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Message from the EditorHeather Love, Editor, IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) Newsletter
I hope that you will take time to read through this short but important set of July SSIT updates, including information about featured panelists at ISTAS 2018, a call for nominations to the SSIT Board of Governors, and an invitation to submit to an upcoming special issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine.
As always, I invite submissions for future newsletters. To announce an event, news item, volunteer opportunity, CFP, award notice, or other article, please contact me at my NEW email address: Heather.Love@uwaterloo.ca. Since regular newsletter publication is on pause during July and August, submissions for the September 2018 newsletter are due by 20 August 2018.
2018 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS)
13-14 November 2018, Washington, DC, USA
Now is the time to lock in your plans for for ISTAS 2018, the flagship conference of SSIT. For full details about the event, visit our website. A highlight of this year's program is our best yet set of featured panels, which will provide a unique opportunity for experts to discuss key technology issues facing society today. You won't want to miss them:
Call for Nominations: SSIT Board of DirectorsSSIT elects three members for a three-year term to its Board of Directors each year. If you would like to be considered for nomination for 2019-2021, please email your biography of up to 250 words, a statement of up to 250 words, and a portrait photo to Greg Adamson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for submissions 1 August 2018.
Call for Papers: March 2019 Special Issue of IEEE Technology and Magazine
Technology for Governance, Politics, and Democracy
Dr. Tom Kane (School of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University, United Kingdom)
Nick Novelli (School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
We are starting to see powerful tools of artificial intelligence disrupting governmental activities. How our relationship with the world around us is modified by such tools, and how we can articulate and correct inappropriate activities in such tools become urgent questions. The situation is made more difficult whenever these tools are the intellectual property of a private company and not fully open to being scrutinized.
Innovative Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are already playing a crucial role in the emergence of e-governance and digital democracy, both at national and community levels. Parliaments can be petitioned on a large scale to influence debates in the legislative process. There is, for example, an unprecedented opportunity for community collective choice, whereby those affected by a set of governing rules can actively participate in the selection, modification and application of those rules, in consultation with their local government representatives, and can help select policy options and rank spending priorities.
Although (as always) the technologies themselves are neutral with respect to both "good" or "bad" outcomes, design, and the intentions behind the design, are never neutral. Moreover, digital technologies, unlike other tools, are never neutral with respect to influence and control. Thus, for example, although it is possible to engage communities in broader and more meaningful political participation, it is equally possible to manage, distort or manipulate the dissemination of information through technological and/or economic mastery of the platforms for communication. In electioneering terms, we see the emergence of such tools as Facebook for Politics, which played a significant role in the 2016 Brexit referendum and US presidential elections being lauded, on the one hand for helping campaigns to be more proactive on social media, and being critiqued on the other for enabling distorted political messages to be decisive in important elections.
In a similar vein, although electronic voting systems based on blockchain technology may make it possible to prove that a citizen’s vote has not been tampered with, in pursuing ethical use of such technology, we would need to ensure, among other things, that voting rights couldn’t be awarded to pre-programmed bots with a particular agenda. More widely, using technology to broaden civic participation in the political process should be accompanied by meaningful civic education: there is no point enfranchising people and making it “easier” for them to vote by using an app on a mobile phone, if at the same time the voter’s critical thinking skills are constantly being undermined. A key societal challenge is, where necessary, to perform dialectical engagements with governmental AI tools, and their developers, in a democratic and open fashion.
At the same time as we address these issues in ICT, more widely in society a political fault-line seems to be developing: just at the time when technology should make representative democracy richer than ever before in human history, so there is a breakdown of trust in politicians, loss of faith in the political process, marked polarization in political debate, and an unwillingness to compromise in political discourse. Will ICT be the final straw in this breakdown, or could ICT be used to set things right in the political world?
The aim of this special issue is to evaluate the social impact and social implications of new and emerging technologies on governance, politics, public administration, and policy-making, and to evaluate the future prospects of digital democracy, and its transformative potential for increasing public engagement, community empowerment, and social entrepreneurship.
30 September 2018: Paper submission deadline
15 November 2018: Notification of acceptance (or otherwise)
End December 2018: Final version
March 2019: Special issue published
Papers should be submitted as a standard magazine submission via Manuscript Central but should indicate in a cover letter that the submission is intended to be considered as a paper for this special issue. For any inquiries please contact the Guest Editors, Dr. Tom Kane or Nick Novelli.
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