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Message posted on 13/06/2019

CfP "Automating Communication", Keynote Zuboff – DEADLINE 15.07.

Dear Eurograd-community,

the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) and the
Weizenbaum-Institute for the Networked Society are jointly hosting an
International Conference:

Automating Communication in the Networked Society​: Contexts, Consequences,
November 6-8, 2019 in Berlin
Keynote by Shoshana Zuboff

This is the annual conference of the German Communication Association’s
Division “Digital Communication”. The theme speaks to a broad set of
issues, including the dynamics of innovation, actors and strategies, digital
methods and their critical reflection, and theoretical contributions. Please
find the Call for Papers below and at the conference website:

Deadline for abstracts submission is July 15, 2019. Don’t hesitate to
contact me if you have questions.

Christian Katzenbach

Senior Researcher, Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society,



November 6-8, 2019 in Berlin
Keynote by Shoshana Zuboff

A defining—yet understudied—feature of digital communication is
automation: the
production of content, the distribution of information and messages, the
curation of media
use and the governance of content are all increasingly shaped and influenced
automated processes and automated actors.

Algorithms automate the production of content, algorithms operate the
selection and
filtering of information in news, news feeds and search engines, they
attribute relevance
and popularity, perform content moderation and fact-checking. Automated actors
such as
social bots participate both in organizational communication such as customer
and, as a potential force of manipulation, in election campaigns. While
scholars have focused their attention on algorithms in diverse areas of the
field, they can
be studied as a means of the broader process of automating social relations
and public

Because automation takes place in hybrid media systems, automation is not
restrained to
social media platforms or apps, but also plays a role in journalism and legacy
media, as
well as in interpersonal communication. Algorithms write simple news articles,
rank mostread articles, and shape what journalists find relevant or
newsworthy. Networked
societies rely on permanent connectedness, all of which takes place in
strongly automated,
curated environments of data gathering, sharing, liking, commenting:
monitoring complex
actor-networks, self mass-communication, or organizing protest through

The story of automating communication has two sides: the few who are shaping,
programming and implementing algorithms and other technologies, and the many
who are
using and are impacted by automated communication. In this regard, automation
questions of power and power relations. Automating core features of democracy
such as
the assignment of relevance and legitimacy to issues, actors, and specific
content, based on
data and algorithms controlled and operated by a few private companies,
notions of transparency, due process, and legitimacy. What are the regulatory
measures to
curb this power? And are automation, algorithms, and artificial intelligence
meaningful answers to social problems?

Submissions may cover one or several of the following aspects:

1. Theoretical innovations
The process and consequences of automating communication challenge
concepts. Are bots actors? Are algorithms institutions? Are software
communicators? Does automated communication cause dissonance and disrupted
spheres, and how? Are concepts around consonance and deliberation really
“out of touch
with reality” (Pfetsch & Bennett 2018)? How does automated communication
affect media
use and media effects? How can we theoretically model automated

2. Dynamics of communication
Algorithms are at the core of automation, because automation works through
But how do they change and challenge the dynamics, the processes, and
structuration of
communication? How do search engines impact on public communication and
retrieval? How does the curation of news feeds work and how do they affect how
users receive information? What causes and influences the viral distribution
of content?
How do hate speech and “fake news” travel in networks of social media
platforms and
legacy media? Do algorithms cause filter bubbles and echo chambers? What is
the impact
of the increasing automatic detection of content deemed illegitimate (e.g.,
hate speech,
copyright violation, nudity) in social media and comment section? What is the
role of
datafication for automated and automating communication?

3. Actors and strategies, accountability and governance
Automating communication affects and involves a variety of actors: when
produce content, this changes the effort and role of journalists. How do media
actors work
with algorithmic content production? Are journalists “gaming” the
algorithms of platforms,
and how? Who creates the tools and affordances that automate
under which conditions? What happens when low-wage employees execute highly
automated tasks, partly in order to mimic algorithms and artificial
(“fauxtomation”)? New and (semi-)automated actors such as trolls,
connected activist, and
social bots alter the strategies of campaigning and the way parties and other
plan their activities. Who can be held accountable for automated
communication? What
are challenges and possible solutions for regulation and media policy?

4. Methods and critical reflection of methods
Studying automated communication often involves computational methods and
trace data.
But qualitative methods such as ethnography, interviews or observations can
also help to
understand how algorithms are created, platforms are shaped, and actors use or
sense of automated communication. Particularly research focusing on social
platforms faces severe challenges of data access and data management nowadays,
with data protection regulation, privacy issues, and proprietary data.
Analyses of
automated actors, such as bots, rely on black-boxed tools and call for
approaches. We thus also invite submissions with a critical perspective on
methods, revisiting research ethics and quality standards.

5. Open call
In addition to topic-specific submissions, there is an open call for current
research on
digital communication. We also welcome submissions that are not directly
related to the
conference theme but address pertinent issues of the research field. This must
be noted in
the submission.

Extended abstracts (4,000 to 5,000 characters, exclusive bibliography and any
can be submitted by 16 June 2019 in electronic form (.docx, .rtf or .odt;
.pdf) as email
attachments to The abstracts must be made
anonymous by means of a separate cover page and the removal of all
information from the text and document settings.

All submissions will be evaluated in a peer review according to the following
customary in the German Communication Association: theoretical foundation,
relevance of
research questions, method/procedure, novelty/originality, clarity and
conciseness of
presentation. The results of the review process will be announced by
mid-August 2019.

The conference will take place from November 6-8, 2019 in Berlin. The event is
hosted by
the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society (FU Berlin) and the
Alexander von
Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society. More information will be added on
website, such as location, program, and social events:

Hosts and contact
German Communication Association, Digital Communication Division
Christian Katzenbach,
Christian Pentzold,

Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society/FU Berlin and Alexander von
Institute for Internet and Society
Ulrike Klinger,
Christian Katzenbach,

[demime 1.01d removed an attachment of type application/pdf which had a name of DigiKomm_2019_CfP-ver2.pdf]
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