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Preconference Call for Papers: Algorithms, Automation and Politics

Published on
6 Jan 2016
Written by
Philip Howard

The international team will be meeting in Fukuoka, Japan in June 2016.  We invite other researchers who plan to come to the International Communications Association meetings to join us for a preconference on “Algorithms, Automation and Politics.”  The event details are here, and all of this is mirrored on the ICA website.

Recent research has revealed that political actors are using algorithms and automation in efforts to sway public opinion. In some circumstances, the ways coded automation interacts with or affects human users is unforeseeable-even by the software engineers who write such algorithms. In others, individuals and organizations work to build software that purposefully targets voters, activists, and political opponents. Politicized social bots are one version of potentially malicious automated programs, discriminatory algorithms are another. Understanding how technologies like these are used to spread propaganda, engage with citizens, and influence political outcomes are pressing problems for scholars of communication.

This preconference seeks to address these problems and explore a broad range of interdisciplinary questions related to algorithms, automation, and politics. To date, what impact have automated scripts on global social media services had on political discussions an current affairs? Who produces these scripts, or what are the conditions in which innovations in computer science and engineering get repurposed for political means? Is there a demonstrable impact of algorithms and bots upon news consumption? What is the evolutionary trajectory of this field of computer science, and what are the mechanisms for improving public literacy, generating careful policy oversight, and preventing the abuse of social networking technologies. It will be important to work with concrete case studies and examples of such manipulation, and it will be critical to draw theory from both political communication and science and technology studies to explain these cases.

We will consider how political automation has evolved, potential futures for such technology, and ways citizens, scholars, journalists and policy makers can respond. We invite researchers interested in the intersection of communication, technology and politics to apply. All methodologies and theoretical approaches are welcome.

Submission Details:  To apply for this preconference submit a relevant extended abstract of 500-800 words to by 12 February 2016.  Accepted participants will be expected to submit an unpublished 4,000-6,000 word manuscript by 1 May 2015. After the event we hope to include preconference participants in the production of an edited volume on this subject.

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