(01/04/2022) AAA-Revue « Communication, Culture & Critique » : Beyond the Tropicalization of Concepts: Theorizing Digital Realities with and from the Global South

Special Issue of Communication, Culture & Critique (Vol. 16, No.2,June 2023)
Call for Papers

Paper Abstract Deadline (500 words):April 1st, 2022
Complete Manuscript Deadline (6000-7000 words):November 1st, 2022
Editors: Edgar Gómez Cruz (University of Texas at Austin), Heather Horst (Western Sydney University), IgnacioSiles (Universidad de Costa Rica),Cheryll Ruth Soriano (De La Salle University, Philippines)

In a recent analysis of the field of digital media, Borah (2017) argues that most researchers tend to reproduce and recirculate key concepts (Ogan, 2014). From “filter bubbles,” “platformization” and “fake news,” to “algorithmic cultures,” and “influencers,” concepts that have emerged in the global north have found their way into analyses of the use of digital media in other parts of the world without much critical analysis that reflects upon where the concepts came from and why they are appropriate for a particular set of practices or empirical realities.

To be sure, “importing” concepts generated in other settings is a product of global academic exchanges. It has also made it possible to engage in comparative work and further dialogue between scholars in various places around shared concepts and ideas.It can also lead to the development of approaches that combine complementary frameworks for making sense of multiple settings and practices.

Yet, airdropping one concept into another arena can also be problematic. First, importing concepts runs the risk of reproducing colonial dynamics of dependency, submission, and obedience, thus exacerbating what de Sousa Santos (2007) called “abyssal thinking,” that is a system of thought that is predicated upon making invisible certain “forms of knowledge that cannot be fitted into [this system]” (p. 47). The growing move towards the internationalization of digital communication and media studies (Lim & Soriano, 2016;Thussu, 2009) and the nudge towards a ‘digital decolonial turn’ (Casilli, 2019) attempt to facilitate the expansion of our conceptual tools, recognizing that digital communication everywhere is shaped by local histories, values, infrastructures, rituals, language, policies, and meanings. However, the centrality of predominant theories remains (Shome, 2019). 

Second, incorporating concepts conceived to understand other contexts runs the risk of naturalizing the realities they were meant to describe. As numerous scholars have noted, metaphors, theories, and methods are not only ways to describe realities but also to create them. Adopting certain theoretical frameworks to make sense of digital realities might imply the exclusion of empirical evidence or contextual matters that do not fit well with the theories that are imported. 

Third, this dynamic has been patterned in oneparticular way: theoretical concepts travel to the global south but usually not the other way around (that is, from the global south to the rest of the world). This is problematic in that it tends to naturalize another colonial trend: while scholars in certain parts of the world are seen as producers of knowledge, researchers in the global south become ambassadors and audiences of the theories developed elsewhere,helping to consolidate them but are not necessarily encouraged to dialogue with, critique, or dismiss concepts that are not relevant. 

And fourth, and equally important,these importedconcepts also become solidified in many cases as public policies. As we know from the extensive work carried out in communication for development (e.g., Lennie&Tacchi, 2013) and, more recently the field of ICT4D, governments often apply, fund and support programs that are developed in other places that recipients of funding are encouraged to reproduce and implement. They also tend to treat digital media and technology as the source for innovation and economic development rather than appreciating some of the nuanced ways they are integrated (e.g., Burrell&Oreglia,2015). 

Against these challenges, this special issue aims to offer insights into work that has produced novel ways to study, theorize, and enact the specific realities of the global south associated with the use of digital media. South, in thiscontext, can be understood “not merely [as] a geographical or geopolitical marker … but a plural entity subsuming also the different, the underprivileged, the alternative, the resistant, the invisible, and the subversive” (Milan &Treré, 2019, p. 321). Thisspecialissue seeks to make a twofold contribution. On the one hand, it intends to extend de-westernization and decolonizing efforts in the case of research on digital media. On the other hand, it invites scholars in and beyond theglobalsouth to engage in a collective “epistemic emancipation,” an invitation to rethink and rewrite digital media theory not just as a “theory ‘about’ the south,” but “about the effects of the south itself on theory, the effects of its ex-centrality” (Comaroff &Comaroff, 2012). Following this idea,theorizing emerges not to denote an exception but as a vantage point for understanding the global power relations underscoring our everyday digital realities.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:


   Theoretical and methodological discussions that specifically develop
   concepts for processes in the global south, how they differ or how
   they relate to established frameworks for making sense of digital


   Empirical analyses of practices and phenomena that characterize the
   global south.


   Analyses of concepts that emerged and/or were modified in the global
   south that are conceptually useful for understanding the global north. 


   Theoretical discussions that problematize the import of theoretical
   frameworks in the global south.


   Literature reviews of local phenomena associated with the use and
   development of digital realities in the global south.


   Historical accounts of the implementation of logics or processes
   that account for the specificities of the global south.


