“An international research symposium, 11-13 September 2019, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, UK

About the Symposium

We are delighted to invite proposals for papers for the International Research Symposium on Post-Automation? Towards Democratic Alternatives to Industry 4.0, taking place at the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, 11-13 September 2019. The Symposium uses a workshop format to explore the idea of post-automation, critically and constructively. Theoretically-informed and empirically-grounded papers are invited that address what a “post-automation” vantage point might bring to ongoing debates about how societies produce and consume, in light of social concern for sustainable developments, dignified work and social justice, and a business-led push for Industry 4.0 and circular economy.

Post-automation is a concept in the making. The idea is sparked by the observation that, globally, groups of people are appropriating and hacking digital technologies for design, prototyping, and manufacture that were implicated initially in successive waves of automation: code, sensors, actuators, computer numerically controlled machine tools, design software, microelectronics, internet platforms, 3D scanners/printers, video, etc. Yet, in place of work through typical in automation, such as enhanced appearing simultaneously productivity, managerial control, economic growth, people are subverting these technologies for other purposes – human creativity, dignified work, and sustainable production and consumption – and situating these activities in non-industrial and new-industrial spaces. The Symposium will interrogate these technological turnarounds: from their human-displacing and human-disciplining origins, through to the creative experiments and prototypes today. In short, exploring post-automation possibilities.

Clues and hints about post-automation emerge in diverse places: hackerspaces, makerspaces and fablabs; citizen monitoring platforms and open science projects; open hardware platforms and grassroots innovation initiatives; new crafting practices; repair, repurposing and upcycling workshops; libraries and educational institutes opening technology to popular experimentation; citizen laboratories and DIY urbanism; workplace struggles for human-centred, democratic technology. Many of these places work through networks that cut across conventional categories; appearing simultaneously to constitute a movement and infrastructure for social relations with technology radically different to the depopulated visions of cyber-physical systems in Industry 4.0.

An Interdisciplinary Call – Who Should Submit

This call is an invitation for diversity and plurality. Applicants from PhD students to senior Professors are welcome from science and technology studies, sociology of work, social anthropology, engineering, innovation studies, design, geography, sustainability studies, and other relevant areas. The key is to provide an explanation of how your proposed paper can contribute to an open, engaged and collaborative exploration of the idea of post-automation, and to see what work can and cannot be made of that idea. You can propose questions (and answers) that you think should be central to a post-automation research agenda. These might include, for example:

  • How can post-automation alter perspectives, understandings and practices in technology-society relations?
  • What methods can bring insight, facilitate dialogue, and assist developments in post-automation across the scales of projects, workshops, sectors and societies?
  • How is post-automation manifesting in different places and circulating between places, for example across the global North and global South?
  • How might social theory in post-automation reframe public debate and move policy beyond reactions to automation, and into proactive alternatives for sustainable technology-society relations?
  • How post-automation might help to re-imagine an economy based on commons goods?

How to Apply

I. Please send a 500-word maximum paper abstract and 100-word bio for each author (including contact details and affiliation) as a single document. In both sections, please explain how you relate and contribute to the idea of post-automation. Please email your abstracts as a Word file to [email protected] stating the Symposium title in the subject area of the email. The deadline for abstracts and bios is 20 March 2019.

II. Selected participants will be required to produce a 4,000-5,000 word paper in advance of the Symposium by 15 July 2019 and present it for discussion there. At the Symposium we will read and discuss all the papers, and there will be group activities that map and explore emerging themes.

III. The Symposium will run from 11th September to 13th September 2019 at the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. Symposium papers will be circulated amongst participants only.

IV. Once papers are accepted, the organisers will negotiate a special issue on post-automation with a leading scientific journal. Participants will contribute revised versions of their paper to the issue, drawing upon insights arising in the Symposium. Revised papers will be submitted to the journal.

V. The Symposium has no fees. Lunch, coffee breaks and the social dinner will be covered by the host organization. The organisers are able to cover the travel and accommodation costs for one author per paper only.

Upcoming Deadlines 2019

  • 20 March: Abstracts Submission and Review
  • 15 April: Decisions on Abstracts
  • 25 July: Papers Submission
  • 11-13 September: International Research Symposium
  • December: Revised Papers Submitted to Journal for Peer Review”


Adrian Smith – Science Policy Research Unit

Mariano Fressoli – Fundación Cenit

More info on this event can be found here.

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