The Demokratiezentrum Wien was founded in 2000 and is an academic non-profit organization, strongly oriented to applying and conveying knowledge. It is both an academic research institute and a virtual knowledge centre and deals with basic questions of political culture and the political system of Austria in the European context. It is concerned with processes of democratization and their historical development, with current socio-political debates, with the media society (emphasizing the competent use of media and the decoding of visual messages), as well as with the IT-transformation and the knowledge society. Further emphasis lies on the topics: migration and integration, political participation, and the enlarged European Union.
The virtual knowledge centre is addressing different target groups: students, practitioners in the fields of formal and non-formal education, and a wider public. The web-based information centre and the audiovisual library are accessible in German and to some extent also in English.
The most recent activity in the field of political participation has been the development of the internet-platform polipedia.at. It offers a multimedia wiki-guide to democracy, politics and participation. The content is created independently by young people and actively used by them. Thus they become "prosumers," i.e., producers and consumers in one person. The project demonstrates how modern media, above all the internet, can support political education for young people and foster democratic discourse among them. At the same time, by this means a multimedia textbook for civic education applying social software (wikis, blogs, etc.) has been developed.
Elisabeth Röhrlich, Demokratiezentrum Wien (Austria)