Art + Democracy

William Doherty (MA Interaction Design, Malmö University, Sweden)

Using public, participatory art to enhance democracy and political participation

This concept harnesses art’s potential for social change by taking advantage of the new ways technology can facilitate deeper engagement with citizens, utilising the potential of public, participatory art to enhance democracy and political participation. Drawing upon the aesthetic thought of philosopher John Dewey this concept envisions a future practice in which art functions in a communicative and activist manner within society. Expressions by citizens function as seeds to bring civic issues to conscious deliberation, and help set public policy priorities.

The concept focuses on two key areas where artistic expression is used. Firstly, in the formulation and communication of issues of concern and secondly in community organising for creative participation in addressing these issues.


  • edh76

    Very impressive concept.

  • nicofog

    Incredible idea of a way of raising the voices of the citizens in a time when it feels hard to be heard. Creates hope for the future.

  • kirstynbyrne

    Brilliant idea. As someone who lives in Brussels, I’ve noticed a stark contrast between people who are very engaged (often as their job is linked to the EU institutions) and other citizens who are open to engaging but don’t know how to. Surely a concept like this could bridge the gap and make engagement much simpler and much more inviting.

  • kevinglynn

    Industrial Designer currently undertaking a Masters in Interaction Design;

    Great to see the use of Dewey. Participatory and collaborative forms of art & design for social-services is an absolute necessity as we continue to grow the role of design and citizens in the formulation of our civic lives. Liz Sanders expresses the vital need to involve the user through all stages of creation.

    These instantly accessible platforms could create engagement which will create ownership. There is a paper called ‘legible practices’ from Helsinki Design Lab that acknowledges the need to incorporate ‘buy-in’ of the community;

    “Some projects are able to hover in the middle, pressing ‘down’ to induce the creation of new means, while simultanously pushing ‘upwards’ to question the assumptions of today’s systems”

    Art already is already commissioned to evoke response in relation to its environs. Let us use it in more purposeful and formulaic ways to initiate conversations on the ‘wicked problems’ of our world. Government is not black or white it is a gray that needs colour.

    As a designer I understand the power of the physical, visual and tactile in being anchors for our minds. This type of structured participation will help people turn soft tacit knowledge and loosely connected information into explicit and concrete mental models on which to develop discourse and conversation, sparking civil debate and leading to considered outcomes.

    My concern is the technology may not be there yet, and the censorship factors, but we must try and create forms of expression about our values that are not ticketed documents sent into the ether. Great to see an ambitious concept that stimulates and questions.

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