the future is now

That’s the handout of the master course “The future is now. Exploring the role of sociotechnical imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology” I’m currently teaching at the Department of Science and Technology Studies (University of Vienna). The course is tightly connected to both my reasearch project “Algorithmic Imaginaries” and the special issue “We are on a mission” for New Media & Society I’m guest-editing together with Christian Katzenbach. It’s great to go through all kinds of imaginary concepts together with my students! Here’s the abstract:

Contents, aims and methods of course

Digital innovations such as artificial intelligence, blockchain technology or internet of things are driven by imaginaries of future societies. Future imaginaries are enacted to promote digital developments or legitimate certain modes of internet governance. Software providers, technology companies and legislators dig into the rich pool of cultural norms, visions and values to support (or question) digital tools, rules and regulations. Future prospects seem to be central for making decisions in the present. The future, however, is not only imagined, but also constructed, made and unmade in different constellations and contexts.

This course will focus on the role of sociotechnical imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology. We will discuss questions such as: How does science-fiction contribute to the shaping of future technologies? How do images and metaphors influence public and policy debates on digital technologies? What do sociotechnical imaginaries tell us about the co-production of digital technology and political order? How are cultural norms, visions and values embedded in software design and infrastructure? How can we study sociotechnical design practices and modes of internet governance? To answer these questions we will draw on theories and concepts from science and technology studies (STS) and critical new media studies. Theoretical discussions will be mixed with empirical work (e.g. analysis of a small selection of newspaper articles, online materials, interviews (1 or 2), experiments etc), which will lead to a small research project that students will present in class. In the seminar papers students will individually write an exposé for a research project, which can, but must not be related to the group work presented in class.

course “technology (ICTs) & society”

uni_logo_280My course “Technologie & Gesellschaft.’Opening the Black Box of Technology’ am Beispiel von Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologien” will start soon! – at the Department of Science & Technology Studies, University of Vienna (in German). You can register here.

That’s the abstract:

Das Verhältnis von Technologie und Gesellschaft ist komplex und vielschichtig. Technologien wie Smartphones, Suchmaschinen, soziale Netzwerke oder Überwachungskameras werden als Innovationen gesehen, die unsere Gesellschaft zunehmend prägen und verändern. Technologie wird dabei oftmals als ‘Black Box’ wahrgenommen, die von außen auf unsere Gesellschaft trifft. Dieser Kurs möchte die schwarze Box öffnen und zeigen, dass Technologie in unserer Gesellschaft verhandelt wird und daher gesellschaftliche Normen, Werte und Ideologien in sich trägt. Als Handwerkszeug dienen uns dabei Konzepte aus der Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung. Diese werden uns helfen Technologie als Politik mit anderen Mitteln zu verstehen, die soziale Konstruktion von Technologie unter die Lupe zu nehmen, die Verschmelzung von technischen und sozialen Elementen zu analysieren, die Beziehung von Technik und Geschlecht zu begreifen, sowie unterschiedliche Orte der Technikgestaltung/Kontroversen in Medien- und Onlinedebatten, Steuerung und Regulierung, sowie Bürgerkonferenzen kennenzulernen.

Das Seminar bietet eine Einführung in Konzepte der Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung, die sich mit dem Verhältnis von Technologie und Gesellschaft befassen. Die Lehrveranstaltungsleiterin wird zentrale Konzepte vorstellen, welche wir dann anhand von konkreten Beispielen aus dem Feld der Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie diskutieren werden. Klassische Text-Diskussionen (zu Themen wie Gesichtserkennung, Suchmaschinen, Social Media, Online-Kontroversen, Internet Governance etc) werden sich dabei mit experimentellen Arbeitsaufgaben (Selbstbeobachtung zu Technik im Alltag, Bürgerkonferenz zu Internet of Things) abwechseln. Voraussetzungen für den Zeugniserwerb sind Anwesenheit, Mitarbeit, mündliche Präsentation, schriftliche Arbeitsaufgaben, sowie die Absolvierung der schriftlichen Abschlussprüfung. Da der Kurs größtenteils auf englischen Texten basiert sind grundlegende Englischkenntnisse erforderlich. Die Unterrichtssprache ist deutsch.



Search, share, shop

That’s gonna be my next seminar @ the Department of Science & Technology Studies, Vienna, winter term 2013/14. I’m already looking forward to interesting discussions! :)

Search, share, shop. Critically examining the internet as technology, medium and social practice

The internet has often been described in utopian or dystopian terms if we think of the Twitter revolution in the Arab Spring or the narrative of Google making us stupid. Both of these blunt examples illustrate techno-deterministic viewpoints that often accompany the internet in public and academic discourses. This seminar aims to challenge these viewpoints by conceptualizing search tools, social media and wikis not as external to society, but rather as enacted in society and hence mirroring social, political and economic values and ideas. ‘Technology is society made durable’ as Bruno Latour put it straightforwardly. At the same time, however, Google, Facebook and co. also materialize and hence solidify societal values, politics and ideologies. They may be seen as shaped by society, while at the same time shaping society.

The task of this seminar is to critically examine the web as technology, medium and social practice. Using literature and analytical concepts from STS and critical new media studies we will address the following questions: What values, politics and ideologies do technological tools like the PageRank algorithm embody and how do they get inscribed in their technical Gestalt? In what ways may search tools and social media be seen as ‘acting’ in terms of shaping user practices? How do Wikileaks and Twitter challenge classical politics and what are the features of the arising ‘networked news ecology’? How do open access, Wikipedia and social networks like affect and transform practices of knowledge production and dissemination? What are the business models of Google, Facebook and Amazon, how do users contribute to the ‘like economy’, and what consequences does this trigger in regard to the exploitation of digital labor and user data? And, finally, what classical and new methods may be used to study digital phenomena of all sorts?

To answer the above mentioned questions theoretical discussions will be mixed with empirical work, which will lead to a small research project each student will conduct in the seminar paper.

More information on dates, time etc. here.