Call for Papers: ICA Preconference on Data and Publics

Submit papers that critically rethink the meaning and practices of publics and public communication.

The call for papers for "Data and Publics: A New Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere?" is now open. An ICA preconference, Data and Publics will be held on May 24, 2018 in Prague. The preconference is sponsored by Communication and the Public.

Data and Publics: A New Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere?

Despite the growing interest in data and society, relatively little attention has been paid to the implications of a data society for the forms and dynamics of publicity, publics, and public communication. If the institution of the modern public sphere has always aspired to a degree of autonomy vis-à-vis its critical targets, what happens when its targets – be they government or business entities – begin to actively incite the production of public discourse and then harvest it as data for profit or surveillance? What new issues are raised when private individuals willingly surrender personal information to the public sphere in their daily communication routines? Or when citizens’ communication routines are channeled and shaped by the algorithms of corporate strategists? How may the advent of a data society lead to changing forms and practices of public communication, ranging from journalism, policy debates, and public advocacy, to political campaigns and analysis and depictions of public opinion?

We invite scholars to submit detailed abstracts (500-1,000 words) of theoretical and empirical research papers or proposals of thematic panels with multiple papers that critically rethink the meaning and practices of publics and public communication in this new data society. In addition to the questions raised above, scholars might explore:

  1. how the practices of tracking, trolling, data-mining, bots, hacking, social media algorithms, and data analytics shape the conditions and outcomes of publicity and public communication;
  2. whether the concept of the public sphere is still adequate for analyzing contemporary social and political developments;
  3. whether public spheres are becoming private spheres and private spheres becoming public, and with what consequences;
  4. how the advent of data technologies is re-shaping journalism, complicating further not only its relationships with political operations, but also its credibility and viability as a public institution; and
  5. how new conditions of networked connectivity and circulation, and the data they generate, affect a host of concepts related to publics and publicity – such as strangerhood, anonymity, privacy, openness, transparency, intersubjectivity, dialogue, participation, speech freedom, identity, personhood, authoritarianism, democracy, and more.

Other possible paper topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • transparency of public data
  • privacy of personal data
  • data activism and politics
  • data collection and protection
  • data and governance
  • data and surveillance
  • algorithms and publics
  • algorithms in journalism
  • data as discursive formation
  • data journalism and publics
  • data visualization and public communication
  • big data and deceptions in politics
  • data and the global public sphere

Submission Process

The submissions should be emailed to by December 10, 2017. Authors will be informed of acceptance/rejection decisions no later than January 15, 2018. Accepted abstracts will be posted to the preconference website in advance of the event.

Please direct questions on submissions or any aspect of the preconference to any of the following organizers:

Special Note

This preconference will be the fourth annual conference for Communication and the Public (CAP), an international refereed journal jointly published by Zhejiang University and SAGE, launched in 2016. The first two annual conferences, co-organized by Zhejiang University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Wisconsin-Madison, were held in 2015 at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, and in 2016 at Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing. The third annual CAP conference was held as an ICA preconference on Varieties of Publics and Counterpublics on May 25, 2017 in San Diego. For more information about the journal, please visit

With full financial support from Zhejiang University, all events of the preconference are free to participants. Registration is also free and will be limited to 60 persons. After accepted presenters and panelists have registered, registration will be open to anyone until the cap of 60 is reached.