Steve Walker

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Call for papers: Critical Approaches to Informational Phenomena – Past(s), Present(s) and Future(s)

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Call for Papers to CIS’2021

Critical Approaches to Informational Phenomena – Past(s), Present(s) and Future(s)

Online Workshop at the

International Society for the Study of Information (IS4SI) Online Summit, 12-19 September 2021*


Critical Information Studies research group (CIS)


Syed Mustafa Ali, CIS Convenor, Open University, UK


Ray Corrigan, CIS, Open University, UK

Mark Hall, CIS, Open University, UK

Andy Hollyhead, CIS, Open University, UK

Magnus Ramage, CIS, Open University, UK

Steve Walker, CIS, Open University, UK


This workshop aims to explore contestation of the view that there is only a single way of understanding any of the past, present and/or future of informational phenomena (and sociotechnical assemblages more broadly). In opposition to singular (or unilinear) perspectives, we assert that informational phenomena always have multiple past(s), present(s), and future(s).

We seek to engage with various critical orientations contesting the claim that embracing a universal narrative is the correct way of thinking about informational phenomena, especially when that narrative is formulated by those in dominant positions of power.

Critical approaches to informational phenomena must always allow for production of a multiplicity of narratives, and especially those informed by perspectives generated by those located at the margins. To unsettle dominant power perspectives and in pursuit of restorative justice, it is necessary to embrace an ethics – and politics – wherein the views of those historically peripheralized are given preference.

The overarching theme of the workshop might be summarised as follows:

Lessons from the past(s), contestations in the present(s), envisioning the future(s)

Workshop discussions will focus on:

  • How dominant narratives about informational phenomena and/or technologies can be interrogated (disrupted, unsettled) by drawing attention to their multiple past(s), present(s), and future(s) from one or more critical orientations.
  • Examples of informational phenomena and/or technologies, where adopting a critical orientation can provide a means by which to disclose the contingent nature of the phenomenon and contestation over how it is understood.
  • Critical orientations on information phenomena and/or technologies informing strategies and tactics for engaging with past and present developments and struggles with a view to shaping future trajectories – opening up some and closing down others.

Contributions are encouraged from various critical orientations including (but not limited to):

  • Critical theory
  • Political economy
  • Feminist technoscience
  • Postcolonial/decolonial theory
  • Critical race theory
  • Critical legal studies
  • Critical data/algorithm studies
  • Critical sociotechnical studies
  • Critical discourse analysis
  • Critical archive/canon studies
  • Surveillance studies
  • Critical infrastructure studies
  • Critical systems studies

As a guide to contributors, examples of practical applications of these critical approaches include the following (although others are, of course, possible):

  • The emergence in the 1970s of the influential Scandinavian ‘Collective Resource Approach’ to participatory design, involving collaboration between trade unionists and radical computer scientists, and its subsequent evolution.
  • The question of how to balance the power of digital archives to make alternative past and present histories both more visible – through digitisation – and less visible – through exclusion from digitisation.
  • Battles over the legality of mass surveillance legislation (such as the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 in the UK, though this is replicated in other jurisdictions) fought by civil rights and privacy advocates.
  • Project Cybersyn, the early 1970s experiment to redesign the Chilean economy along cybernetic lines during the democratic socialist government of Salvador Allende; relatedly, analyses of the structural roots of global inequality via sociotechnical and sociomaterial systems thinking.


Please email

  • extended abstracts (300 – 500 words) for intended presentations in English until 15 May 2021 to “re: CAIP”. Submissions will be reviewed according to the scope of the workshop, and presenters notified of acceptance accordingly.
  • Short papers of around 5 pages based on accepted presentations will be published in the Proceedings of the Summit. Details will be announced in due course.
  • Publication of full papers will be considered after the workshop.

For further information please contact the chair at the above email address.

* The workshop is part of the IS4SI Summit 2021:

Written by Steve

April 10, 2021 at 11:04 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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