Muenster, Germany

3 November 2016

The satellite event in Münster was designed to enrich the debates of the world forum for democracy regarding the issues of electronic democracy and education.

The meeting started with a warm welcome from Prof. Dr. Norbert Kersting and Dr. Frauke Gerlach who represented the two hosts of the event, the University of Münster and the Grimme Institut respectively. In a brief introduction the key questions of the meeting  were  introduced,  among others,  Does digitalization reinvigorate and foster democracy? Is the digital divide related to digital competencies and social divide? What kind of digital innovations can bridge the divide and strengthen democratic transformation as well as social inclusion? These and other questions were then addressed in four presentations by researchers and practitioners in the field of political education.

In the first talk Stefan Wills (Deutscher Volkshochschulverband) used vivid examples on the use of digital technologies in education to illustrate the deep and multifaceted change which is brought about by digitalization. Wills argued  teachers in particular, would have to acknowledge this change with its manifold aspects. This would be the prerequisite to obtain and teach the skills necessary for participating in an increasingly digitalized society.

Sindyan Qasem ( introduced a project on political education, especially on participation and information sharing of  online young Muslim communities.  Qasem used different examples to explain  how postings in social networks may cause valuable controversial political discourse in communities, in which otherwise specific political views are preserved and reinforced continuously. 

Clemens Stolzenberg (Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung) presented research results on the analysis of Web-video / social web on which the BpB based a series of educational projects. In these projects educationally disadvantaged young people were reached through innovative means such as YouTube channel. In this case,  well-known young bloggers were asked to produce educational web-videos for their specific audience.

In the final presentation, Claus Arndt (municipality of Moers) explained how open government data can be utilized for educational purposes. Referring to an example from the city of Moers, Arndt demonstrated, how such data can be used in order to teach the processing of digital data, while at the same time creating original new contents for further teaching.

The Satellite event drew the following conclusions:

  • Targeting: Digitalization disrupts political education. Online education has to identify marginalized and excluded groups to overcome the social and participatory divide. The participatory divide overlaps with the digital divide (Migrants, women), the youth (digital natives) are  less interested in politics (youth) and the 60 plus generation (digital immigrants)  lacks digital competencies. These groups are not homogenous, but they have different demands for demonstrative, expressive, deliberative, decisive action and to build up an identity and personality.
  • Open data: Information and transparency are prerequisite for education. Open data strategies can become crucial in order to develop the necessary open educational resources and spend on open data,  as well as  to strengthen government data and civil society and its organizations. (Long term strategies could include an opening of big data for NGO as well (?))
  • Easy access: Different groups require adjusted strategies and a targeting of digital educational concepts. Visualization is becoming one important instruments. And  to make it more attractive gamification of political education could be seen as a way to attract younger generations.
  • Overcome filter bubbles: One important problem is seen in segmented public space and information enclaves due social processes as well as  algorithm, bots etc.. Irritation of filter bubbles within the social media discourse could be stimulated. This should broaden the public sphere. It should allow controversial differentiated dialogues and a deeper enlightenment. It should overcome stereotypes, scapegoating, black and white dialogues, populism). Netiquette seems to be culturally biased and a continuous process of social learning. 
  • Blended learning: Internet is becoming more important for digital natives. Nevertheless political learning has to focus on blended learning.  Combining the digital and analogue learning will harvests the best of the two worlds. The internet allows broad mobilization and networking as  an effective memory of organization. The analogue world allows better deliberation and creates strong sustainable networks.
  • Algorithmic divide: Social networks, algorithms with artificial intelligence and massive data collections change the way we communicate and thus shape societal developments. A new technological enlightment and an open and public discourse on values and information ethics needs to address questions of self-determination of people in mostly economically driven socio-technological systems.