Questioning Digital Activism

Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 12:00am


Call for Papers: "Questioning Digital Activism"


Deadline: January 17, 2013


Social media technologies like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, podcasts, text messaging, and other mobile blogging programs have recently been used to share information between activists around the world. From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, web-roots campaigns have arguably seen countless successes, while information-sharing hacktivists like Wikileaks and Anonymous have demonstrated the potential value of digital media technology in exposing institutional malfeasance. But while many tout the value of digital activism for promoting positive change, others remain skeptical. Some argue, for example, that digital technology fails to generate the actions and social conditions necessary to produce stable communities or meaningful change. Many debate whether online discussions truly allow for greater understanding of diverse voices or merely draw us into echo chambers of increasingly like-minded and perhaps extremist groups. Some note digital media is employed not only by groups seeking public good, but also by terrorist organizations and hate groups. Meanwhile, the ethics and legality of hacktivism remain unclear. Along with these new issues raised by social media, the perennial problem of access remains. If digital media technologies become the favored means of promoting and participating in causes, then what of those without the capacity to engage with these technologies? Finally, what do these debates suggest for the future of pedagogy and scholarship regarding digital literacies? In what ways might pedagogy and scholarship be reimagined or retooled in response to the questions raised here in order to shape the next generation of digital activism?


The 2013 issue of Currents in Electronic Literacy invites scholarly work that engages questions at the intersections of advocacy, activism, and digital media technologies. In addition to essays, Currentsinvites compositions using media such as websites, videos, digital presentations, interviews, archives, or other forms. Digital or technological submissions in non-traditional formats should include a 500-word document explicating the piece presented.


Some lines of scholarship for the 2013 issue include—but are not limited to—the following:


  • What are digital activism's greatest potentials and limitations—both in general and in specific cases (e.g., in specific political campaigns or instances of civil rights, resistance, or revolutionary advocacy)? 
  • What problematic forms of digital activism exist—including but not limited to the activities of terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, hate speech sponsored by various racial supremacy and other groups, digital crime and terrorism such as distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) and illegal hacking activities? What issues do these problematic forms raise for other digital activists such as increased surveillance, censorship, and security issues?
  • What role do digital media technologies play in today's notion of public advocacy or activism? How do these technologies shape the forms of advocacy we employ? 
  • Do digital media technologies expose any interesting alternative forms of rhetoric and writing or reveal anything about rhetorical invention or memory? 
  • To what extent has digital media technology become the favored contemporary "space" for activism and what are the implications for those without access to these technologies? 
  • How rhetorically effective is digital activism compared to previous media technologies and boots-on-the-ground activism? 
  • In what ways is digital media changing political campaigns and are such changes rhetorically significant? Does the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) affect the impact of such technologies on political campaigns, and if so what impact is it likely to have on the use of digital technologies in political campaigns? 
  • Does digital media alter the ways in which we generate and experience social solidarity? Does it shift the boundaries of our national, ethnic, religious or other identities in any important ways? 
  • How do issues of censorship and the often fragile security of digital systems reveal a potential overreliance on digital activism?
  • Are there marginal forms of digital activism that need to be uncovered and if so what are they and why are they important?
  • Do online peer-to-peer sharing, blogging, or the increased access of amateur journalists allow dilettantes and partisans undue influence on the news cycle or potentially degrade public discourse? 
  • In what ways might digital, multimedia, or non-traditional scholarship be considered forms of digital activism? How do digital scholars today use new and social media to mobilize or to effect changes at the boundaries of traditional academic spheres of conversation and publication? 
  • By what criteria should digital activism be assessed? Is the accomplishment of public discourse enough, or must an end goal be reached? On these grounds, are digital activist campaigns succeeding or failing? 
  • Can digital activism be monetized, and if so, does it inherently compromise the nature of digital activism? What political, ethical, logistical or social differences exist between raising money click to click versus door to door? 
  • To what extent is digital activism the cultural product of service providers, as opposed to citizen-users? Who mediates, transmits, and, ultimately, owns “the people’s” voice? 
  • Recent court cases have tested the limits of privacy and other constitutional protections, including against self-incrimination, by bringing defendants’ own online voices to witness against them. If technology continues to expand and evolve at its present rate, how can legal structures keep pace? What might happen to juridical systems, individual activists, and digital media if they do not? 
  • With respect to the issues raised above, how should pedagogy regarding digital literacies be reimagined or retooled to shape the next generation of digital activism?


Currents in Electronic Literacy is internally peer-reviewed by a cohort of graduate students and faculty at the University of Texas at Austin according to Ebsco Publishing’s policy for “Editorial Board Peer-Review.” All submissions to Currents should adhere to MLA style guidelines for citations and documentation. Submissions should state any technical requirements or limitations. Currents reserves all copyrights to published articles and requires that all of its articles be housed on its own Web server. It is the policy of Currents that all accepted contributions meet Section 508 accessibility standards (for example, captioning for video and transcripts for audio). While all Currents articles are accessible, readers are advised that these same articles may contain links to other websites that do not meet accessibility guidelines. Please direct all submissions and questions to: currentsdwrl@gmail.comThe deadline for submissions is January 17, 2013.




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