The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Call for Papers / IPP2018: Long Live Democracy?

Location: Thursday 20 - Friday 21 September 2018, University of Oxford.

Convenors: Helen Margetts (OII), Jonathan Bright (OII), Vicki Nash (OII), Vili Lehdonvirta (OII), David Sutcliffe (OII), Andrea Calderaro (Univ. Cardiff / ECPR).
Abstract deadline: 12 March 2018.
Submit your abstract (EasyChair): https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=ipp2018
Contact: policyandinternet@oii.ox.ac.uk

This conference is convened by the Oxford Internet Institute for the OII-edited academic journal Policy and Internet, in collaboration with the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR) standing group on Internet and Politics.

Rationale

The digitisation of social and political life is disrupting democracy. Political campaigns, social movements and democratic debate increasingly take place in digital settings, with all the possibilities of vanishing co-ordination and communication costs this implies. This shift provides enormous potential for democratic renewal: witness rising levels of youth participation, exciting new forms of political engagement and the rapid emergence of new political actors in countries all across the world. But these platforms are also implicated in a long list of pernicious effects, including: polarisation and division; online hate speech; echo chambers and filter bubbles; data-driven campaigns that are ‘hacking the electorate’; volatility and instability in political life; and fake news and computational propaganda.  

Alongside changes to the political process, there are other ways in which the platforms of the digital economy and social media where citizens spend so much of their time present fundamental opportunities and challenges to democratic governance. Huge global service companies enable millions of interactions between service providers and customers (e.g. airbnb, Uber), or between employers and employees (e.g. Crowdflower, MechanicalTurk, oDesk), or between friends and social relations (e.g. Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat).

These platforms have transformative effects on industry and everyday life, and have the potential to break down barriers to access in areas like employment, education, enterprise and healthcare. But they often undermine existing regulatory frameworks, including those which protect workers’ rights or consumers’ safety, while their international nature means they are themselves difficult to control (or tax). Governments around the world have started to take the first steps in terms of “platform regulation”: but much more remains to be done.

Topics

This conference is about questioning the theses of democratic renewal - and democratic decay - in a digital world. We are looking for rigorous research to understand the role of digital platforms in democratic processes and the development of institutional arrangements that ensure that democratic systems remain free, fair and open. Current democratic and government structures are in urgent need of institutional renewal if they are to survive in the 21st century. But we also remain optimistic that harnessing the potential of internet-mediated technologies can help build a new and better democracy. Hence we seek to place critical attention on the potential role of internet mediated activity in undermining core aspects of democracy; yet also call for positive, optimistic contributions which highlight the many ways in which the internet has allowed existing democracies to grow and change.

We welcome theoretical, empirical, qualitative and quantitative studies, from all disciplines. Submissions are invited to tackle one of the following themes (though other submissions are also welcome):

  • The role of social media in political campaigns

  • Governance and politics of platforms such as Uber, oDesk, AirBnB, Facebook or Twitter

  • Accountability and rights of redress in the platform society

  • Innovations in civic participation and engagement

  • Digital political advertising and voter targeting

  • Online social movements

  • Echo chambers and online political fragmentation

  • “Fake news” and electronic propaganda

  • Astroturfing and automatic manipulation of social media

  • The character and tone of online political speech and debate

  • Instability and volatility in political life

  • Changing party systems

  • The rise of extremism and polarization

  • Models of democracy for the digital age

Accepted papers will be organized into thematically and methodologically relevant sessions and parallel streams. 

Proposal submission

Paper proposals should consist of a title and a 1,000-word extended abstract that specifies and motivates the research question, describes the methods and data used, and gives an indication of the findings. Abstracts will be reviewed, and the authors of accepted proposals are expected to submit full papers prior to the conference. After the conference, participants will be invited to submit their paper for consideration as part of a special issue of the journal Policy and Internet.

Paper submissions will also be considered for a Best Paper Award (sponsored by the journal Policy and Internet). The prize will be awarded at the closing session of the conference.

Submit your abstract (EasyChair): https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=ipp2018

Important dates 

  • Extended abstract submission deadline: 12 March 2018
  • Decisions on abstracts: 7 May 2018
  • Full paper deadline (for accepted abstracts): 27 August 2018
  • Conference dates: Thursday 20 - Friday 21 September 2018