CFP: Volume on Speech Online

Submission deadline: June 24, 2021

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Conversations Online Editors: Patrick Connolly, Sanford Goldberg, Jennifer Saul

Recent discussions in social philosophy of language have addressed various applied topics: the nature of hate speech and derogatives, the proper understanding of free speech, the distorting effects of power and oppression on the production and comprehension of speech acts, propaganda, and gendered terms. Much less attention has been given to speech produced in online settings: on social media and blogs, or in the comments sections of news sites and youtube (for example). The present volume aims to address this lacuna.

The volume will be structured around questions that arise when we consider the pragmatics (and possibly semantics) of online speech. We offer a few suggestions in what follows, but these are just meant to be a starting place. What is the nature of the acts performed in online settings? How do the affordances of social media sites affect the speech exchanges that take place there? Does the online interplay between images and text change the nature of conversation? Does the permanence of online utterances have consequences for the types of conversations that take place? Do online conversations have different sorts of goals from offline ones? Do the maxims of conversation play out differently online? How should we think about or model the context in online conversations? How are conversations affected by ease of anonymity, and by uncertainties and indeterminacies about who the conversational participants are? (These indeterminacies might even stretch to uncertainty about what a conversational participant may be in cases of, for example, speech produced by AI, shills or paid-trolls). How do the power dynamics of speech contexts differ online, and how are they affected by offline structures of oppression? What sorts of conversations are encouraged, or discouraged, in online environments? How do online and offline conversations relate to each other? Do features of online communication facilitate the spread of disinformation and if so, how? More generally, in what ways are these exchanges like face-to-face conversations, and in what ways are they different? (Relatedly: in what ways are they like letter-writing or like broadcasting?). In addressing these and similar questions, we aim to shed light on the nature of speech online, but we also hope to illuminate the extent to which accounts developed in connection with face-to-face speech are apt for describing the online variety.

We will aim to have between 10 and 15 chapters, written by a diverse collection of philosophers, all focusing specifically on one or more of the topics of the volume. Submitted papers for the volume will be chosen from anonymised abstracts, due 24 June 2021. Draft papers will be presented at a workshop (either in person or online) in summer 2022, and final papers will be due in October 2022. Please send abstracts of 500-1000 words to samuelfilby2025@u.northwestern.edu, by 24 June. The document containing the abstract should not include any identifying information, as these will be subject to anonymous review.

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