cfp: Defining the Sensor Society

A multi-disciplinary symposium at the University of Queensland, May 8-9, 2014

Key topic areas: Surveillance, Privacy, and Control in the Digital Era

Deadline: January 15, 2014

For more information as the conference program develops, see:

Abstract Submissions:

The conference organisers anticipate publishing invited papers in an edited collection. Authors who would like their full conference paper to be considered for publication should indicate so to the conference organisers during submission. Papers for the conference should be submitted to  Submission dates are as follows:

Abstract submission details:

Length: 500 words outlining topic area, argument, and significance. Abstracts should contribute in some way to a consideration of the sensor society and the issues it raises. We are also happy to consider full papers.

Deadline: January 15, 2014

Author notification: February 17, 2014

Final versions of invited papers for publication due: June 30, 2014. Papers should be 6,000-8,000 words in length, including notes and bibliography

Registration: $100/$50 for Ph.D. students

Rationale: Sensors are proliferating across the networked digital landscape in the form of smart phones, smart cameras, interactive billboards, drones, and a growing array of fixed environmental sensors and interactive devices and platforms. The advent of digital interactivity means that devices which permeate our work, social, leisure, and domestic lives can all come to double as sensors. Our cars collect detailed information about our driving habits and destinations. Our smart phones gather a growing array of detailed and data about our communication activities and more. The growing network of sensors contributes to a fast-growing stream of data about everything from the weather to the details of our personal lives and our movements throughout the course of the day

This changing environment of mass information sensors is dependent on sense-making infrastructures that include the networks whereby the data is transmitted and shared, the databases where data are stored and analysed, and the various platforms whereby this information is put to use. The shift away from targeted, discrete forms of information collection to always-on, ubiquitous, expanding and accelerating data collection results in significant changes in our understandings of surveillance, information processing, and privacy in the digital era.  In particular, sensor-based forms of information collection mark a shift in focus from isolated targets to environments, eco-systems (broadly construed), and populations. In the sensor society all data is relevant, all data potentially useful. The spiral of information collection is self-fuelling: too much data is no longer the problem; it’s now the solution. More data requires more sensors, more sensors require more infrastructure, and more infrastructure enables further data collection. The sensor society pushes necessarily in the direction of automated information processing, analysis, and response.  The sensors are generating more data than is comprehensible or usable by non-automated means: IBM estimates that sensors generate the equivalent of a quarter-million Libraries of Congress every day (and growing).  In the sensor society, much of the communication, interactivity, and feedback takes place between devices and platforms: the sensor becomes the avatar of the interactive interface.

The sensor society therefore raises significant questions about the role of privacy, power and surveillance in the world of the ever-watching, ever-sensing always-on interactive device. Control over the sensing infrastructure, the databases, and the response platforms will play a crucial role in how information is used and who benefits. This multi-disciplinary conference seeks to open up theoretical, empirical, and historical approaches to the sensor society.  We invite contributions that explore the sensor society from a variety of perspectives to illuminate our understandings of its social, political, cultural, and regulatory implications.