The 4th Swiss Congress of Historical Sciences (9th-11th of June 2016 at the University of Lausanne) has launched a call for papers on the following topic: ”The power of algorithms. Digital technologies and power relations in the 20th and 21st century.” Contributions with an historical approach from all fields of the humanities and social sciences are welcome.
Unlike individual and collective agents, technological developments are often perceived as being neutral, when it comes to their intentions or effects. This panel questions this notion considering the recent history of digital technologies and the Internet. The panel’s subject is the power of algorithms, namely the role of digital technologies in power relations from the second half of the 20th century up to the present. The panel is interested in concrete case studies that demonstrate how the development or implementation of digital technologies modified established power balances. These case studies might also focus on the power struggles surrounding the development of digital technologies. From their very beginning, in particular during their first years of existence, digital technologies have been complex and expensive. Are they therefore first and foremost reserved for an elite? What consequences does the generalized digitization of communications have for the relations between producers and users of digital technologies? Is the growing mass of users and data producers increasingly at the mercy of monopolizing technology suppliers? Who are possible mediators between these two parties?
Growing amounts of available data volumes are exploited more and more, typically by organizations, and then re-used in numerous ways. Analyses of the role of computer science in the management and decision-making process of enterprises are thus very welcome; in particular those questioning the effects of said technologies on hierarchic relationships.
In this context research might also focus on hijackings of digital technologies for subversive purposes and their mobilization by anti-establishment movements. Among the most widespread demands surrounding digital technologies are free access and global exchange of information. These demands circumvent and challenge numerous traditional power spheres, be it by the targeted publication of confidential information, by the analysis of huge volumes of data or by the open interpretation of copyright legislation. At this crossroads of global exchanges and national interests, one encounters strong tensions and a re-nationalization of cyberspace, when it comes to issues such as surveillance and the control of the Internet.
Submissions of paper suggestions:
The deadline for paper suggestions is August 25th 2015. Submissions can be made in French, German, Italian or English.
Selected contributions will be published in the Journal “Histoire et Informatique” in 2017. Paper suggestions without presentation are also eligible for the publication. Please submit your suggestion for a paper (max. 500 words) to Christiane Sibille (email@example.com) and Enrico Natale (firstname.lastname@example.org) via e-mail.