Critiquing Big Tech conference (June 6-7, 2024, Tilburg, Netherlands)

deadline for submissions: 
February 9, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
University of Tilburg, Netherlands

CONFERENCE: Critiquing Big Tech: A Humanities Perspective

6 and 7 June 2024, Tilburg (Netherlands) Organizers:Niels Niessen, Tilburg University, the NetherlandsNuno Atalaia, Radboud University, Nijmegen, the NetherlandsRianne Riemens, Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands Keynote speaker to be announced This conference brings together critiques of how Big Tech invades all domains of public and private life, transforming those domains in the process. The conference explores how the humanities can contribute to a better understanding of this development. At the same time, we are interested in how humanities research changes in relation to this development. While critiquing Big Tech, it is important to acknowledge that for many, platforms like Instagram, Tumblr, and X (Twitter) are places of consciousness building and activism. It is also safe to say that without these platforms, movements like MeToo, Trans Liberation, and Black Lives Matter would not have happened the way they did. Yet while these platforms help liberate personal and collective life in some respects, ultimately they are not designed for emancipation, but to maximize user engagement. The confer-ence examines the ways in which Big Tech interpellates people as users, through its technologies and its discourses. We will also discuss potential forms of resistance against this interpellation. In proposing a humanities perspective on Big Tech, we tackle what we perceive as a crisis of the human form in the age of large-scale platforms, personalized AI, and the algorithmic condition. Theorists including Patricia Ticineto Clough (The User Unconscious), Nick Couldry & Ulises Mejias (Costs of Connection), and McKenzie Wark (Capitalism Is Dead) have argued that Big Tech threat-ens the very integrity and sovereignty of individual and collective human existence. At the same time, the existence of both humans and non-humans is threatened by climate change and the contin-uous appropriation of the environment for the benefits of Big Tech and economic growth (as argues for example Mél Hogan in “Big Data Ecologies”). What does it mean to practice the Humanities in algorithmic societies facing political and ecological crises? How to understand the human subject and its relation to technology and the environment in light of these conditions? How to critique Big Tech’s understanding of the human subject, its extractive economic model and continuous infra-structural and spatial expansion, and its visions of the future? How to work towards alternatives? The conference somewhat changes up the traditional conference format, creating more space for conversation and workshops. We ask for short 10-minute individual presentations. During the work-shops hosted by the conference organizers, participants are invited to critically engage with the methodological, epistemic, and ecological implications of studying Big Tech. If you are interested in participating in the conference, please fill out the form on: We ask you to briefly describe (1) the topic of your presentation and ideally also your object of fo-cus (if your paper is mostly theoretical, still provide an example of an object you connect to); (2) your intervention (the argument you plan to develop, or how you envision your contribution); (3) a brief reflection on methodology and how your contribution speaks to the changing humanities. In addition, please indicate your preference for the workshop you would like to attend on day 2 of the conference (How to design a user?; How to study big data ecologies?; How to de-Google Learn-ing?). Finally, we ask participants to ideally participate in the full conference. On the evening before the conference (June 5) we will have an informal dinner (paid for by the organization) in the center of Tilburg. The conference itself will take place in De Nieuwe Vorst theater, also in the Tilburg city center. To apply, please fill out the form on: For questions, please email Deadline for submission: 9 February. We will send out conference invitations by the end of February.