Liquid Democracy Workshop

The first interdisciplinary academic workshop on liquid democracy took place on December 15 and 16, 2022, at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. We warmly thank all the participants for their engagement and contributions!

Workshop description

The field of democratic innovations aims at identifying and studying ideas, instruments and practices that can help improving the quality of collective decision-making in modern democratic systems. Within this area of research, one innovation has gained increasing visibility: the concept of liquid democracy. This voting paradigm rose to prominence in the early 2010s, mainly thanks to the adaption and experience of the German Pirate Party using the software LiquidFeeback. Since then, scholars from the most diverse disciplines have engaged with the idea of liquid democracy, testing its technical viability, and assessing its legitimacy. As of today, notable academic contributions stem from applied mathematics, positive political science as well as political and legal theory.

The proposed workshop brought together this diverse and interdisciplinary community of scholars. Our aim was to enable exchange among researchers and to identify the state of the art in this research field. We wanted to start a productive dialogue that can create and foster a shared understanding of liquid democracy, its concrete potential and limitations as seen from complementary perspectives. From mathematics to political science, from computer science to law, from economics to philosophy: researchers in all disciplines are welcome!

The workshop addressed questions as diverse as:

  • What is liquid democracy, what kind of concept is it and how can we best define it?
  • Where can liquid democracy be applied (private vs political, party vs government)?
  • Which liquid democracy models are best suited to derive useful and realistic insights? What are the mathematical problems they pose?
  • How can we best design software that helps us implement this idea? How can liquid democracy be implemented within existing systems? What are the IT challenges posed by this idea?
  • What are the social, political and legal consequences of introducing this idea? And how does liquid democracy impact political participation?
  • How should we implement liquid democracy, if at all? Is it a legitimate form of decision-making? What normative problems does it help solving?

The full program and report of the workshop are available here.

Public Roundtable

The workshop also featured a public roundtable with liquid democracy experts:

It took place on December 15, 2022, at the Institute of Political Science of the University of Zurich. 

The video recording of the event is now available here.

Organizing team

This event was organized by Lucien Heitz (University of Zurich), Cristina Sarasua (University of Zurich), Manon Revel (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and Chiara Valsangiacomo (University of Zurich, member of DemocracyNet).

Funding by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Graduate Campus of the University of Zurich and the doctoral program Democracy Studies is gratefully acknowledged.

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