[SIGCIS-Members] CFP: Science as Culture forum on "Big Tech"

thomas.haigh at gmail.com thomas.haigh at gmail.com
Thu Oct 22 22:37:17 PDT 2020

I am just reposting this from another list. The call cover email is below,
and under that I pasted the actual text of the CFP as attachments don't
always work well on the list. Tom


Von: eurograd--- via Eurograd <eurograd at lists.easst.net
<mailto:eurograd at lists.easst.net> >

Betreff: [EASST-Eurograd] CfP: Science as Culture Forum on "Big Tech"

Datum: 20. Oktober 2020 um 22:08:51 MESZ

An: "eurograd at lists.easst.net <mailto:eurograd at lists.easst.net> "
<eurograd at lists.easst.net <mailto:eurograd at lists.easst.net> >

Antwort an: eurograd at lists.easst.net <mailto:eurograd at lists.easst.net> 




Dear all,


I thought you might be interested in the attached call for papers. It's for
a Forum on "Big Tech" in Science as Culture. These Forums are meant to be a
faster form of special issue on current topics; they involve shorter papers
refereed by the journal editors rather than peer reviewers. Full papers are
welcome too, but they would have to go through the normal review process. 


Here's an example of a previous Forum I edited on "Techno-Economic
Assumptions": https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/csac20/26/4 


The point of this Forum is to turn an STS lens onto Big Tech. It's primarily
motivated by an interest in trying to analyse the techno-economic dominance
of Big Tech and the backlash this has engendered. For more, see the attached


Please forward to anyone you think might be find it of interest.


If you have any questions, then please feel free to email me.






Kean Birch


Graduate Program Director, Science  <https://sts.gradstudies.yorku.ca/> &
Technology Studies Program

Associate Professor,  <https://euc.yorku.ca/faculty-profile/birch-kean-d/>
Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change

Co-Editor, Science as Culture <https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/csac20> 

Series Editor, Technoscience
versity_of_Toronto_Press_> & Society Book Series, University of Toronto

Editorial Board Member, Science, Technology,
<https://journals.sagepub.com/home/sth> & Human Values

Editorial Board Member,  <https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tsep20/current>
Social Epistemology


Twitter <https://twitter.com/keanbirch>  | Website


Tel.: (+1) 416-736-2100, ext. 30126


Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change | York University

4700 Keele Street Toronto ON, Canada M3J 1P3




Science as Culture (SaC) Forum on "Big Tech" 

Forum Editor: Kean Birch 

Big Tech is in the spotlight. Usually defined as Apple, Amazon, Microsoft,
Google/Alphabet, and Facebook, "Big Tech" has become a watchword for
corporate surveillance, monopoly, and market power. Arguably, they are the
defining institutions of our day, dominating our political economies,
societies, and polities as Big Oil or Big Banks did in their time. Criticism
of Big Tech is increasingly evident as well, cutting across popular books,
academic work, film, and journalism: examples include, Shoshana Zuboff's
2019 book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism; recent documentaries like
Social Dilemma and Agents of Chaos; and regular column inches in print media
like the Financial Times and The Economist, this being particularly notable
as these two are intellectual bastions of capitalism. Furthermore, Big Tech
has been the subject of critical political investigations, like the recent
US Congressional Hearings on Online Platforms and Market Power, or the
International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy. 

Although Big Tech is facing the glare of negative publicity, there is a
notable absence of discussion about it in science and technology studies
(STS), with some exceptions (e.g. Birch et al. 2020a, 2020b; Fourcade and
Kluttz 2020; Geiger 2020; Sadowski 2020). Cognate fields - like information
science, communication studies, law, algorithm or data studies, and so forth
- have engaged with particular aspects of Big Tech or its antecedents (e.g.
Gillespie 2014; Pasquale 2015; Roseblat and Stark 2016; O'Neil 2017; Noble
2018). For example, in analyses of how digital platforms and technologies
reinforce social discrimination or disrupt political process. 

But STS as a field has not engaged analytical or empirically with 'Big Tech'
as a specific and perhaps still emergent configuration of contemporary,
technoscientific capitalism underpinned by monopoly and market power (Birch
2020; Birch and Muniesa 2020). Such configurations entail the
techno-economic measurement and management of social relations and action,
performatively driven by a particular techno-economic logic. For example,
research on digital data illustrates the configuring of organizational
practices by an "imperative to collect as much data as possible" (Fourcade
and Healy, 2017). These data are necessarily scored and ranked in particular
ways (e.g. individually), thereby re-configuring organizations in the
process (ibid.). Similar techno-economic assumptions have been analysed for
innovation more generally (Birch, 2017). 

