The Liquid Democracy Journal
on electronic participation, collective moderation, and voting systems
Issue 7


by the Editors, Berlin, September 24, 2022 other format: text version (UTF-8)

This issue of The Liquid Democracy Journal reflects many activities related to the fellowship and residency of our board member Andreas Nitsche at the Thomas Mann House in Los Angeles, a transatlantic debate space owned by the Federal Republic of Germany.

In an interview, the fellow explained:

»The Thomas Mann House is very much a place where history meets the present and–given the role that California holds in innovation, both in technology and society–I can not think of a better place to discuss the future, in particular the impact of technology on democracy and society at large. Being a reminder of the history of German exile in California, the Thomas Mann House makes you feel and understand how crucial it is to actively shape our future with history in mind. The challenge for liberal democracies is to rebuild and continuously strengthen trust in key democratic institutions but also among citizens, not by eliminating conflict but by embracing discourse and even finding strength in political differences. And that's a long shot but it's a very rewarding endeavor.«
Andreas Nitsche [1]

Prior to the residency, the fellow published a mission statement titled “Crossing the Pond: Interactive Democracy and Social Cohesion in a Polarized Society.” This article provides an overview of the topics to be addressed during the residency at the Thomas Mann House and beyond.

The Association for Interactive Democracy published “Liquid Democracy—A Transatlantic Affair.” In this film, Thomas Mann Fellow, Andreas Nitsche, reaches out to academics and pundits from both sides of the Atlantic for a discussion on the potential of liquid democracy. Featuring multiple perspectives from a variety of disciplines, the experts from the states of California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Virginia, as well as from Washington D.C. and their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic in Germany, Israel, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom elaborate on the idea of liquid democracy and its promise of empowerment. They explore various application fields, from caucus negotiations and democratic governance of organizations, to civic participation and constituency empowerment. The film also recognizes the American roots of liquid democracy, and showcases examples of current research in the field. Finally, the experts discuss deliberation and informed decision making in light of growing tribalism in US society and examine how liquid democracy can bridge the political divide. The film also features “Liquid Democracy Explained” and “The Origins of Liquid Democracy,” two explanatory videos created in cooperation with the Institute of Technology Futures at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). The article “Liquid Democracy-A Transatlantic Affair” gives reference to the film of the like title and the aforementioned explanatory videos.

The first days of the residency saw the Thomas Mann House host a four-day, multi-platform program with innovators from academia, the arts, and politics to discuss concrete steps to restore public trust in Germany and the United States. Fellow Andreas Nitsche has contributed a video statement on “LiquidFeedback | Restoring Public Trust” and joined the “Wrap-Up: Thomas Mann Fellows in Conversation | Restoring Public Trust” along with fellows in residence Sunhild Kleingärtner, Christine Landfried, and Claus Pias, moderated by Helmut Anheier (Hertie School of Governance and UCLA). The article “Restoring Public Trust” provides access to the full program and the published resources.

During his stay, the fellow explored the issue of segregation and tribalism as a threat to social cohesion and democracy at large. He met with Martin Kaplan, Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC's Norman Lear Center, to discuss what can be done to restore dialogue between segregated parts of society. He eventually extended an invitation to Norman Lear Chair, Martin Kaplan, for a fireside talk on “Communicating Across Political Fault Lines – Reaching the Unreachable” at the Thomas Mann House. The eponymous article refers to the published recording of this event hosted by the Thomas Mann House in collaboration with the Norman Lear Center and the Association for Interactive Democracy.

Highlights during the fellowship also include invitations to events such as:

As part of our ongoing collaboration with the multi-institutional Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG) initiative and its Citizen Participation Group, organized by Paul Gölz (Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh and Harvard University) as well as Anson Kahng (University of Toronto), the fellow presented a seminar on “The Temporal Dimension in the Analysis of Liquid Democracy Delegation Graphs.” The content of the seminar is published in this issue in an article bearing the same title. Throughout his residency at Thomas Mann House, the Fellow continued fortnightly meetings with the MD4SG Citizen Participation Group. This included a seminar and discussion on deliberative polling with Alice Siu, Associate Director of Stanford's Center for Deliberative Democracy (CDD). The fellow also had the pleasure of meeting James S. Fishkin, Janet M. Peck Chair (Stanford University) and Director of the CDD, at the Thomas Mann House.

The fellow also worked with a group of students attending a transcultural studies course called “Between Los Angeles and Europe: New Approaches to Transatlantic European Studies,” a cooperation between the Thomas Mann House and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In a seminar, the fellow talked about large-scale online deliberation and decision making. Inevitably, he touched on the topic of algorithms and how their usage needs to adhere to democratic principles. This caught the attention of the students as algorithms have appeared as an abstract term in their previous discussions on risks of technology. Presenting a tangible example, the fellow made the case that algorithms are not nefarious per se, and it's all about how they are used. In this issue, we publish “Algorithms for Good” in order to share the discussed aspects with a wider audience.

Derived from experience in the field, the article “An Overview on Properties of Collective Decision Systems in Regard to Different Application Contexts” digs even deeper into the challenges of algorithms for democracy.

Together with Davide Grossi (University of Groningen and University of Amsterdam), Ulrike Hahn (Birkbeck College London), and Michael Maes (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), Andreas Nitsche is one of the scientific organizers of the workshop “Algorithmic Technology for Democracy” to be held at the Lorentz Center in Leiden, The Netherlands. In this one week workshop sponsored by the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS), scientists from both sides of the Atlantic will gather in order to discuss digital democracy, social networks, algorithmic fairness, social influence, argumentation, and collective intelligence. The Thomas Mann Fellow is looking forward to welcoming many scientists he met in the United States to the Lorentz Center in Leiden.

The fellow avails himself of this opportunity to thank the Thomas Mann House, the Berthold Leibinger Foundation, the German Federal Foreign Office and many others for making the fellowship possible.

The Editors

[1] An Interview with 2022 Thomas Mann Fellow Andreas Nitsche. Published by Interaktive Demokratie e. V. on April 7, 2021, available at: (referenced at: a)

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