Call for Papers - Synthetic Media and Synthetic Reality: From Deepfakes to Virtual Worlds

Editor: Associate Professor Ignas Kalpokas (Department of Public Communication, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania)

The term ‘synthetic media’ can be used to describe a broad range of content generated, in whole or in part, by employing machine learning or other means of automatic content generation. Such content is currently taken to encompass primarily video, audio, image, and text, but it also extends to digital objects of various descriptions (e.g. virtual influencers), augmented reality (games, product try-on tools etc.), and fully immersive virtual environments. This shift will certainly bring numerous benefits, particularly in terms of fostering creativity and democratising content editing and generation by automating the process. Synthetic media will also enable new ways of storytelling that will span the physical and the virtual environments, potentially erasing boundaries between the two. However, the same attributes of automation and democratisation will also make synthetic media potential security threats, enabling manipulation and deception on a large scale, which is a matter of great concern in a world already permeated by fake news and post-truth (the debate about the manipulative potential of deepfakes is a case in point). No less importantly, the emergence of synthetic media raises the necessity to rethink intellectual property rights, the right to one’s likeness and voice and other ways in which such content can be monetised and misuse of one’s person or the fruit of one’s labour prevented. These and other questions create a fertile ground for academic debate on the present and future impact of synthetic media.

With the above developments in mind, this thematic collection aims to analyse the impact of synthetic media on personal, public, and political communication processes, shifts in creative practices, and disruptions in reality perception and sense-making. The collection also invites considerations of regulatory frameworks applicable to synthetic media.

The collection is open to all disciplines from across the social sciences, and qualitative, quantitative, or purely theoretical contributions are equally welcome. Potential questions to be asked include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

  • What are the potential uses of synthetic media and how do they compare with other types of media?
  • How do synthetic media transform self-expression, marketing, political communication, or journalism?
  • How do synthetic media affect personal and group identities?
  • What are the social and political threats of synthetic media?
  • What are the appropriate tools and frameworks for regulating synthetic media?
  • What new monetisation practices are enabled by synthetic media and how does that impact on content creators and consumers?
  • What are the likely future directions of synthetic media’s development?

This is a rolling collection and as such submissions will be welcomed up until the end of March 2021. Authors who wish to discuss ideas for articles are asked to contact the guest editor direct before submission. Full papers (original or review) must be submitted via the journal’s submission system. Submissions by email cannot be accepted