Automating Communication in the Networked Society: Contexts, Consequences, Critique

Annual Conference of the German Communication Association’s Division “Digital Communication”


6 November - 8 November 2019, Berlin

Zeit: Mittwoch, 6. November 2019 18:30 Uhr bis Freitag, 8. November 2019 15:00 Uhr


A defining - yet understudied - feature of digital communication is automation: the production of content, the distribution of information and messages, the curation of media use and the governance of content are all increasingly shaped and influenced by automated processes and automated actors.

Algorithms automate the production of content, algorithms operate the selection and filtering of information in news, news feeds and search engines, they attribute relevance and popularity, perform content moderation and fact-checking. Automated actors such as social bots participate both in organizational communication such as customer service and, as a potential force of manipulation, in election campaigns. While communication scholars have focused their attention on algorithms in diverse areas of the field, they can be studied as a means of the broader process of automating social relations and public communication.

The event is organisedd by the German Communication Association, the Freie Universität Berlin, the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society.

All information and registration here:

Wednesday, Nov 6, 2019

Venue: Urania Berlin, An der Urania 17 | 10787 Berlin

Admission: 18:30

19:00 Keynote

Shoshana ZUBOFF: Surveillance Capitalism and Democracy

Collection and analysis of data change the way the economy works. But are these changes fundamental enough to have led to the emergence of a new form of capitalism - surveillance capitalism? As human behaviour becomes ever more transparent, what is the importance of trust? Are individuals just an appendage of digital machines, objects of new mechanisms that reward and punish according to the rules of private capital? What is the impact of social cohesion when people become redundant as workers, while their data continue to act as a source of value creation in lucrative new markets trading in predictions of human behaviour? How can we control what we do not yet understand?

Each book published by social scientist and author Shoshana Zuboff is considered to herald a new era in technological society. Her latest work, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, unveils a world in which technology users are no longer customers, but the raw material for a whole new economic system. Zuboff is Charles Edward Wilson Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School and was Associate Professor at the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School from 2014 to 2016.

Thursday, Nov 7, 2019

Venue: Umspannwerk Kreuzberg, Ohlauer Str. 43 | 10999 Berlin

9:00                               Registration

9:30 – 10.00                  Welcome

10.00 – 11:30                Session 1: Concepts & Theories              

  • Nicholas DIAKOPOULOS (Northwestern University): The Human-Centered Future of AI + Journalism
  • Jakob JÜNGER (University of Greifswald): From dissemination to recommendation: effects of automated mediation on the fragmentation of publics
  • Christian STRIPPEL (Freie Universität Berlin): Discourse architectures and technological affordances: an integrative model
  • Florian SAURWEIN (University of Klagenfurt), Charlotte SPENCER-SMITH (University of Klagenfurt), Jaro KRIEGER-LAMINA (Austrian Academy of Sciences): Automated trouble: The role of algorithmic selection in the emergence of harms on social media
  • Christoph RAETZSCH (Aarhus University): Conceptualizing the Personal Media Interface. Automation and Infrastructures of Publics

12.00 – 13.30                Session 2: Automation, Agency and Actors                                

  • Andreas HEPP (University of Bremen): Communicative robots: Rethinking the entanglement of automated communication
  • Mareile KAUFMANN (University of Oslo): Who connects the dots? Agents and agency in prediction algorithms
  • Stephan DREYER, Amélie HELDT (Leibniz Institute for Media Research|Hans-Bredow-Institut): Who is the speaker when speech is automated? – A multidimensional approach to attributing automated expressions from a legal perspective
  • Nardine ALNEMR (University of Canberra): Algorithms and automated communication in deliberative democracy
  • Nina RASMUSSEN (King’s College London): Algorithms as Creative Partners: How Automation Affects European Cinema

14.30 – 16.00                Session 3: Automation and media use, resonance and perceptions                                

