Call for Papers

Abstracts/biographies/contact details should be sent to dan.mercea.1@city.ac.uk. by 31 July 2018

 

Call for Papers

After years of exalting rhetoric praising the democratisation of public discourse with the diffusion of the internet, informed observers have sounded a note of alarm about the scope for the distortion of electoral processes in democratic countries. The Brexit campaign, along with recent elections in the US and France have been linked to disinformation, misinformation or propaganda campaigns seeking to strategically diffuse content that heightens partisanship and erodes the general trust in democratic institutions.

In the run-up to the 2018 US mid-term elections,  the aftermath of the Irish abortion referendum and the Italian general elections, this two-day symposium aims to address the topical question of how independent, ethical research on dis/misinformation in political communication can be conducted in a corporate environment that favours platform ‘lockdowns’ and the throttling of API access in response to the strategic use of data analytics, bots, trolls, fake news, and dis/misinformation operations in electoral politics, public information campaigns, and activist communication.

What are the challenges for independent academic research examining these developments? How can researchers investigate disinformation in a context of narrowing access to trace data?  How can these challenges be met, and what meaningful ways can be imagined for making social media platforms more accountable to the democratic constituencies where they operate? How is such disruptive communication designed, executed, with what effects and how are these measured? What data policies can be envisaged to strike a balance between safeguarding privacy and enabling academic research into the impact dis/misinformation or propaganda campaigns have on social media and beyond, in the attitudes and behaviours of their users?

We encourage submissions that address but are not limited to the following aims:

  • reflect on the structural and contextual factors that have acted as fertile ground for dis/misinformation and propaganda;
  • determine the scope and intricacies of dis/misinformation and propaganda campaigns;
  • explore the relationship between dis/misinformation and the polarization of public opinion;
  • consider the weaponization of social media platforms and discuss the interdependencies among the vast plurality of newsmakers operating in the current hybrid media ecosystem;
  • reflect on the political, cultural or socio-economic costs of distortive communication, the relevance of such research to industry and public policy and the ethical implications attendant to such studies;
  • untangle technological design choices and ideological leanings that shape platform communication, enable dis/misinformation and propaganda and their bearing on independent research;
  • examine the implications for academic research of controlled access by private owners of data produced in public communication spaces such as the Facebook page of a political candidate, and methodological solutions for sustaining the investigation of these topics;
  • consider the changing social media research landscape as the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May 2018;

We invite 500-word abstracts outlining empirical, theoretical or policy-orientated papers that address these or cognate topics. Abstracts should be accompanied by a 100-word biography of the presenter(s) together with contact details. Abstracts/biographies/contact details should be sent to dan.mercea.1@city.ac.uk. by 31 July 2018.

A selection of papers presented at the symposium will be published in a special issue of the journal Information, Communication & Society (iCS).