Call for abstracts!

Digital Platforms and Cancel Culture: A Special Issue of Television and New Media

With the advent of social media and platform infrastructures, cancel culture has engendered new means of regulation through digital media platforms which appear to further silence already marginalised communities. Having roots in the Black vernacular tradition, the clear social justice agendas of culturally linked meta-networks of social media practices and community digital infrastructures are argued to have become highjacked by social elites (Clark, 2020). For some commentators this means that the viral nature of social media backlash can claim, to the detriment of democracy, various careers and reputations among well-known celebrities, political figures,authors, and corporate executives (see Illing, 2021). On the other hand, research suggests that cancel culture has not been successful in thematising social justice issues (Bouvier, 2020) and instead amounts to little more than virtue signalling on public platforms. Questions raised about moral panics around cancel culture stemming from viral discussions point to the need for a more in depth and engaged analysis of user practices (Ng, 2020), platform architectures, and the probing of the role(s) of platforms in forming various positions in relation to this phenomenon.

Within this context, we propose as a starting point identifying the dynamics of contemporary digital platforms in relation to cancel culture and how these dynamics operate to propel user perceptions or experiences of this issue. We rely on Ng’s (2022, p. 1) recent, rich and useful definition of cancel culture as ‘comprising both cancel practices (cancelling) that involve actions against a cancel target, which may be an individual, brand, or company, and cancel discourses, which is commentary about cancelling’. Through soliciting global case study contributions, this special issue aims to further discover this term’s origins and evolutions and unpack its fraught dynamics across different political and cultural contexts. These might include ways that ’cancel culture’ has been hijacked out of ‘usefully angry’ and socially productive political discourses of marginalised communities and then subverted into virtue-signalling social media influence or conservative claims of censorship and ‘politically correct’ thought-policing. In examining these questions, the special issues aims to consider which platform and user practices are seen as part of or resisting cancel culture along with understanding what struggles and conflicting narratives emerge.

In addition, this special issue will ask how and why cancel culture is detrimental to democracy, how and whether it weakens norms of open debate, and whether and how it might diminish acceptance of difference in favour of ideological conformity. An examination of cancel culture as driven by contemporary digital media serves as a broader examination of varying spheres, including media technologies and their audiences; platform infrastructure, governance and affordances; and the role of new media technologies in intensifying or abating tensions for expression rights, social justice movements, and citizenship – online or off– for marginalised communities. We will explore the dangers that reside in complex dynamics of cancel culture online in order to consider how it might work to silence already silenced communities and undermine their capacity for criticism. Key to these explorations is understanding cancel culture in a nuanced way, distinguishing it from concepts including political correctness or anti-wokeness.

This issue aims to bring together a range of international scholars interested in the articulation of platforms and cancel culture and its consequences for marginalised communities and broader publics. Potential article topics may include, but are not limited to, how digital platforms provide intersections between cancel culture and topical issues including:

● Gender, race and/or sexuality
● Misinformation
● Social Justice and/or ‘anti-wokeness’
● Cancel culture and the culture wars
● Celebrity
● Algorithmic content interventions, for e.g. Shadow Banning
● Legalities and fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and privacy
● Online character assassination
● Shrinking civic spaces
● Strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPPs)

We would also welcome discussions that seek to analyse:

● The histories of cancel culture, including the impacts of the transition from legacy media to digital platform monopolies
● How cancel culture as driven by platform infrastructure, governance and affordance
● How mediated cancel culture operates through these platforms in the areas of the world described collectively as the Global South
● Political economic approaches to digital platforms and cancel culture

Deadline for Abstract Submission: December 15, 2022

Notification of Acceptance: February 1, 2023

Submission details: Abstracts of 400 to 500 words, along with a 100 bio should be sent to Elizabeth Farries (elizabeth.farries@ucd.ie), Páraic Kerrigan (paraic.kerrigan@ucd.ie) and Eugenia Siapera (eugenia.siapera@ucd.ie).