The Democracy Files

The Democracy Files is a resource of collected articles about democracy seen from the perspectives of us as designers. It does not claim to be a collection of fullfilling texts judged from the view of lets say political science. The files are under construction and we hope to be able to sort the sources in a way that makes them especially useful for people engaged in design for democracy.

The collection is put together by Harold Nelson and Birger Sevaldson with input from others. Please help with collecting relevant and important texts by sending them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you have contributions and comments we are more than happy to receive them.

The four main domains of Design related to democracy (Ezio Manzini based on Victor Margolin)

Design of democracy:

It addresses the structural elements that function as frames and regulators of human action in a democratic system. It focuses on institutions (as: branches of government, agencies, bureaus, courts, and offices) and procedures (such as: laws, regulations, rules, and protocols).

Design for democracy:

it increases the opportunities for citizens to participate in deliberative processes. It focuses on transparency (which enables citizens to be aware of the on-going process of governance) and deliberative methods (which means the opportunity to be better involved in decision making processes).

Design as democracy:

it sets a stage on which diverse actors can come together and democratically collaborate in shaping their present and future world. It engages diverse people and publics in co-design and co-production processes concerning different aspects of their everyday life.

Design in democracy:

It refers to all the design initiatives that are particularly responsive to the goals of democracy. It may deal with the provision of human rights, and fundamental freedoms (such as access to food, shelter, health care, and education) and, more in general, with the transition towards a more resilient, fair and sustainable society.

Read here: >>>>>

Representative Democracy


Direct democracy


Deliberative democracy


What is deliberate democracy?  


Local Government

Reflections on 25 years of local government reforms in Europe

Harald Baldersheim

Read here >>>>>


Bent Flyvbjerg

Habermas and Foucault: thinkers for civil society?

Electronic copy available at:


Democracy Criteria


The EIU Democracy Index

The Democracy Index is an index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, that measures the state of democracy in 167 countries, of which 166 are sovereign states and 165 are UN member states. The index is based on 60 indicators grouped in five different categories measuring pluralismcivil liberties, and political culture. In addition to a numeric score and a ranking, the index categorizes countries as one of four regime types; full democraciesflawed democracieshybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes

Five categories:

Electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation, and political culture

Here are the 60 indicators at the end of this document. It is from 2007 so this might have changed but it gives a picture of what defines democracy in their mind:


Global Democracy Ranking:


Democracy Barometer


OECD Better Iife Index


These indexes seem to ignore local democracy, participation, and work place democracy. The measurement of democracies in practice seem inadequate.



Norway is ranking number 1 on several of these rankings. However, this does not mean that there is no room for a lot of improvement. Some suggestions for fields to work with are:

Information. How to help the population to understand society? How to understand the political system? Many people are not aware of their rights and possibility to influence in local democracy. How to understand the economic system in an age of globalization? Etc.

Long-term decision-making. How can design help with making long term decisions tangible and long-term consequences of short-term decisions transparent?

Local democracy and participation. Typically, the indexes mostly concern high-level government and voting. Democracy exists also between the voting and addition to voting. This is probably where democracy can be developed the most and where it is the most needed.

How to deal with populism: Snog, Marry, or Avoid?

How to Culture Jam a Populist

Andrés Miguel Rondón

Yes I know this is from a dubious website but the author makes some really good comments about how false populism is feeding on hate and is dependent on the divide in society. It makes a similar point as I made above. This could be a design project.

Democracy Disrupted

Thomas B. Edsall March 2 2017 New York Times

Can Technology save democracy

Fast Company






Victor Margolin: Democracy and Design in a Troubled World, 2012

DESIS: Democracy and Design: What do you think? Ezio Manzini

Read here: >>>>>

Making Futures. Marginal Notes on Innovation, Design, and Democracy

Pelle Ehn et. Al.

Prologue Laura Watts, Pelle Ehn, and Lucy Suchman

Read here: >>>>>

Thomas Binder et. al  Democratic design experiments: between parliament and laboratory

Read here >>>>>


The Democracy of Objects  – October 31, 2011

by Levi R. Bryant (Author)



Per-Anders Hellgren ( / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) gave an excellent key note speak at the ServDes conference in Copenhagen ( He is preoccupied with democratic processes  and grounds his work with Living Labs in Malmö by making connections between participatory design, infra-structuring,  Agonism and the creation of agonistic collaborative spaces, strategic design and maker spaces. I talked to him briefly after his talk and mentioned the SOD course and that it might be of interest for him to contribute somehow. 


Stafford Beer: Designing freedom:

Here: >>>>>

Dori Tunstall’s Design for Democracy lecture (2009) startfrom min 41:09 – 56:00 (15 min).


Designing democracy

How designers are changing democratic spaces and processes

Book by Design Commission.


Bruno Latour & Peter Weibel Ed. (2005) Making Things Public - Atmospheres of Democracy. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.

Giulia Parola (2013) Environmental Democracy at the Global Level: Rights and Duties for a New Citizenship. New York, London: Versita.



PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY Igor Koryakov and Timothy D. Sisk



Peter Jones Dialogic Design

Archive for participatory democracy

Foundation for Human Rights

On participatory democracy

Multiple Views of Participatory Design Henry Sanoff North Carolina State University



The GocLab

Democracy demos

Missions Publique



Participatory democracy VS deliberative democracy




Threats to democracy in fields of society, case workplace democracy

Even if a society can be democratic in one area e.g. political systems, it might be flawed in others. Workplace democracy that was very well developed in Norway has to my impression largely eroded in Norway. Work places especially in the public sector seem now to be less participatory and involving employees in decision-making. This is partly due to NPM and Lean. However, it is also a result of a cultural change. Note: Lean is not necessarily undemocratic but it is practice most often in an undemocratic way.

Ingvaldsen “Democratic Lean?” Doctoral Thesis NTNU 2013

Read here: >>>>>

Here is a research report from FAFO (Labor Union research institute) about the democratic models for workplaces. The report is from 2009 so it might not have captured the latest massive turn towards lean and NPM.

Read here: >>>>>

An interesting statistic on workplaces




Making Athens Great Again

How does a citizen respond when a democracy that prides itself on being exceptional betrays its highest principles? Plato despaired, but he also pointed the way to renewal.

Read here >>>>>

 AEON: The New authoritarians

 By Holy Case, associate professor of history at Brown University

Read here >>>>>


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How Autocrats Can Triumph in Democratic Countries - The New York Times

Read here: >>>>>

What is deliberate democracy?

Noam Chomsky: "Why you can not have capitalist democracy


Josef Stiglitz, The price of inequality:

Read here: >>>>> 

Stiglitz : Its time to become radical on inequality

 Lack of control on capitalist economy

See Stiglitz


Stiglitz about TTIP

Robert Reich: Inequality for all.

Thomas Pickerty : Capital

Paul Krugman on Pickerty


This is not only a problem in typical Plutocracies but also even in Norway.

E.g., food distribution is highly monopolized and these big companies together with other commercial interests are very forcefully forming our cities.

See Pål Steigan here: >>>>>

Jonny Aspen: On Zombie Urbanism

Read here: >>>>>

And here: >>>>> 


Det uformelle demokratiproblemet

Anne Elizabeth Sties kritikk av EUs prosesser.


Pål Steigans blogpost:

Jonny Aspen: Zombie Urbanism

Read here: >>>>>

The criticism of urbanism is nothing new

See Jane Jacobs


About the death of city centers:

Read here: >>>>>



Mob rule vs democracy

The cult of ignorance in the United States