CFP: Call for Chapters for Edited Volume: The Future of Digital Well-Being

Submission deadline: May 31, 2024

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We are seeking contributions for two remaining spots in our edited volume on “The Future of Digital Wellbeing.” More details on the theme of the volume, its invited contributors, and deadlines are provided below.

1.      Volume Details

Title: The Future of Digital Well-Being

Format: 12 chapters, including an editors’ introduction on the ethics of digital well-being technologies.

Editors: Matthew J. Dennis (TU Eindhoven), Peter Königs (TU Dortmund)

Publisher: tbc.

Invited authors: Mariek M. P. Vanden Abeele (Ghent University), Marijn Martens (imec-mict-UGent), Christopher Burr (Alan Turing Institute), Julia Brailovskaia (Ruhr-University Bochum), Christian Montag (Ulm University), Jon D. Elhai (University of Toledo), Jeroen Hopster (Utrecht University), Emma Gordon (University of Glasgow), Bartek Chomanski (Adam Mickiewicz University), Iliana Grosse-Buening (QSC), Pak-Hang Wong (Hong Kong Baptist University), James Williams.

2.      Synopsis of Volume

Research on how digital technologies affect human well-being has increased exponentially in recent years. This is due to the ever-faster evolution of digital technologies, as well as a new wave of post-pandemic attitudes towards working, educating, entertaining, and communicating. This volume aims to update state-of-the-art ethical reflection on the ethical risks and potential benefits of online technologies for human well-being. In addition to evaluating these risks and benefits from an interdisciplinary perspective, the contributors will explore how recent events and technological developments have transformed the debate from earlier influential discussions of this topic (Burr & Floridi 2020, Burr 2018, Rijt, Wong, Brey 2015, Brey 2012). For example, the last two years has witnessed the rapid development of ‘Generative AI’ and the development of the so-called ‘metaverse’, two digital technologies that are poised to significantly alter how we interact with digital technologies in everyday life. These two emerging technologies have supercharged the integration of digital technologies into the post-pandemic social fabric and into our practical lives.

This volume also aims to contribute a new perspective to today’s literature on digital well-being by offering (1) a more optimistic lens though which to view technologies and (2) a mandate for practical application of theoretical perspectives. Regarding (1), current discussions have often centred around the severe risks digital technologies pose to human well-being (Cocking & van den Hoven 2018). While these risks are at times paralyzingly series, but this volume will also ensure the potential positive impacts on well-being are fairly represented. Regarding (2), we will strive to show how theories of digital well-being have practical application by considering industry perspectives. Many valuable insights on now digital technologies affect well-being are still relatively inaccessible to those who design digital technologies, so we will provide a forum that shows how academic insights can inform the design and deployment of the next generation of digital technologies.

The first part of this volume (Part I) aims to offer greater clarity on three foundational issues concerning digital well-being, which the authors anticipate are useful in resolving more applied questions. The first foundational issue is the conceptual question about the meaning and nature of the term ‘digital well-being,’ especially how this term relates to that of ‘well-being’, which has a longer philosophical heritage. The second foundational question is whether well-being – digital or otherwise – can be wholly evaluated from the subjective point of view. Psychological evaluations of digital well-being typically prioritize self-reporting (asking users of technology how it affects their well-being), whereas philosophers have often argued that ‘feeling good’ may be necessary feature but not sufficient one for a fully flourishing life (see Lin 2022, Fletcher 2015). The third foundational question is how digital well-being relates to broader questions regarding the good life in an age that is suffused with online and other digital technologies. Prior understanding of such foundational topics, the editors argue, is required to fully understand applied discussions of digital well-being, especially those that now dominate the debate in other disciplines. The chapters will point to examples when appreciating this linkage benefits our understanding of foundational issues and vice versa. Applied discussions on digital well-being stand to benefit from deeper engagement with theoretical frameworks, but discussions of practical questions can also inform more abstract theorizing about well-being (Königs forthcoming).

