Call for Papers

Digitalization for sustainability transformations: Critical perspectives, lessons learned, and future prospects


We welcome disciplinary diversity and invite theoretical, empirical, and methodological contributions dealing with, but not limited to, the five main themes of the conference:

1.Understandings of the digitalization–sustainability nexus
How is sustainability understood and discussed in the context of digitalization? What notions of digitalization exist in the field of environmental sustainability? What understandings of both concepts have emerged to tackle so-called (super-)wicked sustainability problems? What are the policy implications of these different framings, narratives, and discourses? How is the nexus between digitalization and sustainability made “governable”?


2.Analysing the actors, discourses, and politics of the digitalization–sustainability nexus
Which actors drive the discourse on digital transformation and sustainability, and how has this changed over time? What are the prevailing interests and discourse/ actor coalitions? Are there patterns of coloniality? How and to what extent are issues of digital transformation and sustainability contested and politicized but also normalized and depoliticized? How is technology framed in the debate around digitalization and sustainability? How and why are certain technological solutions featured and mainstreamed while others – especially social innovations – are marginalized?


3.Designing digitalization policies and technology to foster sustainability
What digital solutions have been proposed and for which sustainability challenges? What forms of data governance are needed for sustainable development? How can human-centred design enable sustainability transformations? How does and should regulation influence sustainable technology design? Which policies at the digitalization–sustainability nexus have been adopted by political actors, how have they evolved, and what outcomes do they deliver? How can digital transformation be achieved while respecting social welfare, the limits of the planet, and the need for democratic participation? What differences in policies and outcomes can be observed in different countries around the world, and how can these differences be explained?


4.Studying polity, power, institutions, and decision-making procedures
How do the use of digital technologies and the data resulting from it change decision making practices in the field of ecological sustainability policy? Which sites and procedures govern the nexus between digitalization and sustainability? Which power structures (e.g. monopolies) hinder or enable decision-making at the interface between digitalization and sustainability? What kinds of power relations are inherent in the design of digital technologies? To what extent are patterns of territorial and structural coloniality and extractivism at work? What is the potential for democratizing decision-making processes (e.g. through social innovations or civic tech solutions)? Which new legal and organizational forms may allow civil society to participate in political decision-making?


5.Using digital methods to understand sustainability transformations
How can digital and AI-based social science methods enhance our understanding of sustainability transformations? How can digital technologies be used to gather, analyse, and interpret data on sustainability and governance? What are the technological and epistemological limitations of digital methods? How can these methods be made available to and benefit people in the Global South and the Global North?

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Weizenbaum Institut