Stories of Digital Radicals: Call for Submissions

The newly formed Center on Digital Culture and Society (CDCS) at the University of Pennsylvania invites submissions of stories of digital radicals from around the world. A digital radical is a person with a radical relationship to digital technologies. This relationship could be reflected in an attitude or belief, a daily practice, a political act or commitment, a way of life, and more. As to what is radical about the relationship, we will leave it for you to decide. It could be about forms of disengagement from social media, or ways of deploying them for social and political causes. We welcome stories about both well-known public figures and ordinary individuals around us. They may be people you know directly, or people you know through the media or your research. We also welcome stories about collectivities such as social movement organizations and online groups.

The stories may be about yourself or about others. We are not looking for biographies or autobiographies per se, however. Instead, we are interested in stories of experiences which illustrate a vision for what you think of as a radical approach to digital technologies. The current conditions of social media and technological developments demand radical new visions and new politics.

Stories of individuals are becoming a rarity in our digital age. Contemporary society is saturated with data, metrics, and quantification. Our personal traces on the web are harvested and turned into data to serve commercial, political, and other purposes beyond our control. Individual experiences are reduced to numbers. Against this background, we call for stories.

Walter Benjamin lamented in 1936 that “the art of storytelling is coming to an end.” To Benjamin, storytelling is about the exchange of experiences and the reason for the demise of the art of storytelling was that “experience has fallen in value.” Experience has indeed fallen in value; the art of storytelling has surely further declined in times of Tweeting and WeChatting. But we are not resigned to this condition. We believe the art of storytelling can be revived in the digital age. Indeed, at a time when experience continues to fall in value, it is imperative to turn to storytelling as a way of cherishing human experience and promoting social justice. Numerous digital storytelling efforts are already happening around the world. We hope your stories of digital radicals will not only become part of this growing current, but will also shape our mission at CDCS. 

We welcome submissions at any time. Submissions may be between 2,000 and 8,000 words, prepared in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style. Essays will be published on a regular basis in an online magazine called The Digital Radical, which will be hosted on a CDCS website currently under design. To be considered for the first issue, please send your submission before October 15, 2019.

A reading committee will select ones for publication. We will provide the authors of all selected essays with a modest honorarium. Selected authors may also be invited to speak at the inaugural symposium on Digital Culture and Society at the University of Pennsylvania on April 3, 2020. An anthology of “Stories of Digital Radicals” may be published in the future.  Please email all submissions in Word format with your contact information to: cdcs@asc.upenn.edu