Science, Technology and Society Seminar: STS Circle at Harvard


Monday, April 29, 2019, 12:15pm to 2:00pm


CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Room S050

"Agency and Automation: Digital Disobedience and Its Infrastructure"


Robin Celikates, Associate Professor of Political and Social Philosophy, University of Amsterdam; Member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University.


Tito Carvalho, Science, Technology & Society Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School.


Sheila Jasanoff, Faculty Associate. Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School.

Co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


Tito Carvalho

Lunch is provided if you RSVP. via our online form before Thursday afternoon, April 25th.


The Internet has not only expanded the repertoire of contestation by providing new tools for political protest, it has also emerged as an object and arena of contestation in its own right. While governments have been quick to employ the language of cybercrime and cyberterrorism, the various forms of digital activism – from so called DDoS (Distributed-Denial-of-Service) actions via website defacements to leaking – have also been described as legitimate protest and even civil disobedience. Many theorists and public commentators, however, have been reluctant to speak of digital civil disobedience as these new protest tactics do not seem to fit the standard account of civil disobedience as an essentially public, exclusively symbolic or communicative, and non-evasive form of principled law-breaking. In this talk I will argue against this skeptical view. I will show that many of the most prominent forms of digital protest can fruitfully be conceptualized as civil despite their anonymous, disruptive and evasive character. Conversely, new practices of digital disobedience invite us to revise the standard account’s view of the definition, justification and role of civil disobedience. At the same time, these practices provide an occasion to revisit established assumptions about agency and intentionality that downplay the role of infrastructures for enabling and shaping protest.


Robin Celikates is Associate Professor of Political and Social Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and currently a Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Among his publications are the monograph ‘Critique as Social Practice: Critical Theory and Social Self-Understanding’ (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018) and several articles on disobedience, protest, citizenship and migration. He is currently working on a book on civil disobedience..

A complete list of STS Circle at Harvard events can be found on the STS Circle website.

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