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What are the implications of digital technologies for contemporary democracies? What light and shade do we see in digital democracies?
In the midst of current debates about the societal implications of digital technologies stands the fear that they are about to doom democracies as we know them. This view stands in stark contrast to the early days of computers and the internet when digital technologies promised to liberate humans from hard labor, achieve free speech for all, enable better politics and administration, and many more blessings. This event series draws from the rich legacy of political theory to scrutinize digital societies and their ambivalent relationship with democracy. A first series of events explores the glorious tales of democratic theory; the second approaches the tales of democratic disaster and failure. All sessions take a dive into democratic theory and into recent digital technologies and socio-technical trends.

Each lecture will have a keynote, followed by a discussion. First year students will prepare short reflections. The lectures are addressed to faculty, students, and the wider public.

Jeanette Hofmann: Demokratievorstellungen im Lichte des digitalen Wandels: Kritik und Gegenentwürfe

Montag, 18.12. 18.30-20.00 Uhr (in German)

Die aktuellen Debatten über KI und Demokratie unterstellen eine Art Konkurrenzbeziehung, aus der die Demokratie als Verlierer hervorgehen könnte. Ausgehend von der Frage, ob man sich das Verhältnis zwischen Technik und Politik auch anders vorstellen kann, knüpft dieser Vortrag an das Konzept der "political imaginaries" an und plausibilisiert dieses anhand eines historischen Beispiels. Daran schließen sich dann Überlegungen über den möglichen Einfluss der Datenanalytik auf das künftige Demokratieverständnis an.

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In education, we cherish success and fear failure. But not every learning experience is a success right away. In fact, making mistakes and then learning from them is the norm rather than the exception. This talk is about finding a different, more productive stance which can turn failure into success for learning. Drawing upon research in secondary computer science education, specifically in the context of designing and programming wearable and machine learning applications with electronic textiles (clothing that connects sensors and actuators via sewing circuits with conductive thread), Yasmin B. Kafai will present the idea of "Debugging by Design." This instructional approach involves students actively designing failure projects for others to fix, collecting, and celebrating their mistakes, and learning from each other in the process. By intentionally designing failure projects, students can deepen their understanding of concepts, enhance problem-solving skills, and cultivate a growth mindset. Additionally, this approach can be extended to explore machine learning applications as failure artifacts, fostering ethical considerations and mitigating biases. As machine learning becomes increasingly pervasive in various domains, it is essential to understand its limitations and potential biases. By embracing failure as an opportunity for growth, we can create a positive and supportive learning environment and illustrate how failure can become a path to success in learning.

Yasmin B. Kafai is Lori and Michael Milken President’s Distinguished Professor at the Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, with a courtesy appointment in Computer and Information Science. She is a learning designer and researcher of online tools, projects and communities to promote coding, criticality, and creativity. With colleagues at MIT, she developed the programming language Scratch and researched participation in clubs, classrooms, and communities. More recently, she has investigated the use of electronic textiles to introduce computing, engineering, and machine learning to high school students and teachers as part of the nationwide Exploring Computer Science curriculum. She has written several books, among them “Connected Code: Why Children Need to Learn Programming,” “Connected Gaming: What Making Videogames Can Teach Us About Learning and Literacy,” and recently edited with N. Holbert and M. Berland “Designing Constructionist Futures: The Art, Theory, and Practice of Learning Designs” — all published by MIT Press. Kafai earned a doctorate in education from Harvard University while working at the MIT Media Lab. She is an elected Fellow of the American Educational Research Association and the International Society for the Learning Sciences.

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