been a visiting professor at several European and American universities, most recently at the Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies at the European Institute in Florence, as well as at the London School of Economics.
What kind of social factors motivates stakeholders to introduce e-voting?
I think that e-voting is interesting as it allows us to know in real time the will of the people, and I think that’s important.
The democratic ideal – the idea of self-government and, therefore, of popular will that is implemented and that makes decisions – is more demanding than a mere aggregation of the individual wills that are reflected in front of a screen.
I believe that in addition to e-voting, spaces of physical deliberation are also needed. Although this practice can significantly improve our political practices, I am in favor of ways of institutional and political mediation that allow physical encounter and deliberation.
What opportunities can e-vote bring to society?
Voting and digital governance are practices and models that are not very deliberative but are rather aggregative. In the same way that the market -as a mechanism for transmitting information and aggregation of preferences- has its imperfections and its asymmetries that must be corrected, I also believe that we must regulate and complement the practices of digital democracy with more deliberative practices.
Will e-governance create a more constant dialogue between voters and representatives?
The dialogue between the voters and the representatives is somewhat more demanding than the digital instruments and platforms that allow us to send a message to the President of the Government and to receive an acknowledgment reply.
I think that the dialogue does not have to do only with communication at the level of digital platforms, but also with the type of language and the type of communication that is carried out. Rather than merely aggregational, I think these must be understandable and deliberative.
Will e-governance make it easier for people to participate in more decisions, and, if so, what implications will this have?
Digital governance facilitates participation in the expression dimension of the spontaneous will of the people and, therefore, of the knowledge of that will. But there is another more constructed yet deliberative will that needs horizontal feedback, and I think those deliberation practices must be respected.
Does the traditional process of physically going to a polling station allow for more conscious decision making?
The fact that you vote physically or not isn’t too decisive in people’s decision-making. And I say this because I have voted sometimes by mail and, based on my experience, I do not find it particularly relevant.
What does seem relevant to me is that in traditional voting there is a certain element of physical communication that I do not think the digital world will completely replace.
Given the current digital environment, there is an argument that important decisions such as voting will become more impulsive. Have you seen this happening and how can we avoid this?
I am concerned that digital practices can create a type of citizenship that brings us closer to the figure of the consumer than to anything else. The closeness to the action of buying or clicking with our consumption habits denatures political action somewhat.
In part they are similar, but there is a specificity of political action that has to do with reflexivity, construction, and horizontal communication, not only with the transmission of orders.
Our spontaneous will must be constructed in processes of communication with others, and not simply related in real time. So, I think clicktivism (click activism) is a very small part of our commitment to the public.
Is the future going to be more or less inclusive?
I believe that the future will be more inclusive depending on our political practices. After all, technologies do not determine if it will be more or less inclusive. This depends on the political, cultural, and more specific options with which we accompany them.
I do not believe that technological determinism determines exclusion or inclusion. It is true that digital technologies pose problems such as the digital divide, but at the same time, they open networks that theoretically allow us to have more inclusiveness.
What is the key to building a more equitable digital society?
I believe that the key to building a more equitable digital society is to revalue political mediation in its broadest sense. We must revalue the mediation of institutions and not reduce it to the mere spontaneity of the digital space, which creates its own inequalities and differences.
Which technology will be the most radical in the near future?
I think that the most radical technologies, similar to what were the financial technologies of the beginning of the 21st century, are going to be those that refer to digitization, robotization, and Big Data since they will modify our culture, society, and policies in a way that we do not yet know.
What will be the biggest social challenge over the next few years?
In the short-medium term, the biggest challenge is to make the transition to a digital society without this having negative social repercussions, such as leaving completely unassisted those who are not able to adapt to new skills.
In the longer term, the great challenge we will face is how to regulate technologies with interventions that do not denature their specificity. I think we must learn to regulate technologies in an intelligent way and take advantage of their opportunities instead of doing it in a “clumsy” way that alters their specific nature.