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[liberationtech] CfP: Book "Social Media, Politics and the State"

Christian Fuchs christian.fuchs at
Thu Aug 16 06:33:01 PDT 2012

*Call for extended abstracts for an edited collection
Please circulate widely*

Social Media, Politics and the State:
Protest, Revolutions, Riots, Crime, and Policing in the Age of Facebook, 
Twitter and YouTube.

Edited by Daniel Trottier and Christian Fuchs

“Social media” is a new buzzword, marketing ideology and sphere of 
imagination in which contemporary techno-optimistic and 
techno-pessimistic visions are played out. Social media platforms like 
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have made a considerable impact on 
contemporary life. A growing corpus of research considers how these 
platforms have affected marketing, identity construction, social 
coordination and privacy. The scholarship that this collected volume 
addresses looks at how state power and politics are both contested and 
exercised on social media.

Because social media are saturated in contemporary life, they have 
become a tool and a terrain for conflicts between states and a multitude 
of organized and autonomous actors. Social media are celebrated for 
“levelling the playing field” by empowering otherwise powerless actors. 
The ‘Green Movement’ during the 2009 elections in Iran was globally 
broadcast on Twitter. Marginalized political groups can now promote 
their agenda on free and easy-to-use platforms. Even rioters and other 
actors breaking the law can organize and discuss their exploits on these 
platforms. Yet in practice, social media often lead to asymmetrical 
power relations, as a result of asymmetrical relations of online visibility.

Studying social media politics, there are on the one hand 
techno-optimistic approaches that claim that social media helps to 
revive democracy (examples of such talk include the focus on “Twitter 
revolutions”, “YouTube democracy”, or a “Twitter public sphere”) and on 
the other hand techno-pessimistic approaches that claim that social 
media are a new threat to democracy (examples of such talk include focus 
on the omnipresence of criminal threats, harassments, terrorism and 
violent extremism on social media, the talk about “Twitter and 
Blackberry riots”, the stress on the end of political activism due to 
the lack of real-life contacts between activists and citizens, the focus 
on how the police and repressive regimes monitor social media in order 
to repress political activism, etc). The focus of this collected volume 
is different in that it seeks contributions that give a realistic 
assessment of the relationship between various forms of collective 
action (e.g. the Arab spring, the Occupy movement, contemporary student 
protests, contemporary social movements in Greece, Spain, and other 
countries, Anonymous, WikiLeaks, various forms of terrorism, various 
forms of crime, various forms of political activism, etc) and state 
power (the police, various political regimes, intelligence, the 
state-industrial surveillance complex, the neoliberal regime of 
governance, etc) on social media.

In the Iranian protests in 2009 just like in the Arab spring, activists 
have used social media as organizing and communication tool in their 
protests and governments have tried to censor and monitor social media, 
often with the help of surveillance technologies produced and exported 
by Western companies. WikiLeaks has tried to make the power of state 
actors transparent with the assistance of online leaking, and political 
opponents of the project have answered with boycotts and large-scale 
campaigns. Anonymous has advanced a networked form of political 
hacktivism and is facing the criminalization of distributed denial of 
service attacks and politically motivated cracking as well as 
prosecution of some of its activists. Organizations concerned about 
police brutality, including discriminatory and racist practices have 
turned to social media in order to ‘watch the watchers’ (regional 
CopWatch branches on Facebook, leaking personal data about abusive 
police officers to the public, drone and citizen journalism of police 
activities during political protests). However, these very sites render 
political activists visible to the police, and the police have developed 
an interest in monitoring social media and using them as surveillance 
tools. Social media and mobile phones have been used as communication 
tools in the London and Vancouver riots in 2011, to which the police 
answered with an offensive of policing social media, developing new 
social media surveillance tools, and publicly declaring the need for 
laws and technologies that enable the control of riots, crime and 
terror. Since the start of the global economic crisis in 2008, Europe 
has experienced an electoral shift towards the right in many countries 
and a growth of right-wing extremism and fascist activism that has 
culminated in Anders Breiviks’ mass killing of 69 people. The public and 
the police have since asked if Internet- and social media-monitoring and 
control can prevent such massacres, by detecting early warning signals 
and help catch criminals and terrorists before they attack. Privacy and 
civil society activists are the same time concerned that social media 
policing and surveillance bring about a totalitarian society, in which 
innocent citizens are criminalized and discriminated against, and in 
which social media policing turns against civil society, minorities 
(especially people of colour) and political activists, that conservative 
law and order politics are advanced, and that a techno-deterministic 
ideology emerges that overlooks the societal causes of crime and terror 
and believes in a technological fix to societal problems that are rooted 
in modern society’s power structures.

