CfP: Social Media and Social Futures – a special issue of @DiscoverSoc

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’. But how do we separate the hype from the reality while nonetheless recognising how powerful this rhetoric is on a purely discursive level? What social futures are potentially shaped by social media and how can we talk about them in a way that emphasises our capacity to shape them collectively?

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. Is this a plausible vision of the future? Is it a desirable one? Can we see a longstanding impulse towards addressing social problems finally having the necessary techniques and capacities to achieve its potential? Or are we witnessing a potentially authoritarian turn in which social engineering can operate with an unprecedented degree of granularity?

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. How does social media complicate or perhaps confirm existing theories of social change? Or is such epochal thinking itself a problem, ripe to be deployed by social media corporations apt at marketing their own ‘disruptive’ capacity?

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
  • Computational Politics and the challenges facing Democracy
  • Social Media and the Transformation of Everyday Life
  • Digital Afterlives? Social Media, Time, Traces and Accountability
  • Digital Social Science and Social Futures

Please see the Discover Society website for more details about formatting requirements. Articles should be accessible for a general audience, as well as accompanied by a suitable royalty-free image for publication and suggested tweets for @DiscoverSoc.

Timeline for contributions:

September 30th: Confirmed intention to submit with title & brief description

November 20th: Delivery of final article, with image and tweets

December 20th: Return of any requested edits and revisions

January 4th: Publication of the special issue

Contact details: Mark Carrigan ( and William Housley (

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