Digitizing the Public Space



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This thesis is about the politically unacknowledged, and their rebellion to be visible. Specifically, the tension lies in the emergence of political participation in the digital front, which has contributed significantly to the new wave of protest movements, from Occupy’s Trans World Order to “I Am UndocuQueer!” to even Bitcoin enthusiasts. These movements intend to address the shortcomings of contemporary democratic institutions that avoid crucial and fundamental issues of identity, citizenship, and sovereignty of marginalized peoples such as undocumented queer youths, trans and gender non-conforming individuals, and Indigenous people. Motivated by a desire to challenge hegemonic institutions of norms and beliefs that have largely remained unquestioned and unproblematized, these individuals are imbued with a sense of urgency to not only document their political injuries but also unmake their conditions of disavowal through online alternative public spheres. My preoccupation thus lies in the digital counter-culture generated by marginalized individuals to confront the mechanisms of disavowal. However, there are normative barriers as to how individuals from the margins, whose voices exceed the hegemonic discourse which governs the conventions of political life, can democratically engage without needing the nation-state’s recognition to validate their existence. As such, these marginalized individuals move their discussions onto the porous boundaries of the online world, which offer a host of opportunities to forge a more democratic political community but also challenge the definition of what “meaningful participation” might look like in the digital front. The possibilities for fulfilling democratic imaginings online are endless. However, the dangers to those possibilities are that conditions which socialize and depoliticize individual experiences of political disavowal are often provoked by anti-democratic practices, hence spoiling the desires of marginalized individuals for seeking meaningful political engagement altogether. Thus, the increasing political participation on the digital realm and the provocations of digital activists who seek for alternative democratic communities online beg the following questions: What are the implications for rejecting and contesting traditional political engagements for online political activity? Will the online political space prove to be as democratic as digital activists hope? Or, is the proliferation of ‘easy’ online political activities diverting their attention away from meaningful political responsibilities and engagement?



Digital, Online, Online political engagement, UndocuQueer, Cryptocurrency, Open-source, Bitcoin, MazaCoin, DreamersAdrift, TOAG, Trans World Order, Digital counter-culture, Porous boundaries, Sovereignty, Radical democracy, Deliberative democracy, Identity, Citizenship, Public sphere