We are explicitly neither interested in contributions that tell readers 
which great opportunities or threats various forms of collective action 
on social media pose, nor in contributions that focus on opportunities 
or threats posed by various forms of state action on social media. We 
are rather exclusively interested in contributions that address how 
collective action and state power are related and conflict as two-sides 
of social media power, and how power and counter-power are distributed 
in this relationship.

We are compiling a collection of research papers that address one or 
more of the following issues:
-Social media and the Arab Spring, and related regime conflicts
-Social media and the Occupy movement
-Social media and student protests / austerity protests
-Social media and riots / social unrest in urban areas
-Social media and political protests and activism
-Social media and marginal political groups
-Social media, right-wing extremism, and fascism
-Social media and religious violence
-Social media and organized crime
-Social media and policing
-Social media and police violence
-Social media and the state-industrial surveillance complex
-Social media and Anonymous
-Social media and WikiLeaks

In particular, we invite research that considers a) the two-sided nature 
of power in relation to social media and politics, and that is b) 
theoretically focused, c) critical in nature and d) empirically rigorous.
-All chapters should give attention to theoretical question that address 
what political power is all about in general and today and how this 
relates to social media:
What is the state? What is power? What is politics? What is the police? 
What is surveillance? What is activism? What is civil society? How does 
the relationship between collective action and state power look like in 
modern society?
-Which critical theories that conceptualize these phenomena are there? 
Which of these theories are feasible in the context of social media?
-How can the relationship of collective action and state power be 
theorized and how does this relate to social media?
-What does it mean to study social media, politics and the state critically?
-How should the concepts of power and counter-power be theorized? How 
can such a theorization be applied to social media?
-How can the power relations and asymmetries between collective actors 
and state apparatuses be conceptualized, theorized, and empirically 
studied in a realistic and dialectical way?

Final versions of chapters should be no longer than 8000 words, 
including references and notes. We intend to submit a full proposal to 
Routledge, who have expressed an interest in this collection.

We are currently seeking extended abstracts of 800-1200 words. Please 
send extended abstracts, along with a brief bio to 
daniel.trottier at no later than Monday, October 15th, 2012.

Tentative schedule:
Extended abstracts due: Monday, October 15th, 2012
Notification of accepted papers: Thursday, November 1st, 2012
First draft of chapters due: Monday, April 1st, 2012
Feedback on chapters returned: Monday, June 3rd, 2012
Final versions of chapters due: Monday, July 15th, 2012

In order to be considered, abstracts should adhere to the following 
style (800-1200 words in total, please address each aspect separately 
and include the specific headlines in your abstract):

a) Contribution Title
b) Full name of the author(s)
c) Institutional affiliation(s)
d) Postal address(es)
e) e-mail address(es)
f) Telphone number of the corresponding author

Structured Abstract

1 Purpose:
What are the overall task and research question the chapter addresses?

2 Scope:
What is the scope of the analysis (time period for the analysis, 
geographical scope, which phenomena are included in the analysis, which 
one excluded and why, which spheres of society and their interrelations 
are taken into account (politics, state, economy, ideology, etc))?

3 Method:
Which theoretical approaches and empirical research methods are employed 
for answering the research questions and attaining the chapter’s task? 
How does the chapter employ and apply critical social theories for 
studying social media, politics, the state, power and counter-power? How 
is the power relationship of collective actors and state power taken 
into account?

4 Results:
What are the main results presented in the paper?

5 Recommendations:
What are the main recommendations for society that the research allows 
to draw from a critical and ethical perspective?

6 Conclusions:
What are the main conclusions of the conducted research for politics, 
society, academia, the research field of Critical Internet and Social 
Media Studies, and the public?

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