Lecture Series January 2018: Mark Duffield › view all

"The Paradox of Connectivity"

January 17, 2018 - 16:15h/4:15pm
University of Bremen, UNICOM, House 7, Conference Room (7.3280)
Mary-Somerville-Str. 7
28359 Bremen
Contact: Eva Johais
Series: Social Sciences Lecture Series
Event type: public

Mark Duffield, Professor Emeritus of the Global Insecurities Centre at the University of Bristol gives a talk on "The Paradox of Connectivity" in the BIGSSS Lecture Series at 16:15hrs on January 17th, 2018. The talk takes place at University of Bremen, Unicom-Building, BIGSSS Conference Room (7.3280).



Until around the 1970s, students of the international took for granted the ability to circulate globally, to engage on the ground and, through evidence gathering and causal deduction, to form objects of knowledge.  Today, there is more emphasis on connectivity and, with its ability to leap across terrestrial insecurity, to remotely access recorded data and inductively create new sense-making tools.  Understanding history and politics have been supplanted by the algorithmic prediction of behaviour.  Knowledge and data are very different and this transformation is extraordinarily significant in terms of how we understand the world.  Surprisingly, however, it has attracted little attention or debate.  As a contribution to such a debate, by way of example, the presentation examines how humanitarian assistance during the 1980s played a key preparatory role in changing ‘knowledge’ into behavioural ‘data’.  Whereas famine was once understood historically and politically, it was transformed into a series of behavioural signals and alerts in the creation of famine early warning systems.  Stressed farmers, for example, sell livestock or migrate for work.  Such preparatory ground has fed into the seamless computational turn of the 1990s and the increasing social automation of society (early warning, for example, is the basis of predictive advertising).  The talk ends with reference to the paradox of connectivity.  How one connects, which is historically given, determines one’s isolation: the greater the connectivity the more the distance and isolation. Does this explain why today, when the world it dangerously polarised and divided, political elites appear out of touch?

About the BIGSSS Lecture Series:

Each semester the Graduate School invites a mix of established and young scholars to present their work to the students and the faculty of the School as well as to the wider interested public. Taking place every other week, the Lecture Series is the central meeting point for the entire Graduate School and provides an excellent opportunity for engaging in intensive, interdisciplinary, scholarly debate.