PhD Workshop: What’s the point of social ontology?

What’s the Point of Social Ontology?
PhD Workshop at the University of Warwick
18th June 2014, 10am – 5:30pm

Ontology can often prove a contested and confusing issue within social research. Everyone has an ontology, explicit or otherwise, but the process of drawing this out and thinking through its implications for research can often be a confusing part of the PhD process. This participatory workshop explores the practical significance of ontological questions for social research, inviting participants to reflect on their own research projects in a collaborative and supportive context. It aims to help participants negotiate the sometimes abstruse matter of social ontology, linking theory to practice in the context of their own research projects. The main focus throughout the day will be on how ontological questions are encountered in social research, the questions posed by such encounters and how engaging explicitly with social ontology can often help resolve such issues.

All participants will offer a brief (5 minute) presentation of their research project and the ontological questions which have been or are expected to be encountered within it. Those still early in the PhD process are welcome to substitute this for a discussion of their research interests and potential project. We’d like to ask all participants to reflect in advance on their own social ontology and how it pertains to their project. Uncertainty here is not a problem, in fact it will be a useful contribution to discussions on the day!

We also invite two more substantial presentations (10 mins) for the first afternoon session, reflecting on your engagement with ontological questions in your own project in order to help begin a practical engagement which encompasses the entire group. If you would be interested in leading the discussion in this way then please make this known when registering.

To register please contact socialontology@warwick.ac.uk with a brief description of your research and your interest in social ontology (500 words or less) by May 15th. The event is free but places are limited. Travel bursaries are available, please ask for more details.

From Modernity to Morphogenesis

From Modernity to Morphogenesis was the CSO’s first annual invited workshop. The workshop was headed by Margaret Archer and the papers were published as Social Morphogenesis.

The workshop attendees were (in order of presentations):

Andrea Maccarini

Andrea Maccarini:
Network Dynamics and the regulatory process: a neo-structural approach to morphogenesis

Immanuel Lazéga

Emmanuel Lazéga:
Regularity and Emergence: two frontiers in the morphogenetic approach

Pierpaolo DonatiPierpaolo Donati:
Relations of Authority, obligations and roles

Ismael Al-Amoudi

Ismael Al-Amoudi:
The Morphogenesis of Social Networks: relational steering beyond positive and negative feedbacks

Wolfgang HofkirchnerWolfgang Hofkirchner:
Self-organizing as the mechanism of development and evolution in social systems

Kate Forbes-Pitt

Kate Forbes-Pitt:
Emergence: relating emergents and morphogenesis

Tony LawsonTony Lawson:
Emergence, Downward Causation and Causal Reduction

Doug Porpora

Doug Porpora:
Social Change as Morphogenesis

Colin WightColin Wight:
Morphogenesis, Continuity and Change in the International Political System

Workshop attendees

 

IACR Conference 2021 – online, September 20-24

The 2021 Annual Conference of the International Association for Critical Realism (#IACR2021) will be held online this year. Hosted by Rhodes University and the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa), it will take place via Zoom from the 20th to the 24th of September. Details of the event, including subthemes this year centred around the unifying theme of emancipation, can be found here.

What is Essential to Being Human? Can AI Robots Not Share It?

The latest volume of the Post-human Society and the Future of Humanity book series has been published and is available for purchase from Routledge. Edited by Margaret Archer and Andrea Maccarini, this compilation of essays “asks whether there exists an essence exclusive to human beings despite their continuous enhancement – a nature that can serve to distinguish humans from artificially intelligent robots, now and in the foreseeable future.”

Considering what might qualify as such an essence, this volume demonstrates that the abstract question of ‘essentialism’ underpins a range of social issues that are too often considered in isolation and usually justify ‘robophobia’, rather than ‘robophilia’, in terms of morality, social relations and legal rights. Any defence of human exceptionalism requires clarity about what property(ies) ground it and an explanation of why these cannot be envisaged as being acquired (eventually) by AI robots. As such, an examination of the conceptual clarity of human essentialism and the role it plays in our thinking about dignity, citizenship, civil rights and moral worth is undertaken in this volume. What is Essential to Being Human? will appeal to scholars of social theory and philosophy with interests in human nature, ethics and artificial intelligence.

