Digital Platforms and Cancel Culture: Television and New Media Special Issue
With the advent of social media and platform infrastructures, cancel culture has engendered new means of regulation through digital media platforms which appear to further silence already marginalised communities. Having roots in the Black vernacular tradition, the clear social justice agendas of culturally linked meta-networks of social media practices and community digital infrastructures are argued to have become highjacked by social elites (Clark, 2020). For some commentators this means that the viral nature of social media backlash can claim, to the detriment of democracy, various careers and reputations among well-known celebrities, political figures,
authors, and corporate executives (see Illing, 2021). On the other hand, research suggests that cancel culture has not been successful in thematising social justice issues (Bouvier, 2020) and instead amounts to little more than virtue signalling on public platforms. Questions raised about moral panics around cancel culture stemming from viral discussions point to the need for a more in depth and engaged analysis of user practices (Ng, 2020), platform architectures, and the probing of the role(s) of platforms in forming various positions in relation to this phenomenon.
Within this context, we propose as a starting point identifying the dynamics of contemporary digital platforms in relation to cancel culture and how these dynamics operate to propel user perceptions or experiences of this issue. We rely on Ng’s (2022, p. 1) recent, rich and useful definition of cancel culture as ‘comprising both cancel practices (cancelling) that involve actions against a cancel target,
which may be an individual, brand, or company, and cancel discourses, which is commentary about cancelling’. Through soliciting global case study contributions, this special issue aims to further discover this term’s origins and evolutions and unpack its fraught dynamics across different political and cultural contexts. These might include ways that ’cancel culture’ has been hijacked out of ‘usefully angry’ and socially productive political discourses of marginalised communities and then subverted into virtue-signalling social media influence or conservative claims of censorship and ‘politically correct’ thought-policing. In examining these questions, the special issues aims to
consider which platform and user practices are seen as part of or resisting cancel culture along with understanding what struggles and conflicting narratives emerge.
In addition, this special issue will ask how and why cancel culture is detrimental to democracy, how and whether it weakens norms of open debate, and whether and how it might diminish acceptance of difference in favour of ideological conformity. An examination of cancel culture as driven by contemporary digital media serves as a broader examination of varying spheres, including media technologies and their audiences; platform infrastructure, governance and affordances; and the role of new media technologies in intensifying or abating tensions for expression rights, social justice movements, and citizenship – online or off– for marginalised communities. We will explore the
dangers that reside in complex dynamics of cancel culture online in order to consider how it might work to silence already silenced communities and undermine their capacity for criticism. Key to these explorations is understanding cancel culture in a nuanced way, distinguishing it from concepts including political correctness or anti-wokeness.
This issue aims to bring together a range of international scholars interested in the articulation of platforms and cancel culture and its consequences for marginalised communities and broader publics. Potential article topics may include, but are not limited to, how digital platforms provide intersections between cancel culture and topical issues including:
● Gender, race and/or sexuality
● Social Justice and/or ‘anti-wokeness’
● Cancel culture and the culture wars
● Algorithmic content interventions, for e.g. Shadow Banning
● Legalities and fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and privacy
● Online character assassination
● Shrinking civic spaces
● Strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPPs)
We would also welcome discussions that seek to analyse:
● The histories of cancel culture, including the impacts of the transition from legacy
media to digital platform monopolies
● How cancel culture as driven by platform infrastructure, governance and affordance
● How mediated cancel culture operates through these platforms in the areas of the
world described collectively as the Global South
● Political economic approaches to digital platforms and cancel culture
Deadline for Abstract Submission: December 15, 2022
Notification of Acceptance: February 1, 2023
Submission details: Abstracts of 400 to 500 words, along with a 100 bio should be sent to Elizabeth
Farries (firstname.lastname@example.org), Páraic Kerrigan (email@example.com) and Eugenia Siapera
Bouvier, G. (2020). Racist call-outs and cancel culture on Twitter: The limitations of the platform’s
ability to define issues of social justice. Discourse, Context & Media, 38, 100431.
Clark, M. D. (2020). DRAG THEM: A brief etymology of so-called “cancel culture”. Communication
and the Public, 5(3-4), 88-92.
Illing, S. (2021) Republicans are trying to outlaw wokeness. Literally. In Vox, March 11, available at:
Ng, E. (2020). No grand pronouncements here...: Reflections on cancel culture and digital media
participation. Television & New Media, 21(6), 621-627.
Ng, E. (2022). Cancel Culture: A Critical Analysis. Palgrave McMillan
Elizabeth Farries (she/her) is Assistant Professor at the School of Information and Communication
Studies at University College Dublin, where she directs graduate programmes in Digital Policy. She is
a Co-Director of the UCD Digital Policy Centre, Senior Fellow with the International Network of Civil
Liberties Organisations (INCLO) and is a member of several NGO working groups and boards.
Elizabeth previously directed programmes in technology and human rights for INCLO and the Irish
Council for Civil Liberties. She is qualified barrister and solicitor in Canada where she carried files in
litigation, intellectual property, indigenous and human rights matters.
Páraic Kerrigan is Assistant Professor at the School of Information and Communication Studies at
University College Dublin. His research interests cover primary three areas: social media and identity
management, media industries and production cultures and the intersections of gender and sexual
identities with data cultures. At the centre of these research areas has been a commitment to
diversifying culture by examining the gaps and vulnerabilities that can emerge for minority
populations as new and emerging technologies develop. He has published two books in these areas.
His first monograph "LGBTQ Visibility, Media and Sexuality in Ireland" was released in January 2021
with Routledge and the co-authored "Media Graduates at Work: Insider Narratives on Policy,
Education and Industry", was published with Palgrave in July 2021.
Eugenia Siapera is Professor and Head of the School of Information and Communication Studies at
University College Dublin. Her research interests are in the area of digital and social media, political
communication and journalism, technology and social justice, platform governance and hate speech,
racism and misogyny. She has written numerous articles and book chapters. Her most recent book is
Understanding New Media (Sage, 2018, second edition) and the edited volume Gender Hate Online
(co-edited with Debbie Ging. She is currently working on the third edition of Understanding New
Media and on an edited volume on Radical Journalism (under contract with Routledge).