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15 September 2020
Biology and Technology: Guarding, Nurturing, and Governing Life
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased human dependence on digital technologies. Biology, not technology is accelerating the digitization of the world and the digitization of the economy. This theme considers how digital communication technologies are transforming the ways people in Asia are living, and how states are seeking to govern and modify people’s lived behaviour.
Across Asia communication about maintenance of the healthy body and appropriate social distancing is displayed in street signage, posters, TV advertising, and online apps. This theme takes its inspiration from two Chinese words: weisheng (hygiene) and yangsheng, (preserving health). These words can be translated literally as ‘guarding life’ and ‘nurturing life’, respectively.
In regard to hygiene, governments have been quick to deploy sophisticated data algorithms to monitor citizens according to the requirement of guarding public health. The need for exemplary hygiene requires citizens to internalize disciplinary regimes and harmonize their behaviour with the goals of the state in the sense of Foucault’s bio-power. Alternatively, the notion of a risk society (Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens) offers a more individualized response, i.e. people make their own adjustments, assume personal responsibility, and seek out commercial products and services that offer health maintenance.
The impacts extend beyond the communication sector. Culture, medicine and education industries are undergoing significant transformation. Meanwhile, the digital start up community is pivoting towards health solutions. New opportunities have arisen for investments in apps, robotics, 5G, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence.
We are seeking out theoretically informed papers as well as empirical studies that draw on developments in Asia. Topics areas might include:
- Digital apps for guarding health (weisheng) or nurturing life (yangsheng);
- The role of communication in digital health infrastructures and strategic development projects in Asia;
- Cultural attitudes towards technology and technological affordances; e.g. the use of robots and AI in health care;
- The use of sensors (IoT) in the design of public interactive space;
- The implications of hygiene regulation for mass community gatherings including religious, political and cultural events; for instance alternative modes of organization and participation;
- Digital inclusion: e.g. the use of online services for more marginalised segments of the population e.g. minorities, disabled.
- The impact of the COVID-19 on investment in the digital start up ecosystem in Asia, most notably in health related communication technologies.
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