  • Melina GARCIA (University of Illinois at Chicago): “Hmm, I Don’t Have an Opinion on That”: An Exploration of Self and Digital Interlocutors
  • Tilman KLAWIER, Fabian PROCHAZKA, Wolfgang SCHWEIGER (University of Hohenheim): User perceptions of alternative media in times of algorithmically personalized news
  • Anastasia KOZYREVA (Max Planck Institute for Human Development): Boosting civility, rationality, and autonomy online: A map of cognitive tools for the digital world
  • Mareike WIELAND, Katharina KLEINEN-VON KÖNIGSLÖW (Universität Hamburg): Scrolling News. Theorizing the Influence of Newsfeed Design on Information Processing and Potential Knowledge Gains in a Triple Path Model
  • Noah BUBENHOFER (University of Zurich), Selena CALLERI, Nadine KLOPFENSTEIN, Julia KRASSELT, Nicole ROSENBERGER, Mirco SANER, Vinzenz WYSS (ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences): Capturing media resonance through corpus-based discourse analysis: Method development using the example of energy and social assistance discourse

16.30 – 18.00                Session 4: Automation and Political Communication                                 

  • Felix Victor MÜNCH, Cornelius PUSCHMANN, Ben THIES (Leibniz Institute for Media Research|Hans-Bredow-Institut), Axel BRUNS (Queensland University of Technology): What makes a bot a bot? Exploring benign automation on Twitter
  • Yoav HALPERIN (New York University): When Bots and Users Meet: Automated Manipulation and the New Culture of Online Suspicion
  • Daria KRAVETS, Florian TÖPFL (Freie Universität Berlin): Ranking the past: How search engines construct memories of opposition protests in authoritarian Russia
  • Mykola MAKHORTYKH (University of Bern), Aleksandra URMAN (University of Bern), Clara CHRISTNER (University of Koblenz-Landau), Teresa GIL (University of Koblenz-Landau): Veritas ex machina: A critical review of automated approaches for detecting political disinformation online
  • Philipp DARIUS (Hertie School of Governance), Fabian STEPHANY (Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society): “Hashjacking” the Debate: Polarisation Strategies of Germany´s political far-right on Twitter

Friday, Nov 8, 2019

Venue: Umspannwerk Kreuzberg, Ohlauer Str. 43 | 10999 Berlin

10.00 – 11.30                Session 5: Policy, law and regulation of automated communication                                        

  • Dan BURK (University of California at Irvine): Against Algorithmically Determined Copyright Liability
  • Leyla DOGRUEL, Dominique FACCIORUSSO, Birgit STARK (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz): Media policy in the making. How do experts evaluate current approaches towards regulating algorithmic curation online?
  • Max VAN DRUNEN (University of Amsterdam): Who will decide what is at the top of the newsfeed: the limits on organisational control and responsibility in European media law.
  • Robert GORWA (University of Oxford), Reuben BINNS (University of Oxford), Christian KATZENBACH (Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society): Interrogating Algorithmic Moderation: From Technical Foundations to Political and Ethical Problems
  • Chen YANRONG (Chongqing University): From "Passive conduit" to "Proxy censor": the power boundary of Internet Intermediaries and reflections -a perspective of comparative law research

12.00 – 13.30                Session 6: Platforms, Discourse & Society                   

  • Anne KAUN (Södertörn University): Folkhemmet 4.0: Automating the Welfare State
  • Rebecca VENEMA, Philip DI SALVO (Università della Svizzera italiana Lugano): Automating surveillance? Analyzing patterns in news media coverage of facial recognition tools in Germany, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland and the UK
  • Hervé SAINT-LOUIS (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi): The transactional token: A model of interaction and commodification of authentication
  • Tiziano BONINI (University of Siena), Alessandro GANDINI (University of Milan): “First Week Is Editorial, Second Week Is Algorithmical”: platform gatekeepers and platformization of music curation
  • Juliane LISCHKA (University of Zurich): Conformity and Manipulation How Zuckerberg strives to repair Facebook’s legitimacy and advocates AI

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