Dates: 7-8 December, 2023
Marking the 62nd anniversary of the International Federation of Information Processing (IFIP), the Working Groups 8.2 and 9.4 organised a Joint Working Conference in Hyderabad, India to commemorate IFIP’s mission to “achieve worldwide professional and socially responsible development and application of ICTs.” Prof. Janaki Srinivasan of CITAPP was invited to give the keynote for the same.
The theme of the conference was ‘After Latour: Globalisation, Inequity and Climate Change’. The focus was to highlight the influence of Latour’s work on IS research, especially among scholars drawing on Science and Technology Studies.
The times we live in have been characterised variously as the Information Revolution, Digital Age, 4th Industrial Revolution and Age of AI. Many of these terms are imbued with the optimism that today is different (and better) than what came before. As people who research these transformations and their implications for inequality, how should we think about what came before? In this talk, I will outline why, regardless of what exactly we research in this domain, we must challenge its framing as a “break” or as “disruption.” I will argue that such a framing enables new forms of what development theorists have long referred to as “depoliticization,” or a stripping away of the political character of technologies and of social change. A much more productive way to study the changes that digitalisation is bringing about, I suggest, is to trace their continuities with what came before. I will draw on my own research on village computer centres, mobile phones and gig work platforms in India to show how an approach that foregrounds history and pays attention to continuities can tell us more about the evolution – and radical possibilities – of social relations and technologies alike.