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.

“we are on a mission”

This is great news! I’ll be based in Berlin at the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) in April and May 2018!!! yay!

As part of this research stay Christian Katzenbach and I are organizing a workshop on the role of future imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology. It will take place on 27 April 2018 at the HIIG in Berlin. We are really happy that Sally Wyatt (Maastricht University) will hold a keynote!!

WeAreOnAMission_Banner_2See further details of the workshop here. If you’d like to participate in the workshop, please send an english language abstract (300-500 words) until 2 March 2018 (beware of the tight deadline!!!). We encourage you to also submit work-in-progress.

Please contact me if you have further questions! We’re looking forward to your contributions!

Here’s the full CfP:

“We are on a mission”. Exploring the role of future imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology

Call for Abstracts
Deadline: 02.03.2018

Workshop

Friday, 27 April 2018

Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society

Französische Straße 9,

10117 Berlin, Germany

Keynote: Sally Wyatt (Maastricht University)

“We are on a mission to build a more open, accessible, and fair financial future, one piece of software at a time” promises the software platform Blockchain. “Imagine if everyone could get around easily and safely, without tired, drunk or distracted driving” envisions the self-driving car company Waymo (a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc.). “The Regulation is an essential step to strengthen citizens’ fundamental rights in the digital age and facilitate business by simplifying rules for companies in the Digital Single Market” claims the European Commission with regard to the General Data Protection Regulation.

These examples show how imaginaries of future societies are enacted to promote digital innovations or legitimate certain modes of internet governance. They illustrate how software providers, tech 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.

What role do future imaginaries perform in the making and governing of present digital technology? How are they mobilised to push or oppose digital innovations such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, blockchain technology or open source/open data projects? How are prospective imaginaries shaped in policy discourses and governance practices regarding networked technology and global data flows? What significance do European specificities have in global technology imaginations? Can different mechanisms be identified in mainstream discourses and counter-narratives? What happens if future scenarios are contested and digital promises become contradictory?

Themes of the Workshop

These are central questions to be discussed in our workshop. We welcome theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions that help us understand how the future is mobilized to make and govern digital technology in the present.

The workshop is organized around three central themes:

  1. Theories and concepts to analytically grasp future visions and their roles in the making and governance of digital technology
  2. Methods and tools to analyze the nexus between future imaginations and their functions in and impact on policy-making and technology development
  3. Empirical research and case studies on future imaginaries and their roles in the making and governing of present digital technology

Submission

We welcome theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions from various disciplines that speak to the themes of the workshop. Please send an english language 300–500 word abstract including title that describes your contribution to the workshop. We encourage you to submit work-in-progress.

Abstracts are submitted via e-mail to astrid.mager@oeaw.ac.at before 2 March 2018. We will send out notifications on 13 March 2018.

Organisers

Astrid Mager

Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA), Austrian Academy of Sciences
Elise Richter Fellow, Austrian Science Fund (FWF), project no. V511-G29
astrid.mager@oeaw.ac.at

Christian Katzenbach
Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society
katzenbach@hiig.de