CFP: Digital Technologies and Social Transformations: What Role for Critical Theory?

Special Issue of the Canadian Journal of Communication
Guest Editors: Delia Dumitrica and Sally WyattIn the past two decades, social research on the role of digital technologies in contemporary transformations has increasingly emerged as a disciplinary field in its own right. This has entailed a shift away from optimistic accounts of the alleged potential of these technologies to address social problems and alleviate inequalities, to a more nuanced understanding of the mutual shaping of digital technologies and existing social structures. Calls for recuperating the role of critical theory in understanding digital technologies (e.g. Feenberg 1991, 1999; Fuchs 2008, 2009) have emphasized the need to develop and refine suitable conceptual and methodological tools. The aim of this special issue is to map the use of critical theory in research on digital technologies. These technologies are often lauded for their capacity to harness creativity and knowledge, and proposed as a quick fix to the challenges and shortcomings of traditional hierarchies of power. Critical theory has emerged as an effort to constantly relate reflection on social aspects to existing configurations of power. The special issue brings together current research seeking to relate interpretation of digital technologies to power relations. The notion of power remains, of course, a notoriously problematic one; from its Marxist definition as (class) oppression to the post-structural (Foucaultian) power/knowledge pair, the common thrust of critical approaches has been to expose inequity and create conceptual and material spaces where more fair and egalitarian social arrangements can be imagined and enacted. Authors are encouraged to reflect on the role of power, in all its aspects, in their approach to digital technologies. We welcome a diverse approach to critical theory, including (but not restricted to) the traditional Marxist framework developed by the Frankfurt School, as well as subsequent revisions stemming from post-structuralism, postmodernism, feminism, queer theory, postcolonialism and indigenous epistemologies. We are also particularly interested in approaches that draw upon Canadian traditions, such as those inspired by the work of McLuhan, Smythe, Mosco, etc. Submissions should directly engage with the question of power, either in terms of conceptualizing technology or in terms of reflecting on technology’s role in social transformations.

All submissions should follow the Canadian Journal of Communication submission guidelines: