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Democratic Design (PO394)


Topics covered

The following is an indicative list of topics for this module; precise seminar content may change from year to year.

  • The challenge of democratic design
  • A critique of 'models of democracy'
  • Design thinking
  • Enacting democracy
  • Raw materials for democratic design?
  • Democratic design
  • Tailoring democratic designs
Timing and CATS

This module will run in the Spring Term and is worth 15 CATS.

Democracy is a crucial ideal – ‘rule by the people’ - and set of political practices, such as voting in free and fair elections. It is also a deeply contested ideal and practice. It’s not unusual to find proponents of very different policy or ideological positions each using the rhetoric of democracy in favour of their position and against their opponents.

The ambiguities at the heart of democracy – what is it, how should it be practiced? – are viewed by some as a weakness: maybe it is an idea empty of real meaning? But this very ambiguity may reflect something positive and offer opportunities. Perhaps democracy is flexible: it can be thought of and done differently in different places and contexts. Could democracy be a matter of design for different purposes and contexts; creative and experimental uses of a range of institutions enacting distinct sets of ideals?

Programme content

The module explores democratic design, moving beyond the notion that there are separate ‘models’ of democracy. Looking at a range of democratic principles (equality, freedom, etc.) and institutions (from the familiar such as parliaments to the new and innovative, such as the Brazil-inspired participatory budgeting process), it interrogates the notions of democracy and design, and moves towards a new set of tools to work on the design challenges posed if democracy is to remain relevant in a fast-changing world.

Democratic Design is an experimental module in which ideas will be debated and tested without preordained conclusions.

Module Director:
Lucy Hatton