Archive for calls, December 2012

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[ecrea] CfP: Social Transformations and the Digital Age

Fri Dec 14 10:31:59 GMT 2012

Call for Panels and Papers
Montréal, Canada
13‐15 October 2013
Social Transformations and the Digital Age

The International Social Science Council’s 2nd World Social Science Forum
(WSSF) will take place on 13‐15 October, 2013 in Montréal,
Canada.The theme and focus for the 2013 Forum is “Social Transformations
and the Digital Age”. The Forum will include plenary
presentation/discussion sessions, and parallel panel
presentations/discussion sessions. The conference organizers welcome
suggestions for alternative or hybrid forms of presentation that take
advantage of the features of digital technologies.

Queries on procedures and processes should be sent to: (info /at/

1. The proposal deadline is 15 January 2013.
2. Applicants will be notified of decisions by April 2013.
3. Successful applicants are expected to provide an extended abstract
(2,000 words) to the ISSC no later than 9 September 2013

The role of digital technologies in nearly all aspects of life – most
notably in the form of “social media” ‐‐has been a constant
news focus in recent years, and it has also become a major focus of social
As far as “social media” are concerned, popular and scholarly accounts
about their participatory and transformative potential are usually
enthusiastic. Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and Wikileaks are lauded for
their capacity to harness people’s creativity and knowledge, and for their
potential to challenge traditional hierarchies in politics, science, and
the media. It is claimed these web‐based applications have
facilitated political uprisings, the solution of scientific problems, and
the emergence of hitherto undiscovered talents in music and the arts. Some
more critical voices question the validity of such claims, pointing to the
dangers of hoax, misinformation, dependency, narcissism, and the loss of
Yet digital technologies reach far beyond the current “social media”
proliferation: in the form of computers and the networks enabling them to
communicate with one another they have been in use for decades, and have
affected nearly all areas of society, politics, and the economy. They have
changed how people think about themselves, how work is organized, how
knowledge is produced, and how access to information is regulated.
Education, healthcare, shopping, agriculture, finance, security, leisure
have all been deeply affected by information and communication

During the 2013 World Social Science Forum in Montréal, scholars from
across the disciplines and across the world will come together to address
the ways in which digital technologies are being developed and used, and
• (First major focus area) how they are transforming different spheres of
social life and
• (Second major focus area) how they are transforming the social sciences.
Contributions will address these two overarching themes (see examples of
possible foci below). Insights from all disciplines are required to
understand these complex changes, and contributions from across the social
sciences, from the humanities, and from natural and medical sciences (e.g.
the science, technology, engineering and medicine disciplines) are
encouraged. The WSSF will address positive uses of digital technologies,
but will also pay attention to the negative and potentially dangerous uses
and consequences, and to the unintended and ambivalent outcomes.

Four assumptions underpin the conference ambitions:
1). Technology matters. How does the design of technology affect
possibilities for engagement and participation by different groups within
society? Digital technologies are not magic boxes – they have been
designed (though not always deliberately) to facilitate some forms of
interaction and to make others more difficult.

2). History matters. What can we learn from previous socio‐technical
transformations? Digital technologies have been accompanied by promises
that they would eliminate repetitive, boring and tedious work, and would
improve access to information and entertainment, as well as the quality of
social justice and democracy. Many of these same hopes and fears were
expressed in relation to the printing press, telegraph and television.

3). Methods and theories matter. How do digital technologies affect the
ways in which researchers define categories, record data, and conduct
their analyses? What does this mean for the research questions That can be
asked as well as the answers that can be given. Digital technologies open
up new possibilities for interdisciplinary and international
collaboration, and for new forms of engagement with stakeholders.

4). Individuals and communities matter. The means by which individuals and
communities think about themselves and construct their identities and
activities are being reconfigured in the digital age. Is this this
assumption valid? Are individuals and communities also influencing digital
developments? What kinds of technologies can be developed to support the
needs of people today and in the future?

