Call for Papers ; Internet Policy Review Special issue on ‘Big Data: Big Power Shifts?’

Nikita Hora

7 Oct 2015 12:11 PM GMT

  • Call for Papers ; Internet Policy Review Special issue on ‘Big Data: Big Power Shifts?’


    'Big data' has been a major issue in internet-related public debate for several years now and it is yet unclear what impact big data has on societies, politics and markets. We conceive ‘big data’ as constituted by three components: the automatic generation of very large and diverse data sets which are mainly the result of the digitisation of modern societies, their processing by algorithms and their use for decision-making and regulation, in the private or public sector. This includes purposes such as profiling, monitoring, predictive analysis and risk calculation.

    Mayer-Schönberger&Cukier claim that big data is a “revolution that will transform how we live, work, and think” (2014). But whereas revolutions imply a profound shift in power relations, there is little scientific evidence about whether and, if so, how big data affects power relations.

    We understand power as the production, in and through social relations, of effects that shape the capacities of actors to determine their fate. Power opens up or closes off options to act for parties involved and it is multi-dimensional: it is influence over others, empowerment, the capacity to act and to self-discipline.


    1. 20 October 2015: Deadline for expression of interest and abstract submissions (500 word abstracts) via the form below (see under SUBMIT).
    2. 27 October 2015: Feedback on abstract submissions
    3. 14 December 2015: Deadline for full text submissions (max. 30,000 characters spaces included).
    4. March 2016: Publication of the special issue


    The aim of the special issue in the Internet Policy Review is to explore the extent to which big data shapes society by influencing power relations and, in return, how the development of big data-related phenomena is itself shaped by power relations.

    We welcome proposals that address power relations linked to big data phenomena in various fields, as long as they bear a relevance to European societies and highlight policy implications or make a reference to regulatory debates.

    Papers can have both a more conceptual or a more empirical focus. This call for papers is open to researchers from the fields of policy studies, sociology, law, philosophy, data, information and technology studies, economics and management and related fields. Emerging scholars are particularly encouraged to submit a proposal. 


    As stated above, scientific knowledge about which power relations shape the “big data society” is still scarce. Yet much has been said about the many promising and worrying aspects of a society built on predictive analysis, machine learning and algorithmic regulation, and various implicit and explicit hypotheses about the power effects of big data have emerged in the academic and public debate.

    1. Empowerment of users/citizens/patients:Will big data empower users, citizens and patients through applications and services (tailored services, e-participation, e-health)?
    2. Power shifts and conflicts over power between actors:
    3. Does big data alter the power relation between states and citizens(‘surveillance society’, ‘governing the poor’, manipulation of voters by individualised election campaigns)?
    4. Do personalised marketing and the monitoring of staff affect the power relations between 
      companies and users or employees
    5. Do new power relations between companies, political candidates/parties or states arise due to unequal access to big data applications?
    6. Does big data influence the relative importance of scientific disciplines or professions (data analysts versus lawyers and economists)?
    7. Different modes of decision-making and knowledge production:Are current norms and practices threatened by ‘algorithmic regulation’ and the ‘end of theory’?
    8. Power relations shaping big data: How do power relations shape the development of big data and the precise big data related practices, modes of production and application fields?
    9. Narratives: How are big data related power relations addressed, problematized or, on the contrary, masked?
    10. Regulation of big data: What regulations are relevant for big data related power relations? What alternative regulations are proposed?


    1. In addition to the special issue the author/s selected for the best paper award will be invited to speak at the closing lecture of the HIIG-lecture series Big data: big power shifts?
    2. The lecture is set to be held in Berlin in April 2016 in cooperation with the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications.


    1. Dr. Lena Ulbricht, WZB Berlin Social Science Center (

    1. Maximilian von Grafenstein LL.M., Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (

    Click here for the submission of the Abstract of the paper.

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