Participation & Society

By Mercedes Bunz

In the course ‘Digital Research and Communication’, we inquire what research and communication mean today, in a time in which we are living in technical realities. Besides reflecting on Bruno Latour’s important essay ‘Technology is Society Made Durable‘, we were discussing how we individually participate in today’s society and what form this society. The form of society is important to reflect on to choose the right research methods.

Here are the concepts we developed in class how to visualise the form of society in the digital era:

The first example visualises different areas (university, St. Gallen, family), while the dots are the individuals being in contact with each other. Here, the focus is strongly on human to human communication and interest, and therefore is less taking forms of communication (platforms, devices, technology) into account.


The second example below adds complexity showing two different ways to depict society. The concrete depictions shows individuals, the material world (symbolised by architecture), and the technical world of communication including how they overlap.
In the right corner, different qualitative ways of relations are also being described – intimate, formal and economical relations.


The third example below draws society from the perspective of the individual. The focus is on individual relationships and location (St. Gallen), but also on digital networks such as facebook and specific groups on that platform. Face-to-face relations and platform relations are both being taken into account equally for this form.


The fourth very interesting example below is following another approach: Questions of belongings are drawn in concentric circles that start with the individual and move on to more abstract aspects such as nation or even humanity, with all elements being linked by or assisted via digital technology. How could abstract concepts be researched?


And our last example below depicts different ways of communication and belongings. Here, interests and technical platforms, locations and relations overlap.


As our realities are becoming more and more technical, we see that aspects of relation (family, friends, work), location (city, university) and abstract cultural concepts (nation, humanity) overlap with technical platforms (facebook in particular, digital technologies in general).

We learned that we need to focus on different aspects that can overlap:

  • Qualitative forms of relationships
  • The role of the location and place
  • Groups and relations assisted by technology