Digital Doppelgangers

A Workshop on Our Digital Others

May 4–5, 2023
Hosted Online
(March application period
is now closed)


The “doppelganger” is a powerful, well-established literary trope: a biologically unrelated other, a living double that looks like us. Today, technology, social media, and the collection of big data have enabled the cultivation of new kinds of digital doubles and proxies. In some contemporary retellings of the doppelganger story, a person’s “data double” is extracted and secretly used against its human model, a product of Big Tech’s insatiable appetite for monetizing and marketing our identities. But other stories of such “doubling” describe something more intimate. From AI technologies that aim to reproduce our conversations with deceased loved ones to phones that know our habits better than we do, we live in a world where digital selves are ubiquitous yet often untrustworthy. Commercial AI efforts seek to develop their own version of the “digital doppelganger” as a means to replicate the specific skills, preferences, actions, or knowledge of a particular human. Sometimes, this double is conceived of as a target for nudging, persuasion, and manipulation. Sometimes it is intended to be an aid and support for human creativity and efficiency. Regardless, these digital others are not only cultivated and produced online by users, but scrutinized, surveilled, and in some cases even created by governments and corporations. 

For this upcoming workshop, we invite applications from prospective participants who are contemplating questions including: How do our digital doubles allow us to know ourselves and each other? What questions do they raise about representation, authenticity, and impersonation? How are the doppelgangers extracted from us, constructed, and used in ways that go against our own interests? How might we construct our doubles in desirable ways, and how might we perform them for algorithms? In what ways do these digital doubles have the capacity to help or hurt our offline selves? How are digital doppelgangers involved in the ways power, surveillance, and control are exercised?  

The notion of a data double is not entirely new (Haggerty and Ericson 2000): these recent iterations add to a long history of what it means for data to represent ourselves. However, the acceleration of sensing, tracking, and data storage has made the reality of them more ubiquitous, and often, less consensual. The accumulation of self-tracking data can also create new identities that mirror and reflect a double back to the user (Ruckenstein 2014), and raise questions about their authenticity and ownership. Importantly, this “doppelgangering” can be used both to target interventions and to implement systems that further surveil, monitor, and govern.

What We're Looking For

This academic workshop will bring together work and reflections on current socio-technical phenomena that speak to digital doubling — from deep fakes, to digital diagnostics, to government programs that tie services to behavior tracking, to community-led self-quantification projects. We welcome contributions and works in progress that explore the many ways these doubles show up, act, and create other ways of being in the world.

Examples might include:

  • Digital phenotyping and profiling 
  • Data proxies of the self
  • Virtual avatars
  • Algorithmic accountability for misidentification
  • Digital identity and biometric verification 
  • Voice recognition technologies 
  • Data portraits and digital personas
  • Deep fakes and other forms of impersonation 

Contributions might take the form of: drafts of thesis proposals, journal articles, conference papers, blog posts, field notes, Twitter threads, media objects, creative projects, art installations, or multimedia projects — all are welcome for discussion. We invite you to use this space to truly workshop works-in-progress and join in conversation with others. 

We hope the workshop will appeal to scholars in the fields of anthropology, sociology, STS, media and communication studies, and beyond. We also encourage critical designers, artists, and those doing empirical work — drawing from qualitative, ethnographic, or archival methods — to apply. 


The two-day online workshop will include a keynote presentation as well as small group working sessions starting the afternoon of May 4, 2023 and will continue through the day on May 5. The workshop will consist of reading, writing, and reflecting on early ideas, papers, and projects with an interdisciplinary community. In recognition of the labor invested in participating, we can offer each eligible participant a $150 stipend. 

First and foremost, we aim to hold a space for differently situated practitioners to exchange perspectives about and strategies for interacting with our digital doubles. We invite scholars, students, community organizers, product designers, engineers, computer scientists, critical theorists, technologists, artists, research-based practitioners, and critical technology users to participate. Therefore, there are two ways that you may apply to participate in the workshop.

If you are selected as a presenter, you will be expected to discuss a project, idea, paper, or digital praxis. There will be both lighting rounds and longer presentation slots to accommodate projects or artifacts at different stages of development. If you have an appropriate finished or in-progress project you are strongly encouraged to submit a summary for consideration. Presenters will listen to and engage with critical feedback from the workshop community, with the explicit intent of making their project stronger and more interdisciplinary. Note that presenters may share their session’s workshop with other thematically tied proposals, and are expected to read and provide feedback for two other project sessions during other portions of the day, in addition to receiving comments on their own work.

If you do not wish to present but are interested in the topic, we welcome your application as a non-presenting participant. All non-presenting participants will be asked to review the materials from three presentations in advance of the event and to prepare and share comments for intensive discussion. Non-presenting participants may also be asked to be session facilitators, and lead the conversation to engage the group in feedback.

How to Apply

If you are interested in attending this workshop, you may either 1) propose a presentation or paper to be workshopped; or 2) describe how your experience or work makes you a relevant participant.

By March 3, please submit the following information HERE

  • Name, email address, affiliation, title.
  • Bio or link to work.
  • Your three favorite books/papers/websites related to the topic of the workshop.
  • If applying as a presenter: a 250–300 word project description or abstract of a paper you’d like to workshop. How does your work interfere with, contribute to, or grapple with digital alter-egos? 
  • If applying as a non-presenting participant: a one-page (max) discussion of your interests and expertise as it relates to this topic.

Please contact [email protected] with any questions.

Key Dates

Application deadline: Extended to March 3, 2023

Selection notification: March 10, 2023
        March 15, 2023 for presenters
        March 23, 2023 for participants
RSVP deadline: March 17, 2023
         March 22, 2023 for presenters
         March 29, 2023 for participants
Contributions due: April 4, 2023 April 11, 2023
Event material and contribution circulation: Week of April 27, 2023


This workshop is the result of collaboration between Livia Garofalo and Ireti Akinrinade, with support from Siera Dissmore and Jenna Burrell.