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Theme Political Polarisation on the Internet

Towards an Integrated Perspective on Its Causes and Effects. Theme 2020-2021

Over the past decade, political polarisation has increased in the Western world, a polarization that threatens to erode democracy, undermine confidence in its institutions, and weaken the power of the state. With an endangered democracy, we now face one of the greatest challenges of our time.

This Theme will contribute to further develop and integrate the latest research on political polarisation on the web, with a particular focus on the reasons and effects. Consequently, the overall research question is: what factors encourage the growth of political polarisation on the internet and what are the consequences? 

When debates become more polarised and prone to conflict, it becomes increasingly difficult to find common ground on which sustainable democratic decision-making can be built. A number of researchers have claimed that citizens’ widespread use of digital information sources (including social media) has been a factor in this process (Sunstein 2018; Tucker et al. 2018). Via personalised news feeds, Google searches and the news flow on social media, citizens receive customised information that fits in with their ideology. At the same time, the algorithms may also increase awareness of different political opinions. 

The Theme aims to identify, summarise and evaluate the most promising specialisations for future research on political polarisation using methods based on interdisciplinary discussions and cooperation in the interface between law, politics, philosophy, communication, computer science and related subjects.