Ethnographic Perspectives on Practices, Infrastructures and Affordances of Truth-Making in Digital Societies
7th conference of the Section “Digitization in Everyday Life” of the German Association of Cultural Anthropology and Folklore Studies (dgv)
Institute for European Ethnology & Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage (CARMAH), Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany)
7-9 October 2020
Organizers: Christoph Bareither, Dennis Eckhardt, Alexander Harder, Julia Molin
Over the last two decades, the ubiquity of digital infrastructures has brought about numerous drastic changes to a globalized world. One of the most pressing socio-political questions on a global scale is how digitization has changed the ways in which particular truths are enacted and established in everyday life. On the one hand, this addresses the practices of truth-making in political contexts: „post-truth“ and „fake news“ not only dominated the last US presidential election, but have also long since become decisive factors in political upheaval in Europe, South America and Asia. Social media have become crucial platforms for political meaning-making as well as the constitution of emotional beliefs and “alternative facts”. But the question of the specifics of practices of digital truth-making also encompasses much more than the sphere of the political. In the context of platform economies or crypto currency, for example, new ways of measuring and comparing the value of goods have prevailed that create economic value and thus constitute economic truths. In the field of health, software programs and apps have long been institutionalized as instrument of biological measuring and thus make and re-shape the truths of our bodies. In science, the truth of climate change has become an extremely contested object of digital (often visual) meaning-making. And in the field of memory cultures, numerous digital platforms have emerged as repositories of cultural heritage, while implicitly or explicitly curating the truth of particular histories. The list could be continued.
Following these and further examples, the 7th conference of the dgv-working group “Digitization in Everyday Life” (http://www.goingdigital.de/) at the Humboldt University of Berlin will examine concrete practices of digital truth-making. These practices always build on complex digital infrastructures whose specific quality with regard to truth-making is increasingly dependent on the relation of human practice and programmed algorithms. Today, these digital algorithms and the policies inscribed in them decisively contribute to and shape everyday truths. Taking this into account, we aim for a discussion of the particular role of algorithmic affordances in relation to everyday practices and how truths are constituted in-between these dimensions.
We invite papers from a broad range of disciplines to tackle these questions. The main focus of the conference, however, lies in the potential of ethnographic methods to answer them. While questions of truth-making related to digital technologies are often approached through large quantitative data sets, we argue that it is the how of digital truth-making that requires particular attention. Ethnographic approaches, combining “online” and “offline” analysis, are well-suited to address this question. We therefore explicitly not only welcome papers in the aforementioned empirical fields, but also papers addressing crucial methodological questions. Alternatively, we welcome proposals for workshops (of 90 minutes) addressing such methodological questions. In particular, we are interested in how ethnographic research can unfold its potential in analysing the entanglements of digital infrastructures, their algorithms and everyday media practices with regard to digital truth-making.
Please send your paper and/or workshop proposals (including your name, email address, paper title and abstract not exceeding 300 words) until January 31st 2020 to firstname.lastname@example.org