Call for papers: Socio 10 – “The New Technical Promises”

The journal Socio is launching a call for papers on the theme NEW TECHNICAL PROMISES. The issue is coordinated by Daniel Compagnon (centre Émile Durkheim, Université de Bordeaux) and Arnaud Saint Martin (Printemps, CNRS-UVSQ). Intentions to contribute (title, 2 page summary and bibliography) should be sent to Socio before 14 April 2017. Articles should reach Socio by 4 September 2017.

Argument

In these early years of the 21st century we are witnessing a strong comeback of a discourse on technical prowess as a life-saver, an answer to all our ills, given the new technical opportunities which resonate with the ideology of progress reminiscent of the Trente Glorieuses (the thirty year post-war boom). The magic of reinvented technical prowess is supposed to provide solutions to all global problems, including the ecological crises which however do originate in the self-same technical development. A whole series of technical innovations, either current or upcoming are presented to the public as being miracles to be celebrated. (We only had to listen to France Inter on 12 January 2017 to hear the philosopher and former Minister, Luc Ferry, marvelling at the potentialities of ‘enhanced man’). There is little evaluation of their impact on the human dimension, societies and their natural environment. Now it is frequently a question of a leap into the unknown, or even of experiments at planetary level. This is a cause for alarm for those who – like Ivan Illich, Jacques Ellul, Günther Anders and Bernard Charbonneau, consider that what is at issue here is in the first instance liberty and mankind – both of which are constructed in relation to the other and to nature. New social spheres are affected; in particular:

The colonisation of all living space and time by Internet which tends to make of humanity a mere extension of the technical network;

  • The generation and processing of enormous quantities of data (big data) which are systematically exploited for commercial or security purposes (and possibly in future, political purposes?) enabling a growth in the monitoring of our moves and activities, possibly our thinking;
  • The combination of innovation in neurosciences, cellular biology and information technology, which, as its sponsors remind us, now enables increasing integration between the human body and technology leading to the utopia of ‘human enhancement’, or even a yet broader restructuring of the living;
  • Tackling the environmental crisis by the use of technofix, such as climate geo-engineering, which is designed to limit global warming, since we are unable to stop the growth of CO2 emissions. Now these so-called solutions also pose numerous social and environmental problems. This circularity in technique and the ‘resilience’ of the ideology which makes of it a necessity, perfectly adapted to recover all social criticism, has long since been stressed by Jacques Ellul;
  • the development encouraged by the public bodies of nanotechnologies; these are presumed to facilitate a good many of the above-mentioned innovations and many others, but the effects of their uncontrolled spread in the human body and in the environment remain unknown;
  • we should also include the increasing sophistication of communication and monitoring techniques, revealed to the public at large by Edward J. Snowden, generating risks in proportion (cyber-terrorism, but also accidental cyber-chaos) and therefore additional supervisory measures.

Confronted with this avalanche of promises there are few critical voices to be heard and those who do are immediately referred to as ‘backward-looking’, ‘neo-Luddites’, etc.

 

This issue of Socio, co-ordinated by Daniel Compagnon and Arnaud Saint-Martin,in a pluralist and critical perspective, aims to assemble contributions dealing in particular with:

  • The foreseeable social impacts of these new technologies (including in terms of social exclusion), their long term implications, in particular by taking into account the systemic effects which are the outcome of their combination and the chaos/system, integration/disorder dialectic which sustains their development;
  • the technical ideology both in its origin and its present development, in that it raises and legitimates the passive consent of our contemporaries, who are not all technofreaks at heart, in continuous innovation;
  • Social forces who support the process for various reasons: for example, scientists and humanists concerned with doing good (particularly in medical circles), capitalists in a hurry to exploit the new markets which these innovations generate, but also ‘transhumanist’ philosophers dreaming of post-human perfections;
  • minority groups who are opposed to these developments and their arguments, analysing ruthlessly the relevance of the latter and their objective chances of reaching a wider public; but also the endeavours toward alternative social constructions;
  • the contours of what could be a more democratic governance of technological choices, enabling a genuine discussion on the direction taken by technical innovation and the real utility of changes imposed on populations (we have in mind the juries or conferences of citizens which are used much more frequently abroad than in France).
  • any other theme suggested by an author and considered relevant for this issue.

Calendar

Proposals for articles, approximately 800 words (2-3 pages, including bibliographies and notes) should be submitted by 14 April 2017 to the editorial secretariat: socio@msh-paris.fr. They should permit a precise grasp of both the research materials on which the article will be based, along with the problematic and the intellectual approach in which the author is located, the main theses and findings of the research carried out and the main concepts and references mobilised.

After acceptance of the proposal, the article, roughly 5 000 words (including notes and bibliography) must reach the journal not later than 4 September 2017. It will then be submitted to a reading panel in the journal and to external rapporteurs.

We expect a special effort to be made in writing and in style to set the issues dealt with in the article sufficiently in perspective to attract the interest of readers beyond the restricted circle of specialists.

The authors are invited to conform as far as possible with the recommendations appearing on the journal’s web site at: https://socio.revues.org/547.


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