[Air-l] CFP: Towards Humane Technologies: Biotechnology, New Media, and Citizenship

Phil Graham phil.graham at mailbox.uq.edu.au
Sun Mar 10 03:39:30 PST 2002

1,500-8,000 word papers are invited for the following forum.

Towards Humane Technologies: Biotechnology, New Media, and Citizenship

Conference website http://www.uq.edu.au/gsm/biomediaindex.html

You are invited to participate in Towards Humane Technologies, a unique 
international forum for discussion about the social, moral, and political 
implications of biotechnology research and commercialisation. The 
conference will be presented in an alternative format that foregrounds 
democratic participation rather than one way speeches from a select few.

The conference will be held at The University of Queensland's Ipswich 
campus, 15-17 July 2002.


In the widespread debates about the future of biotechnology, many people 
feel that institutional and expert voices often overpower those of people 
who are personally and immediately affected by current technological 
developments, or the lack thereof. Such people include, for example, people 
with disabilities; people conceived through reproductive technologies; 
people who use reproductive technologies to conceive; farmers and graziers; 
scientists at the coal-face; government project and policy officers who 
promote and regulate the bioindustries; and community members who feel they 
have much to contribute to the debate yet feel they have no way to 
influence our technological direction.

Yet in today's mass mediated arena we all have almost daily experiences of 
the widespread excitement and concern about new technologies and media 
forms, especially biotechnologies. It seems that the potentials for our new 
technologies are boundless, regardless of whichever attitude one takes 
towards them. Often they appear as inevitable, ubiquitous, 
agent-like—almost human. Too often, though, the human-ness of our new 
technologies gets ignored as we stand in thrall of their potentials, and 
their actualities.

New media are always dependent on older media. Biotechnology is dependent 
on any number of media for its public propagation, acceptance, or 
rejection. These include, but are not limited to, ICT, mass media, and 
institutional media (the institutions of law, policy, and various other 
organs of public opinion). A "new media" perspective on biotechnology 
provides a more holistic way to understand the current issues surrounding 
the emergence of biotechnology and its attendant possibilities.

In effect, a new media perspective allows us to map out and comprehend the 
extent to which developments in a field such as biotechnology can and do 
affect our lives, the lives of other species, and the world we live in. 
Citizenship is the process of engagement in such issues which is 
fundamental to healthy liberal democracies. It is in the spirit of 
citizenship that we take a new media perspective on biotechnological advances.

Media in all forms are the means by which we move meanings and ideas from 
one context to another, across time and space. As such, an emergence of new 
media forms is always historically significant. Such emergences create 
possibilities for new forms of human relatedness; new ways of understanding 
what it means to be human; access to new meaning systems, new cultures, new 
beliefs, and new knowledges. So at least in a limited sense, we can also 
see biotechnologies and their associated practices as mediating 
practices—as biomedia. Biomedia provide new perspectives on what it means 
to be human, to be healthy, or even to be living; they move fundamental 
aspects of life from hitherto "secret" places into the realm of public 
space and commercial manipulation; they open possibilities for new 
knowledge about life; and they present new challenges to human 
understanding about what it means to be human and humane.

Towards humane technologies is a forum for creating new understandings 
about these directions in our society. We want to ask important questions 
about what kinds of meanings are made and moved because of biotechnologies; 
about who gets to make the meanings that count; and about creating a forum 
for making meaningful contributions to the direction of our technological 
processes. That is something that cannot be done in isolation or ignorance. 
We invite you to join us in approaching biotechnology research and 
commercialisation as a challenge of citizenship in a new media environment.

Opinions expressed in this email are my own unless otherwise stated.
If you have received this in error, please ignore and delete it.
Phil Graham
Senior Lecturer
UQ Business School

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