Productive Power in Digital Constitutionalism: Analyzing Civil Society Actors’ Definitions of Digital Rights

Outi Puukko


Recent research on digital constitutionalism highlights a rights-based approach to limiting the exercise of power in the digital communication environment. However, little research has examined multiple and political meanings of digital rights empirically from various actors’ perspectives. This article discusses findings from a discourse-theoretical analysis of 12 semi-structured interviews with civil society actors in the context of transnational digital governance. The analysis demonstrates that the concept of digital rights can be viewed as a “floating signifier” on one hand, partially fixed to human rights. On the other hand, digital rights function as a site of discursive struggles that highlight openness and contestation of norms, rights, and principles in relation to the Internet and other digital technologies. The article suggests that the very definitions of norms, rights, and principles related to the Internet and other digital technologies not only limit but also produce power, providing a novel perspective to digital constitutionalism.


digital rights, civil society, discourse-theoretical analysis, productive power, digital constitutionalism, Internet governance

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