The Dark Social: Online Practices of Resistance, Motility and Power

Journal issue, 25. May 2020.

This is a call for papers for a special edition of /Continuum/ ‘The Dark Social: Online Practices of Resistance, Motility and Power’

The intention of this special edition is to provoke critical examination of dark social spaces that are characterised by privacy enhancing technologies that might give rise to acts of resistance, division and evasion. Frequently, the actors using these technological affordances are commonly identified as subcultural groups, activists, marginalised cultures and communities, trolls and socially divisive actors who seek to evade, refuse or disrupt institutional power. We want to suggest, however, that this interpretation creates an artificial binary positioning a fringe of radical actors against institutions of governance, regulation and control. Similarly, approaches that distinguish between social agency and technological affordances protecting privacy, on the one hand, and institutional regulation and centralised surveillance on the other, do not acknowledge how powerful institutional actors use these decentralised technologies to reinforce their authority and control.

This special edition seeks to draw on, but push past these binaries to create new approaches to darknet and dark social studies. What is dark online often connotes moral registers toward what society hides or fears. Yet social spaces that are ‘dark’ offer autonomy and relief from the ever-lasting digital light in current iterations of capitalisms, authoritarianisms and surveillance cultures. A technical rather than moral definition of darkness (Gehl 2018) critiques moral determinism and opens for exploration those dark social spaces that seek legitimacy by offering linked anonymities for reader and publisher, against structural surveillance.

Such understandings of ‘dark social’ are in tension with social and political theories which argue that for politics and ‘acts’ to matter they must appear in the public light. They are also in tension with popular narratives of the ‘dark recesses of the web’ which are leveraged by structural powers to keep their subjects knowable, in and of the clear web. We argue that the binary of dark versus light is challenged by the swirling, /brackish /existence of identity, politics, and everyday communication practices that modulate between online and offline, and being open and obfuscating.

This special edition will focus on the tensions present in what is dark and social online, while also considering how practices do not neatly fit in a dark/light binary.

We seek papers that offer nuanced theoretical, empirical, creative, methodological, and ethical approaches to ‘dark social’ digital place[s], power, and practices whether technical, moral, or otherwise. The framing we suggest surpasses previous literature to consider the practices that exist outside the clear web in ways other than those conceived as ‘moral darkness’. Humans and their communications—digital or otherwise—do not exist in solely transparent space and practice. Recognition of these complexities of being ‘online’ is a crucial step to explore and critique an age concerned with post-privacy, ubiquitous surveillance and authenticity of the message and messenger.

In the context of the above, we seek papers of no more than 6,000 words each that might address Issues for darknet and dark social studies through a critical lens of:

  * The affordances/implications of online privacy enhancing technologies;
  * Chinese and/or non-western social media platforms;
  * Global Online Surveillance and other State-regulated social media
    platforms;
  * Communication and authenticity online;
  * Socio-cultural/technical acts of online resistance, division and
    evasion.

*Key Dates*:

  * Please send 450-500 word ABSTRACTS by *25th May 2020*to
    <darksocial2020@gmail.com>
      o Include the name(s) of the author(s);
      o The affiliation(s) and address(es) of the author(s);
      o The e-mail address, and telephone number(s) of the corresponding
        author:
  * FIRST DRAFT SUBMISSION:*26th November 2020*
  * REVISION DEADLINE:*April 2021*
  * PUBLICATION: *June 2021*

/Guest editors: Toija Cinque (Deakin University), Robert W. Gehl (Louisiana Tech University) and Alexia Maddox (Deakin University)/