Dear colleagues,

This CfP may be of interest for those of you dealing with information security, Internet surveillance, hacking and related issue.

All best,


Call for papers:

"Weak Systems: Exploring bias, bugs and the vulnerability of digitization - STS Italia Conference / thematic track"

8th STS Italia Conference - Dis/entangling Technoscience: vulnerability, responsibility and justice
Università di Trieste, Italy, June 18th-20th 2020

Paolo Bory, Università della Svizzera italiana, [log in to unmask]
Philip Di Salvo, Università della Svizzera italiana, [log in to unmask]

After two decades in which enthusiastic (if not ecstatic) visions of digitization have prevailed in the public sphere, the so-called critical turn has challenged the propensity of digital technologies to strengthen the mechanisms of protection of the individual and the democratic organization of contemporary societies. The Snowden case and the turmoil following the Cambridge Analytica controversy, for example, have inspired debates and discussions about Internet surveillance, the perils of the data economy and potential “weaponization” of social media platforms.

The supposed “horizontal” architecture of the Web has been subverted by centralizing actors such as digital media corporations and national governments. Moreover, news about hacks, data breaches and systemic failures of digital platforms and devices have become topics of frequent media coverage. Nevertheless, a systemic and articulated reflection on how different kinds of “vulnerabilities" in digital technologies impact directly or indirectly on individuals and social groups has not emerged yet. For instance, the literature about platforms manipulation, data hacks, bugs and bias in technological systems has just started providing insights about how technologies may actually raise serious democratic concerns and actually work against citizens’ rights, needsand desires. The "Weak Systems: Exploring bias, bugs and the vulnerability of digitization" track aims at filling this gap in the literature by gathering and putting in dialogue theoretical and empirical contributions from different fields of study (e.g., STS, media studies, journalism studies, Internet studies, history of technology). Contributions will focus on concepts such as “bug”, “hacks” "error", "limit" and "bias” that characterize the vulnerability of those technologies which have penetrated or are penetrating contemporary societies, with direct or indirect effects on individuals and social behaviours.

Authors are asked to interrogate and analyze the following topics (the list is not exhaustive):

- Theoretical and empirical contributions on the concept of vulnerability in digital media and technology
- Errors and defects of digital platforms and their effects on privacy and data protection
- Defects and prejudices of e-voting systems and their effects-Journalistic coverage of hacks, hackers, crackers, data breaches, cybercrime and other forms of cyber and digital threats
- Theoretical and technological weakness and defects of the Web and the Internet (e.g. architecture, infrastructures)
- The vulnerability and defects of artificial intelligence
- Bugs and bias in machine learning and data-driven decision making
- Stories of bugs and engineering mistakes (e.g., millenium bug, the Galaxy-Note-7 case, accidental data breaches)
- Critical reflections on the vulnerability of overestimated theoretical concepts on digitization (e.g., “network society”, “superintelligence”, “collective intelligence”)
- Weaponization of digital platforms (such as Cambridge Analytica)
- Pop culture representations of technology bias, errors and vulnerabilities in TV series, novels and movies

The "Weak Systems: Exploring bias, bugs and the vulnerability of digitization" thematic track is part of the 8th STS Italia Conference that will be hosted by the University of Trieste, Italy, June 18 through 20, 2020, by the Italian Society of Science and Technology Studies. The conference will be an opportunity to present empirical and theoretical work from a variety of disciplines: sociology, anthropology, design, economics, history, law, philosophy, psychology and semiotics. The focal theme of the 8th STS Italia Conference will be "Dis/Entangling Technoscience: Vulnerability, Responsibility and Justice”. This broad theme refers to the complex and ambivalent role of technoscience and innovation in constituting societies – making possibilities flourish, but also creating new vulnerabilities. The conference will include 33 tracks , which are clustered into five thematic streams. The tracks focus on several topics, including: biomedicine, digital platforms and  media, work and organizations, expertise and public policy, ethics of technology and innovation, and governance of  science and technology at large.

Abstracts for this track (written in English) should be submitted by February 9th 2020 to the conference email address ([log in to unmask]) and to the emails of the track convenors'. Track Convenor(s) will be responsible for reviewing, accepting/rejecting and organising submissions into this track. Submissions should include:

1. Author’s name and surname, affiliation and email address
2. Presentation title
3. Abstract (less than 300 words)

For further information concerning the conference and all the available tracks, please visit the conference's website:

Philip Di Salvo, PhD

Università della Svizzera italiana
Faculty of Communication Sciences
Institute of Media and Journalism

Office 210.1 (Level 2)
Via Buffi 13
6900 Lugano
+41 58 666 4820
[log in to unmask]


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