Conference Agenda

RN24_06b: Science and Technology (Open Session) II
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Heta Tarkkala, University of Helsinki
Location: UP.3.214
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Third Floor Oxford Road


Dating Apps and Platforms as Communities of Knowledge

Maria Valentina Stoicescu, Ramona Alexandra Hosszu

University of Bucharest, Romania

Online dating platforms and apps have become increasingly popular. Besides matchmaking, online dating is also an experimentation practice, contributing to self-shaping and self-knowledge, and redefining the meanings and practices of intimacy. Though multiple interactions, users of dating apps learn about other people and become more aware of their own preferences and dislikes, changing or maintaining their sexual and emotional targets. Finding a romantic or a sexual partner relies heavily on learning about other people, as potential matches, and learning about oneself in this process. We discuss this process in relation to the concept of self-tracking (Lupton 2014) that envisions a learning process resulted from experimentation and interaction in digitally created environments.

Beyond self-knowledge and knowledge of other people, individuals that search for romantic or sexual partners also pursue information about dating per se – including strategies, tools and platforms. Learning about how best to find a partner is also often digitally mediated, through multiple forms of distributed knowledge making and sharing. We rely on the concept of lively data (Lupton 2017) to analyze such knowledge communities.

This paper relies on a literature review on dating apps, the app culture and the transformation of lay knowledge in online settings. We discuss how lay and specialist knowledge circulate in online settings concerning the dating process, as well as users’ learning about themselves and their potential partners, through experimentation with dating apps and through information seeking in various digital arenas.

New Identities and Quality of Life in the Context of Biotechnology Development in Russia

Elena Bogomiagkova, Ekaterina Orekh

St.-Petersburg State University, Russian Federation

The paper deals with social consequences of biotechnology development in modern Russia. Progress in biology and medicine, changing understanding of being healthy, has an impact not only on social practices of caring for the body, but also contributes to the formation of new kinds of social cohesion and the processes of social identification.

Using such conceptions as bioeconomics, biopolitics, biosociality, etc. and such empirical methods as analysis of Russian statistics, discourse analysis of mass media, in-depth interviews, we studied the transformation of the concept of quality of life as well as new kinds of social identity. On the one hand, genetization and biomedicalization of society, and on the other hand, the identity crisis in the context of modernity, lead to the emergence of new ways of an individual’s self-identification. Biological and/or genetic similarity becomes a new basis for social identity. Thanks to the latest discoveries in the field of biomedicine and the corresponding specific scientific logic, these characteristics are beginning to be perceived as the ultimate and most reliable foundation of identity and social solidarity. The concept of quality of life starts to be closely connected with the access to genetic and medical technologies, and biological tissues and materials. Moreover, biological aspects have got social and cultural importance that leads to symbolic exclusion and discrimination against people with «susceptibility genes», and the formation of communities and social activism based on genetic and biological identities. Thus, biologization and genetization of social processes can be regarded as a marker of social change.

Risks of Disruptive Technological Advancements and their Potential Social Solutions

Ľubomír Šottník

Comenius university in Bratislava / Slovak academy of sciences, Slovak Republic

Recent advancements in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning led a significant number of academics, journalists and public figures to the belief that they may become a threat to the labour market, social cohesion and the overall resilience of societies in the near future.

The paper deals with the origins of the current technological advancements and changes, reviews its potential societal risks and offers possible solutions.

The paper is based on the notion that technological advancements and changes are a natural part of innovation-based market economy. Technological innovations are a necessary precondition for economic development and their eventual limitation would slow down future economic progress.

Typically, mass unemployment is identified as the principal risk of current technological advancements. Within this notion, technological unemployment could lead to the erosion of the middle class as artificial intelligence has the potential to eliminate jobs that are currently occupied by the middle classes. The paper recognizes that new technologies will affect the job market, but argues that these changes tend to be largely exaggerated. Historically, every technological change, including the current, lead to new job opportunities for a wide range of employees.

Lastly, the paper deals with the typically proposed social, political and economic solutions to the expected negative effects of new technologies. It is argued that universal basic income or robot tax are unachievable within the current political landscape. Instead, arguments are provided why rather a reform of the education system would be a better long-term solution.

The Everyday Practices of Neoliberalism in Taiwan Higher Education

Ming-Te Peng

Goldsmiths, University of London

Research outputs and knowledge production have been recognised as an indispensable role in social progress, economic growth and state development. Emerging notions of knowledge economy, responsible research and innovation (RRI), and university social responsibility (USR) show an attempt to further govern the knowledge production. Whereas scientists and scholars live and work in the mundane world, their everyday life consists of not only research but also administrative affairs, such as promotion assessments, evaluations and applications for funds. Hence, this study aims to explore how academic practices are influenced via the institutional practice.

