#AoIR2023 Call for Proposals

Foto: Jonn Leffmann, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Many revolutions have been linked to the internet. From the Arab Spring and the Umbrella Protests in Hong Kong to the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter, uprisings across the world have drawn on digital technologies to organize actions and build coalitions. The connections between digital and social movements have not always been straightforward, however. During the Arab Spring, Western academics and journalists sometimes overdetermined the role of the digital, or failed to appreciate both its advantages and drawbacks. While digital tools allow activists to coordinate events and share discourses, they have not reliably lead to the widespread material changes at the root of many social movements, such as defunding police, holding government officials accountable for corruption, or reducing the presence and impunity of sexual predators and abusers. The tradeoffs between visibility and surveillance, and the relationship of digital ‘revolutions’ to racial justice, anticolonial movements, and the rising tide of white supremacist and fascist mobilization require urgent and direct attention.

In the early days of its mass adoption, the internet was seen as its own revolution, ushering in a new era of participatory democracy. Even as this revolutionary discourse started to crumble under the force of increasing commercialization, it has been renewed with the emergence of mobile phones and the Internet of Things, as well as industry labels like Web 2.0 and Web3. The internet has alternately been heralded as a revolutionizer of economic and media systems, and as a counterrevolutionary force that further entrenches dominance of the few against the many in economic and/or media systems. A key tension here is the role of the public, the masses, or the “mob” – what does increased participation (or non-participation) mean, and who decides? The “revolutionary” label sets up a tension between techno-optimists (or techno chauvinists), who see digital technologies as a driving force of economic and information power, versus techno-pessimists (or techno dystopianists), who point to the role of technologies and tech companies in exacerbating inequalities. Alongside these are those who emphasize the influence of pre-existing systems of power and urge us not to rely deterministically on technology’s presence or absence to identify revolutionary possibilities or outcomes. How, then, do we account for the role of digital technologies in the work of revolution?

The 2023 AoIR conference addresses themes of revolutions, and their contingent promises and failures as related to digital technologies. How have digital technologies been enrolled in revolutionary projects? How have discourses of revolutions taken shape in projects of social justice, the reorganization of social orders, or as corporate manipulations of revolutionary promises? This conference is an opportunity to engage with these complex and crucial questions. We welcome submissions on the following themes and beyond:

  • Revolutions, the rhetoric of revolution, and critiques thereof
  • The successes and failures of revolutions, both within digital technology and using digital technologies
  • Revolutionary tactics, actions, and goals
  • History of revolutions and internet technologies
  • Sovereignties within, across, and against the digital world, including revolutionary or alternate sovereignties to those that currently exist
  • Democratization versus mobbing and the politics of mass participation
  • Revolutions in research and methods
  • Revolutionary understandings of time and place, and envisioning pasts or futures as revolutionary goals
  • Balancing the visibility as a political strategy with the capacities for increased surveillance

We also welcome submissions on topics that address social, cultural, political, legal, aesthetic, economic, and/or philosophical aspects of the internet beyond the conference theme. The committee extends a special invitation to students, researchers, and practitioners who have previously not participated in an AoIR event to submit proposals, and to scholars from the Global South, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color globally, LGBTQIA+ peoples, scholars living with disabilities, and people outside or adjacent to the academy.