Call for contributions

Internet technologies and democracy

Introduction

The revelations about the data-mining of 87 million Facebook accounts to micro-target voters in the US and UK serve as the biggest wake-up call since the Edward Snowden/NSA affair about the ways in which non-consensual use of big data can compromise democratic processes. The current scandal is less the scale, efficacy and degree of sophistication to which, thanks to social media, political campaigning now operates, as the absence of basic standards of transparency and openness, and lack of any regulatory framework. The latest Facebook affair is therefore instructive when it comes to thinking about the political implications of online technologies, because it shows us that the dichotomy democracy/authoritarianism alone no longer suffices to grasp the problem. Regardless of the presence of representative procedures, if online technologies and their political uses are concealed from society, democracy loses. Equally, whatever the security benefits of big-data surveillance, if such practices are non-accountable, freedom is put at risk. The emergence of ‘surveillance capitalism’ throughout the liberal democratic world poses a fundamental challenge to established rule-of-law systems. Democracy today means net neutrality, an open internet, data privacy and transparent technologies.

This is not to relativize the authoritarian capture of the internet in societies where democracy is anyway weak. This goes not just for China, where the ongoing creation of a national internet allows an unprecedented degree of state surveillance, censorship and social discipline, but for other authoritarian regimes globally. Yet it is precisely here that the emancipatory aspects of technology emerge. The internet can offer a space for dissent amidst repression and censorship; for social self-organization where governments fail; for genuine forms of popular sovereignty where democracy is merely formal. Indeed, it is possible that the last two decades of technological hyper-acceleration have been an interregnum and that, with the Internet of Things, a global ‘Pax Technica’ may be emerging. So let us beware of miserabilism. Despite the bots and the trolls, the disinformation, the hate speech and the propaganda, the echo chambers and the filter bubbles, anti-democratic and anti-humanist ideology may actually be marginalized within social networks: online media may create more, not less tolerance.

Following the focal point ‘Disinformation and Democracy’, a collaboration with the National Endowment for Democracy, Eurozine is inviting contributions from partners on ‘Internet technologies and democracy’. Topics could include:

  • Surveillance capitalism and the economics of the internet;
  • Software monopolies versus open internet and net neutrality;
  • Data analytics, political advertising and micro-targeting;
  • National internets, web censorship, state surveillance;
  • Online privacy, privacy legislation, digital civil rights;
  • Hacking, data security, info-war, bots, trolls and propaganda;
  • Online public spheres versus echo-chambers and filter bubbles;
  • Civic tech, e-government, e-democracy, smart cities;
  • Digital activism, social organization, crisis-management;
  • Digital access, development, education, healthcare;
  • Artificial intelligence, machine learning, ‘black box’ algorithms;
  • Digitalization, robotization and the future of work;
  • The Internet of Things: Pax Technica or Digital Wild West?
  • The history of the internet, software, social media;
  • Is technology neutral? Technology, technocracy, ideology.

Procedure and funding:

The focal point will be an editorial collaboration between you, the partner journal, and Eurozine. Partner journals will be paid 500€ per contribution to cover commissioning and / or editorial fees.

Step 1. Submit a proposal for one or more articles, including information about authors. Note that articles will not yet have been commissioned or published.

Step 2. The Eurozine editors and editorial board will select proposals on the basis of variety, originality, topicality, representation, feasibility, etc. We may discuss with you ways in which the article can be developed.

Step 3. Journal editors will commission and edit the article. The article will be published in your journal or another journal.

Step 4. The article will be translated into English and published in Eurozine, together with the original, though not necessarily simultaneously.

Step 5. Eurozine and the partner journal will develop an ongoing social media strategy for promoting your article and other articles in the project.

Timeline: The project runs until February 2019. Articles will be published throughout this period. There is no deadline however please note that we have limited funds for commissioning articles. The sooner you submit a proposal the higher the chance of it being included in the focal point!

Please email proposals to Simon Garnett at: s.garnett@eurozine.com

Thank you for your interest!