Special Issue of Discover Society on Digital Futures

Co-edited by Mark Carrigan and William Housley

Social media is conventionally located within a commercial narrative that theorises an array of emerging ‘disruptive technologies’ that includes big data, additive manufacture and robotics. These and related technologies are underpinned by computational developments that are networked, distributed, digital and data driven. It has been argued that these technologies not only disrupt markets; but also wider social and economic relations and organization. These include social institutions such as the family, work, health care delivery, education, relationships and the ‘self’.

Social media is one of the first waves of digital disruptive technologies whose mass global take-up via multiple platforms is still being assessed and understood, as a social force in it’s own right. Standardly, ‘social media as data’ has provided a plethora of studies and projects that have examined the big and broad social data opportunities provided by the social media for understanding populations on the move ‘in real time’.

In some cases this has led certain commentators to enthusiastically claim that the analysis of social media as data offers opportunities for prediction and the forecasting of behavior at the population level although this rhetoric is not without it’s skeptics and critics. Furthermore, these methodological opportunities and oracular imaginaries are being accompanied by an ‘ontological velocity’ generated by the social and economic implications of social media as data, practice and a globalizing networked communicative force that is shaping being and becoming in the digital age. A key issue here is the relationship between social media, society, time and the ‘future making’ capacities and affordances of these and allied technologies.

Yet little work has been carried out on the temporal ramifications of social media (and other disruptive technologies) in relation to emerging digital ‘timescapes’. To this extent the study of the relationship between social media and society remains under conceptualized especially in relation to our understanding of late modernity at the beginning of the 21st century. The relationship between social media and the social generation of risk, it’s contributions to new digital timescapes and the trajectory of the self and identity alongside empirical concerns is sociological work in waiting. In addition to this social media as a mass networked ‘digital agora’ can also be understood as a reflexive space in and through which different agents and actors are imagining the future in a variety of ways.

In temporal terms the networked character of social media is characterized by instantaneity, commodification, time space compression, temporal colonization and social control. This is inclusive of a digital discursive terrain where different agents promote specific framings of the future, inclusive of the social imagining of new technologies and ‘social futures’ more generally, via social media platforms and communications. Thus, it is in this context that this proposed panel aims to consider the role of time, temporality and digital futures in relation to social media and society.

For this special issue of Discover Society we  welcome short articles (1500 words) that relate to the above and the following topics:

  • Social Media, Timescapes and Futures
  • Social Media, Prediction and Critical Data Imaginaries
  • Visioneering, ‘Futures’ and Social Media
  • Tracing Emerging Technologies in the Digital Agora
  • The Future of Social Networks: Social Organization, Data and Engineering
  • Digital Afterlives? Social Media, Time, Traces and Accountability

See the Discover Society website for more details about formatting requirements. The final articles will be required by December 1st 2016. If you intend to submit an article, please contact Mark Carrigan to discuss your contribution.