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Accepted Paper:

Socio-Technological Imaginary on GitHub: The constant battle for the greater good  
Emilian Franco (Universität der Bundeswehr München)

Paper short abstract:

Developers on GitHub, the largest open source software platform (OSS) in the world, have a big infuence on the algortihmic present and how the "coded" future will look like. Therefore, a closer look on their beliefs and futuristic imagniaries may tell us a lot about emerging futures in the making.

Paper long abstract:

GitHub is the largest open source software (OSS) platform and probably contains all code that was ever written. Simultaneously, it is the new “Maschinenraum” (Engine room) of algorithm factories (Daum 2020). On GitHub new AI systems are developed, tested and distributed – thousands a day, by people from all over the world. Whatever “algorithmic future” there will be, it probably will be “forked” (Daum 2020) and produced on GitHub.

Following Appadurais definition of future „as a cultural fact“ (2013), I take a look on the future narratives and imaginations of the developers and contributors on GitHub: which futures are desired? Which images and visions of the world and the human being are narratively constructed? As I interview people from China, Taiwan and Germany, as well as from the US, also a specific intercultural question arises: is there something like a comparable “global future” they all imagine?

A first analysis shows, that two strong „socio-technological imaginaries“ (Jasanoff 2016) can be identified: the "greater good" and a codependent "Manichean good vs. bad" imaginary. The imaginaries are “populated” (Land 1998) by a strong techno-optimism and (neo)liberal beliefs of constant developement towards a better future. In combination with a hierarchical order on GitHub this leads to a coding environment, in which individual developers emerge as ‘Benevolent Dictators for Life’ (BDFL). This specific GitHub environment fosters and relies on a greater narrative, which I trace back to Appadurais (2013) concept of "trajectorism", the great meta trap of "the West".

Panel P17c
Addressing the Humans behind AI and Robotics
  Session 1 Tuesday 7 June, 2022, -