Here is an announcement for a workshop that asks some new and interesting questions about the status of ‘biosociety futurology’. The “Futures of Life” workshop is organized by the graduate students and faculty of the Department of S&TS at Cornell University and will take place April 27-29, 2007.
The new life sciences pose many challenges for contemporary societies, not least the difficulties of acquiring and creating knowledge about potential social and technological “futures.” Knowledge claims about the future have peculiar epistemic properties, stemming from multiple layers of uncertainty, ignorance, and reflexivity. Such claims, which are often aimed at intervening in the future not just representing it, blend the descriptive and the performative. Their forward-looking focus leaves them positioned in a speculative space informed by a precarious mixture of fact, conjecture, and fantasy. The speed of change in the biosciences, combined with the complexity of the social and natural worlds in which they are entangled, makes the process of creating knowledge about putative “biofutures” particularly difficult. Anticipatory knowledge is often considered less than reliable, and yet it is highly coveted and vitally important — its tools of prediction and control are essential to the activities of states, firms and civil society. This workshop will focus on the social dimensions of anticipatory knowledge. The majority of the papers will focus on the new life sciences, but other areas of sociotechnical change will be included for comparative purposes. In particular, we are interested in the creation of anticipatory knowledge; the institutional capacities and social machinery used to create it; its spread, uptake, translation, and use; and its role in reshaping regimes of governance. Potential questions for investigation include: How do producers of anticipatory knowledge negotiate tensions between the precision of a prediction and the likelihood it will turn out to be correct? In what ways do particular anticipatory techniques shape what becomes visible and invisible? What normative choices are embedded in different machineries of anticipation?
How is the credibility of claims about the future of life assessed in different contexts?
How is anticipatory expertise claimed and contested in different social worlds? How do desires, ideals, and utopian and dystopian visions inflect anticipatory knowledge?
In light of secrecy and proprietary concerns, who gets access to what anticipatory knowledge, under what terms and conditions, and with what consequences?
How does anticipatory knowledge articulate with various regulatory frames in diverse cultural and political contexts?
How do decision makers manage disconnects between the available anticipatory knowledge and that which a policy regime requires?
How is anticipatory knowledge implicated in identity politics and emerging social movements?
Stacey Sullivan Graduate Field Assistant Cornell University Science & Technology Studies 306 Rockefeller Hall Ithaca, NY 14853 (607)255-3810