IGF 2019 WS #373 Mobilising the Arts for an Inclusive Digital Transformation

Organizer 1: Sandra Cortesi, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society
Organizer 2: Fieseler Christian, Norwegian Business School BI
Organizer 3: Newman (Sarah) Newman, metaLAB

Speaker 1: Santiago Amador, Government, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Kim Albrecht, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Sabelo Mhlambi, Civil Society, African Group

Policy Question(s): 

[Note: The Arts = Diverse media such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, decorative arts, photography, and installation)

There is currently a range of legal, political, regulatory and educational challenges connected to digitization. Beyond the utopian promises, digital transformations have been found to pose serious challenges to universal human values and long-established social orders. Simultaneously there is a high level of uncertainty as to what impact the newest technological breakthroughs will have on the job market and on education. Some technologists go as far as to believe that AI, machine learning, and robots represent an existential threat, citing fears that machines might soon match or even outstrip human intelligence, while being uncertain whether human control over machine-driven decision-making processes may be maintained. Anxiety is high about the ultimate consequences of technological development.

Against this background, replete with technological anxieties and uncertainties, in this workshop, we want to explore the following policy relevant questions:
- How can we use the Arts to explore the social and cultural impact emerging technologies might have on society? And how can the Arts be a meaningful and interesting way to explore challenges related to digital transformations that don’t have immediate answers?
- What are promising and inclusive ways diverse stakeholders (e.g., civil society, technologists, policy-makers, and designers and artists) -- including those from traditionally marginalized communities -- (could) cope with challenges related to digital transformations through the Arts?
- How can we leverage the Arts to make challenges and open questions in the context of digital transformations accessible to the broader public?

By analysing successful instances of Arts implementation for the resolution and foresight of digital transformation, the workshop intends to help cultivate a knowledge base on how the Arts can be mobilised and deployed by diverse stakeholders, including those in government, industry, and civil society, for understanding, imagining, and envisioning the consequences technological changes at the cusp of the digital transformation.

Relevance to Theme: In this workshop, we want to showcase and discuss novel, innovative, inclusive, interdisciplinary, and transversal investigative approaches to the Arts as a powerful actor in tackling the societal challenges arising from the digital transformation.

Bringing together diverse global voices from different sectors, the session aims to explore how the Arts provides critical voices but also experimental spaces for the cultivation of imagination, reflection and affect when it comes to building better technologies. The current political, social, and economic societal order has been recently diagnosed with a deep and incurable ‘crisis of imagination’ whereby democracy is threatened, the public sphere is in decline, and jobs are rapidly disappearing due, in no small part, to the unfettered and unregulated forces of all-encompassing and often non-transparent digital transformations (Haiven, 2013). The Arts, with their power to enable critical reflection and to cultivate imagination, have never been so urgently needed.

In this session, we want to join in with the voices that champion the urgent and substantive need to promote the inclusion of the Arts in efforts to attenuate and resolve the intractable societal challenges arising from the digital transformation. By giving voices to more underrepresented voices (e.g., community organizers, artists, youth, government representatives, among others) we aim to chart new ways of integrating the Arts within a range of enterprises, in policy-making, and in civil society. We hope to showcase a new pathway to digital inclusion through Arts-driven initiatives and the hands-on involvement of a range of business, artistic, educational, and policy-making stakeholders, and to explore innovative models for a successful integration of the Arts in efforts to tackle the societal challenges brought about by the digital transformation. The session, by foregrounding the Arts as a key stakeholder in society, aims to redefine the digital transformation as something that can be inclusively shaped by all members of society.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Primarily, we want to explore new, additional approaches around the ways policy-makers — in co-creation with stakeholders who prefer to express their hopes, dreams, and sorrows through the Arts — make sense of and overcome the challenges brought about by the digital transformation. We are particularly interested in how the Arts can provide resources for tackling social inequalities, social injustice, unequally distributed digital literacies, and threats to democracy and democratic processes as a consequence of the digital transformation. Therefore, we see a primary contribution of this session as rethinking and extending existing approaches to stakeholder engagement in cultivating digital inclusion through the Arts. Secondly, we want to address necessary preconditions (e.g., copyright, freedom of expression, skills, among others) to expedite this process. Last but not least, we would be happy to collaborate with other session organizers in the same field to ensure that our session is relevant and complementary.


