Critique, Democracy, and Philosophy in 21st Century Information Society.
Towards Critical Theories of Social Media.
The Fourth ICTs and Society-Conference.
Uppsala University. May 2nd-4th, 2012.
Information about abstract submission (deadline: February, 29th, 17:00,
CET; early submission is recommended) and further information:
* Vincent Mosco (Queen’s University, Canada): Marx is Back, but Will
Knowledge Workers of the World Unite? On the Critical Study of Labour,
Media, and Communication Today
* Graham Murdock (Loughborough University, UK): The Digital Lives of
Commodities: Consumption, Ideology and Exploitation Today
With plenary talks by Andrew Feenberg, Catherine McKercher, Charles Ess,
Christian Christensen, Christian Fuchs, Gunilla Bradley, Mark
Andrejevic, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Peter Dahlgren, Tobias Olsson, Trebor
Scholz, Ursula Huws, Wolfgang Hofkirchner.
This conference provides a forum for the discussion of how to critically
study social media and their relevance for critique, democracy, politics
and philosophy in 21st century information society.
We are living in times of global capitalist crisis. In this situation,
we are witnessing a return of critique in the form of a surging interest
in critical theories (such as the critical political economy of Karl
Marx, critical theory, etc) and revolutions, rebellions, and political
movements against neoliberalism that are reactions to the
commodification and instrumentalization of everything. On the one hand
there are overdrawn claims that social media (Twitter, Facebook,
YouTube, mobile Internet, etc) have caused rebellions and uproars in
countries like Tunisia and Egypt, which brings up the question to which
extent these are claims are ideological or not. On the other hand, the
question arises what actual role social media play in contemporary
capitalism, power structures, crisis, rebellions, uproar, revolutions,
the strengthening of the commons, and the potential creation of
participatory democracy. The commodification of everything has resulted
also in a commodification of the communication commons, including
Internet communication that is today largely commercial in character.
The question is how to make sense of a world in crisis, how a different
future can look like, and how we can create Internet commons and a
commons-based participatory democracy.
This conference deals with the question of what kind of society and what
kind of Internet are desirable, what steps need to be taken for
advancing a good Internet in a sustainable information society, how
capitalism, power structures and social media are connected, what the
main problems, risks, opportunities and challenges are for the current
and future development of Internet and society, how struggles are
connected to social media, what the role, problems and opportunities of
social media, web 2.0, the mobile Internet and the ubiquitous Internet
are today and in the future, what current developments of the Internet
and society tell us about potential futures, how an alternative Internet
can look like, and how a participatory, commons-based Internet and a
co-operative, participatory, sustainable information society can be
Questions to be addressed include, but are not limited to:
* What does it mean to study the Internet, social media and society in a
critical way? What are Critical Internet Studies and Critical Theories
of Social Media? What does it mean to study the media and communication
* What is the role of the Internet and social media in contemporary
* How do power structures, exploitation, domination, class, digital
labour, commodification of the communication commons, ideology, and
audience/user commodification, and surveillance shape the Internet and
* How do these phenomena shape concrete platforms such as Google,
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc?
* How does contemporary capitalism look like? What is the role of the
Internet and social media in contemporary capitalism?
* In what society do we live? What is the actual role of information,
ICTs, and knowledge in contemporary society? Are concepts like network
society, information society, informational capitalism, etc adequate
characterizations of contemporary society or overdrawn claims? What are
the fundamental characteristics of contemporary society and which
concept(s) should be used for describing this society?
* What is digital labour and how do exploitation and surplus value
generation work on the Internet? Which forms of exploitation and class
structuration do we find on the Internet, how do they work, what are
their commonalities and differences? How does the relation between toil
and play change in a digital world? How do classes and class struggles
look like in 21st century informational capitalism?
* What are ideologies of the Internet, web 2.0, and social media? How
can they be deconstructed and criticized? How does ideology critique
work as an empirical method and theory that is applied to the Internet
and social media?
* Which philosophies, ethics and which philosophers are needed today in
order to understand the Internet, democracy and society and to achieve a
global sustainable information society and a participatory Internet?
What are perspectives for political philosophy and social theory in 21st
century information society?
* What contradictions, conflicts, ambiguities, and dialectics shape 21st
century information society and social media?
* What theories are needed for studying the Internet, social media, web
2.0, or certain platforms or applications in a critical way?
* What is the role of counter-power, resistance, struggles, social
movements, civil society, rebellions, uproars, riots, revolutions, and
political transformations in 21st century information society and how
(if at all) are they connected to social media?
* What is the actual role of social media and social networking sites in
political revolutions, uproars, and rebellions (like the recent
Maghrebian revolutions, contemporary protests in Europe and the world,
the Occupy movement, etc)?
* How can an alternative Internet look like and what are the conditions
for creating such an Internet? What are the opportunities and challenges
posed by projects like Wikipedia, WikiLeaks, Diaspora, IndyMedia,
Democracy Now! and other alternative media? What is a commons-based
Internet and how can it be created?
* What is the role of ethics, politics, and activism for Critical
* What is the role of critical theories in studying the information
society, social media, and the Internet?
* What is a critical methodology in Critical Internet Studies? Which
research methods are needed on how need existing research methods be
adapted for studying the Internet and society in a critical way?
* What are ethical problems, opportunities, and challenges of social
media? How are they framed by the complex contradictions of contemporary
* Who and what and where are we in 21st century capitalist information
society? How have different identities changed in the global world, what
conflicts relate to it, and what is the role of class and class identity
in informational capitalism?
* What is democracy? What is the future of democracy in the global
information society? And what is or should democracy be today? What is
the relation of democracy and social media? How do the public sphere and
the colonization of the public sphere look like today? What is the role
of social media in the public sphere and its colonization?
The conference is the fourth in the ICTs and Society-Conference Series
(http://www.icts-and-society.net). The ICTs and Society-Network is an
international forum that networks scholars in the interdisciplinary
areas of Critical Internet Studies, digital media studies, Internet &
society studies and information society studies. The ICTs and Society
Conference series was in previous years organized at the University of
Salzburg (Austria, June 2008), the University of Trento (Italy, June
2009) and the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (Spain, July 2010).