Apryl Williams, Audrey Yue, Mona Abdel-Fadil & two more keynotes to be confirmed
Lorena Caminhas, Jeroen de Kloet, Nermin Elsherif, Rébecca Franco, Emilija Jokubauskaitė, Thomas Poell, Ladan Rahbari, Hanne Stegeman, Olav Velthuis
Call for papers
Digitization is transforming intimate practices around the globe. The expansive reach of digital connectivity is reorganizing public/private, global/local boundaries, and pushing beyond dominant Western understandings of intimacy. Digital platforms and mobile apps—Facebook, Tiktok, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp, Tinder, Tantan, Blued, and Chaturbate—have rapidly become central to intimacy. These platforms and apps enable and allow for the traveling of new forms of self-expression and identity construction, including LGTBQAI+ cultures and identifications across the globe, as well as new types of social connections and attachments. Such connections interact in complex ways with conventional understandings of sex, love and desire, as well as of friendship, kinship, community, nationhood, partnership and collegiality.
While the digital is becoming intricately entangled with every social activity, these platforms and apps are characterized by distinct material characteristics within technological, geopolitical contexts. Economically speaking, social networks, live streaming platforms, and chat and dating apps constitute markets, connecting end-users, content producers, advertisers, data intermediaries, venture capitalists, and other third parties. Powered by large-scale infrastructures, they bring about the datafication and commodification of intimacy. Simultaneously, these techno-commercial assemblages cannot be separated from the affective exchanges and emotional experiences that constitute the immaterial content of digital interactions and relations.
In the light of these transformations, the Global Digital Intimacies conference aims to gather together scholars from around the world to investigate digital intimacy in all its varieties. We understand digital intimacy as affect, labor, a form of being, and structure of feeling. It takes shape through the digital, but is deeply material. It includes love, sex, and sexuality, but also wider sets of relations. Intimacy is conceived as a function that brings together humans and non-humans, shaping communities and identities. As Lauren Berlant (1998, 281) argued, it "involves an aspiration for a narrative about something shared, a story about both oneself and others that will turn out in a particular way". Intimacy is a political experience, transcending the public and the private. Intimacy, as a structure of feeling, can bring social movements together, it can feed into fantasies about a better life, but can also propel conservative nostalgic and nationalistic discourses. What are the political implications of digital intimacies, and how are different forms of governance trying to steer or control these politics?
Intimacy holds different meanings and takes various forms across the globe, and thus, in the spirit of decolonial and postcolonial thinking, we encourage participants to reflect and develop alternative interpretations of intimacy, and to avoid universalizing Western-centric understandings of intimacy in their papers. Similarly, digital technologies are used and imagined differently based on historical, cultural, and political contexts. Accordingly, we urge participants to steer clear of both techno-deterministic and cultural essentialist rhetorics, grounding their research in specific localities, but remaining attuned to global entanglements. The conference is explicitly interdisciplinary, bringing together media studies scholars, sociologists, communication researchers, information scientists, anthropologists, philosophers, economists, and legal scholars, among others. The digitization of intimacy requires interdisciplinary collaboration to address the hard questions triggered by this development.
In the context of the abovementioned aims, we are especially interested in papers that shed new light on one or more of the following themes and topics:
Intimate online labor: A wide range of workers see their intimate work mediated through platforms: from on-demand care workers, daily-vloggers, to online sex workers. This stream investigates how workers create a sense of intimacy online, how platforms shape this, and how end-users experience it.
Friendship, dating, sex: Research in this stream addresses how the digital affects structures, changes, and gives rise to connections and attachments between individuals. How do people forge intimate connections through, with or despite the digital? These connections include but are not limited to friendship, dating, and sex.
Identities, communities, diaspora: This stream delves into how digital technologies serve as mediums for the expression, formation, and contestation of individual and collective identities. The stream pays particular attention to diasporic or transnational communities that use digital platforms to maintain a sense of belonging, reconstruct cultural narratives, and engage in transnational activism. It is also interested in how online platforms both reinforce and challenge traditional notions of identity and community, thereby shaping the lived experiences of individuals within diasporic contexts.
National intimacies and public fantasies: This stream addresses intimacy broadly as a structure of feeling in which strangers come to identify as a group. It looks at digital spaces dedicated to political, cultural, and identitarian movements and non-movements as intimate spaces in which collective identities are negotiated. It includes a multitude of online race-centered, age-centered, and gender-centered cultures that echoes progressive and ultra-conservative ideologies.
Governance & legislation: This stream addresses how digital spaces in which intimacies take shape are governed and regulated by a variety of actors, in different jurisdictions, and at various layers of the digital stack. The stream also seeks to examine a diverse range of regulatory frameworks, ethical issues, and jurisdictional obstacles, as well as the unexpected consequences of regulatory interventions.
Infrastructures, technologies, and markets for intimacies: Includes research on the use and exchange of intimate data, technical infrastructures, affordances, platforms, and markets that create and shape intimacy online. For example, research on the technologies that aid online sex (e.g. teledildonics); data collection by dating apps; algorithmic organization of online markets for sex etc.
Healthcare & education: Includes research on technologies and the body, (mental) health, and sex education online. For example, research on sex education videos on YouTube; online health creators; health tracking apps (menstrual health, pregnancy, medication, medical conditions, physical activity), etc.
Dates & Times
27 June (starting 9:00 AM, CET) until 28 June (7:00 PM, CET), 2024.
University of Amsterdam (downtown) & Zoom
Registration fees (includes conference dinner & closing drinks):
OECD countries, faculty & postdocs: 100 Euro
OECD countries, PhD students: 50 Euro
OECD countries, affiliates of NGOs and non-academic research institutes: 100 Euro
Non-OECD countries, affiliates of NGOs and non-academic research institutes: 50 Euro
Non-OECD countries, faculty & postdocs: 50 Euro
Non-OECD countries, PhD students: 25 Euro
Online (Zoom): 25 Euro
To maximize participation from scholars around the world, we have opted to organize this as a hybrid conference that will simultaneously take place on location (at the University of Amsterdam) and through Zoom. Scholars who are unable to travel to Amsterdam can participate virtually in live panels, which will be scheduled between 9 am and 6 pm CET. All keynote conversations will be live-streamed. For those attending in person, we will organize two social events (conference dinner & closing drinks).
Proposals for individual papers should be 400 words (maximum). Please also include a 50-word bio of the presenter. Paper presentations are 15 minutes long and will be held in panels (max. 4 papers) of an hour and a half.
Apply for an individual paper presentation here
Proposals for a preconstituted panel should include a 400-word rational for the panel, as well as 400-word abstracts for each paper and 50-word bios for each speaker.
Apply for a pre-constituted panel here
Proposals for a roundtable should include a 400-word rational, as well as 100-word abstracts and 50-word bios for each speaker.
Apply for a roundtable here
Finally, proposals for a fishbowl are also welcome. These should include a 400-word description, as well as 50-word bios for each speaker.
Apply for a fishbowl here
Early career scholars and PhD candidates are welcome and encouraged to submit abstracts.
Whether proposing an individual paper or panel, be sure that your proposal clearly articulates:
the issue or research question to be discussed,
the critical and methodological framework used,
the expected findings or conclusions.
Please note that you are not required to submit a full paper for this conference. Furthermore, acknowledging that plans may change, please indicate your likely plans for participation in the conference: physically or virtually (through Zoom). If participating virtually, please indicate from which time zone, so we can try to schedule you at a convenient time.
Deadline for proposals
February 1, 2024.