Break-out Group Discussions - Round Tables - 90 Min

Description: [Note: We intend to add more creative elements to this session.]

Introduction by Christian Fieseler - 5-10 minutes

This introduction will include a brief overview of the issue, raise key questions, and point out certain challenges around the topic.

Directed topics - 30 minutes total (7 minutes per topic)

1 – What is the role of the Arts in digital society?
The Arts can reinforce the social, cultural, economic, and political benefits of the digital transformation. Within the Arts, the subfield of Arts formation takes a more critical approach to the impacts digital technologies have on social issues with a view to remedying a range of abusive and exploitative aspects of these technologies, around, for instance, labour politics, privacy, and education. We will discuss measures to achieve this remediation by making misuses, inequalities, and discrimination visible, tangible, and relatable. The Arts have long been hailed as a source of alternative anticipatory imaginaries of society that nurture the abilities for imagining better, more inclusive, and sustainable worlds. To this end, our first directed topic in this workshop seeks to systematically identify, analyze, and subsequently promote the success factors of initiatives that have already employed the Arts directly and propitiously into their respective efforts at tackling digital transformations.

2 – How do businesses mobilize the Arts to tackle intractable societal problems related to the digital transformation?
We will then advance the state of knowledge on how the business sphere deploys and mobilises the Arts in order to lubricate efforts around successfully tackling the societal challenges arising from digital transformations. To this end, we will focus the investigative lens on tech business initiatives, such as design fiction initiatives, engineering fictions, and tech leadership pedagogies, that mobilise the Arts to solve future challenges in a speculative, critical, and meaningful manner. This discussion will be framed by recent evidence around the intersection and bidirectional impact of business and the Arts and business intersecting and mutually interacting.

3 – How does civil society mobilize the Arts to catalyse social change, foster civic participation, and strengthen the democratic processes endangered by digital transformations?
We will then further investigate how the Arts can help citizens and policymakers make sense of and overcome the challenges brought about by the digital transformation. Here, our particular interests lie in how the Arts provide resources for tackling social inequalities, social injustice, unequally distributed digital literacies, and threats to democracy and democratic processes as a consequence of the digital transformation. We will also explore how the Arts facilitate and promote the innovative development, dissemination, and adoption of new technologies. Furthermore, we want to understand where in this process artists are successful and where they struggle.

4 – How can the Arts inform and shape digital policy-making?
Concluding our directed topics, we will explore, using innovative and Arts-based methodologies, how the Arts can influence the processes of regulation, policy-making, and legislation within the digital transformation. The Arts have been long hailed as a means to enable the enactment of bottom-up societal change, as the Arts hold the potential to galvanize wider social participation around the defence of a common good and to enhance community cohesion around pressing policy issues.

Open Debate among speakers, audience, and online participants on topics raised earlier - 20 minutes

Conclusion by Sandra Cortesi - 5 minutes

Expected Outcomes: The session will promote innovative approaches to societal and technological challenges that integrate artistic perspectives and that are mobilised and deployed by multiple stakeholders.

The session will formulate innovative art-based practices aimed at mutual understanding, dialogue, and civic participation, thereby promoting and bolstering social inclusion.

The session will also contribute to the further integration of the Arts in the policies and strategic goals of the IGF / UN.

Onsite Moderator: 

Sandra Cortesi, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator: 

Newman (Sarah) Newman, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Fieseler Christian, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Discussion Facilitation: 

The session is intended to be extremely participatory and interactive. We are currently discussing ways to then also enable meaningful online participation.

Online Participation: 

Usage of IGF Tool

Proposed Additional Tools: Our aim is to give online participants equal opportunity for input as on-site participants (i.e., in providing questions, inputs, and comments). We would in particular like to more strongly involve youth participants, who would otherwise be restricted in their access, to have a greater level of involvement through online contributions. We are exploring which platforms and tools will be most useful (e.g. Instagram, Facebook, and/or tools used in schools.)


GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 12: Responsible Production and Consumption
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions