talk - presentation - panel Open panel “Ecological crises and the role of technologies: harm, violence, and the quest for accountabilities” at 4S conference, Hawaii november 2023

Open panel at the annual meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science, the professional society of Science and Technology Studies scholars.

Political and industrial narratives present technology as the solution to the multiple ecological crises society is confronted with, without engaging with the material consequences in terms of minerals, land, labour, and energy (Crawford, 2021; Cubitt, 2016; Hogan et al., 2022). As Dr. Max Liboiron traces out in ‘Pollution is Colonialism’ (2021), extraction and pollution are legitimated through threshold theories of harm, which set arbitrary limits on harmful practices and allow ‘acceptable’ amounts of pollution to continue. Liboiron demonstrates how this approach to managing harms obscures the institutions and actors that perpetrate violence in the first place, foreclosing possibilities to resist and transform power relations. With this open panel, we invite contributions that engage with Liboiron’s call to move from ‘a question of harm that asks ‘how much’ … to ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about violence’ (Liboiron 2021). We bring this question to the context of digital technologies and their social and environmental implications, asking what such a switch of perspective might look like with regard to ‘Big Tech’ monopolies, the distributedness and scales of networked computing infrastructures, and their entanglements with extractive industries (c.f. Arboleda 2020). How can systemic violence and questions of accountability be addressed in this context? Contributions can range from papers unpacking how a narrow economic lens on climate change (‘green capitalism’) perpetuates violence; to explorations of research methodologies putting feminist, anticolonial, critical race, and solidarity epistemologies into practice; to projects that develop alternative sociotechnical imaginaries (Jasanoff and Kim 2015) for the principles that organise internet infrastructures.