CfP: Practicing Sovereignty

CfP: Practicing Sovereignty

Important Dates

  • Deadline for submission: 15 February 2022
  • Notification for acceptance: 15 March 2022
  • Conference: 9 & 10 June 2022


The Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society is organizing its 2022 annual conference on the subject of “Practicing Sovereignty. Interventions for open digital futures” and invites interested scholars and artists to submit papers and abstracts for presentations and workshops. The conference will take place at the venue „Alte Münze“ in Berlin on Thursday, 9 June and Friday, 10 June 2022.

The premises of how ICT impacts societies worldwide have changed. Instead of further indulging in collective imaginaries of better, digitally ediated futures, today’s narratives are dominated by worrying aspects of the digital transformation. Issues such as the increasing vulnerability and manipulation of individuals, the violation of fundamental rights through mass surveillance, and the digitally mediated undermining of democratic institutions and practices have become more and more threatening to an open and free society.

Against this backdrop, the notion of “digital sovereignty” is currently witnessing an increasing interest. Being hotly debated for its implied potentials, but also for its shortcomings, the term denotes diverse concepts that negotiate competences, duties, and rights in the digital age. Questions of trust, confidence, and competence – intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic – contextualize digital sovereignty in a fundamental reconsideration of what has been known as democratic principles, civil rights, and national identities.

The international conference and exhibition will investigate new opportunities for digital participation and policymaking and discuss alternative technological and social practices from various fields and disciplines. We frame digital sovereignty as a right to be claimed and a process constantly in the making, as a condition of the ability to critically partake in the digital transformation.

The conference will provide a transdisciplinary platform for scholars, artists, activists, and human rights advocates who develop transformative practices spaces to foster digital involvement. Grassroots initiatives, community projects, and participatory practices in design, art and activism appear as collective counter strategies and bottom-up interventions that challenge the normalization of inequalities and insecurities and push back against threats to an open society. They lay the groundwork for new forms of agency, paving novel ways of practicing sovereignty – both in the sense of collective activities as well as in terms of public education and experimentation.

To investigate the notion of digital sovereignty while respecting the plurality of its forms and approaches, the conference and exhibition offer four different tracks with shifting focuses:

  1. Digital sovereignty: terms, concepts, limitations
  2. Datafication and democracy
  3. Digital literacies and inequalities
  4. Digital sovereignty and scientific autonomy

1. Digital sovereignty: terms, concepts, limitations

As a central concept in current policy discourses, digital sovereignty addresses various challenges posed by the digital transformation. This track will address theoretical approaches in the current discourses on regulatory, technological, and civil society perspectives on digital sovereignty, and discuss approaches that are being negotiated. They range from a territorial viewpoint for digitally sovereign entities to an individual perspective of self-determination in everyday life and touch upon questions of autonomy, control, and authority. Contributions may include but are not limited to:

  • Different (digital) ontologies and corresponding notions of sovereignty
  • Relations between sovereignty and the digital
  • Conceptual elements of how to analyze (digital) sovereignty
  • Shifting power systems through the digital transformation of societies
  • Public reflections of sovereign powers
  • Alternative sovereignty concepts for democratic value

2. Datafication and democracy

How can we reimagine the politics of data? Automated decision-making, predictive policing, social scoring – computational datafication and automation are changing structures and procedures not only of private corporations but also of governments and public institutions. At the same time, people\s everyday lives become datafied lives. Digital means and tools empower them to demand access to government information (freedom of information, open government) and to actively partake in political decision-making. But they also burden citizens with responsibility: It is often up to the individual to resist and protest the collection and exploitation of their personal data by private corporations and intelligence agencies. With these new challenges and possibilities, liberal democracies seem to be at a crossroads: Are people becoming a mere datapoint in an opaque machinery of computation whose results and decisions we can neither comprehend nor challenge? Or can we, by new means of engagement and by redefining technical infrastructures as public infrastructures, strengthen democracy and advance social progress? Contributions may include but are not limited to:

  • Changing structures in governments and public institutions through datafication
  • Open government, open data, open source
  • Public interest design
  • Surveillance capitalism: data extractivism and the quantification of the individual
  • Automated decision making vs. digitally aided sovereignty
  • Ownership of digital infrastructure: private property and the public sphere

