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SACOMM Conference 2022

Unravelling Big Tech: Power and the Global South

14-16 September 2022,
Wits University, Braamfontein Campus

Call for Papers - Deadline 1 June 2022

Big Tech - as the dominant companies in the information technology industry - have progressively transformed the digital space from a frontier for individual and collective experimentation into a territory where value is extracted from users, increasing corporate and state power, while offering minimal returns to the producers of this value.

We live in a time of stunning technological ingenuity. Big Tech conglomerates have reconfigured how we conduct everyday life - e.g. via remote work cultures, online learning & educational tools, marketing, purchase and delivery services, self curatorship platforms, digital entertainment and artistic practices, information sharing, booking and travelling, autonomous gender expressions and new forms of (online) sexual citizenship. Media and technological convergence has blurred the lines between historically discreet concepts such as audiences vs participants, consumers vs creators, distributors vs users, curators vs observers. New online narrative visual modalities have challenged traditional storytelling conventions. Tremendous technological leaps are being made, but the economic and social benefits remain geographically skewed against countries in the Global South. The entrenched ubiquity of tech cartels have monopolised most forms of cultural production in ways which stifle innovations from the peripheries. Normative framings based on the trickle-down model - i.e. that increasing access and appropriation of technology would lead to radical developmental gains everywhere - have failed. In what ways can the global South contest and defy these limited normative framings?  How can we instantiate alternate digital and online microcosms which inculcate a plurality of decolonial perspectives, innovative ideas, creativity and inclusivity? As scholars in the Global South, how can we conceptualise/theorise ways of mitigating this gap?

The conference invites research, reflection, and critique of the “Unravelling” of Big Tech: Can the Global South close the power gap?” How is the global South engaged in strategies of cultural production not governed by global North counterparts? We invite papers to respond to some of the following themes:

  1. Global South politics and Big Tech
  2. Afrotech and ‘afrofuturism’ (from periphery to centre, representation; technoculture, innovation, steAm, African culture, mythology, diaspora; cosmologies and spiritualities);
  3. Cyborgs and dystopia (surveillance, AI, power, control, ethics);
  4. Anthropocene and ‘technospheres’ (humans, tech, culture, arts, circular economy)
  5. Streaming, gaming and the self(ie) (sharing, streaming, binge-watching, subjectivity, individualism, alienation and so on)
  6. Journalism from the North to the South and the impact of Big Tech:  Shutdowns, censorship, and safety of journalists, press freedom
  7. COVID 19 – enabler or destroyer of domestic space through Big Tech in the home (Netflix and chill culture/ the domestic and care/ Youtube kids and watching without end)
  8. Cyberbullying, celebrity and consumption: spurred on by Big Tech
  9. Big Tech and images of the South: who lives here and who governs the gaze?
  10. Gender work and Big tech: GBV/ gender identities and enabling/ disabling access


Abstracts should intellectually engage with, or be related to, at least one of the thematic areas above and correspond to one of six SACOMM streams listed below. When submitting your abstract, indicate the stream your abstract submission should be allocated to.

  • Media Studies and Journalism
  • Corporate Communication
  • Screen Studies
  • Communication Studies
  • Communication education and curriculum development (CECD)
  • Communications advocacy and activism (CAA)

Abstracts should be submitted using the abstract submission form, which can be downloaded from the this link on the SACOMM website and sent to the address:

Submissions which are not submitted on the correct form will not be accepted. Incomplete submissions will not be accepted.

Submission deadline: 1 June 2022


The conference will take place at the University of the Witwatersrand, in the Braamfontein campus. Participants whose abstracts have been accepted will be expected to participate in person (Please note Wits Vaccination Policy in order to access campus). However, we will consider a limited number of requests for participation online. As you submit your abstract, please indicate whether you are planning to participate in the event in person or online.

In the unfortunate event of an increased number of COVID-19 infections in the period leading to the conference, we will contact participants about possible changes in the format of the event.


Deadline for electronic submission of all abstracts for peer review and other proposals: 1 June 2022. The conference organisers will notify authors about the status of their contributions via e-mail by end of June 2022.


A call for registration with further details about the conference will be released in July.