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Wicked Problems in the Age of Tech

The 10th International Conference on Communities & Technologies

June 21-25, 2021 Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

The biennial Communities and Technologies (C&T) conference is the premier international forum for stimulating scholarly debate and disseminating research on the complex connections between communities – in their multiple forms – and information and communication technologies.

C&T 2021 welcomes participation from researchers, designers, educators, industry, and students from the many disciplines and perspectives bearing on the interaction between community and technology, including architecture, arts, business, design, economics, education, engineering, ergonomics, informatics, information technology, geography, health, humanities, law, media and communication studies, and social sciences.

We look forward to welcoming you to an exciting conference in Seattle!

Shelly Farnham, Conference Chair

2021 Theme: Wicked Problems in the Age of Tech

C&T’s 2021 theme “Wicked Problems in the Age of Tech”, invites participants to examine the positive and negative implications of new trends in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) impacting communities, civil society and the common good.  

C&T focuses on the notion of communities as comprised of people who share something in common; this common element may be geography, needs, goals, interests, practices, organizations, enemies, or other bases for social connection. Communities are considered to be a basic unit of social experience, and effective communities work collaboratively toward their  common good — such as finding peaceful ways to resolve conflict, securing a more equitable, just society, promoting a healthy environment, and fostering inclusion and diversity.  

At past C&T conferences ICTs have been examined by researchers, academics and practitioners for their capacity to support community formation and development by facilitating communication, coordination, and mobilization among members, and to empower communities to collectively deal with challenges and threats.  For C&T 2021, we seek to further our exploration of how ICTs may help address those large-scale “wicked problems” that currently challenge communities, such as social injustice, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, racism, misogyny, policy brutality, the opioid crisis, immigration, human-trafficking, homelessness, authoritarianism, disinformation, poverty, public health, self-governance, and terrorism. 

However, we must also acknowledge that the socio-technical realities of today are more bleak than anticipated even a few years ago. Many trends in ICTs seen over the past couple of years pose existential and practical threats to communities, civil society, and democratic institutions.  In many cases, the design of social media platforms gives more power to those who disrupt than construct.  The public square is easily co-opted by private interests, where well-organized and well-funded organizations can take advantage of the technological ecosystem to the detriment of community well-being.  ICTs mediate and amplify disinformation, racism, misogyny, and surveillance, all posing tremendous threats to society.  In other words, modern technology has introduced a new set of wicked problems that need to be addressed in order for technology to be leveraged to benefit communities rather than harm them.   How do we balance the advantages of ICTs, against the new wicked problems endemic to their use in the age of tech?