Call for Papers: Society for the Social Studies of Science Conference (4S) Atlanta, Georgia October 15-18, 2003

I am putting together a panel for the upcoming 4S meeting entitled “Computing Like a State: information technology and governance in the developing world” and am looking for abstract submissions of no more than one page.

Please send abstracts to [email protected] before MAY 1, 2003. Submissions involving Latin America are encouraged, although work on all developing nations will be considered.

Summary: “Computing Like a State: information technology and governance in the developing world”

This panel will bring the developing world into historical and social science analyses of computer technology by examining how these machines and their underlying code have influenced notions and processes of state governance from the 1960s-present. Computers and computer software have shaped popular participation in government activities, furthered state ideological projects, enabled the rationalization of state agencies, increased the visibility and mapping of the national citizenry, and created new levels of transparency in state operations. However, they have also been technologies of political and social contest, whose positioning within the realm of governance is itself shaped by the interests of state officials, large corporations, and citizen activists. Computers have also been embedded with discourses of modernity, progress, power, and dependency. Their study unveils the tensions that developing nations have confronted when opting to move towards western standards of modernity or creating new benchmarks of technical proficiency. These investigations further illustrate how governments have used computers as tools of centralized or decentralized governance that advance projects of modernist state planning or postmodern negotiations among differing citizen groups. This panel will study how governments in developing countries have constructed these technologies to alter and redefine state operations, further political goals, or exert symbolic power. Likewise, it will also explore the constellation of practices and interpretive lenses that have emerged within local citizen networks, as well as around processes of social and technical innovation, resistance, and advocacy.

— Eden Miller, Ph.D. Candidate MIT Program in Science, Technology and Society Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology [email protected]