Call for Papers for a Special Issue of DiGeSt
Sexual Politics and Digital Media Infrastructures: Challenges for Diversity

The breadth of what it means to study sexuality in the context of media has changed significantly in recent years because of current technological, social, and cultural changes. The shift from one-to-many to many-to-many communication infrastructures has multiplied the institutional, technological, and symbolic dimensions that need to be taken into account when inquiring into sexualities and media, cultures and communications. The digitization of sexuality – which refers to changing attitudes, experiences, and practices to sexualities because of digital media – demands that scholars look beyond the well-established frameworks to study sexuality and media, expanding their methodological and theoretical perspectives in order to fully comprehend sexual life-worlds and the digital. 

This special issue seeks to advance the understanding of sexual politics and diversity in the context of the materiality of digital media (including affordances, algorithms, and the politics of social media platforms and data). It wants to make a theoretical, conceptual, and empirical contribution to the field of gender and diversity studies by exploring how techno-cultural and socioeconomic aspects of digital media infrastructures are intertwined with sexualities.

We suggest a number of ways in which this could be done.

1. The transformation of sexualities because of digital media infrastructures is traditionally valued in either positive or negative terms. Examples of distinctly positive claims are presumed increases in digital safe spaces where sexual minorities can interact (e.g., on dating apps such as Grindr), and ideas that digital media are providing new and more opportunities for voicing sexual difference (e.g., on sharing platforms such as YouTube). An example of a negative claim is that the Internet also increases sexual risks, particularly for children and young people. The special issue wants to move beyond anecdotal evidence and moral claims by developing analytical approaches that understand the material complexities of digital media in relation to sexual diversity. This means exposing the often unseen digital media infrastructures that run underneath, through, and in the background of sexualities. By conceptualizing the emerging struggles that are inherent to the accelerating digitization of sexuality, we want to explore what is changing/continuing in people’s sexual life-worlds because of digital media infrastructures. 

2. If digital media infrastructures are important to people’s sexualities, there is a need to engage with the question of how and why they matter. How do the techno-cultural and socioeconomic aspects of digital media create flourishing and diverse sexual life-worlds? How are diverse sexual life-worlds protested, controlled, managed or strictly regulated on different platforms? How and why are some sexualities valued, while others are stigmatized?

3. Digital media infrastructures are generating many unseen sexual geographies that go beyond national contexts. Research into the sexual politics of digital media, therefore, needs to engage with the profound cosmopolitan contexts of sexual diversity, reflexive intimacies, and the emerging role of human and sexual rights in the digital sphere. To this end, we welcome submissions that challenge, map ,and highlight the sexual politics of diversity in relation to the spatiality of digital media infrastructures.

Please submit abstracts for papers by 15 May 2018.

The editors will invite full papers on the basis of selected abstracts by early June 2018, with full papers to be submitted for independent peer review by 1 October 2018. The special issue will be published in the fall of 2019.