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Manuscript deadline
01 September 2020

Cover image - Internet Histories

Internet Histories

Special Issue Editor(s)

Muira McCammon, University of Pennsylvania
[email protected]

Jessa Lingel, University of Pennsylvania
[email protected]

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Dead and Dying Platforms: The Poetics, Politics, and Perils of Internet History

This special issue explores internet histories through the lens of “platform death” as a way of understanding how digital communities grapple with absence, invisibility, and disappearance. Collectively, the contributions in this issue will address the cultural, geopolitical, economic, and socio-legal repercussions of what happens when various corners of the Internet fail, decline, or expire. As a point of departure, we assume that platforms can bring together a wide set of actors, from politicians to parents, teens to technologists, spies to free speech activists; they can serve as a stage where people gather, argue, develop personal relationships, and jockey for divergent futures (Marvin, 1988; Pearce, 2011; Baym, 2015; Lee, 2017; Gillepsie, 2018). But what becomes of platforms when they fade, fail, or fall from public favor? What can dead and dying platforms tell us about the internet’s growth and stagnation, its present and futures? We seek to complicate, document, and build on the narratives of platform change, collapse, death, precarity, and frailty that scholars (Gehl, 2012; Chun, 2016; Belleflamme & Neysen, 2017; Gomez-Meijia, 2018; Helmond & van der Vlist, 2019) and tech journalists (Kircher, 2016) have highlighted over the past two decades.

Recent scholarship has focused on the rise and resilience of certain tech enterprises, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter (e.g. Burgess & Green, 2009; Vaidhyanathan, 2018; Jackson, Bailey, & Foucault Welles, 2020), but much of this research has privileged big platforms over the small, surviving digital communities over the dead, and Silicon Valley-born-and-bred design thinking over that birthed outside tech hot spots. Studies imagining the demise of Big Tech platforms (Ohman & Aggarwal, 2019) and tracing consumer resistance to digital media (Katz & Aspden, 1998; Portwood-Stacer, 2013) have largely ignored both the values and frailties of Small Tech in great depth. While historical and contemporary research has addressed the themes of digital departure (Wyatt, 1999; Baumer et al., 2013), disappearing mediums (Gehl, 2012; Suominen et al., 2013; Ballatore & Natale, 2016), and user mortality (Leaver, 2013), it has largely left the theme of “platform death” to the wayside. Another key absence in this literature is attention to platforms and communities outside the U.S. and Europe.

With the above gaps in the literature in mind, the impetus for this special issue came from a forthcoming panel in the Communication History Division at the May 2020 International Communication Association’s Annual Conference, “Dead and Dying Platforms: The Poetics, Politics, and Perils of Internet History.” When organizing the panel, over 20 different scholars in six countries writing on the histories of specific, bounded platforms expressed interest. Though not all could be included in the final panel, many articulated a desire to contribute to a special issue, such as this one, focusing on the promises and perils of single platforms through the lens of Internet history. This special issue seeks to bring together diverse thinkers and scholars with expertise in a range of dead and dying platforms.

Description of CFP Procedure

We aim to bring together contributors active in the fields of history, communication, media studies, law, economics, psychology, internet studies, library and information science, queer theory, journalism studies, and related scholarly domains. The topic of contributions may include, but are not limited to:

  • The rise and fall of specific platforms, including discussions on the challenges, factors, and policies responsible for their decline – and rebirth
  • Archival techniques and theoretical frameworks for resurrecting and reimagining dead platforms
  • Comparative investigations of platform precarity
  • Explorations of the laws, economic forces, and social trends that underlie the historical analysis of platforms that have survived to the present day
  • Memory narratives and counter-narratives of platform users, designers, and advertisers
  • Media refusal, disconnection and techno-skepticism
  • The offline repercussions and cultural reverberations of platform death
  • Rhetorics and metaphors of the describe platform death and failures of platform governance (i.e. kill switches)
  • The ethnographies, pre-histories, and afterlives of dying digital communities
  • Quantitative and qualitative methodologies that can operationalize platform collapse
  • Interconnections between the frailties of Small Tech and the failures of Big Tech
  • Ways in which the rise and fall of certain platforms are geographically asymmetrical and asynchronous
  • Media change, materiality, everyday experience, and nostalgia
  • The ontological and epistemological challenges of considering platforms as dead, dying, or alive
  • Historiographies of platforms created, used, and/or dismantled outside the United States
  • Studies of platforms whose deaths have not received significant Anglophone press coverage
  • Analysis of the implications of platform death for international and global discussions of Internet pasts and futures

Although papers do need to be written in English, we especially welcome writing that explores platforms whose histories are rooted in understudied countries, areas, cultures, and digital communities. We particularly encourage submissions about platforms launched, used and/or remembered outside of Silicon Valley.


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Submission Instructions

Abstracts (500 words maximum) should be emailed to [email protected] by September 1, 2020. Any questions about the CFP can be sent to the co-editors, Muira McCammon ([email protected]) and Jessa Lingel ([email protected]). Notification about acceptance to submit an article will be sent out by 1 October 2020. Authors of accepted abstracts are invited to submit an article by 1 February 2021. Final versions or articles are asked to keep within a 6,000 word limit. Please note that acceptance of abstract does not ensure final publication as all articles must go through the journal’s usual peer review process.

  • 1 Sep 2020: due date for abstracts
  • 1 Oct 2020: notification of acceptance
  • 1 Feb 2021: accepted articles to be submitted for review
  • Feb 2021-May 2021: review process and revisions

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article