Chapters

1. Introduction – Margaret S. Archer and Andrea M. Maccarini

2. On Robophilia and Robophobia – Douglas V. Porpora

3. Sapience and Sentience: A Reply to Porpora – Margaret S. Archer

4. Relational Essentialism – Pierpaolo Donati

5. Artificial Intelligence: Sounds like a friend, looks like a friend, is it a friend? – Jamie Morgan

6. Growing Up in a World of Platforms: What Changes and What Doesn’t? – Mark Carrigan

7. On Macropolitics of Knowledge for Collective Learning in the Age of AI-Boosted Big Relational Tech – Emmanuel Lazega and Jaime Montes-Lihn

8. Can AIs do Politics? – Gazi Islam

9. Inhuman Enhancements? When Human Enhancements Alienate from Self, Others, Society and Nature – Ismael Al-Amoudi

10. The Social Meanings of Perfection: Human Self-Understanding in a Post-Human Society – Andrea M. Maccarini

The Public and Their Platforms: Public Sociology in an Era of Social Media

Mark Carrigan, together with coauthor Lambros Fatsis, has recently published this volume on public sociology in the context of social media.

As social media is increasingly becoming a standard feature of sociological practice, this timely book rethinks the role of these mediums in public sociology and what they can contribute to the discipline in the post-COVID world. It reconsiders the history and current conceptualizations of what sociology is, and analyzes what kinds of social life emerge in and through the interactions between ‘intellectuals’, ‘publics’ and ‘platforms’ of communication. Cutting across multiple disciplines, this pioneering work envisions a new kind of public sociology that brings together the digital and the physical to create public spaces where critical scholarship and active civic engagement can meet in a mutually reinforcing way.

Find out more on the publisher’s website: https://bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/the-public-and-their-platforms

Post-Human Futures: Human Enhancement, Artificial Intelligence and Social Theory

The latest volume of the Post-human Society and the Future of Humanity book series has been published and is available for purchase from Routledge. Edited by Mark Carrigan and Doug Porpora, this volume “engages with post-humanist and transhumanist approaches to present an original exploration of the question of how humankind will fare in the face of artificial intelligence.”

With emerging technologies now widely assumed to be calling into question assumptions about human beings and their place within the world, and computational innovations of machine learning leading some to claim we are coming ever closer to the long-sought artificial general intelligence, it defends humanity with the argument that technological ‘advances’ introduced artificially into some humans do not annul their fundamental human qualities. Against the challenge presented by the possibility that advanced artificial intelligence will be fully capable of original thinking, creative self-development and moral judgement and therefore have claims to legal rights, the authors advance a form of ‘essentialism’ that justifies providing a ‘decent minimum life’ for all persons. As such, while the future of the human is in question, the authors show how dispensing with either the category itself or the underlying reality is a less plausible solution than is often assumed.

Chapters

1. Being Human (or What?) in the Digital Matrix Land: The Construction of the Humanted – Pierpaolo Donati

2. Being Human as an Option: How to Rescue Personal Ontology from Transhumanism, and (Above All) Why Bother – Andrea M. Maccarini

3. Perplexity Logs: On Routinized Certainty Work and Social Consequences of Seeking Advice from an Artificial Intelligence – Emmanuel Lazega

4. Artificial Intelligence and the Challenge of Social Care in Aging Societies: Who or What Will Care for Us in the Future? – Jamie Morgan

5. Why Should Enhanced and Unenhanced Humans Care for Each Other? – Ismael Al-Amoudi and Gazi Islam

6. Can Humans and AI Robots be Friends? – Margaret S. Archer

7. Humanity’s End: Where Will We Be in a Million Years? – Douglas V. Porpora

Artificial intelligence and algorithmic irresponsibility – Ismael Al-Amoudi

In an article for The Conversation France, professor Ismael Al-Amoudi, director of the Centre for Social Ontology, and John Latsis, chairman of the Independent Social Research Foundation, investigate AI’s deresponsibilizing tendencies: ‘Artificial intelligence and algorithmic irresponsibility: the devil in the machine?

Image via www.vpnsrus.com, CC BY 2.0

Transition and the morphogenetic approach to social change – Andrea Maccarini

The work of Professor Andrea Maccarini was the subject of a recent article in Research Features entitled ‘Transition and the morphogenetic approach to social change‘. The full text can be found here. The article focuses particularly on Maccarini’s recent book, Deep Change and Emergent Structures in Global Society.

Image via Peter Stenzel, CC BY 2.0