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Below is a call for papers to a special issue of Convergence Journal on Conspiracy Theories in Digital Environment.
CFP: “Conspiracy Theories in Digital Environments”
Deadline for Abstracts: 1 May 2021
Expected date of print publication: August 2022
Special Issue of Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies Guest editors: Dr. Jing Zeng (University of Zurich, Switzerland), Prof. Mike S. Schäfer (University of Zurich, Switzerland) and Prof. Thaiane Oliveira
(Federal Fluminense University, Brazil)
“Conspiracy theories”, once perceived as harmless phenomena that are “silly and without merit” (Keelley, 1999, p.109), have garnered increased attention among scholars, in news media and public discourse. Factors contributing to the current prevalence
of conspiracy theories are manifold. From the rise of populist politics (Bergmann & Butter, 2020) and science-related populism (Mede & Schäfer, 2020) to the current pandemic, societal and political upheaval are associated with an increase in conspiracy theories.
For researchers of new media technologies, one factor rendering conspiracy theories particularly worthy of interrogation is their close interplay with information and communication technologies. These technologies can amplify the visibility of conspiracy theory-related
content and its promulgators (Bessi et al., 2015; Hellinger, 2018). Digital platforms are also congregation points for conspiracy theorists, risking polarisation of these “epistemologically isolated networks” (Sunstein & Vermeule, 2009, p. 204). Digital platform
logics (Van Dijck & Poell, 2013) may exacerbate the problem of conspiracy theories, which has led to the recent trend of the deplatformisation (Rogers, 2020) of conspiracy theorists. As a result, many conspiracy theorists and their followers have migrated
to fringe platforms such as Gab, Parler, and BitChute.
Despite the recent expansion of scholarship about conspiracy theories, more academic attention is required to systematically and comprehensively interrogate the role of new media technologies in shaping, disseminating, but also potentially mitigating conspiracy
theories. Cross-cultural and cross-platform perspectives are particularly needed in order to investigate the full scope of the topic.
This requires not only methodological innovation but also new theoretical ideas and conceptual heuristics. This special issue aims to assemble scholarship from different disciplinary perspectives that offer conceptual reflections, methodological advances,
and in-depth discussions of conspiracy theories in digital environments.
We particularly welcome submissions investigating this topic in countries or regions in the Global South.
The editors welcome contributions that explore, or go beyond, questions such as:
● Which actors propagate conspiracy theories in digital environments, how prevalent are conspiracy theories in public discourse, which users contribute to this reach, and in what ways does it affect them?
● To what extent do the communication and social functions of online conspiracy theories differ across cultural contexts? How do conspiracy theories operate online in different political systems?
● What conceptual and theoretical approaches are needed to analyze conspiracy theories in digital environments - in how far do existing concepts and theories have to be adapted or are novel concepts and theories needed?
● What methodological approaches are suitable for cross-platform/cross-lingual/cross-national analysis of conspiracy theories?
● How do platform affordances influence conspiracy theories in digital environments, especially in the case of emerging or “fringe” platforms (such as TikTok, 8kun, Gab or Parler)?
Authors of accepted abstracts will be contacted by 4 June and invited to submit full contributions by 1 September 2021.
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