Oral Presentation Session
Invited by: Digital Anthropologies Interest Group
Primary Theme: Technology
Sites of digital technology development are immersed in competing techno-utopian and -dystopian ideologies that frame how technologies are imagined, funded, produced, distributed, and consumed. Techno-utopian ideologies foreground the transformative capacities of digital technologies to accelerate ideal futures and thus fuel investment in technological solutions and produce excitement in users and consumers. Techno-dystopian ideologies challenge this optimism by identifying the neoliberal underpinnings of these future imaginaries and the collateral damage left in the wake of their transformations. These ideologies are often framed in narratives that oppose critical scholarship against techno-utopian elites of Silicon Valley or neoliberal bureaucrats producing techno-solutionist policy (Pfeilstetter 2017). We suggest that techno-utopian and -dystopian ideologies are not descriptive of these communities but are instead distributed across them as future scenarios (Hannerz 2016) that are recruited, exploited, and avoided along the way to ends that are not techno-utopian or -dystopian but rather an emergent product of both.
This panel seeks to draw on ethnographic fieldwork within sites of digital technology development to unsettle the preoccupation with techno-utopian and -dystopian description to reveal the creative and subversive work of actors within these fieldsites that this preoccupation obscures. Through this approach, we do not seek to dismiss the important critiques embedded within techno-dystopian approaches or the optimism of techno-utopianism. But rather, we seek to illustrate the productive tensions, resistances, and adaptations that arise in the collisions of these scenarios within digital technology development.