Skip to content

Digital Civil Disobedience

The political phenomenon of civil disobedience has undergone a remarkable change in recent times, with the expression electronic civil disobedience coming into being in the mid­-1990s. Digital tactics have been increasingly observed and activists or the media have described them as new forms of civil disobedience. They include Distributed Denial of Service actions (DDoS), digital whistleblowing or website defacements to name but a few of the intentionally unlawful actions that pose new questions for the political sphere, law, and research.

A political concept of civil disobedience and its meaning for contemporary societies is part of an ongoing discourse in political philosophy. The research project examines existing theories of civil disobedience and their applicability on this phenomenon and its transformation in the digital era. The focus is on radical democratic theories that see civil disobedience not as a necessary evil, but as a potential cure for the structural deficits of law and government decisions. This theoretical focus interacts with an analysis of a variety of emerging practices of digital disobedience and the new implications for political action in a digitised world. The aim is to contribute with a theoretical approach to the question of when and how civil disobedience using traditional or digital tactics can be seen as legitimate protest. The project, thus, is part of the effort to theorise the evolving digital society: by re­-thinking civil disobedience for the digital age. 


Theresa Züger, Dr.

Research Group Lead: Public Interest AI | AI & Society Lab

Part of the research programme

Journal articles and conference proceedings

Züger, T., Milan, S., & Tanczer L. (2016). Sand in the Information Society Machine: How Digital Technologies Change and Challenge the Paradigms of Civil Disobedience. Fibreculture Journal: internet theory criticism research, 25. Publication details

Book contributions and chapters

Züger, T. (2017). Digitale Dissidenz. In Daase, C., Deitelhoff, N., Kamis, B., Pfister, J., & Wallmeier, P. (Eds.), Herrschaft in den Internationalen Beziehungen (pp. 179-200). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Publication details

Other publications

Haase, A. & Züger, T. (2016). Mit dem BKA ins hacktivistische Dunkelfeld. Publication details

Haase, A. & Züger, T. (2016). BKA: “Den Hacker gibt es nicht. Wir sollten ihn erfinden.”. Publication details

Haase, A., Züger, T. (2015). Hacktivismus = Cybercrime? Eine Replik auf die Studie des BKA zu Hacktivisten. Publication details


Evidence of Conspiracy
Samizdata: Evidence of Conspiracy. Disruption Network Lab. Kunstraum Bethanien, Berlin, Germany: 11.09.2015

Theresa Züger

Organisation of events

Civil Disobedience Beyond the State III: The Right of Resistance in a Globalised World
with attending Vip: Prof. Karuna Mantena. From 24.11.2015 to 25.11.2015. Nuffield College, 1 New Road, Oxford, Oxford, UK. Co-Organised by: Annette Zimmermann (University of Oxford), Robin Celikates (University of Amsterdam), This conference has been organised with the generous financial support of Nuffield College, the Amsterdam Center for Globalisation Studies, the NWO-funded project ‘Transformations of Civil Disobedience’ and the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society. (International)

Theresa Züger

Weapons of the Geek (The Digitalization of Disobedience from Whistleblowing to Anonymous)
International Workshop: Civil Disobedience Beyond the State II. with attending Vip: Gabriella Coleman. From 08.05.2015 to 09.05.2015. ACUD e.V. und Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany. Co-Organised by: Robin Celikates, Amsterdam; Annette Zimmermann; Oxford (International)

Theresa Züger