Conferences – Call for Papers

"Digital Cultures: Knowledge / Culture / Technology"

The international Conference "Digital Cultures: Knowledge / Culture / Technology" co-hosted by the Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC), Leuphana University of Lüneburg, and the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS), Western Sydney University, as part of the Knowledge/Culture Series, will take place from 19–22 September 2018 in Lüneburg, Germany. The Deadline or submissions is the 30th March 2018.

  • Date: 19.09.2018 – 22.09.2018
  • Institution: Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
  • Location: Lüneburg / Deutschland
  • Event contribution: 120 EUR, with exemptions for PhD students and under/non-salaried contributors
  • Documents to: submissions[at]

The advent and ubiquity of digital media technologies precipitate a profound transformation of the spheres of knowledge and circuits of culture. Simultaneously, the background operation of digital systems in routines of daily life increasingly obscures the materiality and meaning of technologically induced change. Computational architectures of algorithmic governance prevail across a vast and differentiated range of institutional settings and organizational practices. Car assembly plants, warehousing, shipping ports, sensor cities, agriculture, government agencies, university campuses. These are just some of the infrastructural sites overseen by software operations designed to extract value, coordinate practices and manage populations in real-time. While Silicon Valley ideology prevails over the design and production of the artefacts, practices and institutions that mark digital cultures, the architectures and infrastructures of its operations are continually rebuilt, hacked, broken and maintained within a proliferation of sites across the globe.

To analytically grasp the emerging transformations requires media and cultural studies to inquire into the epochal changes taking place with the proliferation of digital media technologies. While in many ways the digital turn has long been in process, its cultural features and effects are far from even or comprehensively known. Research needs to attend to the infrastructural and environmental registrations of the digital. Critical historiographies attend to the world-making capacities of digital cultures, situating the massive diversity of practices within specific technical systems, geocultural dynamics and geopolitical forces. At the same time the contemporaneity of digital cultures invites new methods that draw on digital media technologies as tools, and, more importantly, that engage the intersection between media technologies, cultural practices and institutional settings. New organizational forms in digital economies, new forms of association and sociality, and new subjectivizations generated from changing human-machine configurations are among the primary manifestations of the digital that challenge disciplinary capacities in terms of method. The empirics of the digital, in other words, signals a transversality at the level of disciplinarity, methods and knowledge production.

This conference brings together research concerned with studying digital cultures and the ways that digital media technologies transform contemporary culture, society and economy. The hosts specifically encourage approaches to digital cultures emerging from media and cultural theory, along with transnational currents of communications, science and technology studies. We also explicitly invite researchers from digital humanities, digital anthropology, digital sociology, gender studies, postcolonial studies, urban studies, architecture, organization studies, environmental studies, geography and computer science to engage in this endeavor to develop a critical humanities and cultural studies alert to the operations, materialities and politics of digital cultures.


The conference will address and invites contributions to the following key themes, which characterize the technological future-present:

1. Histories: Historiographies of Digital Cultures

To suggest that we now live in digital cultures, characterized by the ubiquity of digital media technologies and their influence on almost every form of life and experience, is always already an epochal argument, raising fundamental questions regarding their historicity. At the same time, this implicitness of digital technologies, as well as the breathlessness of many attempts to describe their newness and nowness, often makes it difficult to understand the historical specificity of digital cultures. Yet as an ongoing and open process neither is termination of the digital predictable nor is its advent once and for all determinable. The dating and genesis of digital cultures are therefore historiographical problems that require careful methodological consideration. How can we grasp the historicity of digital cultures; what kind of media genealogies can we trace? If all media technologies rewrite their prehistory, how do digital media technologies prefigure the parameters of the history of digital cultures? And how do they alter the knowledge and practice of (digital) history?

2. Ecologies: Environmental Media, Media Ecologies and the Technosphere

With the ubiquity of digital media technologies come media theories that understand them in their infrastructural, environmental and ecological registers. Terms such as ecology and environment are often used interchangeably to denote networked technological agencies, planetary concerns and intricate entanglements of humans and technology. While ecological thought has entered media and cultural studies in these ways, and media technologies have entered ecological thought, often a concern for what used to be called nature or the environment is eschewed in visions of technospheric futures. What is at stake in comprehending digital cultures in terms of (media) ecology? What kinds of methods are required to study not singular media but digital media technologies which saturate our surrounds? What forms of (techno)politics are called for when these media are imbued with the computational and sensory capacities of artificial intelligence and data capture? How can the different approaches to digital media and ecology be brought into conversation in ways that signal a concern for what used to be called nature?

