Democratic Innovations – Academic Day 1

by Felix Kube

On Monday, the first academic day of IstKon 2019 took place. We met at the Ratssaal in the city hall, the beautifully renovated meeting room for the city council of Konstanz. Since the overall academic topic of this year’s exchange was Challenges to Democracy, our first topic to discuss was Democratic Innovations. We invited Jun.-Prof. Dr. Christina Zuber (University of Konstanz) to speak to us about different forms of democracy, which key values democracy holds and how we could improve it within these boundaries we set. Especially her model of Liquid Democracy, which was co-developed with Prof. Zuber that allows for fluid vote transfer to other citizens, that may have more expertise in the specific field, was a new input for everyone.

The presentation was very interactive and lots of interested participants shared their views on the different forms of democracy. What could work? Where can we improve the status quo representation? What are our views on Liquid Democracy? Some points were controversially discussed in the plenum, for example, direct democratic tools and whether they are suitable for certain decision-making processes. It was very interesting to see the wide range of different opinions on the topic and in the end, one could say we better understood what challenges there are trying to improve

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Our second guest speaker was Felix Hamborg, a PhD Student at the Department of Computer and Information Science (University of Konstanz). He talked about (semi)automated ways of identifying media bias, a more methodologically challenging topic. 

For lunch, the group of more than 70 students moved to the Café Mondial (cafemondial.org), an intercultural café and meeting point. Helpers prepared vegetarian wraps and everyone enjoyed the food and the bits of sunshine.

The afternoon session prepared by the Academic Team was a workshop on so-called mini publics, one democratic innovation Jun.-Prof. Dr. Zuber introduced in the morning. Everyone was given a description of a person and then tried to take their point of view in a discussion. It was a valuable experience to everyone to try and see things through the eyes of someone with differentiating characteristics.

In the evening, those who where still full of energy prepared for the club night at Berry’s. It turned out to be a fun night and unsurprisingly also this year we found some dancing queens and kings among the IstKon participants. Rock on!

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