9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN24 Science and Technology

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Emerging Technologies Building AA, AA.225

Human Sciences and Surveillance Technologies Pride and Prejudice

The paper addresses the question of the status and of the responsibility of human sciences in technological projects funded by European Commission which concern surveillance technologies. Those technologies raise societal questions regarding autonomy and democracy in their co-generational dynamics. The paper rests on the experience of the authors (from ethics, law and sociology) currently committed in a European project gathering scientists and industrials specialized in body recognition and tracking.

Along the different frame programmes (FP) that organize the European R&D, the status and the responsibility of human sciences have evolved. Three main steps can characterize this evolution showing a progressive moving from a general policy advisory role to a more local and instrumental role inspired by the "value sensitive design" paradigm. After a short presentation of the two first steps and their critics, we will consider the current situation as set up in FP6 and FP7. In those programmes, human sciences are integrated as part of technical projects with the specific responsibilities to influence the technical designs in order to make them "societal compliant" or acceptable. Even if this more integrated position brings a technical answer to the previous critics, it raises also critical questions regarding the local and the instrumental status of social sciences placed into the narrow context of a single project under development.

This third step raises two main questions. The first one regards the narrow context of the project and the difficulty to question the more societal framing of these types of surveillance projects. This appears particularly difficult due to the very instrumental and urgent demands of the partners to help them to design a technological system that is societal "compliant". Fundamentally, this "instrumentalization" of human sciences questions the impoverishment of an already discreet public space to deliberate democratically these surveillance technologies. The second question regards the deliberative methodology into the project. This questions the democratic values that should support our ?expert? role into the project and the learning deliberation to set up in order to foster a sound appropriation of those values by industrials and technicians in their current practices.