3. Economies: Platforms, Commons and Organization

As corporations extract wealth from productive activities and operations through infrastructural systems, venture capital amasses in Silicon Valley, fuelling a technological imaginary which leads to an extensive proliferation of platforms of capture and extraction. While some argue that the corporate organization stands in conflict with network logics, putting its future in jeopardy, the platform offers itself as an organizational logic and vehicle by which capital can sustain itself and extract wealth from networked valorization. Meanwhile, a panoply of counter-organizations and movements draw on the subversive capacities of digital media technologies to propose alternative political economies, for example around the commons. Will platform capitalism be the economic base on which digital cultures operate and degenerate? How will the automation of environments and the rise of forms of algorithmic management transform labour, management and organization? And what alternative organizational forms with different cultures do digital media technologies enable? What are the methodological challenges of studying the effects of digital media on political economies?

4. Subjectivities: Biohacking, Quantification and Data Subjectivities

A growing interest in organic bodies, bodily functions and synthetic biology can not only be registered in the life sciences. In self-built biohacking labs at universities, hacklabs and fablabs, entrepreneurs, bioengineers and hobbyists are tinkering with the human body, while many of us are self-tracking and get tracked with everyday smart devices, interpreting data and drawing them into habits and practices. Questions abound concerning trans- and posthuman futures envisioned here, as much as machine learning and artificial intelligence force a redefinition of basic human capacities such as cognition and sensing. Current research often focuses on hacker collectives and DIY-biologists, the figure of the cyborg, or on everyday practices of quantification and tracking, yet rarely inquires into the epistemological relationships of technology and the human, which are also at play in robotics. Can we trace the production of new subjectivities and selves? What kind of data politics, attuned to questions of race, gender and class, can respond to the datafication of the human, and what happens to key cultural techniques such as anonymity?

5. Collectivities: Digital Publics, Movements and Populisms

A crucial effect of digital cultures is the shift of the modes and imaginations of the public, as well as the organization of social movements. We are facing a second structural transformation of the public sphere, whose impacts have been acutely perceptible in recent times. Consider, for example, the electoral triumph and governmental style of Donald Trump, Brexit, or various populisms on the rise worldwide. What does it mean when heads of state no longer communicate primarily via government declarations, press conferences newspaper interviews, but via social media? What are the implications of government opponents organizing via social media, both in short term protests and long term movements, and in diffuse organizational forms, e.g. Anonymous? In the meantime, the modern order of nations, borders and citizenship is challenged by a media technologically enabled extrastatecraft, as well as new forms of mobility and an intensification of migration. Which notion of the public emerges when traditional institutions, processes and rituals of the political tend to be substituted by a far more fluid and ramified media technological system?

6. Futures: Contemporary Futures and Anticipatory Modelling

Notwithstanding current tendencies of political regression, the 21st century is, by all means, captivated by futures. This finds its expression in growing concerns with climate change, energy scarcity, security, migration or economic investments and collapses. Where contemporary digital cultures are marked by historical futures and their imaginaries, for example those conceived by cybernetics, developments such as machine learning and artificial intelligence propose the technologies and imaginaries of contemporary futures. Meanwhile, large-scale computer simulation models, big data (e.g. generated by distributed sensor networks or retrieved from social media activities) or prototype high-tech sites such as smart cities yield innovative modes of calculation, quantification and visualization of multiple socio-political, economic or environmental futures. How do these media technologies produce different futures? How do modes of calculation, quantification, but also of speculation intertwine in these technologies? How do they contribute to contemporary cultures of resilience or preemption? And last not least: who employs them to envision what kinds of futures – and how does this shape our imaginaries of the future, respectively?


Submissions of individual contributions or plenaries (3–4 speakers/discussants plus chairs) are invited, addressing each or a cross-section of the themes, which will be complemented by a series of keynote speakers, artist talks and spotlight panels with invited speakers addressing key debates within and between these themes.

Applications must be submitted electronically in PDF format. Please submit abstracts for individual contributions (500 words max.) or panels (1000 words max.). All submissions must include: a title for the contribution or panel; a list of speakers and (for panels) chairs; a clear indication of the primary theme to which the submission is intended to contribute; at least three keywords; and short bios (200 words max.) for all speakers and (for panels) chairs involved.

Please send your submissions to submissions[at]

The deadline for submissions is 30th March 2018.

There will be a small conference registration fee of approximately 120 EUR, with exemptions for PhD students and under/non-salaried contributors, to cover the costs of catering for three conference days, including the conference dinner. Further registration details will be made available in April 2018.

Childcare will be provided. The organizers will ask you to state your needs and the number and age of your children during the registration process. Please feel free to get in touch beforehand if you have any questions.

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