Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
RN29_09a: Techno-Scientific Civilisation and its Consequences
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Gallina Tasheva, 1967
Location: GM.307
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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The Ontological Turn And Critical University Studies: On Dialogue And The Critique Of Neoliberal Technocracy In English Higher Education

Justin Cruickshank

University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

There is a growing interest in ontology in the social sciences. Critical realism, which stemmed from debates in Marxism, is one of the most influential approaches to ontology. Critical realism is contrasted here with the work of Gadamer. Both approaches to ontology are assessed in relation to the neoliberal technocratic changes in the public sector, exemplified in English higher education, whereby markets are constructed by the state and maintained in this case through audit culture proxies for the 'price signal'. It is argued that education is central to any understanding of ontology and that Gadamer’s position, which addresses the importance of education, especially higher education, is better able to analyse the harm caused by the development of a neoliberal technocracy, to the self and to democracy. In making this case it is argued that Gadamer’s ontology can be of use to the rapidly expanding interdisciplinary field of critical university studies. Foucaultian work on neoliberalism makes important points about the shaping of the neoliberal subject. However, a turn to ontology which focuses on our 'being' is best able to develop this further, by exploring why education has the potential to resist neoliberal technocracy and reprioritise democracy over economics, and assess how such technocracy creates objective harm for our being. The turn to ontology is of use to critical university studies and it is argued that it is Gadamer's ontology rather than the currently influential position of critical realism that is best suited to this task.

A Possibility of Sociologically Theorizing of AI Phenomenon: An Ethnomethodological Inquiry

Yu-cheng Liu

Nanhua University, Taiwan

The research project will focus on the topic of artificial intelligence and its relation to sociological theory. There is no doubt that human intelligence is still unique in almost every way, comparing to other organisms. The uniqueness of human intelligence presents itself in some aspects such as adaptability, plasticity, and creativity. Through perspectives from STS, whose contributions to sociological studies of science and technology, this uniqueness emerges from the interactions between human and non-human objects. Things may have been changed since the 1960s when people not only start to imagine that they can build a machine thinking like humans, but also realize that they are capable of doing it. “What it means to be human” became a challenge to human beings. This challenge also questions the boundary between social actor and society, which has been a traditional and presumptuous idea in sociological theory. The research project will adopt the viewpoint from ethnomethodology and reconstruct artificial intelligence as a social phenomenon and put it into the discussion of sociological theory. In practice, the research project will design a situation in order to observe and record how people converse with AI-based chatbot. With ethnomethodology and conversation analysis approach, the project expects to investigate how two kinds of intelligence interact and in what ways it may reframe the oldest questions of sociological theory: "what it means to be human" and "what it means to be social."

Metamorphozation Of Social Realities: Ambivalent Side-Effects And New Power To Act With Reflexive And Complex Reality Of Europe

Sergey Kravchenko

MGIMO Univercity, Russian Federation

The theory of metamorphosis of the world (U. Beck) states the becoming of a radical transformation in which the old institutional structures and their functions are falling away and quite new ones are emerging. The metamorphozation concerns Europe that is mainly manifested in the form of side-effects. Thus, climate change as an agent of metamorphosis has altered our thinking about boundaries, barriers, and belongings: traditional boundaries between nation-states are becoming less important than new liquid catastrophes permanently producing dead land, water, and ever increasing genetically modified products. Metamorphosis takes place in energy security: the existing geopolitics not only failed to solve the problems of the declared equal access for residents of Europe to energy resources, but also have given birth to man-made risks of local conflicts around the construction and functioning of pipelines with their trend to become globalized. The digitalization of scientific knowledge and the development of digital technologies are new factors in metamorphozing of society, economy, man into anti-society, anti-economy, anti-person that leads to the emergence of a new type of power exercising digital violence against people. At the same time metamorphozation is not only about negative side-effects but about positive side-effects of bads. In any case metamorphosed realities are coming into our life and, correspondingly, new type of knowledge with cultural and humanistic core is demanded in order to produce people’s power to adequately act. The answer to the challenges of the metamorphosis of Europe the author sees in the humanistic turn that might give as a valid non-linear knowledge of complex new risks and vulnerabilities as well as grounds for better futures that people want.

Some Remarks for a New Sociological Theory on Sustainability

Mariella Nocenzi1, Angela Maria Zocchi2

1Sapienza University of Rome, Italy; 2University of Teramo, Italy

The paper aims to explore the opportunity of a rethinking – and, when necessary, of a new formulation – of the theoretical and methodological categories for the analysis of the social action in modified social spaces and times. If the sociological characterization of the Anthropocene society by means of quantitative data is increasingly applied in the sociological investigations (see at the intersectional approach or at the evidences about a platform society), the deductive process to build a theoretical definition of the current processes is far from to be outlined grabbing on to the classical paradigms. The analytical exploration of some environments of social actions - as the urban ones - allows to read these processes using the social categories of time, space, relation first through a traditional approach and, then, with those differences that outline the current increasing trends to the sustainability approach.

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