Call for Papers: Translating Digital Transformation

von | Aug 23, 2022

Reflections on the Relevance of Anthropological Knowledge in Digital Societies

February 28 to March 2, 2023

A bilingual conference (German/ English) at the Institute of Historical and Cultural Anthropology, University of Tübingen

Call for Papers:

The introduction of new digital technologies is rarely without friction, and the cultural and emotional transformation they cause often leads to conflict-laden negotiations. How do we want to live together in a world entangled in digital technologies? The process of responding to the question is rarely explicit. More typically, answers become visible through the everyday practices and discourses surrounding digital technologies and the ways they shape our attitudes, values, and imaginations.

The field of cultural anthropology – digital anthropology in particular – is uniquely qualified to analyze how society navigates the tensions engendered by digital transformation and to translate the meaning of digitalization into a form that is intelligible to non-specialists. Ethnographic, qualitative, and historical methods can produce nuanced, empirically based insights into digital technology’s influence on everyday life and the personal ambivalences and social contradictions that result.

Faced with the real-life dilemmas caused by new digital technologies, cultural anthropology has recognized that it has a social responsibility to develop a knowledge base that can refine debates on digitalization. In this regard, it understands its function as explanatory rather than evaluative. Instead of making value judgments about the worth of particular digital technologies, it seeks to make everyday interdependencies between people and digital technologies comprehensible for those to whom they seem alien.

But is cultural anthropology doing enough? Is its analysis of digital transformation and the attendant processes of negotiation societally relevant? What can be achieved, outside as well as inside academia, by shedding light on the interrelations between digital technologies and everyday life in certain cultural arenas? What kind of debates does cultural anthropology want to help forge?

The bilingual conference Translating Digital Transformation was conceived to address those questions. It invites German- or English-language work on digital technology in various areas of everyday life. Conference papers can be based on recent or ongoing research in cultural anthropology, ethnography, and/or media studies. We also welcome contributions at the juncture between digital anthropology, public anthropology, and design anthropology with a view to understanding digital transformation. Contributions may address, but are not limited to, the following subjects:

  • Digital technologies in museum and heritage spaces
  • The role of „artifical intelligence“ in contemporary societies
  • Digital technology’s transformation of education
  • The increasing use of digital technologies in work environments
  • Political practices with regard to social media
  • The digital circulation of information and production of knowledge
  • Social particiaption in digital space (e.g. citizen science, crowdsourcing)
  • Online gaming cultures

The contributions should have a theoretical, methodological, or empirical focus, and seek to enrich public discussions about the digitalization of everyday life. The aim is to identify novel ways of exploring the potential of science communication through anthropological knowledge. This concerns not only the question of how that knowledge is presented but also its relevance in digital societies at large.

Submission details:

  • Abstracts should not eceed 2000 characters (with spaces)
  • Submissions must include a short CV
  • Constributions can be submitted in German and in English
  • The deadline for submissions is September 30, 2022

Please send papers and queries to the following email address: 

The conference is organized by Felix Masarovic, Tim Schaffarczik, Sarah Ullrich, Berit Zimmerling, Christoph Bareither, and Thomas Thiemeyer (Ludwig Uhland Institute of Historical and Cultural Anthropology, Tübingen University) in collaboration with the projects ViRAI: Virtual Reality in University Engineering Education (MWFK) and Curating Digital Images: Ethnographic Perspectives on the Affordances of Digital Images in Heritage and Museum Contexts (DFG).

We can provide partial reimbursement of travel expenses for participants who lack institutional funding.