Life in the tech lane


McGill to host global conference on how people and technology really coexist

Twenty years ago, portable telephones were the size of bricks, and "internetworking" was a concept still in the early stages of development. Today, nano-sized cell phones do everything but take out the trash, and we can hardly imagine life without the World Wide Web.

Technology has changed the world in which we live, but in what ways and at what price?

Darin Barney, Canada Research Chair in Technology and Citizenship at McGill University, is the author of Prometheus Wired: The Hope for Democracy in the Age of Network Technology and two other books on the subject. On June 9 and 10 at McGill, Prof. Barney and his team will host the 2006 Technology and Citizenship Symposium, during which more than 130 researchers from around the world will make presentations on the rapidly changing role of technology and its impact on society.

"Whether he's aware of it or not, the average Joe on the street lives in a technological environment that influences the way he lives his life," explains Prof. Barney. "The Internet is an obvious example." More troubling, he says, are the less obvious, more insidious incursions of technology in our daily lives.

"According to some analysts, there isn't a single square foot of urban public space in Britain not covered by some form of video surveillance," says Prof. Barney. "It's not that our privacy is being invaded, but knowing that we're actively being watched has to change how we behave in public."

Since access to technology can help determine who has the power in a society and what people can and can't do, it should be subject to some form of democratic and political judgment, Prof. Barney suggests.

Among the topics to be covered at the conference: "Blogging as Participatory Journalism," "Lost in Space: Citizens Adrift in Techno-Culture," "Gender-Technoculture: Beauty Care Technology and the Colonization of Women's Bodies" and "Erasing Privacy: Camera Phones and the Marketing of Voyeurism."

Far from being an indictment of technological advancement, the symposium, which defines citizenship as active participation in political and public life, will provide a forum to discuss exactly what that means in a world where technology rules.

This conference is for registered delegates. Interested media are asked to contact the McGill University Relations Office.

On the Web: McGill University

Contact Information

Michael Bourguignon
McGill University Relations Office
michael.bourguignon [at]
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