Friday, January 23, 2009

CFP: Digital Media Technologies Revisited: Theorising social relations

Call for Papers:

Digital Media Technologies Revisited: Theorising social relations,
interactions and communication

A two-day conference co-organised by the

ECREA Digital Culture & Communication (DCC) section,

the DGPuK Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) section and

the DGPuK Media Sociology (MS) section

with support from the Centre for Material Digital Culture (DMDC),
University of Sussex, UK

and the COST 298: Participation in the Broadband Society network

Place: University of the Arts, Berlin, Germany

Dates: Nov. 20-21, 2009


This two-day conference on ’Digital Technologies Revisited’ aims to
understand contemporary developments in digital media and digital media
theory by looking backwards as well as forwards. We set out to explore
an in-between time: a time, when much of the hype concerning digital
media has died down, much research material has been gathered and
analyzed and quite a bit about the possibilities and limitations of
digital media (especially in comparison to older media forms) has been

Far from a communication revolution, the media landscape has nonetheless
changed substantially in recent years. In fact, we have undergone a
process of diffusion and appropriation: digital media have become an
important and ever-increasing part of our everyday lives. They suffuse
our communication, information and entertainment spheres. Not
surprisingly, the perceived connection between the internet and many
areas of social life, from work to play, has steadily increased in
recent years. However, even as digital media become pervasive,
ubiquitous, common and mundane, innovation continues to become an
integral characteristic of digital media forms, the proliferation of
which is challenging to map.

We would therefore like to return to earlier models and theories that
attempted to explain new (digital) media in its ’first wave’ forms.
Additionally, we would like to address the question of what kind of
alterations and additions can be used to adapt existing models and
theories for current purposes (e.g. mediated person-to-person
communication; para-social interactions with virtual agents;
pseudo-social interactions with intelligent machines, etc.).

The range of models and theories that can be used, re-visited, or
adapted is wide (i.e. traditional communication studies models, cultural
studies theories, anthropology, sociology and others). We want to encourage papers
that explore tensions between older and new approaches and older and
newer ?new media’ formations. Where has there been movement, where not,
and are there in fact new theories emerging?

The social world sits at the heart of these diverse concerns. Social
relations, interactions and communication are at the heart of our
questions. Within this focus, the possible range of theories and methods
used, is wide. The following provides the range of angles that we propose:

- HCI revisited:
Human-computer-interaction was an early forerunner concerning questions
of the relation between humans and computers (as well as, eventually,
humans via computers). What do we know of these relationships by now?
How do they differ from other human-object relationships? And how do
developments in these fields continue to inform, intersect and diverge
from the social life of digital media forms?

- Virtual reality and AI re-thought:
Virtual reality and AI frameworks are another reference point that
dominated earlier cybercultural theory, and design. What was specific
about these moments and intersections? Why have these frameworks become
less used by technocultural theory (at least for more popular
theorizations)? What has survived in terms of virtual reality and AI
concepts in contemporary formations such as Web 2.0, Facebook and Second

- Disappearance of the machine ? ubiquity, ambience and similar
A more recent development has been around the merging of machines, and
computational architecture with our environments. Thinking about
pervasive computing, sense perception and intimate technologies are
increasingly being used as frameworks for analysis. Where are they at in
terms of the current state of development? And what consequences would
these have for existing theoretical approaches (e.g. of appropriation of
media technologies) and questions of power? What happens to ethical and
political issues, such as privacy, monitoring, etc.? What does pervasive
computing mean for our relationships with machines?

- Identities 4.0?
Identity was a much discussed topic in early web discourses. It is one
that keeps returning in new disguises. Identity, it seems, has survived
the ’post’ in identity politics. However, the valences of identity are
now much more negative than the more utopic versions that proliferated
in early digital media cultures. Identity categories have proliferated,
and the intersections of race, nation, class, gender, sexuality and
belief play a part in generating insecurity and a lack of trust between
citizens, denizens and racialized others, the adult world and ‘youth’,
or children and potential ‘paedophiles’. Can early theorizations of
identity and digital media be brought to bear on contemporary
experiences and what would these look like?

- Bodies
Community, identity and the body were the tripartite features of digital
media theory in the 1990s. Whist community has been reformulated as SL
and social networking, and identity continues to return, the body has
also become an increasingly urgent site of enquiry as convergences of
informational and biotechnological practices of body knowledge become
materialized through digital media practices. These intersections offer
up questions about the precise contours of current biodigital identity
in the form of intersecting DNA databases, personal genomes, and
biometrics. What approaches and questions can address these informatic
corporealisations and their intersection with everyday life worlds?

- Mass media, journalism and public communication
Since the mid-1990s, a broad corpus of theories on the production,
dissemination, reception, and the public and/or personal impact of
online mass media has evolved in the social sciences. How do
journalists’ routines change in online media? Does the public relevance
of journalistic mass media decrease or increase in present and future
times? How can the (societal) diffusion or (individual) appropriation of
new media developments described or analyzed? What do mass media mean to
the audience, and what are the present and future economic perspectives
of online mass media?

- COST 298
Additionally, COST 298 members are invited to send separate abstracts
for a COST panel. COST 298 is an Action within the intergovernmental
framework for European Co-operation in the field of Scientific and
Technical Research. In COST 298 European scientists from
telecommunication research departments, universities and operators
together with independent consultants collaborate in cross-disciplinary
groups to analyze the social dimensions of people’s relationships to
information and communication technologies. In the COST 298 panel, the
same questions of older models and newer developments that guide the
overall conference are asked more specifically concerning the broadband
society. What have we learned in the last four years of the COST 298
network? Only COST 298 members will be eligible to apply for this panel.

Please submit an extended abstract (700 words max.) by the 31st of
May 2009 (and clearly stating which topic section you would like to
submit this to) to:

Prof. Dr. Maren Hartmann - University of the Arts (UdK), GWK -
Mierendorffstra├če 30 - 10589 Berlin - Germany - Phone: +49 30 3185 2943



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