New Technologies in Contemporary Society: Promise, Peril, or Something in Between?

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This seminar is hosted by the Sydney Centre for Healthy Societies, Discipline of Sociology & Criminology and Social Sciences Week 2024.

Science and technology are embedded in almost every aspect of our daily lives. Yet too often, they are regarded as value-neutral, apolitical, and beyond democratic debate. As issues around technological sustainability, developments in generative AI, and concerns over humanity’s relationship with the environment become ubiquitous, the need to address the political and ethical dimensions of science and technology is more critical than ever before.

Join us for an online lunchtime seminar with a panel of national and international early career scholars as part Social Sciences Week hosted by The University of Sydney. Our panellists will explore the often-unseen social dimensions of science and technology. From the politics of epigenetics and its connection to intergenerational trauma, to the role that generative AI might play in our visions of the future, to the ways in which technologies such as ‘waste drones’ are assisting in large-scale environmental remediation, our speakers will discuss the entanglement of contemporary life with the technological across micro and macro scales.

What does it mean to live in and be governed by a technologically driven society? Whose knowledges and what lived experiences ‘count’, what forms of responsibility and blame are invoked? What are the futures that are envisioned for individuals and for societies, as a whole?


Dr Lisa Yin Han is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at Pitzer College. Her research is informed by a dedication to environmental and social justice as well as a background in critical media studies. Specifically, Lisa’s work is situated at the intersection of environmental media studies, science and technology studies, and the blue humanities. Her book Deepwater Alchemy: Extractive Mediation and the Taming of the Seafloor is forthcoming with the University of Minnesota Press (August 2024).

Lisa will be speaking about how autonomous waste drone technologies remediate existing refuse ecologies through particular imaginaries of species and environmental relations.

Dr Henrietta Byrne is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Sydney Centre for Healthy Societies, University of Sydney. Henrietta’s research is situated within science and technology studies (STS), medical anthropology, and sociology of health. She works on questions of knowledge production and evidence-making in health across the life-course and across generations, particularly in relation to settler colonial states and hierarchies of knowledge. She is currently working on a project on death, dying, and bereavement in contemporary Australia.

Henrietta will be speaking on the politics of epigenetic knowledge production in relation to intergenerational trauma in Indigenous health contexts.

Dr Kevin Witzenberger is a research fellow at Queensland University of Technology’s GenAI lab and affiliate researcher at the Centre of Excellence in Automated Decision-Making and Society. Grounded in media theory and science and technology studies (STS), his research focuses on the possibilities of making technical democracy a defining feature in governing the future of generative AI.

Kevin will be speaking about the role that science and technology studies can play in critically thinking about and shaping the future of emerging information technologies.


Dr Roberta Pala is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Sydney Centre for Healthy Societies at The University of Sydney. Her research draws on Science and Technology Studies (STS), Feminist STS, social theory, biopolitics and sociology of health. Her work looks at the entangled nature of social and scientific events and considers biological interventions and technological artefacts as material sites of political investigation. She gained her PhD in Social Policy from the University of New South Wales, Sydney. Roberta’s doctoral thesis analysed the politics of vaccines as formed through their materiality and biological workings and considered this materiality to be relational and situatedly enacted. Her current work investigates human-microbial relations in the context of maternal bodies and the role of the microbiome in family practices of care.

Dr Jianni Tien is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Sydney Centre for Healthy Societies at the University of Sydney. Jianni works at the intersection of science and technology studies, the feminist environmental humanities, and sociology of health. She researches the ontologies and epistemologies at work in our Anthropocene era and the power structures that underpin them, including questions of situated and enforced Western knowledges. Jianni’s doctoral research examined the affective power of scuba diving in cenotes – naturally occuring sinkholes – and how to harness such affective power in order to ethically respond to the complex dilemmas of the Anthropocene. Her current research projects include the social dimensions of innovations in nanotechnology; human-microbial relations, and the politics of the transcorporeal in lung cancer stigma.

Image by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

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September 11
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm AEST
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