V-Data final conference - call for contributions

Work packages
V-Data final conference - call for contributions

Final conference

The final conference of the project “V-Data - The value of digital data: enhancing citizens’ awareness and voice about surveillance capitalism”, funded by Fondazione Cariplo, will take place 7-8 September 2023 at the University of Pavia (https://web-en.unipv.it/about-us/), Department of Political and Social Sciences, Italy. The event will comprise panel presentations and one keynote session hosting the internationally renowned scholar Stefania Milan (https://www.stefaniamilan.net/about-me/). A maximum of 25 papers will be selected for presentation. Preference will be given to speakers who plan to attend the conference in person, but a small number of remote presentations (no more than one per panel) may be included in the programme. The organising committee is exploring options to publish a special issue in a peer review journal associated with this call for contributions.

Call for contributions

DEADLINE EXTENDED: the deadline for sending your contributions has been extended until 12 May 2023! We invite researchers who are active in the field of surveillance capitalism, data justice, algorithmic studies, data ethics, Science and Technology Studies (STS), digital and computational methods, digital labour, media consumption and attitudes, critical consumer studies, platform studies (and many more) to submit proposals for paper presentations. Please submit an abstract (max. 300 words) to the event organisers by sending it via email to vdataresearch@gmail.com by 12 May 2023.

The conference theme is The value of digital data: advancing empirical research on surveillance capitalism. We encourage proposals from researchers with a variety of backgrounds, including academic research, activism, marketing research, journalists, and government social research. The following are examples of topics that are of particular interest:

  • Public opinion and awareness about processes of data extraction, appropriation, and valorisation.
  • Emic conceptions of data value: surveillance capitalism imaginaries across socio-economic groups, cultures, ethnicities, age cohorts, and geographies.
  • Consumer practices of resistance, compliance and negotiation towards vocal assistants, targeted advertising, algorithmic systems of recommendation, AI devices (etc.).
  • The nexus between Covid-19 pandemic and surveillance capitalism.
  • Digital labour exploitation in surveillance capitalism (or surreptitious strategies of data appropriation).
  • Working in the data factory (e.g., data cleaning, moderation, data entry, etc.).
  • Innovative methods for studying surveillance capitalism.
  • Digital and computational methods for studying surveillance capitalism (or how to surveille the surveillants).
  • Survey methods for studying surveillance capitalism.
  • Making surveillance capitalism visible through data visualisation (and other visual aids).
  • Arts and surveillance capitalism imaginaries.
  • Utopian and dystopian imaginaries of surveillance capitalism.
  • Data activism and surveillance capitalism.
  • Surveillance capitalism in the Global South.
  • Big data and finance.
  • Discrimination, inequalities and injustice related to processes of surveillance capitalism.
  • How does the concept of data value change according to different stakeholders (consumers, marketers, brands, analysts, etc.) as well as market segments (e.g. automotive, food, fashion, etc.)?
  • Big data consumer profiling and implication on identity and subjectivity.
  • How digital affordances shape imaginaries of and practices related to surveillance capitalism.
  • The platformization of consumer imagination and practices (or how platforms standardise consumer behaviours to make them more predictable and data-ready).
  • Living with the hyper-nudging.

Conference venue

The conference will take place at the University of Pavia (https://web-en.unipv.it/about-us/), Department of Political and Social Sciences, Italy. Pavia is located 30 km south of Milan, to which is connected by trains every 30 minutes.

Important dates

Abstracts are due by 12 May 2023. These should include the author(s) name and position, a short title, and a clear indication of whether they plan to attend the conference in person or remotely. Acceptance notices will be given by 31 May 2023.

Fees and Accommodation

The event fee is 80 Euros. Fee includes: a) welcome package; b) daily lunches and coffee break; c) social dinner. The fee does not include accommodation. Anyway, for those interested the Department provides up to 15 single rooms at a convenient rate of euros 49 by the University dorms. Participants who are interested in staying at the University dorms must mention it in their submission. Priority in the allocation of rooms will be given to early-career scholars and according to submission date.

Organising committee

Alessandro Caliandro, Flavio Ceravolo, Guido Legnante, Samantha Conte, Antonella Orologiaio, Susanna Sassi (Università di Pavia), Emma Garavaglia (Politecnico di Milano), Alessandra Gaia (Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca), Dario Pizzul (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore).

