Special issue on “Born Digital” – Shedding Light into the Darkness of Digital Culture

Call for papers

We invite contributions to a Special Issue on “Born Digital” – Shedding Light into the Darkness of Digital Culture to be published by the AI & Society Journal of Culture, Knowledge and Communication (Springer) https://www.springer.com/journal/146.

In the 2020s, items of great cultural and historical significance are “born digital” i.e. they come into being through digital media. Emails and other born digital media were central to the outcome of the 2016 USA presidential election, and in 2020 became a vehicle for spreading and shaping shared ideas (correct or otherwise) about the global pandemic. These digital media profoundly shape politics, social engagement, shared histories, community identity and literature. Unfortunately, born digital cultural assets are often stored in “dark” archives which are difficult to access. Artificial Intelligence applications for born digital archives remains at the exploratory stage but offer tremendous possibilities as technologies for opening up digital cultural treasures.

Special Issue Themes

In the 2020s, narratives born in cyberspace may embody our sense of who we are, both individual and corporately. Born digital cultural assets in the vaults of “dark” archives beyond the reach of scholarship. These archives may be better preserved than their analogue, physical counterparts, but simply preserving digital records behind the walls of a computerised vault is not enough if we are to understand their historical and cultural importance. Born digital archives must be opened up for scholarship and review, to produce new knowledge, foster public engagement and help us understand and appreciate these treasures and their legacy.

Privacy, digital security, a lack of interoperability across different systems, formatting challenges and other features of born digital assets make it difficult to access precious sources of information. Artificial Intelligence, smart data and related technological applications for born digital archives remain at the exploratory stage but offer extraordinary possibilities. For example, as regards to privacy challenges, AI can be used to separate personal and business emails, improve accessibility to non-confidential records, identify sections of documents that refer to personal data thereby allowing partial views to archival content. AI could extract named entities (people names, dates, events etc.) from archives and automatically link them to other digital resources. However, technical wonders are only part of the solution. Our response to the dark archives of born digital cultural heritage must combine advanced technologies, new policy instruments, new methodologies and new curating praxis to open up and care for born digital archives. Archivists and scholars need new tools, methodologies and practices to engage with our born digital repositories.

This cross-disciplinary special issue invites policy, research, survey and other contributions which address the challenges and opportunities of born digital archives.

We are particularly enthusiastic to receive submissions from Digital Humanists, Computer Scientists, Cultural-Heritage Institutions, Archivists, Libraries & others who have a stake in born digital cultural heritage. Papers are welcome from engineering, cultural heritage and Humanities disciplines, Social Science, art & design, information systems, social policy and library science. Interdisciplinary work is appreciated. Opinionated papers, book and conference reviews, policy and institutional perspectives will be considered. Tutorial/surveys are also welcome where they review state of the art or key aspects of born digital.

Questions explored in this issue include:

  1. How can we navigate the tensions between Open Data on the one hand and Privacy on the other?
  2. What are the current challenges and opportunities of born-digital archives?
  3. What is the state-of-the-art, challenges and opportunities for web-based digital standards for born digital artefacts?
  4. What solutions and applications of artificial intelligence currently exist for digital cultural heritage?
  5. How can artificial intelligence, metadata and related technologies solve interoperability challenges of born digital archives?
  6. How can artificial intelligence, linked-data and related technologies solve the semantic challenges of born digital archives?
  7. What ethical issues arise for born digital repositories?
  8. What new policy instruments are needed for born digital scholarship?

Contribution Types

We welcome contributions across the following formats:

  • Original papers (max 10k words): substantial contribution, theory, method, application. Contributions may be experimental, based on case studies, or conceptual discussions of how AI systems affect organisations, society and humans. Original papers will be double blind peer-reviewed by two reviewers and the editorial team.-
  • Network Research papers (max 10k words): substantial contributions to theoretical and methodological foundations within societal domains. These will be multi-authored papers that include a summary of the contribution of each author to the paper. Network Research papers will be double blind peer-reviewed by two reviewers and the editorial team.   
  • Open Forum paper (max 8k words): research in progress, ideas paper. Contributions may come from researchers, practitioners and others interested in the topics of the special issue. Contributions might be, but not limited to, discussion papers, literature reviews, case studies, working papers, features, and articles on emerging research. Papers published in the open forum target a broad audience i.e. academics, designers as well as the average reader. Open Forum contributions will be double blind peer-reviewed by two reviewers and the editorial team.
  • Student papers (max 6k words): research in progress. Contributions may come from post-graduate students and Ph.D. students interested in the topics of the special issue. For articles that are based primarily on the student’s dissertation or thesis, it is recommended that the student is usually listed as principal author. Papers are double blind peer-reviewed by one reviewer and the editorial team.
  • Curmudgeon papers (max 1k words): short opinionated column on trends in technology, science and society, commenting on issues of concern to the research community and wider society. Whilst the drive for artificial intelligence promotes potential benefits to wider society, it also raises deep concerns of existential risk, thereby highlighting the need for an ongoing conversation between technology and society. At the core of Curmudgeon concern is the question: What are the political-philosophical concepts regarding the present sphere of AI technology? Curmudgeon articles will be reviewed by the Journal editors.

Important Dates

Abstract submission:                         January 11th, 2021
Notification of abstract acceptance: January 25th, 2021
Full paper submission:                      April 30th, 2021
Notifications of Reviews:                  July 30th, 2021
Submission of revised papers:         October 30th, 2021
On-line publication: on submission of final version of the paper to the publisher
Indicative print publication date: approx. August 2022

Submission Formatting

You can find more information about formatting under the section "Submission guidelines" https://www.springer.com/journal/146.

For inquiries and to submit your abstract and manuscript, please contact: Larry Stapleton, lstapleton@wit.ie   or Lise Jaillant, l.jaillant@lboro.ac.uk

Special Issue Guest Editors

Larry Stapleton, INSYTE , Waterford Institute of Technology, lstapleton@wit.ie
Lise Jaillant, Loughborough University, UK, l.jaillant@lboro.ac.uk

Larry Stapleton is an Artificial Intelligence Society editor and directs the Information Systems and Technoculture (INSYTE) Research Centre at Waterford Institute of Technology where he teaches and supervised research in the School of Science and Computing. In 2020 INSYTE launched the INSYTE-Cooley Research Laboratory which continues the tremendous legacy of Mike Cooley, founding member of AI and Society. The laboratory explores solutions which apply AI and human-centred systems development to collections of great national and international interest. These collections are stored in the Special Collections Archives at the Luke Wadding Library at Waterford Institute of Technology. In 2020 the Cooley Laboratory published a new manifesto which embodies Mike Cooley’s vision of social responsible technology development in the service of humanity.

Lise Jaillant is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at Loughborough University, UK. Her research combines "traditional" archival work and new digital approaches. She has expertise on born-digital archives and the issues of preservation/ access to these archives. Lisa is currently UK PI for the AURA network (Archives in the UK/ Republic of Ireland & AI) which runs from August 2020 to June 2021. AURA is funded by the Irish Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Lisa’s is a leading scholar in the “Poetry Survival”  project on UK poetry publishers with particular interest in the born-digital archives. This project is funded by a major Leadership Fellowship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council running until late 2020. The project builds on her British Academy Rising Star initiative (2017-18) which brought together archivists and scholars in order to explore solutions for "dark" archives which are closed to researchers.