   Discussions of policy implications derived from decolonization


Borah, P. (2017). Emerging communication technology research: Theoretical and methodological variables in the last 16years and future directions.New Media & Society,19(4), 616–636.

Burrell, J., &Oreglia, E. (2015). The myth of market price information: Mobile phones and the application of economic knowledge in ICTD.Economy and Society, 44(2), 271–292.doi: 10.1080/03085147.2015.1013742 

Casilli, A. (2017). Digitallabor studies go global: Toward a digital decolonial turn.International Journal of Communication,11, 3934–3954

de Sousa Santos, B. (2007). Beyond Abyssal Thinking: From Global Lines to Ecologies of Knowledges.Review (Fernand BraudelCenter), 30(1), 45-89. Retrieved from<>

Comaroff, J., &Comaroff, J. (2012). Theory from the South: A rejoinder.Cultural Anthropology.<> 

Lennie, J. &Tacchi, Jo. (2013. Evaluating Communication for Development: A Framework for Social Change. New York, NY: Routledge.

Lim, S. S. & Soriano, C.R. (2016). A (digital) giant awakens–Invigorating media studies with Asian perspectives. In S.S. Lim & C.R. Soriano (eds.),Asian perspectives on digital cultures: Emerging phenomena, enduring concepts. Routledge.

Machen, R., &Nost, E. (2021). Thinking algorithmically: The making of hegemonic knowledge in climate governance.Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.

Milan, S., &Treré, E. (2019). Big data from the south(s): Beyond data universalism.Television & New Media,20(4), 319–335.

Ogan, C. (2014). Round pegs in square holes: Is mass communication theory a useful tool in conducting Internet research? In R. S. Fortner & P. M. Fackler (Eds.),The handbook of media and mass communication theory (pp. 629–644). Wiley.

Shome, R. (2019). When postcolonial studies interrupts media studies,Communication, Culture and Critique, 12(3), 305–322. <>

Submission Instructions:

Please submit a 500-word abstract as well as a short (2-page) CV by April 1,2022, to the co-editors of the special issue<>,<>,<>, <>. Please include all co-editors on your email submission.

Authors whose abstracts are selected will be notified byMay 1st, 2022 and asked to submit complete manuscripts (6000-7000 words, including notes and references, in Word format, following the 6th APA style) directly toScholarOne ( <>) byNovember 1st, 2022. When submitting your manuscript, please designate the submission as “Original Article” on the “Step 1: Type, Title & Abstract” page. No payment from authors is required.

Acceptance of the abstracts does not guarantee publication of the papers, which will be subject toanonymous peer review. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact the co-editors at the abovefour email addresses.

Guest editors’ bios:

Edgar Gómez Cruz is an AssociateProfessor at the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin. He has published widely onseveral topics relating to digital culture, particularly in the areas of material visual practices, digital ethnography and critical approaches to digital technologies. His recent publications include the books:Vital Technologies: Thinking Digital Cultures from Latin America (2022),From Kodak Culture to Networked Image: An Ethnography of Digital Photography Practices (2012), and the co-edited volumesDigital Photography and Everyday Life. Empirical Studies on Material Visual Practices (Routledge, 2016) withAskoLehmuskallio andRefiguring Techniques in Visual Digital Research (Palgrave, 2017), with ShantiSumartojo and Sarah Pink.

Heather Horst is Professor and Director of the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, Australia. Her research focuses upon material culture and the mediation of social relations through digital media and technology in a range of settings including the Caribbean and the Pacific. Her books focused upon these themes includeThe Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication (Horst and Miller, 2006);Digital Anthropology (Horst and Miller, 2012), Digital Ethnography: Principles and Practice (with Sarah Pink, et al. 2016), The Moral Economy of Mobile Phones: Pacific Island Perspectives(Foster and Horst, eds. 2018),Location Technologies in International Context(Wilken, Goggin and Horst, eds. 2019), among others. Her current research focuses upon the global Fijian fashion system, Fintech and agriculture in Laos and Cambodia and automated decision-making in the global south as part of the ARC Centre of Excellence of Automated Decision-Making and Society.

IgnacioSiles is a professor of media and technology studies in the School of Communication and researcher in the Centro deInvestigaciónenComunicación (CICOM) at Universidad de Costa Rica. He is the author ofA Transnational History of the Internet in Central America, 1985–2000 (2020, Palgrave Macmillan) andNetworked Selves: Trajectories of Blogging in the United States and France (2017, Peter Lang), along with several articles on the relationship between technology, communication, and society.

Cheryll Ruth Sorianois Professor in the Department of Communication at De La Salle University, Manila. Her research deals with questions of power, ideology and resistance in digital cultures. Her current work examines the socio-technical politics of content production and the transformations inlabor and organizing in the platform economy. She co-edited the book (with S.S. Lim),Asian Perspectives on Digital Culture: Emerging Phenomena, Enduring Concepts(Routledge, 2016), and authors the monograph (with E.Cabalquinto),YouTube and Brokerage Dynamics in Philippine Digital Cultures (Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming).