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Accepted Paper:

AI and the Reinvention of the Social  
Bruce Kapferer (UCL University of Bergen)

Paper short abstract:

Do digitally and A1 mediated social realities demand anthropological and sociological reconceptualization?Human social being is being remastered, is evolving in innovative ways, with major methodological implications for established anthropological conceptual and descriptive understanding.

Paper long abstract:

The presentation will concentrate on digital platforms in gaming, commerce, and particularly in social communication and other media where the effort is to create the semblance of non-digitally mediated social interaction or socially based effects. Initial attention will be on a variety of sociological/anthropological perspectives such as symbolic interactionist, social phenomenological, and institutionalist/structuralist perspectives. The interactionist work of Erving Goffman will provide one outstanding example. Current algorithim platforms are creating forms of sociality with institutional effect that are radically distinct from those influenced by what could be described as conceptually conventional and traditional anthropological approaches. AI directed information gathering involves a vast range of socio-behavioural information to be used for commercial purposes and often for socio-political control and surveillance. Interactional, orientational, emotional, personal, biological etc. data of all kinds is continuously stored. This is engaged to multiple purposes. Of specific focus in the presentation are the dialectical processes whereby such information participates in dialectical feedback loops mediated by digital platforms between what might be called lived actualities and their machinic organization into meaningful or sensible frames that structure or become in turn orientational and structuring of lived existence. The digital platforms, of course, are not ideologically free and in situations where they achieve dominance over social and political processes are major agencies in the constructions of social and political life. The presentation will address this aspect. But the major concern will be with the aspects of the radical innovative conceptual constructions of lived realities that are taking place that throw into serious question many conventional anthropological/sociological conceptualizations.

Part of the presentation will be concerned with the society of the image that is being mediated into existence by Ai technology and the dynamic of whereby the virtual becomes the real and vice versa. The political and social effects of this will be of concern. But an additional matter of interest will be again the problematics for established anthropological understandings.

Altogether the presentation will argue for the radical innovation and new horizons of understanding in the anthropological comprehension of human being that AI and digital technologies portend.

Panel P20a
Digitalization and the Reconstitution of the Social and Political Realities of Human Being
  Session 1 Monday 6 June, 2022, -