Dossierbild Podium/Vortrag

Manuel Castells: Power and counter-power in the digital society

Redenreihe CastellsRedenreihe Castells (© bpb)

How is power constituted in the digital society? Who is powerful – and how can power be countered and contested? The advent of digitally networked technologies has long been thought to foster democratisation and emancipation, to empower people that have previously been marginalized and neglected. Today, we know that the story is more complex: only a few companies dominate the internet ecosystem, democratic uprisings like the much-cited "Arab Spring" have faced severe repressions.

Already with his highly influential trilogy "The Information Age", Manuel Castells has highlighted the ambiguities of this development. Traditional forms of power might erose, but new, distributed forms of power emerge, Castells argued back then. In this lecture, he will revisit the development of the last 20 years and explain the re-distribution of power and counter-power in the digital society.

Manuel Castells is Professor of Sociology, Open University of Catalonia (UOC), in Barcelona. He is as well University Professor and the Wallis Annenberg Chair Professor of Communication Technology and Society at the Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He has authored 26 books, including the trilogy "The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture", 1996-2003, published by Blackwell and translated in 23 languages. This trilogy is probably the most-influential piece of academic work addressing the transformation of contemporary society in the context of the Internet.

Lecture series

The current rapid social and technological change brings about enormous uncertainties – a great need for explanations and sense-making but also of shaping our common future. This high-profile lecture series thrives to develop a European perspective on the processes of transformation that our societies are currently undergoing. To this end, the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) and the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb) are inviting great European thinkers to help us making sense of the digital society.

Starting with an inaugural lecture by Manuel Castells on 12 December 2017, the lecture series addresses fundamental questions:
  • What is power in the digital society, and how is it distributed?
  • Do we witness the revival of democracy through increased participation and transparency, or rather its demise due to fragmentation and populism?
  • Are services fueled by algorithms and artificial intelligence improving our private and business lives or do they enforce social inequalities?
  • What is really changing in society beyond the hype of short-term excitement?
These overarching and long-term transformations are hard to proof and to explain. To this end, HIIG and bpb are inviting leading European academics to mobilise and develop key concepts and theories to make sense of the complex present and the unknown future.

The lecture series starts in December 2017 and will run throughout 2018. Confirmed speakers are Manuel Castells, author of the highly influential Information Age-Trilogy and professor at the University of Catalonia, and the University of Southern California, Marion Fourcade (professor of sociology at the UC Berkeley), Christoph Neuberger (professor of communication studies at the LMU München) and José van Dijck, author of the forthcoming book The Platform Society and president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

A livestream will be available via the bpb Facebook-page. After the event, the video can be found in the online meda centre.

The event announcement in German.


12.12.2017, from 19:00 until 21:30


Attention: Due to high interest in Manuel Castell’s lecture on power and counter-power in the digital society, we are pleased to announce a change of locations:

Kino International Karl-Marx-Allee 33 10178 Berlin


The German Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb) and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG)


fee: none

There are only 300 seats available. Registration is necessary.

The lecture will be held in english. The lecture will be translated to german simultaneously.


The registration is made via the HIIG Website:




The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG)
Französische Straße 9-12
10117 Berlin
Christian Katzenbach, Dr. (PGP)


Sascha Scheier
Email to:

press contact

The German Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb)
executive department communication
Adenauerallee 86
53113 Bonn
Tel +49 (0)228 99515-200
Fax +49 (0)228 99515-293



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