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Democratic Futures and the Internet of Things: How Information Infrastructure Will Become a Political Constitution

Constitutions are collections of codified traditions and conventions that provide structure for political life. Good constitutions enunciate a governance system and define the relationships between and among citizens and political actors. In the years ahead, the Internet of Things (IoT), made up of billions of devices with small sensors, will encapsulate our political lives, communicate our political values, and constitute our political identities. These device networks will generate perfect behavioral data without giving citizens the right to opt out of data collection. The algorithms, terms of service, and interoperability protocols should not be of interest only to the engineers trying to build more consumer electronics; the scripts that make the IoT operate will have immense implications for governments and governance. Citizens will have their civic engagement shaped and constrained by the software and hardware of the IoT.

It is widely accepted that the Internet and social media have become a key component of modern civic engagement around the world, but the Internet of personal computers and mobile phones is transforming into a global network of devices. This next Internet is going to be very different, and constituted by billions of everyday objects with embedded batteries, sensors, and an address on the Internet. We will not notice or control most of the device networks that collect and share data on our behavior, but it will be a massive.

Howard, P., 2019. Democratic Futures and the Internet of Things: How Information Infrastructure Will Become a Political Constitution. In: M. Carpini, ed., Digital Media and Democratic Futures. University of Pennsylvania Press, p.312.

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