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From Autonomous to Socially Conceived Technology

Toward a Causal, Intentional and Systematic Analysis of Interests and Elites in Public Technology Policy

Gunnar K.A. Njálsson

When administrative scientists look to the current scholarship surrounding the phenomenon of technological development, they will inevitably be forced to grapple not only with an entire battery of abstract theories portraying technological development as more or less socially determined or autonomous. These policy analysts will also be obliged to struggle with the daunting task of developing a coherent, causal, subject-oriented and systematic framework for describing, comparing and even creating public technology policies. Understanding the spectrum of theories available when examining public information technology policy development (hereafter IT-policy) from an administrative sciences perspective, including how these theories relate to each other and differ in nature, is paramount to any attempt to formulate such a systematic framework regarding the subject. Indeed, it is crucial in order to defend one’s choice of methodology.

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Johannes Fedderke

The resurgence of interest in the determinants of economic growth through the vehicle of endogenous growth theory has brought with it new understanding of what underlies long term economic prosperity. In particular, the role of human capital as an important driver of technological change, and hence development, has emerged as a key factor.

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Digital Peacekeepers, Drone Surveillance and Information Fusion

A Philosophical Analysis of New Peacekeeping

Lisa Portmess and Bassam Romaya

In June 2014 an Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in UN Peacekeeping was commissioned to examine how technology and innovation could strengthen peacekeeping missions. The panel's report argues for wider deployment of advanced technologies, including greater use of ground and airborne sensors and other technical sources of data, advanced data analytics and information fusion to assist in data integration. This article explores the emerging intelligence-led, informationist conception of UN peacekeeping against the backdrop of increasingly complex peacekeeping mandates and precarious security conditions. New peacekeeping with its heightened commitment to information as a political resource and the endorsement of offensive military action within robust mandates reflects the multiple and conflicting trajectories generated by asymmetric conflicts, the responsibility to protect and a technology-driven information revolution. We argue that the idea of peacekeeping is being revised (and has been revised) by realities beyond peacekeeping itself that require rethinking the morality of peacekeeping in light of the emergence of 'digital peacekeeping' and the knowledge revolution engendered by new technologies.

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Michael Jackson

Globalism makes news every day, yet world trade is hardly greater today than 30 years ago; it is the movement of capital that is far greater now, thanks to technology. The irresistible force for one world is not the United Nations, ever an arena for the contest of national interests, but money, particularly the United States dollar, which is an unofficial world currency, often with more influence than U.S. foreign policy. One of the results of monetary globalism is to make national reserve and international banks all the more important.

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Throwing the Genes

A Renewed Biological Imaginary of 'Race', Place and Identification

Zimitri Erasmus

In the United States of America, use of DNA samples in criminal investigation and of genetic ancestry tests in 'personalised medicine', 'pharmacogenetics' and for personal consumption has grown exponentially. Moreover, use of such technologies is visible in the public sphere. In South Africa, DNA sampling for ancestry testing is the most publicly visible application of these technologies. This work has shifted constructions of 'KhoiSan' communities from yesterday's 'missing evolutionary link' to today's 'Edenic origin of humankind'. I question human biogenetics as a home for meanings of history, humanity and belonging. To this end, I read selected genetic genealogical studies of communities considered 'KhoiSan', 'Coloured' and 'Lemba' in South Africa against concerns raised in recent literature about the use of such studies in the United States of America. I ask why bio-centric conceptions of 'race', identity and 'the human' remain so resilient. To grapple with this question, I draw on Sylvia Wynter's (2001; 2003) adaptation of Frantz Fanon's (1986) concept of 'sociogeny' into 'the sociogenic principle'. I close by suggesting the code for what it means to be human is best located in the 'word' rather than the human genome.

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Martin Carnoy

Few dispute the notion that the rapid development of industrialising economies in Asia and Latin America, new information technologies, liberalisation of trade, and global financial markets have contributed to the emergence of a truly global economy in the past ten years. Neither do they dispute that national economies almost everywhere in the world have become increasingly less ‘national’. Most countries’ foreign trade has increased, and in many, foreign investment and payment on foreign debt have become more prevalent than in the past. Labour movements also appear to be increasing, especially the movement of highly skilled labour. But does this mean that nation-states have decreased influence over the definition of economic and social life? Does globalisation imply the demise of the nation-state?

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Capital Flows Through Language

Market English, Biopower, and the World Bank

J. Paul Narkunas

In 1997, the World Bank Group1 published in English one of its many country studies, entitled Vietnam: Education Financing. Its goal was to measure ‘what changes in educational policies will ensure that students who pass through the system today will acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for Vietnam to complete the transition successfully from a planned to a market economy’(World Bank 1997: xiii). Skills, knowledge, and attitude designate the successfully ‘educated’ Vietnamese national subjects for the bank. The educational ‘system’ performs, therefore, a disciplinary function by using the technologies of the nation state to cultivate productive humans—measured by technical expertise and computer and business skills—for transnational companies who do business in the region.

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Douglas Kellner

As the third millennium unfolds, one of the most dramatic technological and economic revolutions in history is advancing a set of processes that are changing everything from the ways in which people work to the ways that they communicate with each other and spend their leisure time. The technological revolution centres on computer, information, communication, and multimedia technologies. These are key aspects of the production of a new economy, described as postindustrial, post-Fordist, and postmodern, accompanied by a networked society and cyberspace, and the juggernaut of globalisation. There are, of course, furious debates about how to describe the Great Transformation of the contemporary epoch, whether it is positive and negative, and what the political prospects for democratisation and radical social transformation are.

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Nir Eisikovits

In the last seventy years the nature of war has changed dramatically. Rather than involving two or more national armies fighting in uniform and obeying an orderly chain of command, most organised violence since the end of the Second World War has been asymmetrical, involving a regular army on the one hand and militia or guerrilla forces on the other.1 At the same time, the nature of battle – the intense, adrenaline-fueled close quarters confrontation that has traditionally defined the very heart of our idea of war (Keegan 1983) – is also changing as a result of dramatic advances in our ability to fight remotely. The increasing role of robotic devices and drones in recent conflicts, as well as the exponentially growing potency of cyberwarfare, are changing what it means to do combat. Now, asymmetrical war has been around forever. Defeated armies and weaker parties have often turned to guerrilla tactics against stronger foes. But, in recent decades, asymmetrical war has become the primary form of violence we encounter. Similarly, the history of military technology has always been the history of killing at a growing distance (swords allow more distance than fists, longbows than swords, rifles than longbows and so on). And yet, recent years have seen a qualitative leap in what we can do from far away.

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Conceptions of the ‘good life’ and the various accounts of human well-being almost always entail some reference—direct or indirect—to physical and psychic health. The very term ‘disease’ implies ‘disease’, an absence of that which renders the human condition agreeable. There are many dimensions to disease, and to its counterpoint, ‘good health’. These range from concerns with therapy and the therapeutic to the advance of our understanding—in the modern world through the natural and social sciences—of illness, and from the cultural significance of disease to the economic costs and implications of ill-health and its management. Under the conditions of ‘modernity’ the nature and meaning of illness and of disease, though still culturally contested, has changed. Modern science has rendered the previously ‘inscrutable’ open to scrutiny and explanation. The advance of therapy is now inextricably bound up with the explanation of illness at the microbial, molecular and genetic levels. One consequence of the modern science of medicine has been to underwrite a quest for cures—paradigmatically embodied in new surgical interventions and technologies as well as, iconically, in the quest for ‘magic bullets’ represented, to begin with, by Paul Ehrlich’s salvarsan and later extended to antibiotics and to new-generation ‘designer drugs’.