Conference theme

The value of digital data: advancing empirical research on surveillance capitalism In 2022 the 67.1% of the World population is connected to the Internet (WeAreSocial, 2022), through a multiplicity of devices. Being constantly online, people generate enormous quantities of data on basically everything: shopping behaviours, political orientations, health status, etc. (boyd & Crawford, 2012). This huge amount of data is the ‘fuel’ of the contemporary digital economy (The Economist, 2017). The leaders of the digital economy are companies structured as platforms (e.g. Google, Apple, Amazon, Meta, etc.), which, on the one hand, intermediate relations among different groups of actors (consumers, advertisers, developers, etc.) (Gillespie, 2010), while, on the other hand, extract data from these very users, as well as their interactions (Srnicek, 2017). Platforms control over data goes well beyond the digital boundaries of the corporate platform, extending to the open Web (Helmond, 2015), mobile phones (Nieborg et al., 2020), households (Pridmore & Mols, 2020) and public institutions (Van Dijck et al., 2018). These massive and systematic processes of data extraction are at the base of the business model of digital platforms, which use data for: a) internal marketing purposes (Beer, 2018); b) selling them to third parties (for their own scopes of advertising and marketing) (van der Vlist & Helmond, 2021); c) developing new products and/or markets (vocal assistants, self-driving cars, etc.) (Hind et al., 2022)

Zuboff (2019) calls this emerging form of economic and socio-technical organisation surveillance capitalism. The term does not refer specifically to digital technologies of social monitoring, rather to an economic logic based on a unilateral extraction and accumulation of digital data from citizens, which are used to predict, personalise, customise and ultimately constrain their behaviours for business purposes (Mackenzie, 2019; Mühlhoff, 2020). In fact, Wood and Monahan (2019) frame this phenomenon as ‘platform surveillance’, meaning that it would not be possible outside the complex array of tracking devices, digital interfaces, algorithmic systems, and data analytics deployed (and owned) by corporate digital platforms. Despite the pervasiveness and currency of the phenomenon as well as its huge socio-economic impact (Beer, 2017; Arvidsson, 2019), empirical research in this field is still in its infancy (Ball & Webster 2020; Pizzul & Caliandro, 2022). Whereas platforms have a granular knowledge on social life, social actors seem to know very little about them - it is not easy to understand how they function, what kind of data they harvest, for which purpose etc; in other words, they are ‘opaque’ by design (Pasquale, 2015; Yeung, 2017). Curiously enough, such lack of empirical knowledge and data seems to reflect the asymmetries of power and information/knowledge typical of surveillance capitalism (Fuchs, 2021).

Currently, the scientific debate on datafication, dataveillance and data exploitation (Dijck, 2014) tend to focus mostly on privacy (Lutz et al., 2020). Questions of data protection are indubitably of great concern, since privacy is a human right connected to human dignity. Nevertheless, issues related to value appropriation are equally important, since digital data generated by citizens through their online activities produce a conspicuous economic value that is extracted from the social but not redistributed within the social.

In this regard, several key questions remain still unanswered, such as: do people perceive the economical value of their data? If so, to what extent? If not, why? What is really valuable for them? How does the concept of data value change according to different stakeholders (consumers, marketers, brands, analysts, etc.) as well as market segments (e.g. automotive, food, fashion, etc.)? How does the concept of data value change across different socio-economic groups? How does the concept of data value change across different cultures and geographies (West vs East, North vs South)? How do people protect their data in everyday life? Do they develop practices of resistance individually or collectively? Why do people give up their data? For which economical bargain? How do platforms themselves shape forms of resistance, negotiation, and compliance towards surveillance capitalism? Which (new) forms of inequality and discrimination are favoured by surveillance capitalism? Can citizens participate in a more open and transparent way in the processes of management and valorisation of their own digital data?

Exploring more closely citizens’ understanding of and awareness about the processes of value creation that are fuelled by their data, their cultural imaginaries (Bucher, 2017; Lyon, 2018; Sörum & Fuentes 2022) and everyday life practices of resistance, negotiation and compliance (Velkova & Kaun, 2021; Ruckenstein & Granroth, 2020) might orient the development of a much needed participated and positive critique to surveillance capitalism, stemming from an increased public awareness (Hong, 2017; Hinz et al., 2018).

Building on the understanding of these challenges, the present Special Issue seeks for contributors (from a multiplicity of disciplines and backgrounds) aiming to advance the state of the art of empirical research on surveillance capitalism, and, ultimately, increase the visibility, comprehension and accountability of the processes and logics of data extraction, appropriation and valorisation.

####### References Arvidsson, A (2019). Changemakers: The Industrious Future of the Digital Economy. Cambridge: Polity Press.

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A research project by:

Università di PaviaUniversità degli Studi di Milano BicoccaUniversità Cattolica di MilanoCareof

Funded by:

Fondazione Cariplo

Contact us:

Drop a message to alessandro.caliandro@unipv.it - twitter - facebook - researchgate