27-29 June 2019
The New School - New York City, USA
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2019 – New York

Fathomless Futures: Algorithmic and Imagined

Conference Theme Overview

We all live our lives forward, facing uncertain futures, yet social scientists feel most comfortable explaining the social world through causes rooted in the past or through the constraints and resources lodged in the present. Such explanations omit an important step: both historic and structural forces are refracted through the set of expectations people have about futures they imagine. Those forces are activated by the anticipation of what lies ahead.

We live in a time of rapidly growing predictive technologies, and spectacular prediction failures. Powerful algorithms are predicting and guiding our actions from economic forecasts, stock trading models, consumer research, hiring decisions, welfare administration, risk management, electoral mobilization, and political choices to the most mundane tasks of everyday life, like borrowing money, choosing books and movies, typing messages, filtering spam, and driving cars. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data are refashioning work, markets, governmentality, sociability, identity, and morality in unexpected ways and are redrawing the boundaries of what counts as valuable skills, knowledge, and culture. Their societal effects vary: they democratize access to information, but threaten privacy, help us with everyday chores, yet turn our personal data into a tradeable commodity. Improved efficiencies of prediction may bring great benefits in areas like healthcare and public safety, while trapping many in vicious cycles of accumulating disadvantages.

Just as predictive technologies proliferate, the world is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Our age is one of economic and political volatility that has presented ordinary people and experts alike with a series of great surprises, a heightened sense of uncertainty, and anxiety. With globalization both charging forward and in retreat, democracies in crisis, inequalities growing, institutions fraying, and large populations fleeing poverty and violence, exacerbated by our increasingly unstable natural environment, the future seems exceptionally inscrutable.

As no significant utopian political or economic alternatives are on offer, history appears to resemble a driverless car that is oblivious to our intended destination. The absence of a desirable and credible future in the public imagination makes inequality and injustice even harder to accept, fostering desperate resistance, resignation, or false nostalgia for golden pasts that never existed.

While this conference will feature papers all across topics of traditional concern for socio-economics, we especially welcome submissions addressing these changes in politics, the economy, and society at large. How can we understand the direction in which we are headed? What are the various ways to regulate these processes? How are these changes influencing inequalities, democracy, labor, communities, and the international balance of power? How should we think of time in social life? What role does imagination play in the economy? Will the mechanization of human cognition lead to a mindless social universe? How are identities being reconfigured? What has happened to human expectations, hopes, and predictions? How can we (re)gain control over our collective futures?

Established in 1989, SASE owes its remarkable success to the determination to provide a platform for creative research addressing important social problems. Throughout its three decades, SASE has encouraged and hosted rigorous work of any methodological or theoretical bent from around the world based on the principle that innovative research emerges from paying attention to wider context and connecting knowledge developed in different fields. This conference will also be an occasion to celebrate SASE’s 30th anniversary.

Calls for paper proposals and session proposals will open on 5 November 2018 and close on 28 January 2019

President: Akos Rona-Tas (aronatas@ucsd.edui)

Program Committee: Akos Rona-Tas (chair), Jenny Andersson, Jens Beckert, Virag Molnar, and Jackie O’Reilly

Mini-Conference Themes Call for Proposals

Fathomless Futures: Algorithmic and Imagined

Mini-Conference Theme Proposal Deadline: 1 October 2018

As they have in the past years, thematic mini-conferences will form a key element of next year’s annual conference in New York City, hosted by The New School from 27-29 June 2019. Proposals are now welcome for mini-conference themes. Several mini-conference themes will be selected for inclusion in the Call for Papers by the program committee, which may also propose themes of its own.  Preference will be given to proposals linked to the overarching conference theme, “Fathomless Futures: Algorithmic and Imagined,” but mini-conferences on other SASE-related themes will also be considered. 

Proposals for mini-conference themes must be submitted electronically to the SASE Executive Director by 1 October 2018. All mini-conference proposals should include the name(s) and email addresses of the organizer(s), together with a brief description. As in previous years, each mini-conference will consist of 3 to 6 panels, which will be featured as a separate stream in the program. Each panel will have a discussant, meaning that selected participants must submit a completed paper in advance, by 27 May 2019. Submissions for panels will be open to all scholars on the basis of an extended abstract. If a paper proposal cannot be accommodated within a mini-conference, organizers will forward it to the most appropriate research network as a regular submission.

SASE is committed to diverse membership and lively intellectual debates and encourages proposals that are offered by a diverse group of organizers and/or is likely to bring a diverse group of participants.

Proposals should be submitted to: Martha Zuber (saseexecutive@sase.org)


Conference Submission and Award Guidelines

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