World Social Science Forum 2013: Social Transformation & the Digital Age

Trois-Rivières, Quebec, 7 July 2007
For the first time in years I can focus on going to conferences. This year I plan to attend at least one international and one domestic conference. In 2006, I was hoping to present at the International Political Science Association conference in Fukuoka, but it was never going to happen. So now with the PhD out of the way, this year I hope to present a paper at the World Social Science Forum in Montreal where the topic is, conveniently, "Social Transformation and the Digital Age".

It will be great to go back to Canada, especially Quebec! Here is the abstract:

Transformational or Co-Evolutionary? Challenging the Dominant Approach to Understanding the Influence of Communications Technologies on Society
Michael de Percy, University of Canberra, Australia

Typically, the transformation of society by communications technologies is viewed as inevitable, where governments and businesses react passively to new technological developments as these occur. However, and despite globalisation, communications technologies are inextricably linked to national security concerns, and hence remain firmly entrenched within the jurisdiction of nation-states. As such, national governments can limit the transformational capacity of communications technologies. Yet much analysis of the impact of communications technologies over-states the deterministic nature of the technologies themselves, and largely views institutions - or the formal and informal rules of the game - as reactionary. Further, it is not uncommon for analyses based on technological determinism to view new communications technologies as revolutionary - following Schumpeter’s ‘creative destruction’ model - while ignoring situations where communications technologies are clearly not deterministic. Using an historical institutionalist model of the co-evolution of institutions and communications technologies, this paper challenges technological determinism as the dominant approach to analysing the ability of communications technologies to transform society. The paper argues that a co-evolutionary approach avoids technological determinism’s inherent logical flaws by taking into account the ability of institutions to restrict communications technology’s transformational inevitability.