Media Technology MSc

Symposium for Social Technologies course

For students attending the Social Technologies research course, a dedicated symposium is organised on Thursday June 9th, 9am-5pm. If you are interested in attending the symposium, but do not particpate in the course, then contact Max van Duijn — there are a few spaces left!

Symposium 'Social Technologies'

What have telling stories around the campfire, singing, dancing, and spending time on Facebook in common? If we follow our evolutionary lineage back a few million years, we find a social primate that populated parts of the African continent. This primate lived in small-scale communities of around 40-60 individuals, about the same size as the groups formed by present-day chimpanzees and bonobos. Over time, however, our ancestors started living in social environments of ever increasing size and complexity. With groups growing larger, individuals had to spend more time maintaining their social networks and cognitive processing of social information became more demanding. As a consequence, we had to develop bigger and more powerful brains, and find more efficient ways of forming and maintaining social bonds than how most members of the primate family do this: through grooming.

In the past semester's Social Technologies course, students of the Media Technology MSc programme have studied fascinating and adventurous questions within this area. Can the “inventions” presumed to be characteristic of early human societies, such as the production of art, story-telling, dance, or ritualistic behaviours, be viewed as early social technologies supporting the formation and maintenance of complex social networks? What is the evidence supporting this idea in the archaeological record? And in present-day social life? What is the role of modern media and communication technologies in building and maintaining social networks? How can future technological developments affect the deep primate roots of our social structures? And what can the study of social technologies over millions of years teach us about the possibilities and limitations of social life in modern mass-societies?

Through active engagement with scientific literature and hands-on investigation the students have come to fresh insights and results, which they will share during the symposium. The day will be opened by a lecture by Niels 't Hooft, a 'hybrid' writer who designs fiction for smartphones. Tamas David-Barrett (University of Oxford) will finalise the day with a keynote lecture entitled 'The future of relationships'.

The venue for the whole day will be the Van Steenis building, room F1.02.

9 June 2016