Democracy in a Digital Future
International Conference 25-26 March 2021
The digital era is changing the terms on which democracies operate. The Prime Minister’s Office of Iceland hosts an international conference on the challenges of digital technologies for democracy, equality and the rule of law in cooperation with the EDDA Research Center at the University of Iceland, the Icelandic Parliament and the Media Commission of Iceland. The conference is held electronically and in Harpa Conference Center in Reykjavík 25–26 March 2021. In-person participation depends on gathering restrictions.
As the global reach of tech platforms, big data and algorithmic decision-making continue to expand, the conference will bring together experts, academics and political representatives to discuss how new forms of communication and information-gathering could work to reinvent rather than undermine democratic institutions and processes. The rise of social media platforms, together with the collapse of news media, has created a new information environment that is vulnerable to new forms of manipulation and control. Meanwhile, the transformation of social interaction and personal experience into digital data has facilitated the centralization of pervasive surveillance capabilities in the hands of private corporations and governments. Likewise, the data-informed application of algorithms, automation and predictive analytics to public regulation and law enforcement is raising serious rule-of-law concerns about due process, discrimination and inequality as well as the lack of transparency and accountability.
The conference will address the role of government and public policy in upholding democratic, rule-of-law procedures and human rights amidst these technological developments. Can the digital sphere be regulated while protecting and enabling the new democratic possibilities it affords?
Participants include Shoshana Zuboff, Professor Emerita at Harvard Business School, David Runciman, Professor of Politics at the University of Cambridge, Mireille Hildebrandt, Professor of Law and Technology at Vrije Universeit Brussels, and Virginia Dignum, Professor of Computing Science at Umeå University.
NORA Conference 2019: Border Regimes, Territorial Discourses and Feminist Politics
Conference in Reykjavik 22-24 May 2019
The NORA 2019 Conference on critical feminist cross-disciplinary research and activities was co-hosted by the EDDA Research Center, RIKK – Institute for Gender, Equality and Difference, and the United Nations University Gender Studies and Training Programme at the University of Iceland. The 2019 NORA – Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research – conference focused on the theme of material and symbolic borders in a period of nationalist revival.
What explains the return to territoriality? What kind of political, cultural, and social boundaries are being constructed or reproduced? How are border regimes in the present and the past shaping and gendering relations? How are new or redefined boundaries affecting work for social justice and equality as well as intersectional, gender, queer and feminist research? And how can feminist resistance be organized against paternalistic modes that reinstate and reinforce relations of inequality?
Diana Mulinari, Professor at Department of Gender Studies University of Lund, Sweden
Kim TallBear, Associate Professor, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience, and Environment
Madina Tlostanova (Lostan), Professor of postcolonial feminisms, Department of Thematic Studies/Gender Studies Unit, Linkoping University
Miriam Ticktin, Associate Professor and Chair of Anthropology at The New School for Social Research
Rauna Kuokkanen, Sápmi. Professor, Arctic Indigenous Politics, University of Lapland and Associate Professor, Political Science & Indigenous Studies, University of Toronto
Symposium in Reykjavik 23 November 2018
To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, a symposium – sponsored by the EDDA Research Center and the Institute of History at the University of Iceland (UI) in cooperation with the French and German Embassies in Reykjavik – was held on 23 November 2018. The focus was on the broad experience of war and its political reverberations, on the one hand, and its influence on Iceland’s path toward sovereignty from Denmark, on the other. Two world-known scholars gave keynote lectures: Robert Gerwarth, Professor of Modern History at University College Dublin (UCD), dealt with the break-up of empires in 1918, which led to the formation of new nation-states and which created explosive legacies that can still be felt in the present. He stressed the cycle of violence – having begun before the war and continued until 1923 – which affected hundreds of millions across the imperial world; and Annette Becker, Professor of Modern History at the University of Paris – Ouest Nanterre La Défense, explored the Great War’s “sacred traces” and the memories of the dead over a century and how mourning, refugees, war, pacifism and sacrifice may have contributed to a global European identity.
Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, President of Iceland, delivered the opening address on the legacy of the Great War in the present by focusing on the role of historians and heads of states. Ragnheiður Kristjánsdóttir, Associate Professor of History at the UI, discussed the limits of the post-World War I extension of citizenship to women by examining voting restrictions, which allowed states to apply different criteria for deciding on the admission to, and exclusion from, the body politic. Valur Ingimundarson, Professor of Contemporary History at the UI, examined the legacy of the First World War for constructing new states and for political divorce proceedings in the 20th and 21st centuries. Sveinn M. Jóhannesson, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, analyzed the role of the Great War in producing administrative innovations in the United States – ranging from science-industrial-government relations to emergency administration and political surveillance – and their lasting impact on the practices of federal governance. Ragnhildur Helgadóttir, Professor of Law at the Reykjavík University, explored the use of the concept of sovereignty in Icelandic political and legal discourse in the first two decades of the 20th century and its influence in contemporary Icelandic law, especially with respect to the European integration process. Gunnar Þór Bjarnason, Independent Historian, dealt with the role of the Great War in weakening Iceland’s ties with Denmark and in facilitating its recognition as a sovereign state. Guðmundur Hálfdanarson, Professor of History at the UI, concentrated on the changing attitudes towards Iceland’s sovereignty during the Great War, which ranged from viewing it as an illusion to an inalienable right. Anna Agnarsdóttir, Professor Emeritus of History at the UI, moderated the symposium, which took place in the Lecture Hall of the National Museum (Þjóðminjasafnið) from 13:00 to 17:00. The symposium was conducted in English and open to the public.
