Digital Citizens: Engaging with Information Politics, Transparency and Surveillance
Ramón Reichert/Karin Wenz (eds.)
This issue of the Digital Culture & Society journal invites theoretical and artistic contributions on citizen engagement, digital citizenship and grassroots information politics. Today, engagement and participation are considered key when we investigate media and user practices. Participation has become a popular imperative of digital societies: “Calls for greater transparency and participation are heard not just by elected officials, but also in corporate headquarters” (Geiselhart, 2004). A number of theoretical reflections on digital societies assume that social media are becoming a dominant media channel for participatory engagement.
Practices of participation and engagement are an indispensible part of our digital everyday lives: from chat rooms to community forums, from social media platforms to image boards, and from rating platforms to whistle-blowing websites. The Internet is used for a wide variety of forms of participation in culture, education, health, business and politics. On the one hand these ‘digital collectives’ are deemed the torchbearers of the coming social and political transformation or hailed as self-organized collective intelligence. On the other hand state apparatuses are asking for participative activities to increase efficiency and to avoid friction. It is argued that the use of technology fosters participation and processes of consensus-building. This discourse almost implies that these processes can be hardwired into digital technologies. The terms “cultural citizenship” and “digital citizenship” are expected to provide a broader but also a more critical approach to citizen engagement.
In the meantime, there are numerous studies that examine the different forms and effects of participation on the Internet and its limitations (e.g. Fuchs, 2014; Trottier/Fuchs, 2015). Critical voices show that participation has long become a buzz word, often related to one-sided, positive perspectives: applauding the possibilities of user engagement and ignoring issues such as information politics and a digital divide, not only based on technological access but also on a lack of digital literacy (e.g. Jordan, 2015; van Dijck et al., 2017). We observe not only liberation of users based on participatory practices but exploitation at the same time. The information politics behind design decisions are a relevant topic for a deeper understanding of the interrelation of technological developments and user practices.
Participation and sharing data by users also led to critical debates about surveillance (Albrechtslund, 2013; Lyon, 2017) and whether privacy matters any longer if we “have nothing to hide”. Under which circumstances do we have to consider privacy a commodity and how can we reestablish mechanisms of forgetfulness? Surveillance as observation and control from those in power has been accompanied by a discussion about “sousveillance”, a term coined by Mann, Nolan, and Wellman (2003) to describe instances in which people watch and control those in power. What tools have been developed both for collecting private data and for protecting our privacy and in how far do they challenge our platform society?
In this special issue we aim at including approaches from fields such as (digital) sociology, STS, (digital) media studies, cultural studies, political sciences and philosophy reflecting on the role of the digital citizen. We ask for the role and value of a digital sociology exploring the practices of digital citizens. We particularly welcome contributions that are critically reflective about online practices in relation to new concepts of surveillance and control society.
Paper proposals may relate to, but are not limited to, the following topics: Digital citizenship, networked publics, information politics, engagement, participation and sharing, transparency, surveillance, urban informatics, citizen score, democracy as a service, participatory engineering, data commons, large scale protests and trending topics, slacktivism and clicktivism, participation divide.
When submitting an abstract, please make explicit to which of the following categories you would like to submit their paper:
- Field Research and Case Studies (full paper: 6000-8000 words)
We invite articles that discuss empirical findings from studies that approach the relationships between digital citizenship, engagement, participation, transparency and surveillance. These may include practices of circulating or collecting empirical data as well processes of knowledge production and evaluations of discourses, practices and technological applications.
- Methodological Reflection (full paper: 6000-8000 words)
- We invite contributions that reflect on the methodologies employed when researching the practices of digital citizenship. These may include, for example, the specificities of ethnographic fieldwork; challenges; approaches using mixed methods; discussions of mobile and circulative methods; and reflections of experimental forms of research.
- Conceptual/Theoretical Reflection (full paper: 6000-8000 words)
- We encourage contributions that reflect on the conceptual and/or theoretical dimension of digital citizenship, and discuss or question how it can be defined, what it can describe, and how it can be differentiated.
- Entering the Field (2000-3000 words; experimental formats welcome)
This experimental section presents initial and ongoing empirical work in digital media studies. The editors have created this section to provide a platform for researchers who would like to initiate a discussion concerning their emerging (yet perhaps incomplete) research material and plans as well as methodological insights.
Deadlines and contact information
- Abstracts (max. 300 words) and short biographical note (max. 100 words) are due on: March 21, 2018.
- Authors will be notified by March 25, 2018, whether they are invited to submit a full paper.
- Full papers are due on: May 25, 2018.
- Notifications to authors of referee decisions: June 30, 2018.
- Final versions due: July 30, 2018.
- Please send your abstract and short biographical note to Ramón Reichert ramon.reichert[at]univie.ac.at and Karin Wenz k.wenz[at]maastrichtuniversity.nl.
For more information, go to http://digicults.org