Here, STS scholars are ideally placed to unpack and explore the
techno-economic assumptions and knowledge claims, measurement tools and
standards, organizational practices and expertise, innovation and business
strategies, and policy debates underpinning the ascendance of Big Tech. All
such aspects are normative as much as they are constitutive, reflecting key
public debates right now about Big Tech's monopoly or market power derived
from digital network effects, threats to privacy in its collection of
personal data as an asset, and role in generating new political-economic
inequalities through automation, algorithms, and platforms. 

This SaC Forum seeks to engage scholars in an STS analysis of Big Tech,
especially their role in science, technology, innovation, and expertise more
generally. Submissions should address questions like the following: 

- What are the different ways to analyse Big Tech as a techno-economic

- In what ways are digital technologies different - or not - from other
technologies in configuring market power? 

- How do some digital components (e.g. technologies, platforms, networks)
become monopolistic? 

- In what ways is digital data - personal, health, etc. - a key constituent
of Big Tech's dominance? 



- What technoscientific and economic knowledges, expertise, and
organizational practices underpin Big Tech? 

- How might digital technologies have politics or political economy (Winner

- What role does and should Big Tech have in society? In ethics? In

- What alternatives are there to Big Tech? 

- In discussing the above questions, how should we define Big Tech? 



- Deadline: end of February 2021. 

- Length: flexible, ranging between 2k-6k words. 

- Format: author's contact details (postal address and email address) should
be at the top of the file; articles should contain an Introduction and
Conclusion, but are otherwise flexible. Forum pieces have key words but no
Abstracts, so the Conclusion should summarise the overall argument. 

- Contact: please email Kean Birch (keanbirch at gmail.com) with queries about
suitability or abstract proposals. 

- Submission: send submissions to both Les Levidow (L.Levidow at open.ac.uk)
and Kean Birch (keanbirch at gmail.com); forum articles will be reviewed by
both Les and Kean, but will not be sent out for peer review. 

- Full-scale papers (10k words maximum) are also welcome. But these would
need to follow the SaC editorial guidelines and undergo the normal referee
procedure through the online system. If not ready in time for the Forum,
they will be published in a later issue. 


See https://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/authors/csac_edit_guidelines.pdf 


Birch, K. (2017) Guest Introduction: Techno-economic assumptions, Science as
Culture 26(4): 433-44; special issue,

Birch, K. (2020) Automated neoliberalism? The digital organisation of
markets in technoscientific capitalism, New Formations 100-101: 10-27. 

Birch, K. and Muniesa, F. (eds) (2020) Assetization: Turning Things into
Assets in Technoscientific Capitalism, Cambridge MA: MIT Press. 

Birch, K., Chiappetta, M. and Artyushina, A. (2020a) The problem of
innovation in technoscientific capitalism: Data rentiership and the policy
implications of turning personal digital data into a private asset, Policy
Studies 41(5): 468-487. 

Birch, K., Cochrane, D.T. and Ward, C. (2020b) Data as (intangible) asset?
Unpacking the governance and valuation of digital personal data in Big Tech
firms, unpublished manuscript. 

Fourcade, M. and Healy, K. (2017) Seeing like a market, Socio-Economic
Review 15(1): 9-29. 

Fourcade, M. and Kluttz, D. (2020) A Maussian bargain: Accumulation by gift
in the digital economy, Big Data & Society, doi: 10.1177/2053951719897092 

Geiger, S. (2020) Silicon Valley, disruption, and the end of uncertainty,
Journal of Cultural Economy 13(2): 169-184. 

Gillespie, T. (2014) The Relevance of Algorithms, in T.Gillespie,
P.Boczkowski, and K.Foot (eds), Media Technologies. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Noble, S. (2018) Algorithms of Oppression. New York: New York University

O'Neil, C. (2017) Weapons of Math Destruction, New York: Broadway Books 

Pasquale, F. (2015) The Black Box Society, Cambridge MA: Harvard University

Rosenblat, A. and Stark, L. (2016) Algorithmic labor and information
asymmetries: A case study of Uber's drivers, International Journal of
Communication 10: 3758-3784. 

Sadowski, J. (2020) The internet of landlords: Digital platforms and new
mechanisms of rentier capitalism, Antipode 52(2): 562-580. 

Winner, L. (1980) Do Artifacts Have Politics?, Daedalus 109(1): 121-136. 

Zuboff, S. (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, New York: Public

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