CfP: Digital Material/ism (closed)

Abstract deadline: February 1, 2015

The idea of a society, in which everyday smart objects are equipped with digital logic and sensor technologies, is currently taking shape. Devices connected as learning machines to the “Internet of Things” necessitate further research on issues related to digital media and their materiality. In this context, media, culture and social theories, dealing with the materiality of digital technology, have gained increasing relevance.

Investigations of digital material have given rise to a wide range of (new) research questions, approaches, and issues. From the early 2000s onwards, we can identify two major strands of research that developed: (1) from the technological and material conditions of hardware and software towards (2) the social/political/economic/legal infrastructures and power relations of proprietary networks and platforms. The eventual establishment of research fields such as software studies, critical code studies, media archaeology and the notion of the post-digital − represented by scholars such as David Berry, Wendy Chun, Alexander Galloway, Mark Hansen, Katherine Hayles, Friedrich Kittler, Lev Manovich, William Mitchell, Anna Munster, Adrian Mackenzie, Jussi Parikka, Eugene Thacker, and others, − can also be understood as indicators of an institutionalisation of ‘media-materialistic’ research. For the first issue “Digital Material/ism”, the newly founded Digital Culture & Society journal calls for further methodological and theoretical reflection on issues of digital materiality and digital materialism.

Approaches may be rooted in (digital) media and cultural studies, as well as social sciences. Interdisciplinary contributions, for example, those from science and technology studies, are likewise welcome.

Paper proposals may relate to, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • the internet of things, smart objects and ambient intelligence
  • augmented environments
  • wearables (and augmented reality)
  • hardware studies and Open Hardware
  • hacker, Maker and DIY Culture
  • post-digital media research
  • media ecologies and e-waste
  • agency of assemblages

We invite submissions, which may react to, and expand on to the following questions of “Digital Material/ism”:

  1.   Field Research and Case Studies

We invite papers on socio-technological developments related to digital media materiality. Articles may examine usage and production, as well as spaces and contexts of smart objects; e.g. wearable computing devices, or beacons. Contributions may be based on (empirical) case studies. They may likewise address discourses of truth and evidence related to digital media materialism; e.g. in a metaphorical sense (see Boomen 2014) or as governmental alignment, such as “forensic materialism” as suggested by  Kirschenbaum (2008). How do materialistic positions tacitly use metaphors of clinical or administrative control to assure the relevance and societal benefits of their devices? How is the notion of ‘smart/ness’ used in order to promote new forms of technological interactions with, and surveillance of the physical environment?

  1.   Methodological reflection

We invite contributions that address methodological issues of approaches focused on digital media materiality. What are the methodological implications of such technological developments? What ethical challenges do researchers face; e.g. related to the data enabled by new digital media technology and their material features?

  1.   Conceptual/theoretical reflection

We invite papers that address key notions in the discussion of digital materiality, and question epistemological assumptions. “Materiality” is a crucial term, which only entered the discussion of digital media studies in the 2000s. Historically, how was the notion of materiality developed with regard to digital media? Moreover, in which philosophical traditions do the key representatives of “Digital Materialism” place themselves? In what ways do they assume canonical models when examining the ‘transcendental,’ ‘empirical,’ or  ‘historical-material’ conditions of data networks? Following Matthew Kirschenbaum’s (2008) conception of “formal materiality” as “the imposition of multiple relational computational states on a data set or digital object” (Ibid, p. 12), we are interested in the practical relevance of the materiality of recording, storing and processing (alongside the technical modelling of storage, digital objects, discrete data and metadata-guided processing operations). Thereby, we subsequently consider the results of Matthew Fuller’s (2003; 2008) work, “Software as a historical knowledge base”: it has its own history and does not only follow technological norms and standards, but also yields social, institutional and cultural settings.

Deadlines and contact information

  • Initial abstracts (max. 300 words) and a short biographical note (max. 100 words) are due on: February 1, 2015
  • Authors will be notified by February 16, 2015, whether they are invited to submit a full paper.
  • Full papers are due on: May 1, 2015
  • This issue is edited by Annika Richterich  and Ramón Reichert.


Boomen, M. van den (2014):
Transcoding the Digital: How Metaphors Matter in New Media. Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam.
Fuller, M. (2008):
Software Studies. A Lexicon. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Kirschenbaum, M. (2008):
Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination, Cambridge: MIT Press.
Latour, B. (1987):
Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society, Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Montfort, N. (2003):
Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction, Cambridge: The MIT Press, pp. 85-93.