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6 Degrees Toronto

September 24–26, 2018

Connection. Isolation.

Empowerment. Disenfranchisement.

Protest. Complicity.

We, the engaged public, find ourselves at a crossroads. We see flawed democracies, biased media, eroding civic institutions and unjust power structures. We see widespread anger, frustration, and division. People are overwhelmed, and feel left out. It’s 2018, and we no longer know how to engage.

Yet, technology offers us virtually limitless opportunities to participate, challenge, and influence. But what exactly? And how? Online and off, heightened anxieties are driving ugly language, ugly thinking, and ugly policy, reinforcing the idea of the other in our society. This is a critical moment.

We need to isolate tool from distraction, revolutionary from demagogue, echo chamber from public forum.

What does it mean to be a citizen now? We need to re-engage. As citizens.

360: Online/Offline

Technology promised free speech, free information and a new digital commons. A connected utopia balancing privacy and access to improve our world. This colossal platform for organizing, communicating and mobilizing holds the potential for real, offline change. But it’s under threat. Marketing algorithms, the surveillance economy, and privacy breaches challenge our trust.

Is our online connection isolating us offline? Is technology truly a tool for citizenship?

360: Inside/Outside

Power and privilege are changing. Traditional structures persist, but influence has spread to different places and is in different hands. These shifts create opportunities for empowerment, but also disenfranchisement. Some people are still left on the outside, looking in. But the evolving democratization of power is applying external pressure for institutional change.

Whose voices are being heard? How do we serve the many instead of the few?

360: Citizenship Now

We need a new definition of citizenship.

The dichotomies between opportunity and threat, agency and apathy, have never been more starkly felt. They’re real and part of our world. Yet, instead of working toward our shared goal of inclusion and a fair society, we focus on emerging fault lines, distrusting the intentions of those with whom we share anxieties, aspirations and ultimately, our fate.

How do we find common ground? How do we re-engage, as citizens, in citizenship itself?