Method: Semi-structured interviews were adopted to carry out this study. Questions in interviews consisted of two themes: institutional practices and impacts on individual activities. The interviews were conducted in Taiwan in 2017. In sum, 41 scholars were recruited from four disciplines of biomedicine, material science, history and sociology.

Conclusion: The existence of meritocracy with KPI measure systems makes scholar docile and inclined to follow external guides rather than own wills. Political intentions might not directly influence individual scholars, but though the duplication of criteria in academic management. When conducting a study, researchers might interpret their own values through a virtual observer in their mind. All these trends infer the model of governmentality in Foucauldian senses. This phenomenon varies in different disciplines and reflects financial dependence on the state.

Theorizing Commensuration of Social Phenomena

Tuukka Kaidesoja

University of Helsinki, Finland

My aim is to develop a theoretical framework for studying commensuration of social phenomena. Commensuration is a social process through which qualitatively different phenomena are made numerically comparable by using a common metric (Espeland and Stevens 1998). Commensuration is ubiquitous process in modern science, technology, economy and politics. Examples of commensuration include cost-benefit ratios, standardized tests, statistical indicators, rankings, performance measures, transparency measures and the measures of quality control that are all used in both private and public sectors.

I begin by discussing Wendy N. Espeland, Mitchell Stevens and Micheal Sauder’s theoretical and empirical research on commensuration. Then I make three proposals to further develop their theoretical framework. First, I suggest that commensuration processes can be fruitfully decomposed into three temporal stages: the construction of a new measure, the implementation of the measure and the reactive outcomes triggered by the measure. Second, I argue that the embodied and distributed cognition approaches provide conceptual tools for deepening our understanding commensuration. Third, I show how the mechanism-based approach to explanation can be used to theorize causal mechanisms that drive commensuration processes in different contexts.


Espeland, Wendy N., and Mitchell L. Stevens. 1998. “Commensuration as Social Process”. Annual Review of Sociology, 24: 313-343.

Traditional and New Information and Communication Technologies and social values in Europea Countries

Juan Sebastián Fernández-Prados, Pilar Rodríguez-Martínez, Alex Ainz-Galende

Universidad de Almería, Spain

Information and Communication Technologies (hereinafter, ICTs) seem to have a great influence on value systems. The main objective of this contribution is to learn how the new ICTs influence on value systems in Europe between different social groups within each country.

In methodological terms, the relationships between ICTs (both traditional, press, radio and television, and new ones, ie mobile phone, internet and social media) and the social values (Materialism and Post-Materialism) will be analyzed by comparing different societies (Inglehart, 2018)

The relationships in the different social groups within each society will also be the subject of research. In this sense, the social center will be compared with the social periphery according to Galtung's Center-Periphery Theory (Galtung, 2009)

The main databases that will be used are (though other databases that can add value to the research will also be used): World Values Survey, 2010-14 and 2017-18 waves (

In summary, the aims are to obtain a social profile according to the type of information and communication technologies used, besides to establish relationships with social values according to the country and social group.

Containing Superintelligence: Transhumanists And The Global Future Of Democracy

Apolline Taillandier

Sciences Po, France

Current narratives of AI governance enact different sociotechnical and political projects, involving various regulatory actors (benevolent intellectuals, tech companies, or government agencies), temporalities of regulation (algorithmic fairness in the present or preparedness for potential catastrophe in the future), and political values (global justice or national performance). This paper focuses on predictions and scenarios of future artificial intelligence (AI), the possibility that “superintelligent” machines could overtake the limits of human cognition in the long term. Combining political theory and the study of sociotechnical imaginaries in various anglo-american settings, this paper shows how “superintelligence” gets constituted into a technoscientific object, at the margins of current machine learning practices. As part of a growing field of “AI ethics”, including academic and public debates about algorithmic fairness and governance, superintelligence also takes part in struggles between different visions of the legitimate democratic order.

Until recently a topic for scifi enthusiasts and transhumanists who predicted the coming "technological singularity", superintelligence is at the horizon of recent research in “AI safety”. AI safety lies at an imaginative angle, at the intersection of industry and academia, early AI ambitions and current deep learning practices, moral philosophy and amateur science. It articulates technological and economic expectations in unexpected ways, in a transnational space of expertise where both endorsements of Silicon Valley self-governance and strong state-led regulation can be found. This transnational space further reveals how European early web-users got into conversations that had previously occurred among digital elites on the U.S. American West-Coast, how these new practices shaped different local communities, and how actors appropriated concepts and practices of future-making and integrated them to European, and specifically British disciplinary habits and civic epistemologies.