Archive for the ‘information systems’ Category

Another call for a Prince and the Wolf reading group

6 January 2012

In addition to the seminar in Dublin, here is another call for a reading group (by Adam Greenfield at Urbanscale) around the themes of The Prince and the Wolf and The Prince of Networks, within the context of design, computing and urban planning:

Thanks to Anil Bawa-Cavia for pointing me at The Prince and the Wolf, a transcript of Graham Harman’s 2008 conversation with Bruno Latour at the LSE. This and Harman’s book on Latour, Prince of Networks, are the first things I’m reading in my attempt to reconcile the objects of object-oriented ontology with Latour’s actors, which endeavor is what sparked all of the above in the first place. (If anyone’s interested in forming a reading and discussion group around these and related issues, by the way, please do let me know.)

Installing (Social) Order

17 March 2011

An interesting new blog focusing on the social studies of infrastructure, with a penchant for STS and ANT.

No doubt that computer science is the formative mode of building the models of contemporary social life. Interactional settings, inter- and transorganizational networks as well as the internal structures of macro-social phenomena like science, politics, economy, art and the media are ‘nerved’ with heterogenous, overlapping and sometimes antidromic tendencies to be formed by extremely distributed but nonetheless large scaled information infrastructure.

Technology and the financial crisis

8 March 2011

The Information Systems and Innovation Group (ISIG) in the Department of Management at the London School of Economics will be hosting the 11th Social Study of ICT (SSIT) Workshop on 28 March 2011. Here is the detailed programme and you can register here.

This year’s SSIT workshop has invited leading academics and practitioners to open the discussion on the way information systems development has coped with the continuous innovation in the financial sector in the past decade; the resulting information infrastructures; and the pressures for new enterprise architectures and IS development practice at the aftermath of the crisis.

In this one-day conference, organized by the Information Systems and Innovation Group of the Department of Management, information system scholars, social scientists and CIOs from commercial and central banks, will present their views and lead a discussion on this topic.

SSIT11 will be followed by the 7th Social Study of IT Open Research Forum (SSIT-ORF7) on 29 and 30 March 2011, also at the LSE. SSIT-ORF is a unique venue for PhD students and junior researchers to present their work in progress on technology and information systems related topics in a constructive atmosphere.

Philosophy and social computing

22 February 2011

Call for papers: abstract submission deadline extended to 28 February 2011 for the “Social Computing” track at the First International Conference of the International Association for Computing and Philosophy (IACAP) to take place at Aarhus University on 4-6 July 2011. Conference Theme: “The Computational Turn: Past, Presents, Futures?”

Up to six bursaries of $500.00 available. More info here.

The track addresses, but is not limited to, the following topics:

– Notions of the social used and/or enforced in social computing

– Notions of computing used in social computing

– Epistemological and ethical consequences of distributed modes of knowledge creation and distribution in social computing

– Philosophical implications of sociality in social networking sites (e.g. identity, privacy, social structures, etc.)

– How can trust in social computing be conceived? What are the differences and similarities between notions of trust e.g. in multi-agent systems, social networking sites, recommender systems, etc.? What are the differences and similarities between trust online and offline?

– Forming of individual existence in relation to social computing

– Epistemically and ethically responsible behavior with respect to social software and how it can be supported

– Computational models of social networks

– Consequences of social computing for extended social cognition

An apparatus for apparatchiks

27 August 2009

Are apparatuses good or bad? But first, what is an apparatus? The shortest and very helpful definition comes from Giorgio Agamben’s essay, “What is an Apparatus?

I shall call an apparatus literally anything that has in some way the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions, or discourses of living beings. (p. 14)

Agamben calls the process of producing human subjects by apparatuses subjectification.

So, once more, is subjectification by apparatuses good or bad? In Heidegger’s view, the apparatus (technology that has the character of enframing, Gestell) is dangerous because it threatens the essence of being human. Foucault seems to be cagier about this issue but Agamben appears to side with Heidegger when he classifies beings like this:

To recapitulate, we have then two great classes: living beings (substances) and apparatuses. And between these two, as a third class, subjects. I call a subject that which results from the relation and, so to speak, from the relentless fight between living beings and apparatuses. (…) The boundless growth of apparatuses in our time corresponds to the equally extreme proliferation in processes of subjectification. (p. 14-15)

Proponents of actor-network theory reject such a priori distinctions between human and nonhuman objects. The result of such a move changes the question itself. It is no longer interesting to ask, ‘Are apparatuses as such inherently good or bad?’ Instead, the question becomes, ‘ What is this or that particular apparatus made for? Is it well made or poorly designed?’ As for subjects, they are constructed, period. If everything is constructed, the prospect of subjectification is no longer horrifying. It is simply a matter of fact. In turn, the question of ‘How subjects are constructed by apparatuses?’ becomes extremely interesting.


Edgar Whitley’s recent video about the UK Identity Card Scheme provides an excellent example for this. As Whitley argues, the problem is not with the idea of using a card for identifying citizens but with the way the scheme, i.e. this apparatus, had been designed. While the ID card scheme does have a user-centric design, the problem is it centres on the wrong user:  the government, instead of the citizen.

