While the political reactions to the spread of COVID-19 worldwide have led to disruptions and interruptions of firmly established chains of cooperation in many areas of everyday life, the ongoing development offers unique opportunities for researchers to investigate the highly dynamic socio-technical effects of the corona crisis from various angles, more than ever drawing on the ethnomethodological “unique adequacy requirement” in motion. We are witnessing a controversial public debate about the appropriate measures to contain the health risks, but also the economic, political and social consequences of the pandemic. At the same time, all manner of socio-technical infrastructures are being subjected to considerable stress tests: from the basic healthcare infrastructure and logistics for food and daily consumer goods, to the digital communications infrastructure and issues of privacy protection. Far-reaching restrictions to contact and curfews, travel restrictions, geopolitical distortions, increasing requirements for domestic, elderly and child care work, very acute health risks to citizens – the CRC 1187 understands these developments as a large-scale and unanticipated social breaching experiment that renders visible the everyday ongoing accomplishments of interactional practical infrastructures and technical infrastructures alike. The annual 2020 conference brings together scholars and practitioners from various fields to develop an understanding of the unfolding crisis in media and social theoretical terms.
Thus, instead of asking what the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic might be for society, politics, the economy or the planetary environment as a whole, the CRC annual conference 2020 aims to closely investigate the (micro-)social dynamics and infrastructural experiments unfolding at the present time. The assumed ubiquity of an invisible pathogenic agent affects practices of cooperation on various scales: from the pragmatic interactional challenges of navigating public space while wearing a breathing mask and maintaining distance from other people, via expressions of solidarity towards risk groups (in isolation) and vocal public protests against governmental restrictions on mobility and personal freedom, up to the dimension of international political cooperation between nation-states and supra-national entities. At the same time, a multiplicity of data-intensive media infrastructures and control mechanisms are rapidly being developed to keep track of the spread of the pandemic, to mitigate its effects locally and globally and to offer alternatives to established routines of social cooperation: these range from digital monitoring tools like smartphone contact tracing apps, to escalating innovations of video-conferencing and sensor-based crisis infrastructures comprised of drones and cobots, among others. The intertwined dynamics of publics and infrastructures are accompanied by a deluge of data that serves as the foundation for political decision-making and – in the form of data visualizations distributed widely via social media – as public knowledge resources to reorient individual and collective opinions and behaviors. However, at the same time, the corona virus SARS-CoV-2 is shaping new communities of practice and making the cooperation conditions within a society visible, e.g. when we see how the phylogeography of a virus shapes the conditions and triggers breachings of interactional spaces.
Topics for contribution might include, but are not strictly limited to
- Practices of living and working under corona conditions: from contact restrictions and social isolation to technology-supported integration and its risks and failure – in public and private spaces, in families, work environments and in caring communities
- Cooperative media technologies and practices put to the test: the development of contact tracing apps, trials on monitoring social distancing rules with the help of drones, the boom of collaborative robotics in workplace environments, the employment of chatbots for corona support infrastructures
- The role of data in managing and mediating the pandemic: disputed facts, fake news and disinformation, new metrics and forms of data visualization, as well as challenges to data-based journalism and new formats of science communication like podcasts made by virologists and science influencers
- The unfolding and breaking of Corona Boundary Objects as infrastructural and public media: We highly welcome case studies and critiques of statistics, dashboards, visualizations, certificates, apps, issues, conspiracy theories, and masks
- Disruptions to microsocial interactional infrastructures, bodily techniques and relationships of trust between co-present social actors, due to new social distancing rules and the widespread wearing of masks in public spaces
- Investigating claims of digital sovereignty in relation to an ongoing dependence on global supply chains and coordinated technology developments
- Attempts to document the crisis in situ and in actu: Corona blogging, (auto-)ethnographic Corona diaries, social media analysis with digital methods and tools
- Exploring methodological challenges to ethnographic research in an ever-changing global pandemic: exploring alternatives to traditional fieldwork and participatory research designs, inventing, adjusting and evaluating digital tools
- Historicizing COVID-19 in relations to former pandemics, their infrastructural and public responses to medical necessities, and the social and economic responses to a global spread of diseases
The CRC 1187 “Media of Cooperation” welcomes contributions by early-stage and senior researchers from various disciplines, from practitioners such as journalists, data analysts, hackers and representatives of public institutions and associations, to artistic interventions dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-technical implications. The conference will most likely itself be affected by ongoing travel and contact restrictions, which is why it will explore new ways of combining pre-recorded virtual talks, moderated online discussion groups, and possibly selected face-to-face (or possibly: mask-to-mask) formats to bring together an international range of scholars, activists, artists and practitioners to investigate the challenges of pandemic cooperation.
Please send your abstract of approx. 300 words and a short biographical note to Dr. Timo Kaerlein by June 30th, 2020. Please indicate which form of presentation you would like to give (video, slides-and-text presentation, artistic format) and which time zone you will be presenting from.