Governments around the world are building online infrastructures which they hope will become the main channels through which they interact with citizens. This new, globally dominant orthodoxy in policy-making is closely tied to design-thinking which claims that digital technology addresses the dual crises of state capacity and public trust. Through an examination of virtual courts, this paper offers a critical analysis of the organising principles and the effects of the digital government revolution. It shows that virtual courts reconfigure the role of the public in ‘seeing justice being done’, leading to the emergence of a new ‘visuality of technocracy’. However, it questions the claim that digital technology will transform public services and increase public trust. Creating new virtual spaces and interfaces is not a costless endeavour and, whilst it may make public services more convenient, it recasts citizens as passive viewers of justice and individual users of public services.
- Digital government, e-government, public participation, design thinking, virtual courts, trust, transparency, visuality