We are happy to confirm our 2021 theme: Wicked Problems in the Age of Tech

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 hotleague fostering cultural 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?

Topics appropriate for submission to this conference are myriad. They may emerge from a variety of relevant perspectives including technology, philosophy, social sciences, policy, design, business, art, the humanities, etc. Examples of some of the vibrant areas of communities and technology research include, but are not limited to:

  • Wicked problem domains such as 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.
  • Diverse communities and their relationships to technology; urban and rural, migrants, refugees, indigenous peoples, LGBTQ, activists and social movements, low-income communities, alt-right and hate groups; the developing world and non-Western societies; professional communities, communities of practice, research communities;
  • Bottom-up movements, grassroots developments, civic activism, community engagement, participatory publics, communities and innovation; ethics, power and social justice issues;
  • Crowdfunding, collective and civic intelligence, community learning, early warning systems, collective awareness, collaborative awareness platforms; social cognition; community emotion; happiness; historical memory;
  • Community owned and operated technology, peer production and the commons, DIY and maker communities (makerspaces, fablabs, crafters); community agriculture;
  • Online and offline communities, urban and rural communities; urban technologies; urban informatics; urban interaction design; cross-community work; new forms of communities;
  • Community memory, archives, and knowledge; resilience; smart communities in the context of smart cities; sustainable communities; economic and social development;
  • Civic problem-solving, communities in relation to urgent and complex challenges to the health of the planet and the people that inhabit it; collaborative systems; partnering with education; government, civil society, and movements;
  • Sharing or collaborative economies; platform capitalism and platform cooperativism; social media and social capital; associations, strong and weak ties;
  • Supporting community processes: sensemaking, online deliberation; issue, argumentation and discussion mapping; community ideation and idea management systems; collective decision-making; group memory; participatory sensory networks;
  • Technological issues: community toolkits; federated systems; decentralization and blockchains; integration with other systems, integration with face-to-face systems;
  • The future of communities and technology; simulations, utopian or dystopian design; durable relationships and long-range goals; and
  • Developing and supporting the Communities & Technologies community; social and technological critique; effectiveness and other measures.
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