This panel aims to advance the emerging field of computing anthropology by addressing the way recent technological innovations and related economies transform social relations, understandings of 'the material' and imagination, and how these challenge the anthropological scrutiny and practice.
The spectacular increase of ubiquitous computing and data-driven systems and algorithms is placing an unprecedented pressure on human society. As we work, travel, and heat our homes, computers already collect, process and transmit data about us. Computing is no longer confined to laptops and desktops. Any device that functions by following pre-inscribed algorithms and can process data, from wearables and smart meters to autonomous vehicles, is essentially a computer. As well as technological innovation, emerging 'start-up cultures' push for unexpected transformations in the way we live. For example, popular hospitality, travel sharing, and micro-credit economies imply transformation of social relations and notions of time, as well as redistribution of trust, transfer of ownership, and global circulation of services. This panel addresses the conference theme by asking how we might renew and re-create anthropology by developing engaged responses to recent and future computing innovations. In discussing this question, we will focus on two main challenges. First, while anthropology knows how to study in depth the social consequences of technology, we now have the opportunity to develop equally rich understandings of the processes and contexts of technology development. Second, anthropology has to find ways to balance the a posteriori nature of ethnographic fieldwork with the a priori, pragmatic, and constrained nature of innovation that is currently reserved to other disciplines, such as human-computer interaction and user experience design. We invite contributions that address anthropological studies in computing: machine learning, AI, algorithms, FinTech, autonomous vehicles, social media, smartphones, smart applications, and related topics.