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Call for papers and panels for the two-day International Conference “What People Leave Behind: Marks, Traces, Footprints and their Significance for Social Sciences


Department of Communication and Social Research and the Ph.D. Program in Communication, Social Research and Marketing – Sapienza University of Rome on June 15-16, 2020.


The conference focuses on a significant theme in the social sciences: the concepts of “footprint” and “trace”. Usually associated with the digital world, the very idea of footprints clearly gives the image of what one leaves behind without being aware of it. Trace-like information, i.e. information that was not meant to be informative, is much sought after, and this is particularly true in the age of digital capitalism.

The purpose of the conference is to encourage inter- and cross-disciplinary fields of research, with particular attention to sociology, communication studies, data science, anthropology, computational social science, history, semiotics, media and Internet studies. Among the topics are:

  • What are the main characteristics of traces and footprints? What is their epistemological significance? What is their ontological status?
  • What makes traces and footprints strategic research materials? Why would they be considered valuable in terms of theorizing?
  • What has been the role of the concept of trace in classical social theory?
  • What kind of cultural object are marks, impressions, and prints?
  • Given that digital platforms are perhaps the main place of trace-like data proliferation, how is given-off information used by choice architects?
  • Why are communicative clues more reliable if they are left without realizing it? Is it always true that the traces that social actors leave as they go through life are completely unnoticed and unperceived?
  • Is it possible to tame the computational complexity of algorithms and game it? Are unintentionally displayed signs a unique product of the Internet or do they already exist in the world of face-to-face and offline communication?
  • What relationship is there between big data and footprint-like information? Is this a necessary relationship?
  • Large masses of data do not presently require special effort to be gathered, since they are the digital by-product of the everyday life of big capitalist institutions – how does their “by-productness” affect their structure and status?
  • What is the state of the art on “data exhaust” informed research? Is this approach a prerogative of private companies, market and instrumentally oriented research?
  • How do the concepts of trace and footprint relate to contemporary social issues such as the algorithmic imaginary and the quantified self?


Deadline: February 15, 2020.

When submitting paper presentations, the following information is required:

  • Title;
  • Abstract (500 words maximum);
  • Author’s name, affiliations, appointment and email address;
  • 5 keywords.

The conference is also open to a small number of proposals for pre-constituted panels: panel conveners are invited to suggest a two-hour themed panel of five/six speakers. All panel submissions should be gender balanced and include authors from at least two different countries. When submitting panel proposals, the following information is required:

  • Panel chair’s name, affiliations, appointment and email address;
  • Title of the panel;
  • Abstract of the panel (300 words maximum);
  • Paper titles and short abstracts (200 words maximum), with authors’ names, affiliations and appointments for each paper.

Panels and papers proposals should be sent to

For more information please visit the conference website.

Partners of the Conference: Italian Association of Sociology; Sociology, Culture, Communication – Italian Scientific Society; Italian Association of Semiotic Studies; ESARN20 Qualitative methods; ESARN21 Quantitative methods.

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