The Refusal Conference
A virtual conference intended to “meet the moment” by exploring organized technology refusal from historical and contemporary vantage points.
Sponsored by the Algorithmic Fairness and Opacity Group (AFOG)
The idea of rejecting or refusing technology runs against the grain of the celebrated role tech has generally occupied in the West, wedded closely to the notion of progress itself (Marx 1997). By this cultural logic, refusal is cast as unwise because it is anti-innovation or it is cast as impossible because technological developments are presumed to be inevitable. And yet, this view is contradicted in practice. Research directions narrow the pathways of tech development through disciplinary logics, market possibilities, and life experience. In industry, projects are frequently cancelled when they cannot generate a profit. This financial logic is a kind of value that motivates refusal. What other values currently guide refusal or could in the future? What forms of justification are useful? What practices make refusal possible? At this conference we lean into the idea that sometimes making a more just and equitable society means refusing certain technologies or certain applications of technology.