The conference programme can be found here.
Please find the conference abstracts and bios here.
Conference in Reykjavik 19–20 October 2018
An international conference organized by EDDA and held at the National Museum of Iceland. In the past two decades, Carl Schmitt and Giorgio Agamben’s accounts of the “state of exception” have captured the imagination of scholars working in the fields of history, politics, law, and literature. What has accompanied the resurgence of interest in “exceptions” is the proliferation and increasing use of government or supranational emergency powers or other extraordinary measures to deal with political and social unrest, terrorism, and financial crises. The conference seeks to address several questions raised by this development. What explains the resort to emergency institutions to grapple with political, economic and social problems? What is the potential of the rule of law to respond to emergencies? Is it possible to identify alternative paradigms or frameworks for confronting severe crises? “Exceptions” will be defined broadly to encompass total or partial suspensions of the rule of law in cases of emergency, challenges to political systems or jurisdictional grey zones, in which individual rights have been derogated.
The conference included keynote addresses by Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia University in New York, James K. Galbraith, Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, Claudia Aradau, Professor of International Politics at King’s College in London, and Nadia Urbinati, Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory at Columbia University.
Conference in Reykjavik 27–29 September 2018.
The EDDA Research Center, in cooperation with the Icelandic Prime Minister’s Office hosted an international conference entitled “Democratic Constitutional Design: The Future of Public Engagement,“ which was held at the University of Iceland 27–29 September 2018. The conference offered a venue for exploring the most recent developments in democratic participation and public engagement in policy- and decision-making. The discussion reviewed past efforts in Iceland and elsewhere to base constitutional design and lawmaking on direct public input. On the final day of the conference The Constitutional Society of Iceland invited participants to meet with Icelandic citizens and enjoy the nature of Reykjavík while discussing democratic engagement.
The conference is held as the Icelandic government is launching a renewed effort to change the constitution with broad public participation. Seven years ago Iceland received international attention when a new constitution was drafted by a Constitutional Council. The current effort seeks to complete the constitution revision process, using – among other things – the draft created by the Constitutional Council. The conference will address key issues associated with the process.
The first day is devoted to democratic theory, epistemic democracy, crowdlaw and crowdsourcing. Keynote speakers are:
- Beth Noveck, Professor in Technology, Culture and Society at New York University‘s Tandon School of Engineering
- José Luis Martí, Associate Professor of Law at Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona
- David Farrell, Professor of Politics at University College Dublin
- Catherine Dupre, Associate Professor in Comparative Constitutional Law at the University of Exeter
- Róbert Bjarnason, President of the Citizens Foundation
- Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Harvard University
On the second day of the conference a series of panels was presented with the participation of keynote speakers as well as a number of Icelandic and international participants, beginning with a presentation of The Center for Democratic Constitutional Design – an initiative built to make available and preserve the work around the Icelandic Constitutional Reform of 2011. Two panels discussed the pros and cons of the work of the Constitutional Council in 2011 and the prospects for the new constitutional process currently underway in Iceland. James Fishkin Professor of Communications and Director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University gave a talk about Deliberative polling, which the Icelandic government intends to use in the new revision process. The day ended with a discussion of constitution-making in Greenland and Faroese Islands, where a new constitution is a part of the platform for national independence movements. The Greenlandic and Faroese projects were put in context with the Icelandic experience
On the third day of the conference, a town meeting on constitutional revision brought together politicians, academics and citizens to discuss the democratic vision entailed in a constitutional revision project.
The conference programme can be found here.
A more elaborate article about the conference and its topic can be found here.
Reykjavik, Iceland 28–30 November 2016
A three-day history conference about Nordic Labour, broadly defined, which included the history of work, history of workers and the history of labour movements. The aim of the conference was to bring together scholars and students who specialize in different areas of Nordic labour history to discuss findings from a Nordic comparative perspective, as well as to add a global perspective. EDDA and the Faculty of History and Philosophy at University of Iceland hosted the conference. The organization of the conference was a collaboration between a few institutes but the main organization was with EDDA Research Center, the Faculty of History and Philosophy, University of Iceland, and ARAB, Swedish Labour Movement Archive and History.
Future of Democracy
Conference in Reykjavik 20-21 May 2016
The conference was sponsored by the EDDA Center of Excellence, NOS-HS and the Center for Research in the Humanities at the University of Iceland.
Reykjavik Roundtable on Human Rights: Democratic Accountability, State Sovereignty, and International Governance
Roundtable held in Reykjavik 28 April 2016
Organized by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD), Berlin, in co-operation with EDDA, and with support from the Icelandic Government, the Office of the President, and the City of Reykjavik.