The making of this scheme has to be put under the closest scrutiny precisely because the ID card is an apparatus of subjectification, a tool for producing a particular kind of citizen. Thankfully the LSE’s Identity Project has been fulfilling exactly that function. However, its message needs to be disseminated and heard more widely. As Whitley puts it, ID cards threaten to change the relationship between the individual and the state in the UK, by producing a new kind of citizen, and a new kind of state.

So, is an apparatus good or bad? It is bad only if you use Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology” as a blueprint, a user’s manual (as the current UK government appears to be doing), rather than a thought-provoking meditation that kicked off a fascinating debate about the relationship between human beings and their tools. As science and technology studies have shown in the past 30 years or so, that relationship is much more complicated than anyone expected.


Agamben, G. (2009). “What is an apparatus?” and other essays. Stanford, Calif., Stanford University Press.

Heidegger, M. (1977). The question concerning technology and other essays. New York; London, Harper and Row.

A New Theory of Substance

26 March 2009

Graham Harman will be speaking at two events at University College Dublin (UCD) in the coming weeks. The first one is a seminar, entitled “A New Theory of Substance” (with Dermot Moran as discussant), which will take place on 17 April 2009. The second one, “Toward an Object-Oriented Philosophy,” is a half-day workshop on 20 April 2009.  Please see the CITO (Centre for Innovation, Technology & Organisation) website for further updates regarding the venues and on how to register.

Here is Harman’s abstract for the seminar:

The concept of substance has relatively few defenders in present-day philosophy. I happen to be one of them, though I also believe that several features of the classical concept of substance (simplicity, naturalness, and eternity) must be discarded. For me, the necessity of a new concept of substance (or “objects,” as I prefer) comes from Heidegger’s tool-analysis. With this analysis Heidegger does not just show that invisible human practices come before conscious human awareness. Instead, the analysis shows that objects exist as something over and above all their relations to other things (the exact opposite of Bruno Latour’s relational model of actors). Most contemporary philosophies are simply variant “radical” attempts to deny the existence of objects. Objects are reduced either to their relations, or to how they are manifested in human consciousness, or to tiny material particles, or to “pre-individual singularities,” or to a shapeless, formless rumbling of inarticulate being. I oppose all such radical models, and insist on a “polarized” model of philosophy in which objects can never be reduced to any of their specific incarnations in the world.

Invitation to 5th SSIT-ORF at LSE

18 March 2009

The deadline for abstracts for this year’s Social Study of IT Open Research Forum (SSIT-ORF) has been extended to 30 March 2009. This great little conference will take place on 21 and 22 April 2009, at the Information Systems and Innovation Group in the Department of Management at the LSE, hot on the heels of the SSIT9 Workshop. One interesting feature of the SSIT Open Research Forum is that presenters are discouraged from using PowerPoint or transparencies. This format contributes to a unique atmosphere that encourages open debate between the presenters, the panel chair, and the audience. Please see the full call for abstracts below.


Remembering the Harman Review

6 February 2009

Many thanks to Graham Harman for reminding us of the first anniversary of the Harman Review symposium, and also for his gracious words. It was such an unusual and unlikely event; even in retrospect it is difficult to believe it actually had taken place. What are the chances of hosting a metaphysical debate between a Heideggerian philosopher and a sociologist known for his dislike of Heidegger on the grounds of a management school, organised by PhD students of an information systems department? (more…)

The Deleuzian ‘Spatium’ and its ‘Becoming’

23 January 2009

An interesting ISRF seminar coming up at ISIG, LSE on 29 January 2009, exploring the connections between Heidegger and Deleuze in relation to technology and organisations:

Information Systems Research Forum

Rethinking Technological Change in Organizations: The Deleuzian ‘Spatium’ and its ‘Becoming’

Eleni Lamprou

Thursday 29 January 2009

In this presentation, I wish to address the potential contribution of the ontology provided by the French process philosopher Gilles Deleuze to the study of technological change in organizations. In the first part of the presentation, the connections of Deleuze’s work to the work of Martin Heidegger are outlined, as I explore the concept of the ‘spatium’. The ‘spatium’ enfolds Deleuze’s understanding that the physical position of people and technological artefacts within space lends only a partial understanding of the manner in which they actually relate. In the second part, I seek to theorize the manner in which such relationships actually develop through elaborating on Deleuze’s conceptualization of ‘becoming’. Emphasis is placed on what is portrayed by Deleuze as the motor of the ‘becoming’ process, namely, the ‘event’. The ideas presented in this seminar are drawn from the theoretical framework of my doctoral dissertation.


AMCIS 2009: Socio-Technical Aspects of Information Systems

17 January 2009

Please see the call for papers for the 15th Americas Conference on Information systems (AMCIS 2009) on 6-9 August 2009 in San Francisco, which includes the mini-track “Socio-Technical Aspects of Information Systems” on the following topics:

  • Social informatics
  • The application of social theory to information systems (eg. Structuration Theory, Actor-Network Theory, StructurANTion Theory)
  • Human and organisational aspects of information Systems
  • Balancing of social and technical factors in ISD and IS
  • Critiques of the socio-technical approach
  • Case studies of socio-technical analysis of IS
  • Comparative studies (ie. between sectors, countries, cultures, etc.) of socio-technical analyses of IS
  • Comparative analyses of socio-technical change and IS
  • Global/local (or ‘glocal’) balance of IS within a socio-technical context

Deadline for papers: 20 February 2009.