The Emmy Noether research group on “Mediating (Semi-)Authoritarianism: The Power of the Internet in the Post-Soviet World” will hold a pre-conference at the 67th annual conference of the International Communication Association due to take place on May 25-29, 2017 in San Diego, USA. The research group’s pre-conference proposal has been accepted by the ICA Organizing Committee.  

Below is the call for papers for the pre-conference. 

Time & Venue 

Date: May 25, 2017
Time: 9 am – 5 pm
Location: San Diego Hilton Bayfront (onsite, conference hotel of the ICA annual conference 2017)

Over the past decade, a vibrant body of academic literature has emerged on the political consequences of the Internet for non-democratic politics. However, the majority of extant studies have focused on phenomena of political communication in one authoritarian regime only. By contrast, very few studies have aimed at comparing empirical findings from across different authoritarian contexts. Against this backdrop, this pre-conference explicitly aims at providing a forum for scholars from across the globe to discuss, and develop comparative perspectives on the consequences of the Internet for authoritarian politics.

In order to pursue this goal, we have invited a number of respected scholars in the field to contribute to the event. Invited speakers include Muzammil Hussain (University of Michigan, USA), Paolo Mancini (University of Perugia, Italy), Sarah Oates (University of Maryland, USA), and Katrin Voltmer (University of Leeds). In order to supplement the pre-conference programme, we would like to invite at least three types of additional submissions. Firstly, we explicitly welcome submissions that compare empirical data across different authoritarian contexts. Secondly, we are also interested in papers that present empirical findings from only one country, but that, at the theoretical level, explicitly aim at embedding them into a wider regional or global context. Such theoretically informed comparisons can be achieved, for instance, by referring to the lively recent debates around new types of responsive and competitive authoritarianism, or to the literature on authoritarian institutions. As a third type of submission, we also invite purely theoretical contributions.

Moreover, as a number of scholars have recently lamented, extant research on the conference topic has largely focused on either how oppositional activists leverage new digital tools to challenge authoritarian rule or how authoritarian elites suppress and censor online dissent. Against this backdrop, we are particularly keen to also discuss questions around how authoritarian elites pro-actively deploy the Internet to expand their communicative power. Why, how, and with what consequences, for instance, do authoritarian leaders across the globe reach out to their citizens via social networks? Why do they open up virtual participatory spaces that host, for example, online polls, online petitions, or virtual deliberative forums?

The topic of the pre-conference is situated at the intersection of two divisions of the ICA, the Political Communication and the Global Communication & Social Change divisions, which are cosponsoring the event. At a more abstract level, a key goal of the pre-conference is thus also to bring together scholars from these two communities, encouraging intellectual exchange across manifold disciplinary and methodological borders. Participants who would not like to contribute but would still like to attend the event are welcome to sign up on the ICA registration website as audience members. The participation fee, which is being charged to cover the two coffee breaks, is 50 USD.

The conference is organised by the Emmy Noether research group on “Mediating (Semi-)Authoritarianism: The Power of the Internet in the Post-Soviet World,” from the Freie Universität Berlin. All news regarding the conference, including its finalised program, will be published on this website. For additional information, please contact Anna Litvinenko or Florian Toepfl.  

Please email submissions – which can be of any format, from extended abstracts (800 words) to full papers (up to 10,000 words in length) – to our student assistant Daria KravetsThe deadline for submission is December 11, 2016. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out before January 1, 2017.