Skip to main content

ICA Pre-Conference: What Comes After Disinformation Studies?

Paris, May 25, 2022

The médialab at Science Po

Submissions due: Friday, February 18, 2022 at 12pm ET

Submit Here

Introduction

The title of this pre-conference, “What Comes After Disinformation Studies?”, is something of a deliberate provocation. With an ongoing increase in authoritarian and nationalist politics globally over the past several years and the weakening of democratic institutions in many countries, scholarly and media attention to disinformation has exploded, as have institutional, platform, and funder investments towards policy and technical solutions. This has also led to critical debates over the “disinformation studies” literature. Some of the more prominent critiques of extant assumptions and literatures by scholars and researchers include: the field possesses a simplistic understanding of the effects of media technologies; overemphasizes platforms and underemphasizes politics; focuses too much on the United States and Anglocentric analysis; has a shallow understanding of political culture and culture in general; lacks analysis of race, class, gender, and sexuality as well as status, inequality, social structure, and power; has a thin understanding of journalistic processes; and, has progressed more through the exigencies of grant funding than the development of theory and empirical findings. These concerns have also been surfaced by journalists and community organizers in public forums, such as Harper’s Magazine’s special report “Bad News” in late August 2021; or, organizers highlighting the exclusions of communities of color in existing discourse and subsequent responses. 

Even as disinformation has been the subject of growing academic debate, the relationship between disinformation, technology, and global democratic backsliding, white supremacy, inequalities, nationalisms, and the rise of authoritarianism globally remains unclear, and raises important questions of what constitutes healthy democratic systems

Given this, the time is right to create and advance an interdisciplinary, critical, post-disinformation studies agenda that centers questions of politics and power. We are particularly excited to take the best existing aspects of the research that has been done so far and put it into dialog with other fields (such as history, feminist science and technology studies, critical race and ethnic studies, anthropology, social movement studies, etc.) that have their own perspectives on how to understand and study politics, technology, and media in the 21st century. 

Submission Guidelines

This pre-conference is not structured around the traditional academic practice of “submitting a paper,” making a brief presentation, and then fielding follow-up questions from the audience. Instead, we ask everyone to submit a 2-3 page (1200-1500 word) “big idea” argument for what might come after, replace, or supplement disinformation studies (submission details at the end of the CFP). This paper should formulate a proposal for what comes after disinformation studies, analyze what needs to be done to supplement its analytical and methodological tools, or critique one or more of the major works in the field of disinformation studies as a jumping off point for considering the limits, and promises, of the existing field. Or, the proposal can be a combination of some or all of these things. In sum, we are looking for arguments that spur debate, discussion, and the generation of new perspectives. 

In particular, this pre-conference seeks short reflections and provocations that answer, What should we be focusing our scholarly energies on, and how can we move our understandings of contemporary threats to democracy, public knowledge, political and social equality, and multi-racial and multi-ethnic societies forward? These submissions might address some of the following:

  • Draw on diverse traditions of scholarship (e.g. mass audience theory, cultural studies, postcolonial and decolonial studies, political economy and critical race theory) that help us place disinformation research within an interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary context. For example, how might critical theory from the Frankfurt School or sociological theory from W.E.B Du Bois offer new lenses and perspectives on disinformation? 
  • Emphasize non-U.S. and Anglocentric contexts and/or transnational approaches to the study of politics and platforms. 
  • Historicize what are often very presentist debates on technology and information.
  • Discuss the ways in which often neglected social structures, social categories, and social identities play a role in differential experiences of disinformation, technological structures, and democracy, such as political expression and suppression; inequalities and asymmetries of information and technological access; or modes of state and institutional governance and the mobilization of security infrastructures. 
  • Detail the theoretical, conceptual, and methodological tools necessary for understanding disinformation in different social, political, economic, cultural, and technological contexts (e.g. cross-disciplinary collaborations, community-engaged approaches, and qualitative and interpretive methods).
  • Draw on original empirical research in order to complicate the often-simplistic relationship between mis- and disinformation and political dysfunction and/or to offer considerations for how we may re-conceptualize approaches to digital harm and safety, platform governance, institutional trust, etc.

Please submit your “big idea” paper via this form by 5pm UK Time on Friday, February 18 (12 pm EST). 

Submissions should not exceed 3 single-spaced pages (or 1500 words maximum) and be submitted in .pdf or .docx format. Please include your complete name, title, and affiliation in the document header.

Submit Here

Pre-Conference Format

The conference aims to foster a series of overlapping conversations that will also introduce original empirical and theoretical research. It also aims to “democratize” the idea of the conference keynote. To these ends, the conference will operate in an “onion” format. There will be four, relatively short, invited keynotes presented over the course of the day (2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon). These keynotes will then be followed by 3-4 also relatively brief paper presentations that will be related to the topic of the keynote just presented. The organizers will select the keynotes and paper presenters from submissions to the preconference based on consideration of the quality of the arguments, fit with other submissions, and interventions to address critical gaps in the field, as well as on the diversity of research profiles, methodologies and theoretical perspectives of the authors. After these talks, we will quickly open the conversation up to the audience so we can engage the entire room. 

Cost and Logistics

There is no cost to attend this preconference. Coffee, tea, meals and dessert will be served over the course of the day.

The conference will be located at Sciences Po, Paris, 27 rue Saint-Guillaume (room Leroy-Beaulieu). It will also be possible to participate virtually. 

Contact

Email  afterdisinformation@gmail.com with any questions. 

Sponsors

ICA Lead sponsor: Political Communication Division

ICA Co-sponsor: Ethnicity and Race in Communication Division

University of North Carolina Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP)

University of Leeds School of Media and Communication

Science Po médialab

Comments are closed.