The second part of the volume (Part II) will inquire about how digital technologies change existing normative features of the good life, including specific goods like friendship, autonomy, self-respect, and play. These goods have all been identified as potential sources of well-being (Fletcher 2015) and we believe have been transformed – positively and negatively – by digital technologies. Philosophers have often argued how friendship is a necessary part of the good life, so understanding how digital technologies affect it seems to be vitally important.

The third part of this volume (Part III) will explore challenges related to digital well-being in practical terms. One way to approach this question is to distinguish between different dimensions of solutions or strategies. The first kind of solutions operates at the individual level, while the second type are non-individual or collective. The use of social media technologies pertains to the first kind of solution (Dennis 2021), whereas the design of the social media technologies pertains to the second (Steinert & Dennis 2022, Dennis & Ziliotti 2022). The second key distinction this volume will explore is between digital and non-digital well-being solutions. Non-digital well-being solutions include cultivating personal habits involving the moderate or responsible use of digital technology; cultivating habits, or the use of Faraday cages, for example. Digital solutions include the use of digital well-being apps (Opal, Forest, etc.). The contributions in this part of the volume will examine the potentials and challenges, both practical and ethical, of different approaches to cultivating and maintaining digital well-being. With European countries increasingly willing to regulate AI and other digital technologies, questions regarding strategies to improve digital well-being are particularly pertinent.

In addition to the division of the volume into the three parts outlined above, we will pay special attention to two cross-cutting themes. These themes aim to capture the ongoing disruption to our pre-pandemic conception of digital well-being from an interdisciplinary and intercultural point of view. The first theme is how the ethics of digital well-being should be informed by empirical findings regarding the impact of digital technologies on human well-being. We believe that concrete discussions about digital well-being cannot be meaningfully conducted without considering the empirical data on how the use of digital technology affects people’s well-being, even if studies on this topic are often inconclusive. Our central questions in Part III of the volume — whether they are of a more theoretical nature or related to practical solutions — can only be sensibly discussed in light of empirical facts. The ambiguous nature of the empirical data raises interesting questions. While some authors have identified social media use as the culprit of the ongoing mental health crisis (Twenge 2023), others interpret the data as failing to support the notion that social media use negatively impacts mental health (Ferguson et al. 2022; Valkenburg et al. 2022).

The second cross-cutting theme is on intercultural approaches to digital well-being. Simply put, technologies such as social media that are often regarded as having a significant impact on digital well-being are designed by relatively small number of Western designers, CEOs, and product managers, yet are deployed and are widely used across the non-Western world. This has recently received scholarly attention, but the importance of the topic is becoming more important as infrastructure companies rapidly improve accessibility (Starlink) and social media companies (Meta, TikTok, X) become increasingly popular across the Global South (Arora 2019). Recently scholars (including the editors of this volume) have argued that intercultural approaches stand to enrich how we understand digital well-being (Dennis & Clancy 2022, Bombaerts et al 2023), so this volume will aim to incorporate these intercultural perspectives into the ethical digital well-being for 21st century global life.

We welcome 200–300 word abstracts outlining chapters on the following topics:

  1. Conceptual questions regarding the meaning and nature of digital well-being.
  2. Digital well-being and (non-digital) theories of well-being
  3. The impact of digital technologies on specific prudential goods, such as friendship, autonomy, self-respect, play, and communication.
  4. Generative AI and digital well-being.
  5. Virtual worlds, the metaverse, and digital well-being.
  6. Post-pandemic digital well-being.
  7. Digital versus non-digital approaches to cultivating digital well-being.
  8. Individual versus collective approaches to enhancing digital well-being.
  9. The empirical evidence on the impact of social media on digital well-being
  10. Non-Western perspectives on digital well-being.

Please send abstracts and titles to Matthew J. Dennis ([email protected]) and Peter Königs ([email protected]) by 31st May 2024. Final manuscripts are due December 1st, 2024. All submissions will be peer reviewed by the editorial team and external reviewers.

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