Call for papers: The Legal Semiotics of the Digital Face (Guest Editors: Gabriele Marino – Massimo Leone)

Open access monographic issue of the “International Journal for the Semiotics of Law” (Oct. 2023)

Gabriele MARINO*, Massimo LEONE**,eds.

* University of Turin, Turin, Italy
** University of Turin, Turin, Italy; Shanghai University, Shanghai, China; Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK; Bruno Kessler Foundation, Trento, Italy

How can semiotics and, especially, legal semiotics contribute to the understanding of how we make sense ofsuch an important semiotic token as theface in the contemporary digital world? How have digital technologies changed our relationship with meaning-makingand the face? How have digital technologies modifiedour own understanding of being in the worldthrough a body and a face?

The face is traditionally understood as the indexical (as part of our body), iconic (we live immersed in representations and remediations of our and others’ faces) and symbolic (we use it to signify ourselves and mark our presence) pivot of our identity. That is the case even when the faceis present only in absentia and as a representation (when we modify, substitute, hide or delete it).

New semiotic constructions, whose presence is exponentially growing in our everyday experience, such as “artificial intelligence” and “big data”, do challenge our traditional understanding of the nature, agency, and accountability of the face –let us think of face detection and face synthesis technologies –in different areas such as health, security, privacy, economics, education, entertainment, and social networks.

Reflectingon the status of the face in the digital erais, therefore, an urgent philosophical and semiotic challenge, especially in relation to legal and normative systems. We may articulate, at least, the following macro-areas of inquiry.

• Face ontology: what is “a face” in the legal digital world? When does a giventoken end up being-not a face and becomes a face in such new context?
• Face technology: how does technology help constructing the digital face, most often by resemanticizingand deconstructing the biological one? What is the impact of this reconstruction on legal settings?
• Face existentiality: how do humanity, subjectivity and identity change due to the digital? Can we get rid of the face in order to identify a human being orthe human in general as such? How do legal frameworks adapt to this challenge?
• Face epistemology: how can we distinguish between real and fake faces? And is such an opposition still relevant today in the digital world; or should we make up a third category in order to handle and make sense of digital faces? How would the law translate this new definition?
• Face axiology: which are the possible different functions of the face in the digital world and, thus, what can their valorizations be? What is the legal value of the digital face?

Submissions following these themes as well as other possible ways of analysis related to the above topics will be welcomed for this open access monographic issue of the “International Journal for the Semiotics of Law”.

Abstracts of 500 words (max.) should be submitted by 15 February 2023 to both Gabriele MARINO ( and Massimo LEONE (,with decisions made by 15 March 2023. Articles should be no longer than 15,000 words (including footnotes, summary, references, etc.).

The deadline for full papers is: 15 August 2023.

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