First major focus area:
1. Digital technologies ↔ Social life
What kinds of social transformations are being brought about by the
widespread diffusion of digital technologies? The first theme explores the
many ways in which digital technologies are affecting how people work,
live, and play. It also raises the question of how digital technologies
shape what we perceive as being social challenges and imperatives. Digital
technologies, and their uses by individuals, organizations and
governments, are of enormous interest to scholars across the social
sciences as objects of research. The time spent in front of a screen or
peering intently at a smaller, handheld device affects not only how people
interact with machines and with one another but also influences the
development of one’s own identity. Concerns are expressed about declining
attention spans, and changes to the wiring of the brain.
On the other hand, children and adults have access to an enormous range of
educational material that was unimaginable a generation ago. What do these
changes mean for our lives as social beings? Do online interactions
facilitate the emergence of multiple identities where authenticity is
elusive, or does the possibility to track oneself and others across
multiple domains result in a more integrated self, from which one may
never be able to escape? How have digital technologies been taken up in
the organization of economic life, facilitating new forms of work, new
divisions of labour, new forms of financing? Was the Arab Spring really
the Facebook and Twitter revolution? Can digital technologies contribute
to the creation of a sustainable environment, or is our pursuit of
ever‐newer devices part of the problem? Digital technologies raise
profound challenges to what we consider to be public and private. Who has
the right to see our online material? Who can profit from it? Legal,
ethical and regulatory questions abound, for governments and for

Possible sub‐themes to be addressed include the following:
• The digital and the human: cyborgs, post‐humans, human enhancement
• The power of Global Markets: nano‐second transactions and social
• Digital identities: digital natives, digital immigrants, digital outcasts
• Cultural diversity within a globalized media environment
• Family, community and social movements
• E‐Knowledge as global commons?
• E‐commerce: new forms of work, free labour, pro‐sumption
• Creativity in industry and the arts
• Time, work and leisure
• Education, literacy and skills
• Environment & sustainability
• Cyberpolitics: democracy, empowerment and engagement
• Sexual politics, pornography and human slavery
• Media convergence: regulation and control
• War, terrorism and conflict
• Imagining a cyber‐dystopia
• Health and well‐being
• Poverty and inequality: digital and other divides
• Surveillance, privacy and security
• Representations of digital technologies in film & fiction
• Code: Human‐computer interaction/design of hardware and software
• Hacking and gaming
• Other

Second major focus area:
2. Digital technologies ↔ social science (and other disciplines)
How do digital technologies affect the production of knowledge in the
social sciences, and in other knowledge domains? The second theme
addresses the ways in which the availability of large‐scale data,
immense computational power, and collaborative tools all affect the ways
in which scientists and scholars relate to each other, to their data and
sources, to publishers and libraries, and to funders, and to the wider
public. Social media are both generative and challenging of different
forms of knowledge production and the authority it commands. Digital
technologies allow new fields and research practices to emerge, they offer
fascinating new ways to represent data and outputs, resulting in new forms
of peer review, enhanced publications, and new ways of communicating with
stakeholders. In order to take advantage of the many opportunities
offered, social scientists are increasingly working across the
disciplines, with computer scientists and information specialists in
particular, but also with others. Digital technologies also offer new
ways for researchers themselves to be evaluated and monitored. Information
and knowledge have become important markers of the late 20th century
transition to what many see as a new economic mode or regime. Digital
technologies have become essential not only to the ways in which people
live their daily lives, but also to the ways in which information and
knowledge are collected, stored, analysed and distributed in different
domains. The production of data is not only important for the production
of formalized, codified knowledge, such as in science and medicine, but
also for the smooth running of economic and political systems. Sometimes
the provision of information and the generation and sharing of knowledge
are the result of conscious choices, as when people engage in political
debate online or provide details of migratory birds; and sometimes it is a
by‐product of other activities, as when people buy products online,
leaving traces of their search and purchasing activities. Is this data
open to researchers, under what conditions? Is Big Data changing how we
define and understand expertise and knowledge? When aggregated, such data
can become formalized, codified, and commodified; and in the process
become of great interest to researchers in the public and private sectors.

Possible sub‐themes to be addressed include the following:
• Citizen science: engagement and expertise
• Big data: end of theory?
• Computational (social) science: ways of knowing
• Visualization of data and results
• Libraries and archives
• Collaboration across disciplines and across distance
• Impact, evaluation & accountability
• Ethics of e‐research
• Scholarly publishing: does it have a future?
• Open access/open source/open peer review
• Science and research policy
• Commodifying data and research
• Changing research practices
• Other

Dr. Delia Dumitrica
Department of Communication and Culture
University of Calgary

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