Call for Papers: »Interfaces in a Datafied Society«

Exploring the massive changes in all sectors of life which are driven by digitalization and datafication, researching interfaces and their role in shaping modern society, has only recently received wider attention. In the past, researchers have often focused on »user interfaces«, a concept that limits the dimension and understanding of interfaces. But as more and more settings, activities and processes are driven by the politics of datafication, interfaces themselves have become political. Consequently, human experiences of all kinds can be regarded as enabled and/or limited and hence conditioned by technology. Taking this development into account, the concept of the interface can no longer be restricted to a technological perspective, but should be regarded as part of the relationship between agents, as interfaces are constructing and shaping relations. Regarded as a zone of encounter between interior and exterior, the interface also holds the potential of control and power, either by itself or as a result of the process. As user interfaces are mostly considered from the human end in the sense of a »human- to-programmed-data relation«, societal factors and the network dimension and data work of interfaces are neglected. In this book, we want to surpass a narrow understanding of the »user (oriented) interface« and explore different dimensions in order to open up the concept for the understanding of a datafied society.
Conceptualizing interfaces in a broader sense of data infrastructures needs to include societal developments of the digitalization process that form various types of relations among humans, objects, technologies, and environments in many different directions. A theory of the interface is thus a theory of culture and needs to reflect on human activities as culturally based. Interfaces link different sources of data to each other, for example the human (body) to the computer, »things« surrounding us to the internet or machines to machines. Thereby, they do not only connect data sources, but they constantly process data, transform data, enable data practices and produce culture.
In the light of this overall approach, some of the questions we would like to address are as follows:

  • What is the relationship between data and interfaces?
  • Which concepts of control are related to interfaces?
  • How can the interface shape the relationship between humans and technology?
  • How are data practices interface-driven, particularly in regard of complex interfaces like mobile devices or robots?
  • How do we generate data with interfaces?
  • How can interfaces and big data/algorithms be considered together?
  • In what way do interfaces make data »useful«?
  • How does the concept of interface relate to a datafied society?
  • If interfaces act out control, what is the overall societal impact?

Some guiding principles which we would like to discuss are a) the hidden architecture of interfaces and data transfer, b) the materiality of data and the materiality appearance of interfaces, and c) data practices with interfaces and its cultural and societal impact. Contributions could discuss the role and power of the interface towards data through both, analytical/theoretical and practical/empirical work.

The book »Interfaces in a Datafied Society« proposes to discuss interfaces as a core concept, which structures many areas of life (such as politics, economics, work, the social and private). Contexts of the contributions can therefore focus on political, economic, social, ethical, cultural, and technical key questions in order to include different aspects of the datafied society.

Interested researchers are invited to send an extended abstract of 4.000 to 6.000 characters as Word/PDF document to rring@uni-bonn.de by November 15, 2018. Those selected for publication will be notified by end of November 2018, final contributions are expected by July, 2019. The articles should have a length of 45.000 to 60.000 characters including blanks and should be written in English. The publication of the book is scheduled for winter 2019/20 and will appear at Palgrave Macmillan (under review).

The editors:

Regina Ring, University of Bonn, Department of Media Studies
Regina Ring is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Bonn, Department of Media Studies. In her upcoming dissertation project, she discusses the role and power of the interface within new technological developments such as wearable technologies, through both, analytical and empirical work.

Caja Thimm, PhD, Professor for Media Studies and Intermediality and head of Department Media Studies, University of Bonn
She is currently leading the research group and graduate school on »Digital Society«. Her most recent book is on »Media Logics Revisited. Modelling the Interplay between Media Institutions, Media Technology and Societal Change« (Palgrave Macmillan).

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