CFP: Digital inequality and automated decision-making workshop
Conveners Dr Jenny Kennedy, Dr Indigo Holcombe-James, Prof Anthony McCosker & Distinguished Prof Julian Thomas
While digital inclusion is not a new research topic, with studies of the digital divide, its dynamics, and impacts extending back to the mid-1990s, recent events—bushfires, and the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions—have brought it into sharp focus.
In fact, every move to digitise and automate the services and interactions we take for granted in our daily lives increases the potential for digital exclusion. These processes multiply problems associated with the inability to access, make use of, and afford the digital technologies and services required to meaningfully engage with contemporary life (Thomas et al., 2021).
Restrictions to in-person connections with people and services have emphasised the persistent link between social and digital inequalities. Those who are unable to navigate platforms for social connection or work, new modes of QR access to venues and services, or manage their personal vaccination status through linked health and identity documentation are literally locked out. Similarly, there has been a forced acceleration of digital transformation for many institutions, businesses, services, and non-profit organisations.
As we move further into the new era of pandemics, there is wide recognition that, as Ellen Helsper puts it, digital engagement is ‘a continuous process—a scene of constant struggle’ (2021: 1).
With automated systems increasingly mediating decision-making across many domains of the digital society, the ‘scene of struggle’ is widening and deepening. Concerns about digital inclusion and exclusion are in this way exacerbated by automation. The continued uptake of automated decision-making (ADM)—with these decisions in part based on data derived from digitally included participants—raises specific questions about the consequences of digital exclusion:
- How does digital inclusion (and, by extension, how does digital exclusion) inform how people experience ADM?
- Whose digital practices are informing ADM, and whose are left out?
- What might a focus on digital inclusion and exclusion tell us about how institutions can promote responsible, ethical, and inclusive ADM?
- How might machines such as recommender systems consider digitally excluded and non-users?
- And what data models, processes, and capacities does an attunement to digital exclusion reveal?
With ADM systems barely explainable by their creators, we see yet another frontier opening up for forms of digital exclusion and inequality.
We are particularly concerned with identifying and thinking through questions of digital inclusion and automated decision-making that may presently be tangential to dominant fields and debates, and are especially keen to hear from scholars working in fields beyond media and communications. In doing so, we aim to create a generative space in which we can draw out the implications of digital inclusion for broader concerns.
- Abstracts due (500 words): 14 June 2022
- Notification: 21 June 2022
- Workshop (Melbourne and online): 18 July 2022
- Full paper due (8000 words): November 2022
Authors are invited to submit an abstract of 500 words that states the paper’s main argument, methods, and scholarly contribution. The abstract should clearly explain how the full submission will contribute to the aims of the special issue. Authors should email abstracts and a short biography for each author to email@example.com, cc’ing firstname.lastname@example.org, by 14 June 2022.
Authors of accepted abstracts will be invited to present their work in a workshop, held at RMIT Melbourne and online, on 19 July 2022. Following the workshop, attendees will be invited to submit original full papers – up to 8000 words in length – for a special issue of [journal to be announced shortly]. Full papers will be peer-reviewed, and the selection of papers to be published in the special issue will be decided according to the journal guidelines.