A different kind of talk

I have been to loads of great seminars and events in the first week of the conference, but I think my favourite thus far was given by Seeta Peña Gangadharan, who is a student on the programme and doing a doctorate at Stanford University.  Seeta is interested in the relationship between the Internet and deliberative democracy.

This is in itself a very interesting when viewed from an instrumental point of view, but what struck me most about this particular presentation was how normative Seeta’s approach was – she was quite happy to say that she thinks deliberative democracy is a good model for government, she fears for the future of democracy in the US and that she is interested, as part of her study, in developing methods of enhancing and safeguarding it.  We can of course have the argument about whether her normative premise is correct or not, but it felt really refreshing for someone to unashamedly make a value statement and link it with some fantastic academic work… and in the process trigger off what was perhaps the best ding-dong discussion at the SDP so far.
Perhaps my admiration for this taps into my own fears that the more educated I become, the more I tend to adopt the role of the impartial observer.  Of course, I know that on some occasions that is a good thing.  But equally, it is good to be reminded that we have a responsibility to change the world as well as describe it.

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