Call for papers: Special issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

 

What is research on computer-mediated communication today (and what should it be tomorrow)? A special issue examining the state of the field

Guest editors

Mike Yao, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Rich Ling, Nanyang Technological University

 

Intro

What is computer-mediated communication (CMC)? Further, what is the nature of the social and psychological processes vis-a-vis such digitally-mediated communication? In the quarter-century since the founding of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (emphasis added), there have been significant changes in the object of study, the theories, and methods used to examine the phenomenon. This special issue of JCMC provides an opportunity to take stock of this dynamic situation.

 

The topic of our research -- technology, the concept and processes of mediation, and our sense of what constitutes communication, as well as the theories and methods used to examine these -- have all been in flux. In 1994, the internet was only finding its purchase in society; Usenet and Internet Relay Chat or “IRC” were common platforms; email was considered cutting-edge communication; and Web 2.0 was still in the distant future. Additionally, SMS was just debuting as a digitally mediated form of interpersonal communication. Simultaneously, fundamental social and communicative processes were evolving both as the result of, and the catalyst to, these technological innovations. Such constant tension between technological developments, and related social processes, raises the question of how we should conceive of, theoritize and study computers, mediation, and communication?

 

In the time since the founding of this journal by Peggy McLaughlin and Sheizaf Rafaeli, the notion of a “computer” has morphed from being bulky, stationary terminals into a variety of devices. Early forms of networking gave us mediation of information, but these mediation forms were positively clunky seen from today’s perspective. The digital devices with which we communicate today include personal computers, smartphones, smartwatches, home appliances, beacons, and even robots. The channels that carry and transmit our words and thoughts range from emails, social media, instant messaging apps, to any number of other programs. Developments in artificial intelligence allow computers to autonomously and selectively filter communication messages and information. The disciplinary boundary between computer-mediated human-to-human communication and human-to-computer interactions are also blurring as seen with digital assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and Bixby, that can be information sources, communication media, or indeed communicators themselves?

 

The very notion of “mediation” has taken on unexpected dimensions. Digitally-mediated information can be displayed in text, sound, moving images, virtual reality, or holographic projections. The recipient of our digital communication can be an individual interlocutor, a small group of our friends, or a large community of “Facebook friends.” Computer-mediated one-to-one communication has been supplemented with a variety of alternative configurations. The rise of ubiquitous computing and

ambient intelligence make computer interfaces, once the central focus of mediated-communication, less noticeable. How will such a sense of “non-mediation” impact CMC? Is being likened to face-to-face communication the ultimate end-point of computer-mediated communication? Or will augmented and mixed reality technologies push human communication into a new realm that blends the physical and digital worlds?

 

Further, how do we conceptualize “communication” in CMC? Are conventional divisions between interpersonal, intergroup, organization, and mass communication still relevant? At what point does an interpersonal exchange on Twitter become broadcast communication? How valid is the outcome of a democratic election if it is influenced by false information generated and disseminated by digital agents with fake human identities? Most importantly, how do we observe, think about, theorize and reconcile the complex communication and social phenomena resulting from interactions between humans and the multiple versions of our digital representations in a networked society?

 

Beyond the morphing of the object of study, and the eventual social consequences of this transition, there are theoretical and methodological issues at hand. The community of scholars has developed many theoretical approaches that are not necessarily tied to any particular technology. How are these holding up? Not to be overly prescriptive but, for example, what is an affordance; how does one conceptualize influence theory; what are the boundaries between warranting and credibility; etc.? In the area of methods and we are seeing the applications of data analytics to large databases, sophisticated social network analysis and various forms of artificial intelligence to this domain. What are the potentials and the threats of these approaches?

 

In sum, what is "new" and “not new” in contemporary CMC? Facing these challenges, questions and considerations, we invite scholars to consider these issues in this special issue of JCMC. It is our hope that addressing this question will contribute to the development of this research community.


The Special Issue

The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication invites abstracts for a dedicated issue to consider the issues outlined above. In the case of a special issue, we will suspend the criteria of requiring papers to have a primarily empirical focus. We invite articles that will help frame the future direction of research into digitally-mediated communication.

 

We will first seek extended abstracts of 1000-1500 words that outline the domain of the paper, the main argument, the literature upon which the paper is built, and the proposed contribution to the specific domain and to the sub-discipline. Submit papers to mzyao@illinois.edu and mark the subject line with “JCMC Special issue.” The submission should be accompanied by a brief biography (approx. 100-150 words) of the authors. Abstracts should be submitted by 31 March 2018.

Notification of commissioned papers will be made by the end of May 2018. Full articles will be due by 1Oct 2018, through https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/jcmc. The manuscripts must conform to the formatting standards of JCMC.

 

Time Table

CfP published: 5 Feb 2018

Extended abstracts (1000-1500 words) due: 31 March 2018

Notification: 30 May 2018

Full submission (3-5000 word articles) due: 1 Oct 2018

Provisional publication in issue 4 2019