CFP : The Digital Public Sphere in Question: From Counter- to Crypto-Publics.

Fengersfors (Gothenburg area), Sweden, 3-5 mars 2017.

Democracy presupposes a public sphere where citizens can debate their differences and reach mutually binding agreements. The emergence of the public sphere has often been linked to the surge of books and newspapers. Today, however, printed media is in crisis. The advertising revenues of publishing houses are siphoned off by Google and Facebook, while the habit of reading printed media is in steady decline. As a consequence, the journalistic profession is withering away too. It is much disputed whether this counts as a threat to free speech and public debate, or, on the contrary, is a promise to set them free. In different words, can digital media shoulder the same civic responsibilities as conventional media is said to have done in the past? Many are alarmed by a rise in uncivility in public debates, often linked to the anonymity of the computer screen. The graphic interface is said to invite trolling. A related concern is that the search engines are programmed to reinforce pre-existing search patterns. Algorithms create « filter bubbles » that undermine the possibility of developing an informed opinion. Others stress the upside. From the lukewarm promises about e-governance in the 1990s to the pie-in-the-sky visions of liquid democracy today, proposals are not lacking for how citizenship could be reinvigorated thanks to digital media. Other examples are of a more confrontational nature, such as the possibility of anonymous leaks and the surge of crypto-publics in the darknet. The ambiguity of the role of new media reflects a deeper ambiguity in the word ”people” itself. Since 1789, the p-word has interchangeably stood for, on the one hand, equality and democracy, and, on the other, for passion, violence and irrationality.

 
We invite both theoretical papers, empirical case studies, and hands-on presentations. Proposals for workshops are also welcome. We aim to have a mix of scholars and practitioners. Relevant topics for this session may include but are not limited to:

Algorithmic intervention in shaping opinions and political agendas

Publics and counter-publics emerging in relation to the digital public sphere

The tension between the public and anonymity/cryptography

The possibilities and limits of leaking as a political strategy

Development of digital tools for use in the public sphere

How to develop an informed opinion inside a filter bubble

The amateurisation of journalism as a threat and a promise to free speech and public debate

The winter session will be held in Fengersfors, Sweden 3–5 mars. The participation fee is 600 kr (60 euro), which includes housing and full pension. For students and unemployed, the fee is 300 kr (30 euro). The airport closest to Fengerfors is « Landvetter », next to Göteborg. We will meet at Göteborg train station on Friday and go together to Fengersfors.

If you wish to present at the winter symposium, submit a short abstract (400 words) and a few lines about yourself to the coordinators. The deadline to submit proposals is November 15, 2016. The preliminary program will be announced on December 15, 2016 at <http://www.nordic.university>. There you will also find more information about NSU, and you may sign up for the NSU newsletter.

Coordinators:

Gustav Eek: gustav [dot] eek [at] fripost [dot] org

Johan Söderberg: johan [dot] soderberg [at] sts [dot] gu [dot] se