2nd Futures of Media Conference: Shifting Spheres – The Social Impact of Digital Media, 15th – 16th November 2018, Kuala Lumpur. Deadline: 15th June 2018.
Much points to the fact that we are living in an age of all-encompassing structural and epochal social change today.And even if this change fails to materialise, it is possible to observe, at least, that the entire world is expecting this epochal transformation. The ‘new media’ are being held responsible for the change – albeit not exclusively but as one of the most important causes. By way of proof of this currently unfolding change, observers like to point to an area of crucial importance for the self-conception of democracies – the so-called ‘public sphere’.This sphere, which Jürgen Habermas defined in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere in 1962 so as to engage its services in the fight against a modernity gone repressive, appears to be undergoing a radical, new transformation.
A transformation seen as an indicator of the change sweeping across all of society. Social media, which have created a new form of public sphere that is no longer controlled by gatekeepers but by algorithms, feature prominently among the factors mainly held responsible for this transformation. The standard buzzwords are ‘echo chamber’ and ‘filter bubble’; they herald a separation and radicalization along with the end of the intention to reach agreement on a rational basis.For many observers, the very future of democracy is at stake here, the belief being that “democratic governance rests on the capacity of and opportunity for citizens to engage in debate” (Hauser 1999).This takes us to the heart of the complex of highly relevant issues we would like to explore at the next ICFOM. We invite you to join us in identifying the possible relevance of the theory of the shifting public sphere and the role the ‘new media’ play in this regard, and based on this to broach the question of the changes in other areas or ‚spheres’.
The topics for discussion can include – but are not limited to – the following:
What is the new public, what is the new private? Is the idea of privacy being redefined or is it being discarded altogether? Do digital technologies help with the eradication of racism and sexism or have they become complicit in them? What is the relationship between Twitter, Facebook etc. and the legacy media? Which old mechanisms of influence have survived and why? Which new ones have emerged? How has device mobility changed media reception modes? What role does the global availability of media play, or do recent successful attempts at censorship bode ill for sustainable global accessibility in the future? How can a new media concept/theory be devised in the light of these rapid social changes? How can and should media influence future developments? How has globalization, the global South and the Asian Century redefined approaches to social media spheres? What are the limits of democracy? Is, as Daniel Bell argues, meritocracy an alternative, as it guarantees stability instead of permanent change? Is it possible that there is no change at all happening? Can what is currently happening also be described as continuity with merely gradual changes? Are ‘filter bubbles’ not quite as new as we assume? What scientific potential does the concept of the sphere have in itself? The Greeks referred to the ‘sound of the spheres’, Deleuze/Guattari to the ‘mechanosphere, and – following Teilhard de Chardin –the ‘noosphere’. In his magnum opus, the Spheres trilogy, published between1998 and 2004, German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk develops a theory of spaces of coexistence, quintessential modes of existence from the womb. According to Sloterdijk, spherical life continues throughout society, separated into macro-spheres such as nation states. Is it possible that we are living in a media sphere today?