Archive for May 2019

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[Commlist] CFP: Genealogies of online content identification

Mon May 06 12:58:31 GMT 2019

Call for papers

Genealogies of online content identification

Special issue of Internet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society
(guest editors: Maria Eriksson & Guillaume Heuguet)

*Due date for abstract submission: 1 August 2019.*

In today’s digital landscape, cultural content such as texts, films, images, and recorded sounds are increasingly subjected to automatic (or semi-automatic) processes of identification and classification. On a daily basis, spam filters scan heaps of emails in order to separate legit and illegit textual messages,1 algorithms analyze years of user-uploaded film on YouTube in search for copyright violations,2 and software systems scrutinize millions of images on social media sites in order to detect sexually offensive content.3 To an increasing extent, content identification systems are also trained to distinguish “fake-news” from “proper journalism” on news websites,4 and taught to recognize and filter violent or hateful content that circulates online.5

These examples reveal how machines and algorithmic systems are increasingly utilized to make complex cultural judgements regarding cultural content. Indeed, it could be argued that the wide-ranging adoption of content identification tools is constructing new ontologies of culture and regimes of truth in the online domain. When put to action, content identification technologies are trusted with the ability to separate good/bad forms of communication and used to secure the value, authenticity, origin, and ownership of content. Such efforts are deeply embedded in constructions of knowledge, new forms of political governance, and not least global market transactions. Content identification tools now make up an essential part of the online data economy by protecting the interests of rights holders and forwarding the mathematization, objectification, and commodification of cultural productions.

Parallel to their increased pervasiveness and influence, however, content identification systems have also been heavily contested. Debates regarding automatic content identification tools recently gained momentum due to the European Union’s decision to update its copyright laws. A newly adopted EU directive encourages all platform owners to implement automatic content filters in order to safeguard copyrights6 and critics have argued that such measures run the risk of seriously hampering the freedom of speech and stifling cultural expressions online.7 High profile tech figures such as Tim Berners Lee (commonly known as one of the founders of the Internet) has even claimed that the widespread adoption of content filtering could effectively destroy the internet as we know it.8 Content identification systems, then, are not neutral devices but key sites where the moral, juridical, economical, and cultural implications of wide-ranging systems of online surveillance are currently negotiated and put to the test.

This special issue welcomes contributions that trace the lineage and genealogy of online content identification tools and explores how content identification systems enact cultural values. It also explores how content identification technologies reconfigure systems of knowledge and power in the online domain. We especially invite submissions that reflect on the ways in which content identification systems are deployed to domesticate and control online cultural content, establish new and data-driven infrastructural systems for the treatment of cultural data, and bring about changes in the activity/status of cultural workers and rights holders. Contributions that locate online content identification tools within a longer historical trajectory of identification technologies are also especially welcomed, since digital content identification tools must be understood as continuations of analogue techniques for monitoring and measuring the qualities and identities of things.

We envision contributors to be active in the fields of media history, software studies, media studies, media archaeology, social anthropology, science and technology studies, and related scientific domains. The topic of contributions may include, but are not limited to:


    The historical and political implications of content identification
    tools for audio, video, images, and textual content such as machine
    learning systems and digital watermarking or fingerprinting tools


    The genealogy of spam filters, fake news detection systems, and
    other strategies for keeping the internet “clean” and
    censoring/regulating the circulation and availability of online content


    Comparative investigations of the technical workings of different
    methods for identifying content, including discussions on the
    challenges and potentials of indexing/identifying sound, images,
    texts and audiovisual content


    Reviews of the scientific theories, political ideologies, and
    business logics that sustain and legitimize online systems of
    content identification


    Reflections on historical and analogue techniques for identifying
    objects and commodities, such as paper watermarks and the use of
    signets and stamps


    Issues of censorship related to online content identification and
    moderation and/or discussions regarding the ethical dilemmas and
    legal debates that surround content surveillance


    Explorations of the implications of algorithmic judgements and
    measurements of identity, and reflections on the ways in which
    content identification tools redefine what is means to listen/see
    and transform how cultural objects are imagined and valued


    Examinations of the relationship between human and algorithmic
    efforts to identify suspect content online and moderate information


    Abstracts of a maximum of 750 words should be emailed to Maria
    Eriksson ((maria.c.eriksson /at/ <mailto:(maria.c.eriksson /at/>)
    and Guillaume Heuguet ((guillaume.heuguet /at/
    <mailto:(guillaume.heuguet /at/>) no later than 1
    August 2019. Notification about acceptance to submit an article will
    be sent out by 1 September 2019. Authors of accepted abstracts are
    invited to submit an article by 1 February 2020. Final versions of
    articles are asked to keep within a 6,000 word limit. Please note
    that acceptance of abstract does not ensure final publication as all
    articles must go through the journal’s usual review process.

    Time schedule


    1 August 2019: due date for abstracts


    1 September 2019: notification of acceptance


    1 February 2020: accepted articles to be submitted for review


    Feb-April 2020: review process and revisions

    About the guest-editors

    Guillaume Heuguet defended a dissertation in 2018 on music and media
    capitalism based on a longitudinal analysis of YouTube’s strategy
    and products, including its Content ID system (to be published by
    the French National Archives in 2019). He is currently an associated
    researcher at GRIPIC (Sorbonne Université) and Irmeccen (Sorbonne
    Nouvelle). He runs the music journal Audimat and has edited a
    forthcoming book entitled Anthology of Popular Music Studies in
    French (Philharmonie de Paris, 2019).

    Maria Eriksson is a doctoral candidate in media studies at Umeå
    University, Sweden who is currently spending time as a visiting
    scholar at the department of arts, media and philosophy at Basel
    University in Switzerland. She has a background in social
    anthropology and her main research interests concern the politics of
    software and the role of algorithms in managing the logistics and
    distribution of cultural content online. She is one of the
    co-authors of the book Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of
    Streaming Music (MIT Press, 2019) and has previously co-edited
    special issues in journals such as Culture Unbound.

Link to the online version of the call for papers:

More information on Internet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society can be found at


1 Brunton, Finn. Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet. Cambridge & London: MIT Press, 2013.


3 why-safe-mode <>


5 <> and <>




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