There has been a resurgence of interest in futures - their imagining, making, formation & power. Papers in this session focus on varied techniques and methods of future making, their product and implications and the power relations they embody.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Future as infeasible, desirable and unimaginable: an analysis of lay public imaginaries of the 2°C goal and low-carbon energy transitions
The study critically analyzes how well the IPCC's consensus knowledge can speak to ordinary citizens. By exploring the lay public sense-making of the 2°C goal and the role of low-carbon energy technologies to achieve its goal, it suggests the limit of 'linear-consensus' model of expertise.
The Paris Agreement can be seen as a consensus built by scientists and policymakers, leading toward a decarbonized energy future. Among others, the IPCC has played a significant role to produce scientific knowledge on the feasibility of limiting global average temperature increase to below 2°C. In post-Paris era, the 2°C goal is now acknowledged as a science-policy 'consensus' within international expert communities as both an attainable and desirable pathway for the humanity. At the same time, however, there is a reasonable doubt on how well this consensus on 2°C goal recognized and shared widely by diverse stakeholders and lay publics, outside from climate communities. In this study, we explored the lay public sense-making of the 2°C goal and the role of low-carbon energy technologies (e.g. renewables, nuclear, carbon capture and storage) to achieve its goal. We conducted seven focus groups with Japanese citizens and analyzed their discourses on the 2°C futures. Our findings show the three different narratives about the plausibility of 2°C goal emerged from focus group discussions: the 2°C future as unimaginable, infeasible and desirable. People embraced their ambiguity on whether and how we should aim at achieving the 2°C goal as well as their ambivalence in either accepting or rejecting nuclear energy for its solutions. The study suggests a lack of local cultural narratives on the desirable futures may alienate people from a expert consensus, living up to the 2°C goal.
Disposable bodies: robots and care in Real Humans
This paper will consider how the imaginary posthuman affects depicted in Real Humans can assist us in analyzing the political and ethical implications of actual care robots.
This paper will consider a central question underpinning the Swedish television program Real Humans (2012-2014), which imagines a world in which humanoid robots, or hubots, have become ordinary and ubiquitous: what happens when we treat machines like people, and people like machines? In the program hubots are used for a variety of "menial" tasks, including sex work, housekeeping, childcare, and eldercare. Its representations of posthuman care highlight many of the ethical and political issues central to the study of aging, vulnerability, and care. In particular, my inquiry will consider the ways Real Humans explores and exploits the gendered and racialized affective economies that structure care work in the developed world, economies that depend on the emotional and physical labour of marginalized workers. In its depictions of human-like machines tasked with giving care, Real Human exposes the cultural denigration of care work, the dismissal of particular bodies (elderly, racialized, gendered) as peripheral and disposable. The robots distributed for care, along with the humans they care for, most often children, the elderly, and "needy women," suggest a provocative affinity between diverse vulnerable bodies -- old, young and mechanical. This paper will consider how the imaginary posthuman affects depicted in Real Humans can assist us in analyzing the political and ethical implications of existing robots designed for care, such as Paro, Miro, and Care-O-bot 4. The program reveals how caregiving machines perpetuate the exploitation and marginalization central to affective economies built on the undervaluation of care and the denigration of dependency.
Freezing life, escaping death? Cryonics as a meeting point of transhumanist visions
Cryonics, the research into and practice of freezing dead bodies for future reanimation, is analysed from a Feminist STS perspective. This makes visible the dualist and hierarchical understanding of Man vs. nature and the essentially humanist - rather than trans- or posthumanist - argumentation.
Transhumanism has gained more and more momentum over the last decades. It seeks to improve the human condition by technologically interfering in the human body and its evolution. This talk focusses on cryonics as a meeting point of a number of transhumanist visions. The research into and the practice of deep-freezing dead bodies for resuscitation in a technologically advanced future aims to "cheat" death. For "lifespanners", it holds the promise of curing their deadly diseases after all and that the degenerative process of aging can be decelerated or stopped. For "immortalists", who envision the conflation of man and technology but don't expect the necessary technological advances to be achieved within their lifetime, cryonics serves as an interim technique "transporting" them to the future.
The paper is based on an analysis of cryonicists' publications and a review of the social scientific literature. By adopting a Feminist STS perspective, it becomes possible to show that cryonics and its promises are premised on and reproduce a power relation that fundamentally structures western culture: the humanist separation of the human as a purely cultural being from "nature" as his materially determined other(s). The preservation cryonics promises proves to be directed not only at individual lives, but also at the increasingly challenged humanist conception of human life as exceptional vis-à-vis other life forms, self-contained and independent from "nature". The paper shows that although cryonics is seen as a door to a transhumanist future, it is equally guided by the past and humanist values.
How do climate scientists use social media? Collusion and collision of personal, professional and epistemic contexts
Climate scientists are increasingly visible on social media, drawing on personal, professional and epistemic contexts to communicate. This paper illuminates these contexts through innovative interviews, informing our understanding of climate science, climate politics and social media platforms.
The 'acute controversy' of Climategate provided an impetus for climate scientists to more publicly explain their practices through social media (Hulme, 2013). However, this online environment provides new communicative challenges. Social media platforms are sites of 'context collapse' (Marwick and boyd, 2011). Platform architecture facilitates both intentional collusion of contexts (e.g. as a means of maintaining weak ties across broad networks) or unintentional collision of contexts (e.g. through challenges to privacy management) (Davis and Jurgenson, 2014). Climate scientists' increasing use of social media has given rise to disagreements regarding the social context of climate science, and the extent to which these should be colluded or kept apart (Edwards, 2013; Schmidt, 2015; Pielke Jr., 2018).
In short, the entrance of climate scientists into social media provides rich potential for investigating the shifting social contexts of both climate scientists and climate science. Yet research into social media climate change communication has largely been restricted to big data textual analysis that reveals little about these substantial issues. This paper addresses this gap, presenting findings from the first set of interviews undertaken with climate scientists about their social media usage. It focuses on three different types of contexts which inform climate scientists' social media communications: personal (e.g. values), organisational (e.g. employers' policy) and epistemic (e.g. the relative value attached to knowledge validation through traditional journal peer review and post-publication peer review online). Findings inform knowledge on i) social context for climate debates and ii) theories of social media platforms.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.