Towards Democratic Auditing: Civic Participation in the Scoring Society

Citizens are increasingly assessed, profiled, categorized and ‘scored’ according to data assemblages, their future behavior is predicted through data processing, and services are allocated accordingly. In a ‘scoring society’, state-citizen relations become quasi-automated and dependent on algorithmic decision-making. This raises significant challenges for democratic processes, active citizenship and public participation. The project Towards Democratic Auditing will address these challenges by investigating how citizens can intervene into the development and implementation of scoring systems and other forms of data analytics, and how they can advance civic participation in an increasingly datafied society.

Building on the project Data Scores as Governance which has provided the first comprehensive analysis of data-driven citizen scoring in the public sector in the UK, this project analyzes the practices, structures and constraints of citizen engagement with datafied governance, and aims at providing a comprehensive model for placing citizen voice at the centre of the development, implementation and management of data systems.

The project includes four distinct work streams: a) Citizen interventions; b) Organizational responses; c) Civil society contexts; d) Data literacy. It applies a diverse set of research methods and dissemination practices, incl. interactive tool development; workshops with stakeholders; scenario modelling; and interviews with practitioners. The goal is to produce a) a tool-kit for citizen participation in the scoring society; b) a report and a digital map of innovative practices, targeted to stakeholders; c) literacy outcomes; d) events to advance stakeholder dialogue and public literacy; e) academic publications. These will serve to advance scholarly debate, civic participation, government responsiveness, and public understanding. Focusing on the UK with comparative international case studies, the project will help enhance understanding of, and develop solutions for, civic participation in the datafied society.

The project started on 1st December 2018 and will run for two years. Funding for this project has kindly been provided by the Open Society Foundations.