The High-Tech Economy, Work, and Democracy 2.0: A Research Agenda



The current techno-economic transformation, or Algorithmic Revolution, has wide ranging consequences for society, posing many challenges of economic policy. At a macro level, it has been associated with rising inequality, “disruption” of many economic sectors, and the destruction of many jobs as well as the creation of others, with still unknown net effects. At the micro level, it has generated a particular type of employment relations: while the industrial revolution was associated with wage labor, often in large concentrations of workers, the current revolution is associated with a shift from employees to what might be called micro-entrepreneurs, who are often widely dispersed. This paper addresses the political effects of these transformations— specifically the effects on the structure of popular interest representation regarding these policies of economic regulation. These changes may be profoundly affecting the nature of mass democracy in the 21st century, or Democracy 2.0.
The new worlds of work, by atomizing workers and challenging unions, makes collective action more difficult, particularly around “productionist” policies—micro and macro economic outcomes of the techno-economic transformation as it unfolds. A host of important questions are raised. What role can unions still play in addressing these issues? Can other organizations, which have emerged around other kinds of issues, engage economic or productionist policies effectively? What is the role of social media in coordinating action not only for protest but also for organizing and providing policy input? Through raising these questions, this paper proposes an agenda of comparative research for examining the capacity of citizens to engage the policies that may guide the goals of technology development, how technology is implemented, and how its social and economic consequences are regulated.