Call for Abstracts
At the upcoming UNITOPIA conference we aim to open a discussion about the risks, but also the potentials that digital transformation brings for our democracies. What forms of regulation, or governance are necessary to align digital technologies with a common good? How would we envision future digital democracies? Which political theory concepts of democracy need to be adapted to the technological development and vice versa? How can we sustain and further develop central premises of democracy in a new socio-technical order? And how could we enable processes to build socio-technical institutions and orders for our future democracies? These are just some questions we want to tackle at the conference. We understand the digital transformation as a democratic moment. It forces and enables us to rethink and reconceptualize how we understand democracy in the digital age. How can we sustain and further develop its central premises in a new socio-technical order?
Value by design is a longstanding concept in the discussion on IT and social values (Nissenbaum, 1998). The design of digital infrastructures and algorithms influences how social interactions are played out. This goes from interface design to the inner workings of machine learning applications. At the same time, participation in technology design has been identified as an important factor in democratizing technology (Nowotny, 2003; von Schomberg, 2014). This raises questions how participation in building the digital structures of contemporary democracies can work, and what pitfalls there are. How can we translate knowledge into digital tools, and how can we communicate the workings and impacts of digital technologies to a broader audience?
Democracies and democratic processes are not detached from their material and technological infrastructures. Contrary, digital infrastructures are at the very core of democratic institutions such as public broadcasting, the legal system, or citizen engagement. Filter bubbles create severe challenges for the public media system (Pariser, 2012), sentencing decision systems are raising the question of how to mathematically encoded concepts like fairness or justice (Angwin et al., 2016), and predictive models in the health sector are becoming a basis for political decisions (Barton et al., 2020). Yet, digital infrastructures can also become tools for better, and more democratic decision processes. We want to explore how democratic institutions are or could be changing based on the ongoing digital transformation and what this means for our understanding of democracy at large.
Technology is not only changing our understanding of contemporary democracies, but also evokes imaginaries of a potential future (Jasanoff, 2005). As such, asking how the future of our (digital) democracies is envisioned on a macro level becomes important. Different forms of AI regulation, for example, show different ideas of democratic values and futures. How do we want to regulate, i.e. restrict and enable, digital technologies? How do we envision governance through digital technologies? Foresight processes of possible development paths (Schot & Rip, 1997), but also the analysis of existing imaginaries are important in regard to answer these questions.
UNITOPIA 2022 wants to collectively explore challenges and opportunities for digital democracies along these lines. We welcome contributions from various disciplines and fields, such as, but not limited to, political science, computer science, law, sociology, economics, science and technology studies, information science, etc.
UNITOPIA 2022 will be hosted at the University of Graz from May 12-14, 2022. The conference language is English.
The abstracts (500 words max., indicate which track) should contain a short introduction to the topic, the central question tackled in the contribution, the theoretical background, applied methods (if applicable), results and how it contributes to an ongoing discussion. Since the conference understands itself as an interdisciplinary event, these are just some guiding bullet points. However, we highly encourage you to keep a diverse audience in mind when formulating the abstract.
Please send your abstract email@example.com
Deadline: March 22, 2022. You will receive information on the acceptance of your contribution until April 13, 2022.