Interdependencies. From Local Microstories to Global Perspectives on the History of Technology

Interdependencies. From Local Microstories to Global Perspectives on the History of Technology

International Committee for the History of Technology, ICOHTEC
Tallinn University of Technology + University of Tartu, Estonia
Tallinn, Estonia
Findet statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
14.08.2023 - 18.08.2023
Stefan Poser

Our 50th Symposium will take place in Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia, from 14 to 18 August 2023. We will be hosted by Tallinn University of Technology and the University of Tartu. The main theme of the symposium will be “Interdependencies. From Local Microstories to Global Perspectives on the History of Technology”, but as usually we are open to a wide array of topics.

Interdependencies. From Local Microstories to Global Perspectives on the History of Technology

The concept of top-down transfer of technology has been challenged by Arnold Pacey and Francesca Bray (1990). Instead, they proposed the concept of ‘technological dialogue’ to bring attention to the process of modification of technologies in local contexts. We would like to go a step further and suggest the term ‘interdependencies’ to describe the reciprocal character of relations in which technology plays an important role. Despite the neoliberal myth of independence, interdependence is being reclaimed as a desired type of relationship that allows people, communities, and non-human agents to build networks to which they contribute and from which they benefit. Recently, designer, researcher, and disability justice activist Aimi Hamraie described ‘interdependence as a political technology’ and ‘a tool for facilitating connection and building new material arrangements.’ Hamraie additionally stresses the relational and ethical dimension of interdependence, as well as the fact that interdependence replaces the loci of agency and expertise.

As Rajneesh Narula argues, “technology and globalization are interdependent processes” (2003). In management theory, globalization is seen as a factor having a fundamental influence on the creation and diffusion of technology, which, in turn, affects the interdependence of all kinds of entities – individuals, businesses, societies, and states. When we look at technology broadly defined and at its very many intersections with other spheres of life, these interdependencies reveal a plethora of meanings.

Among many contemporary examples of scientific, intellectual and political importance of such analyses one may identify: analysis of various epistemologies and nature, intensity, and stability of different kinds of interdependence, explicit or tacit degrees of mutuality, solidarism, cooperation, and negotiation; international organizations as arenas of novel modes of local-global interdependence; cyber-worlds as novel loci; meanings and types of interdependence as related to the concept of nation and the concept of state; interdependence theory as structure; game theory and decision-making in ‘interdependent’ scenarios. The theme of ‘interdependence’ is important not only for the history of technology but also for the agency of this field of knowledge in discussing and influencing new ecologies of human life and technocratic or technologically-mediated societal relations. Contemporary authors are also disputing the means and kinds of outcomes of new interdependencies, such as French economist Jacques Attali (2006) proposing the concept of hyperdemocracy, Israeli psychologist Daniel Kahneman (2021) claiming that humans should be alert about their own biases in interdependent contexts, and American philosopher Shoshana Zuboff (2018) arguing that a capitalism of surveillance is deepening economic dependence and exploitation via data and computers (2018).

The 2023 ICOHTEC annual conference invites scholars to reflect on the complex, mutual relations between technology and the environment, culture, and politics, as well as the ways in which they are entangled at the local, regional, transnational, and global levels. The crises we face today as a consequence of climate change, wars, or the COVID pandemic expose the reality that no institution, company, country, community, or body is independent. They all depend on diverse others within various networks, e.g. production and distribution systems; supply chains, especially of food, energy, materials, and medical products as well as human workers; support and care systems created at the global, national, and interpersonal levels. Within these networks, the solutions developed by unprivileged groups to manage the shortcomings they cope with daily can also be, and in fact are, applied more broadly in the face of the crisis (such as permaculture inspirations in Indigenous people’s methods of water conservation) and for commercial purposes (as evidenced by the long list of solutions invented by or for people with disabilities and then mainstreamed).

By taking up the concept of interdependence, the conference aims to scrutinize the traditional historiographies of technology and to question the narratives they offer about agency, power, and the concept of usually unidirectional paths and impact. We also seek to consider the broader implications of the interrelations of technology with the environment, along with diverse values and beliefs, knowledge and epistemic practices.

We invite scholars working on different aspects of the history of technology, various historic periods, different geographical areas, and welcome researchers working at the intersection of history of technology or philosophy of technology, and other fields, including anthropology, design studies, film and media studies, social sciences, minority and identity studies, to share their perspectives and analyses. We look forward to opening new avenues for exploring the interdependencies between disciplines, paradigms, research methods and theories that relate to technology.

Submissions may include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

- the local histories of technology/knowledge/practices exchange
- the local adaptations of technological inventions
- invisible histories of technology
- the minority/disability-driven inventions
- the technologies of the excluded, and the histories of appropriation by the mainstream
- between appropriation and innovation – brands, companies, policies
- the interrelations of politics/environment/culture and technology
- global chains of energy/food/medicine – continuities, disruptions, and temporary/local provisions and hacks
- maintaining technological systems locally and globally
- globalization and changing local labour patterns
- interdependencies and technological entanglements of ecological systems in change
- the changing scales of technological and scientific inventions – from grassroot to corporate
- interdependencies between technologies
- interdependencies between histories and imaginaries
- methodologies for studying local, small, invisible histories of technology, technology appropriation
- decolonizing Western/Northern history of technology

Individual paper proposals must include: (1) the presenter’s name and email address; (2) the title of the paper; (3) an abstract (max. 300 words); (4) the presenter’s bio (max. 250 words).

We strongly support the submission of proposals for pre-constituted panels of 3 or 4 papers. Panel organizers are asked to submit: (1) an abstract of the panel theme (max. 300 words); (2) a list of presenters that includes their names, email address, and paper titles, as well as the name and email address of the session chairperson; (3) abstracts for each paper (max. 300 words); (4) a bio for each contributor and the chairperson (max. 250 words each).

Submit all session and individual paper proposals by 1st March 2023 via the ICOHTEC paper submission system:

Please pay close attention to the instructions, particularly to the word limits of the submitted documents.

The programme committee reserves the right to relocate papers to different themes and add papers to panels.

We especially encourage and welcome proposal submissions from graduate students and early career researchers and their participation in the symposium. Limited travel grants will be available.

Programme Committee:

Magdalena Zdrodowska (Poland), chair,
Anna Åberg (Sweden)
Irene Anastasiadou (Netherlands)
Yoel Bergman (Israel)
Yana Boeva (Germany)
Leticia Galluzzi Nunes (Brasil)
Jan Hadlaw (Canada)
Peeter Müürsepp (Estonia)
Marisol Osorio (Colombia)
Maria Rikitianskaia (United Kingdom)


Magdalena Zdrodowska (Poland), chair,
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