The Internet, Epistemological Crisis And The Realities Of The Future

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Journal of Futures Studies – Special Issue Call for Papers

Divergent and conflicting world views have always been part of our world. Yet today we see fundamental shifts in the way in which online digital dynamics birth new realities of living, thinking and interacting, some which drive new unities and emergences, and others which drive division. The emergence and proliferation of fake news, alternative facts and web-driven conspiracy theories, a conjunction across cynical demagoguery, internet technology and existing cultural standpoints, is one of the most fundamental ruptures the world has experienced to date.

Our previous shared realities of how to act in the world are gone as we reap the benefits of the sharing of social media, but experience the dissonance of listening to multiple views. These may be traditional or post-traditional views, focused on personal or national or planetary values. It is a crowded and overwhelming space where the noise to be heard or noticed is overwhelming and competitive, where new views are created and discarded in a 24 hour type cycle.

In the US sphere of influence a capitalist driven internet has unleashed forces driving polarization and radicalization, as differing versions of reality are insulated in filter bubbles and amplified through algorithmic click bait, a consequence of the commodification of our attention spans. Our default future seems to have become some version of social breakdown, as divisions are amplified. Other countries like China and Russia have decided to chart their own paths separate from a globally integrated web – enforcing a national public sphere with strong government imposed boundaries.

While this happens a tech billionaire tweets their conviction that we all live in a simulation. Another digital guru proclaims the coming of the singularity when humans will become redundant in the grand evolutionary drama. The first International Flat Earth conference is held in Raleigh, N.C. And anti-vaxxers fund their campaigns on AmazonSmile. Meanwhile white supremacist invoke their right to free speech – and an Australian goes on a rampage killing 50 people in a Christchurch mosque. But what we really want to know is what the Kardashians ate for breakfast. That instagram post will cost a multinational agribusiness approximately half a million US dollars.

  • But clearly other futures are possible. We also see the emergence of a global cooperative system, empathic global responses to our shared challenges and growing online co-operative activism and collaboration to solve problems. Internet technologies can play a role in fostering dialogue and understanding, cooperation and collaboration. As each of us make contact with people from different cultures, these relationships are embedded in ever more complex webs, tying us into emergent circles of care and solidarity, coordination and action.We experience an epistemological crisis with uncertain outcomes. The ‘nature’ of knowledge, how our beliefs are rationalised and justified, who implements such beliefs and what is now expected of populations, no longer fits traditional models of thinking.

    Thus, this special issue begins with the premise that the internet is at the heart of the great epistemological crisis of our time, and that the future of what we consider to be reality is at stake. But then what?

    Having identified this crisis this special issue asks:

    How has the internet driven been complicit in this epistemological fracturing or reconfiguration and what does this indicate for the future?
    What are possible, probable and preferred futures of our notions of reality, given the current dynamics and future potentials of the internet?
    How do we avoid the complete fracturing of reality and use technology to drive shared understanding that can lead to common ground, collaboration and cooperation?
    How now and in the future do we implement our versions of reality without imposing on others? What does coherence mean for the future of epistemology and our sense of reality(ies)?
    Is there a shared commons with regard to epistemology and reality – that which we mutually depend on for our mutual survival and wellbeing? What is it and how do we manage, protect and govern this commons?
    How might the idea of truth change, and what are the futures of truth?

These discussions suit a futures approach using techniques like visioning, forecasting, scenario building, planning and foresight, to make sense of, and critically discuss and analyse, shared and differing frameworks of reality in the ambit of internet technology.

The topics can cover a range of analysis of events and situations reflecting how the internet drives new realities of current societies and communities, and how they may develop or play out in the future. Topics may include: political instabilities and change, technology especially Artificial Intelligence, Social Media and ethical issues, negative internet behaviours like computer hackers or social media trolling, climate change, the rights of humans and the resistance to them, governments’ role in citizen’s lives or the disruption worldwide to the workplace, political correctness and open society arguments. These are all new realities that have not just begun, but have ended as beginnings and morphed into something else quickly that challenges us even further.

This special edition invites contributors to submit articles, reports and essays on the futures of shared realities and the crisis in your domain of interest. Submissions are:

Essays – 2000-3000 words in length (including references). Essays are expected to provide new viewpoints and visions, expressed through strong and intelligent prose.

Reports– 3000-4000 words in length (including references). Reports are expected to provide coverage of futures studies related events (conferences, meetings, facilitated processes).

Articles– 4000-7000 words in length (including references). Articles are expected to make novel contributions to the futures studies field, build on the corpus of futures literature, be evidentially strong and develop clear themes and arguments. Articles are double-blind peer reviewed.

All papers should include material related to Futures Studies from other scholars’ works, such as those found in the Journal of Futures Studies, Futures, Foresight, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, The European Journal of Futures Research, World Future Review and On the Horizon.

Time Line

– Abstracts Due 15 May 2019

– Abstracts Accepted 15 June 2019

– Draft Papers Due 15 Sept 2019

– Drafts Reviewed 1 Oct 2019

– Final Paper Due 1 Dec 2019

– Publication March 2020

Please send your proposals to:

Michael Nycyk

michael.nycyk@gmail.com and

Dr. Jose Ramos

jose@actionforesight.net

Proposals should include author names, email, and a 100-200 word summary.

About the Special Editors

Michael Nycykis a researcher, ethnographer and writer specializing in Internet Studies, Web Histories and Older Adults use of technologies, of which has included work in futures studies. This includes work through published articles and book chapters, practice papers and a series of books called the Cyberlibrary, examining perplexing and complex issues of adult cyberbullying, Internet trolling, computer hackers and the ethical and practical implications of Internet governance to control such behaviors. He has also published articles on Internet reputation and side projects in mental health issues and child fostering success. A graduate of the University of Queensland (Australia) he is currently associated with the Department of Internet Studies, Curtin University in Perth (Australia) where his masters dissertation examined the ethical issues of flame comments on YouTube. He is also aware of many types of growing Internet issues, such as fake news, and is interested in applying foresight and scenario planning to the future ethical issues Virtual Realty and Artificial Intelligence will bring to humankind as reliance on the Internet spreads to many parts of the planet.

José Ramos is both a practitioner, researcher and writer in futures studies / foresight. This includes theoretical work through published articles, consulting work for federal, state and municipal governments, as well as citizen experiments in methodological innovation. Anticipatory experimentation / the bridge model is his most recent and advanced formulation. His other great passion is in considering who we are as planetary beings, which includes ethnographic study of alternative globalizations, writings on planetary stigmergy, and research on cosmo-localization. This line of work connects him to the truth that we are all brothers and sisters on a planet that we mutually depend on for our survival and wellbeing – our shared commons. He is Senior Consulting Editor for the Journal of Futures Studies, runs the boutique foresight consultancy Action Foresight, has taught and lectured on futures studies, public policy and social innovation at the National University of Singapore (Lee Kuan Yee School of Public Policy), Swinburne University of Technology (Australia), Leuphana University (Germany), the University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia) and Victoria University (Australia). He has over 50 publications in journals, magazines and books spanning economic, cultural and political change. And he has co-founded a number of civil society organizations: a social forum, a maker lab, an advocacy group for commons governance, and a peer to peer leadership development group for mutant futurists.

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