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

Yosem Companys companys at
Thu Aug 16 13:31:37 PDT 2012

From: Christian Fuchs <christian.fuchs at>

*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**content/CFP_SMPS.pdf<>

“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

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
-       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
-       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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