3. Digital literacies and inequalities

How can we grasp and trace the interrelations between social inequalities and digital divides? How can we develop new strategies for socio-technical public education that ensure equitable and democratic engagements with regulatory debates around technologies? Through the lens of a so called “third level digital divide” – a concept that addresses the capacity to achieve adequate outcomes and benefits from our digital actions – we can look beyond simplistic conceptions of access to technologies and information. This track will discuss digital literacies in a broader, socio-cultural sense as a creative, performative, and inherently political everyday practice and thus use digitality as a lens to discuss intersectional inequalities. With this, it will examine both the causes and consequences of power, privilege, and oppression in the digital realm, and feature theories, practices and tactics for addressing and countering the increasing amount of digital inequalities and disparities on a global level. Contributions may include but are not limited to:

  • Digitalization and gender and intersectionality
  • Gender-equitable design of digital or socio-technical systems
  • In/visibility of oppressive forces in digital algorithms and products
  • New strategies for socio-technical public education and public pedagogy
  • Art, technology and exploit: exposing power inequalities through artistic practice
  • Digital activism as digital empowerment of groups and individuals

4. Digital sovereignty and scientific autonomy

The digital transformation of scientific work comes with promises of faster collaboration, increased rigour and broader access to knowledge. At the heart of these scientific imaginaries are new digital infrastructures that connect researchers, organizations, and artifacts. However, today an increasing number of these infrastructures are developed and controlled by a handful of powerful technology firms and publishing companies. This development poses a threat to scientific autonomy, as such crucial infrastructures are shaped by the data imperative and extractive logics of platform capitalism rather than the needs of the scientific community. To contribute to the project of digital sovereignty, science needs to reclaim its autonomy in digitally networked environments first. The goal of this conference track is to bring together critical perspectives and generative proposals on the crisis of scientific autonomy in the digital condition. Contributions may include but are not limited to:

  • Data repositories and preprint servers
  • Tracking technologies and academic surveillance
  • Predatory publishing
  • Open science and open education
  • Distributed trust technologies in science
  • Digital metrics and evaluation tools

Submission Categories


Paper length should be between 2,500 and 3,000 words (including notes, excluding references) and follow the Word template formatting. When using LaTeX, please adapt the formatting of the Word template. Please upload the paper in PDF format. As the paper will be reviewed in a double-blind process, please anonymize any information which could point to your authorship (including information in references and notes). Papers accepted in the review or revision process will be published as part of the conference proceedings. In addition, selected submissions will be given the opportunity to be published in a special issue of the Weizenbaum Journal of the Digital Society that will focus on the conference topics. Authors are expected to hold a 20-minute presentation of their submitted papers.

Authors are expected to hold a 20-minute presentation of their submitted papers.

Proposals for workshops and project presentation

The conference will provide space for workshops and project presentations in fields of scientific research and also for artistic research and projects, activism/hacktivism, design, or other interactive or participatory formats. Please submit a project proposal as PDF (max. 3 pages) including a description (max. 1,000 words) and, if applicable, images. If the proposal includes video or audio material, please provide within the pdf hyperlinks to a video/audio hosting platform where the work can be accessed (e.g., Vimeo or platforms of educational institutions). The review process will be single-blind and include suggestions for revision considering the conditions of the conference site and schedule. The description will be published in the conference proceedings (a selection of descriptions also in the Weizenbaum Journal, s. above), combined with images and potential documentation material (depending on the individual project and to be discussed with the contributor).


  1. Please submit a paper or abstract for workshop and project presentation by 15 February 2022 via Easy Chair. The paper or abstract should indicate the conference track.
  2. Submissions will be reviewed, and decisions of acceptance will be issued by 15 March 2022. Peer review of papers (double-blind) and abstract for workshop and project presentation (single-blind). Decisions of acceptance or revision will be issued by 15 March 2022.
  3. After the potential revision the papers will be published in the conference proceedings. The conference proceedings will be published open access by the Weizenbaum Institute (providing DOIs). In addition, selected submissions will be given the opportunity to be published in a special issue of the Weizenbaum Journal of the Digital Society that will focus on the conference topics.

Please download the Call for Papers here.