Call for Papers: Special Issue "Digitalization in War and Peace"


"It’s not another nation or other people, it’s war itself that is the enemy". This statement of Joseph Weizenbaum originates from an interview conducted in June 2003 (Weizenbaum, 2003), in which he talked about worldwide mass demonstrations against the Iraq war. Twenty years later, war is still prevalent (and has returned to the heart of Europe), and questions of how to return to peaceful conflict resolution or avoid the outbreak of violence from the outset are as pressing as ever. In this context, Joseph Weizenbaum highlighted the responsibility of science and scientists, in particular their obligation to consider the consequences of their work on the lives of people and our societies. 

In recent years, conflicts have changed through the increasing digitization of the battlefield and novel technical capabilities like autonomous and “intelligent” weapons. With social media in particular and the internet in general, the means for propaganda and disinformation have gained significant effectiveness along with new attack vectors to critical infrastructure.

At the same time, digitalization has also facilitated new and powerful counter-strategies against oppression, propaganda, and war. Encrypted networks allow journalists and dissidents to cooperate safely, and constant threats in cyberspace have motivated making critical infrastructure more resilient against attacks. Further, apps and digital networks can mobilize help during crises, and online environments still can provide a space for sharing information and peaceful conflict resolution. Migration and social inclusion have been also transformed by digital capabilities, with digital means allowing those escaping the war zone  to get and share relevant information on their journey towards safety, and beyond.

For this special issue of the WJDS, which commemorates the 100th birthday of Joseph Weizenbaum, we invite papers that can contribute to our understanding of the role of digitalization in conflicts, war, and peace-building. The following list of topics is not exhaustive, and other submissions linked to the issues of digitalization in and for peace and war are highly welcome:

  • “Information war”: The internet and digital media have opened up a new and ubiquitous playing field for strategic communication that uses means of propaganda, disinformation, fake news, and hate speech to destabilize governments and countries. The COVID pandemic and Russian disinformation campaigns in the context of the Ukraine war are salient examples.
  • “Cyberwar”: Attacking  critical infrastructure software and military facilities are warfare tools, employed both for preparation or support of physical attacks or as a form of warfare just below the level of armed conflict.
  • AI-based and robotic weapons: New forms of weapons,  e.g. drones (on-the loop, off-the loop), drones supporting situation analysis, lethal autonomous weapons systems are changing conflicts and bring challenges also for ethics and international law.
  • Deep fakes: Highly realistic artificial disinformation (audio, video) and its detection are novel problems not only but also in conflicts.
  • Information security: Information and data security are critical for the sensitive areas of public safety and security, even outside war zones. 
  • Peace activism: The internet and social media provide infrastructures to disseminate information even in repressive regimes and can support peace movements in conflict regions.
  • Social Inclusion: Digital communication channels facilitate help for refugees (e.g., in the refugee movements in Europe in 2015/16 and 2022) and contribute to their inclusion in hosting societies.  
  • Critical infrastructure resilience: Critical infrastructures are vital for societies. Risks arising from war require new approaches for increasing the resilience of interconnected networks and infrastructures to ensure energy, food, and water supply. 
  • Warning systems: The combination of new warning systems, e.g., localized smartphone-based alerts and established safety processes, can ensure the well-being and safety of civilians. 

Contributions are invited in a two-stage process:

  • Submit ideas for contributions (500 words) until August 15, 2022. The editors will give feedback on the ideas and invite them based on their fit to the topics for full paper submission.
  • Deadline for submission of full papers is November 15, 2022. Full papers can also be submitted without participating in the abstract stage. All papers will undergo a peer review process according to the WJDS guidelines.

Please submit your abstracts and papers via the submission page and follow the instructions thoroughly. Please visit the journal website for further information on the Weizenbaum Journal of the Digital Society and requirements/guidelines for paper submission.