Redesigning Social Media for Democracy
Mani Chander
DESIGNING for Democracy: How to Build Community in Digital Environments by Jennifer Forestal Oxford University Press, 2022, 240 pp., £ 18.99
April 2023, volume 47, No 4

What kind of built environment does democracy require? This question of critical importance is what Jennifer Forestal, political theorist, explores in her latest book.

That digital technologies have transformed engagement of citizens in participatory democracy is a given in today’s world. While it is true that digital technologies have a pernicious effect on democracy, the author views them as opportunities for political action and engagement. She applies a nuanced lens in viewing such engagement positively and suggests a framework—a shared vocabulary, if you will—to explain, evaluate, and improve the built environment for democracy in digital spaces and communities therein.

The framework of a democratic space begins with the question of what democracy requires. According to Forestal, the core of democracy, whether online or offline, is community building and the collective management of common affairs. She asserts that the design of our online spaces should be such that they support these democratic values, and evaluates certain digital platforms accordingly.

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