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Communication +1 - Special Issue on 'Digital Sovereignty'

ed. Christoph Borbach, Carolin Gerlitz, and Tristan Thielmann


Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing, and new smart sensor technologies have an enormous disruptive potential: not only for the replacement of established media and cultural techniques, but also for the future shaping of digital practices, the cohesion of societies, data justice, and, last but not least, on contentious issues of digital sovereignty. The special issue of the journal Communication+1 on “Digital Sovereignty” will therefore bring together current
research on the subject area.


This issue addresses sovereignties in a pluralistic way, regarding: the technical sovereignty of critical infrastructures; right to informational self-determination; cognitive sovereignty with respect to automated decisions; the supposed sovereignty of the internet of autonomous things, or digital practices like autonomous driving; and questioning the sovereignty of traditional scientific disciplines when it comes to overarching (Critical) Data Studies. Updating Callon and Latour’s classical analysis of a new body politic (1981), this issue conceptualizes digital sovereignty as a distributed accomplishment. It is based on a multitude of small socio-technical mediations that unfold agency in every step of data production, distribution, and consumption. Data-intensive media, distributed agency, and digital sovereignty are therefore co-constitutive.

The current ubiquity of environmental sensor technologies and the associated “environmental conditioning of media” (Thielmann 2022) results in a ubiquitous datafication (Cukier/MayerSchoenberger 2013) and the collection and valorization of huge amounts of big data – including sensitive data such as movement profiles, tracking of purchasing and internet behavior, or face and voice recognition, of which the datafied subjects are largely unaware. This touches on ethical as well as legal issues and establishes new forms of discrimination, which now appears as data discrimination. Data bias as ‘the dark side of big data’ directly touches on issues of sovereignty both of the subject and of entire cultures and societies, with technologies of the Global North often being the focus of research and aspects of indigenous data sovereignty (Kukutai/Taylor 2016) being neglected.

In 2022, the entire digital universe comprised a data volume of approx. 94 billion gigabytes which equates to 94 zettabytes. In 2025, the amount of global data will already exceed 200 zettabytes (Rydning 2022). Such quantities of data allow for new modes of capture (Agre 1994) and surveillance (Zuboff 2019) and can no longer be sensorily processed and understood by humans, even if artificial intelligence and algorithms harbor the promise of making the flood of data manageable. The transformation of contemporary cultures into scalable data societies or “datafied societies” (van Es/Schäfer 2017) demands interdisciplinary research on the consequences of today’s ubiquitous and omnipresent datafication.

The current discussion on digital sovereignty is an immediate consequence of economic, political, and technical developments. This concerns economic questions on the use of personal data; the political dimensions of digital sovereignty of whole nations, and individual self-determination regarding information; or the technological pervasion of our everyday lives by AI, machine learning, and blockchain media, as well as network technologies (Augsberg and Gehring 2022).

To date, the discourse on digital data sovereignty has primarily been shaped by the social sciences. Hardly any research has been conducted on the media of sovereignty and their data practices (Couture and Toupin 2019; Amoore 2020). The planned special issue of the journal Communication+1 takes this as an opportunity to represent current research on the topic of digital sovereignty in all its breadth.

They are seeking abstracts (500 words max.) for submissions until December 31, 2023 (to be sent to christoph.borbach@uni-siegen.de, subject: “Communication+1 Special Issue: Digital Sovereignty”), that might address—but are not limited to—one or more of the following topics:

  • Practices and technologies of data sovereignty
  • Conceptual work on the terminology: what does “digital sovereignty” mean and what does it look like
  • Perspectives on digital and data sovereignty beyond the Global North
  • Data bias and data discrimination as counterparts of digital sovereignty
  • Histories and fictions/imaginaries of digital sovereignty
  • Relevance of activist groups and countercultures to prevent data discrimination
  • Legal aspects of data sovereignty, also from a historical perspective
  • Ethical aspects of sensor media
  • Media technologies and politics of sensors and sensing
  • Sociological perspectives on sensor practices
  • Ubiquitous datafication
  • Counterpractices to regain digital sovereignty
  • Potentials of praxeology to investigate modes of digital sovereignty
  • Dangers of ubiquitous datafication for sovereignty in the digital age
  • Data-processing law and legal aspects of digital data sovereignty

For more information look here: The special issue of the journal Communication+1 (https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cpo/) on “Digital Sovereignty”


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