Conference: Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space

June 18-20, 2014 – University of Amsterdam, Netherlands (funded by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Science)

Organizers: José van Dijck & Thomas Poell

Confirmed keynote speakers: Lance Bennett, Tarleton Gillespie, Alfred Hermida, Hallvard Moe

Discussants: C.W. Anderson, Marcel Broersma, Jean Burgess, Irene Costera Meijer, Mark Deuze, Marlies Glasius, Eggo Müller, Bernhard Rieder, and Michael Schudson

The quick rise of social platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, is fundamentally affecting the balance between personal (private) space, community (public) space, and corporate (commercial) space. These platforms allow, on the one hand, for mass participation in public discourse, providing users with new means of expressions and connection. In this light, it has been argued that social media bring about a democratization of public life: facilitating novel forms of political contestation, more participatory types of journalism, and direct interaction between citizens and political and cultural elites. On the other hand, social media, through their technological architectures, steer how users interact with each other. They penetrate the dynamics of everyday life, reshaping people’s informal personal interactions, but also affecting institutional structures and professional routines. In this process, both public and private communication becomes entangled with social media’s commercial mechanisms, transforming the political economy of the media landscape. In combination, these developments force all societal actors—including the mass media, civil society organizations, and state institutions—to reconsider and recalibrate their position in public space.

This conference explores the potentially contradictory cultural and techno-commercial mechanisms introduced by the rise of social media platforms. The organizers invite research from different perspectives and traditions to reflect on this issue. First, we invite work that interrogates how both formal institutions (news, public broadcasting, law and order, etc) and informal organizations (activists, communities) adopt and adjust to social media. What new cultural and political practices are articulated in these processes? Second, we encourage technological perspectives: presentations of scholarship examining which mechanisms of selection and which logics of knowledge production are embedded in the platforms’ technologies. Third, the conference solicits economic and political perspectives: how do social media affect the operations and economies of media production? And how do these technologies affect power relations between different social actors?

The main question driving this conference is how social media, looked at from different angles and scholarly approaches, are transforming concepts of public space or “publicness”. More particularly, we will ask how social media are involved in the transformation of particular domains, including news production, public broadcasting, activism, and law and order. Examples of possible topics follow below.

Public space
– Social media and new practices of identity and citizenship
– Social platforms and shifting norms and logics of knowledge
– Fluctuating dynamics of public debate
– Redistribution of political, economic, and cultural power through social media
– Facebook and the reconceptualization of publicness

– Crowdsourcing journalism
– Algorithmic selection and circulation of news
– User-generated content as news source
– Business models for online news
– Social media and data journalism

Public broadcasting
– YouTube’s role in public broadcasting
– Twitter as a real-time rating service
– The participation paradigm in television
– PSB ‘public’ values and the use of social media
– “Social TV”: the integration of social media and television.

– Leadership and the online organization of protest
– Connective processes of mobilization
– Social technologies and changing repertoires of contention
– Viral protest videos
– Real-time protest communication
– Twitter and alternative journalism

Law and order
– Challenges of viral mobilization
– Security and surveillance versus accountability
– Data collection and new methods of surveillance
– “Policing” social media platforms
– Crowdsourcing civilian prosecutors

Submit an Abstract
– Presentations of original research will be 10-15 minutes long and will be held in panels; panels have 4 speakers max. and will last an hour and a half. We invite 400-word abstracts, and select presentations on the basis of their quality. Each proposal should contain a 100-word bio of the presenter.
– Proposals for full panels of four speakers are also welcome; they should include a description of the panel in approximately 400 words, and short (100 word) abstracts and bios for each speaker. A proposal for a full panel ideally also includes a moderator.
– Papers: We aim to publish a selection of the best papers on the theme of the conference in a special issue of a peer-reviewed journal or as a book collection. Papers should be max 7,500 words (including references). Full papers are due after the conference. Please indicate in the abstract of your presentation or panel whether you plan to submit a full paper!
– Proposals for presentations or full panels should be sent in a PDF or Word format as email attachments to no later than Friday, March 7, 2014. We will evaluate submissions on a rolling basis and will respond to every proposal.
– The fee for registration will be 50 euro to cover all conference documentation, refreshments, lunches and administration costs. Registration will open in March 2014.