International Communication Association 2020 PRECONFERENCE

Conceptualizing a ‘Post-American’ Internet: Technology, Governance, and Geopolitics

Date & Time: 9:00 am to 5.00 pm, May 21, 2020

Location: 2020 ICA conference venue, Gold Coast, Australia
Division Affiliation: Global Communication and Social Change


Yu Hong, Zhejiang University, China,

Philipp Staab, Humboldt University, Germany,

Daya Thussu, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong SAR,

Description and Objective 

The global internet is entering a ‘post-American’ era in a dialectic sense. Dominant ideas, interests, and arrangements emanating from the US continue to matter. They mingle, align, and delink with states, capitals, and social actors in various parts of the world. In a largely asymmetric fashion, they are assembled into the global internet comprising supranational entities, corporate infrastructures, production chains, and networked publics. 

Nonetheless, global economic crises, and accompanying power shifts, have complicated the continuity and discontinuity of political economies, shaping and being shaped by the global internet. The rise of conservative nationalism and xenophobes in the global North has also exposed the fragmented nature of the existing order and provoked counter proposals, alternative narratives, and new arrangements. Indeed, the topography of the global internet and its governing landscape look very different today. For example, under the pressure from China and the US, many European countries have made increased efforts to build national ICT infrastructures. Questions also arise regarding both technological dependence and initiatives of the global South during their integration into global trade and communication networks. The debates about data localization are increasingly taking a nationalist turn in India, home to the world’s second largest internet users after China.

Digital transformation enabled by 5G networks drives another vector of change. New networked applications, such as the Internet of Things, smart city systems, and the Internet of Bodies, cross many boundaries, be they spatial, material, temporal, or social.  They draw much innovative energy from non-Western socio-economic contexts and are likely to extend commodification and surveillance of body, land, labor, information, and communication. Again, this happens against a backdrop of heightened geopolitical struggle over technology and renewed debates over governance. 

In the ‘post-American’ era, internet technologies connect populations and things amidst unfixed values, contesting relations, and changing contexts. Thus, conceptualizing a ‘post-American’ internet encourages scholars to delve into formative disagreement spaces, emergent geopolitical processes, and dynamic political-economic structures. This also draws attention to a range of actors, whose collaboration and contestation re-work, and sometimes transcend, conventional protocols, procedures, and typologies, which include but are not limited to states and capitals, subnational and transnational regions, interstate relations and social formation, master narratives and social imaginations. 

This preconference is intended to encourage focused discussion of socio-technical transformations, geopolitical reconfigurations in the emerging context of a digital ‘Cold War’, and institutional reactions and normative debates surrounding ICT-related governance and development in a ‘post-American’ era. We welcome theoretical and empirical studies from multiple conceptual frameworks, methodologies, and scales of analysis. 

Keynote speakers (TBD) 

How to participate
If you wish to present a paper at this event, please send an abstract of 300-400 words. This must be submitted to by December 1, 2019. The organizers will consider these submissions and advise on acceptance by January 20, 2020.

With financial support from the College of Media and International Culture, Zhejiang University, registration fees will be waived for paper presenters (including two tea-coffee breaks and lunch). For other participants, it will be $90 for ICA full members and $45 for students

Note: it is assumed that presenters will be available to attend the event for the full day. If you are coming from overseas, we recommend that you arrive May 20, 2020, and make appropriate accommodation arrangements for that night. 

About Zhejiang University as the co-host

Zhejiang University was founded in 1897 and is one of the earliest modern academies of higher education in China. Its College of Media and International Culture was established in 2006, of which the Department of Journalism was set up in 1958 and is one of the oldest journalism schools in China. Currently, the College has four departments and several research institutes, covering a wide range of research programs in communication studies, journalism studies, new media and critical theory, and international culture. The College is also home for Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication Research Center, Zhejiang University.