ISC Lecture Series: The Participant in Troubled Times

The Participant in Troubled Times with Christopher Kelty

Participation is everywhere today. It has been formalized, measured, standardized, scaled up, network-enabled, and sent around the world. Platforms, algorithms, and software offer to make participation easier, but new technologies have had the opposite effect. We find ourselves suspicious of how participation extracts our data or monetizes our emotions, and the more procedural participation becomes, the more it seems to recede from our grasp. In this talk, Christopher M. Kelty traces stories of participation across the twentieth century, showing how they are part of a much longer-term problem in relation to the individual and collective experience of representative democracy. Kelty argues that in the last century or so, the power of participation has dwindled; over time, it has been formatted in ways that cramp and dwarf it, even as the drive to participate has spread to nearly every kind of human endeavor, all around the world.

Christopher Kelty Biography

Christopher M. Kelty is professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has appointments in the Institute for Society and Genetics, the department of Information Studies and the Department of Anthropology. Research interests center on social theory and technology, the cultural significance of information technology; the relationship of participation, technology and the public sphere; He is the author of the book Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Duke University Press, 2008), as well as the book The Participant: a century of participation in four stories (University of Chicago Press, 2019).