HomeThe Gricis

Much has been said about the year 2000 bug, and it has certainly raised a lot of concern.
Two boxes instead of four to mark the date! A technical choice with major potential consequences,
resulting from short-term thinking in a rush to find short-term savings. Millions will have been
spent putting things in order.

Notwithstanding the media hype and the more or less unjustified fears it has raised, the year 2000
bug turned out to be a technical problem that was quite simple to solve. But the development of
information and communication technologies (ICTs) brings more complex challenges. The organizers
of the 2001 Bugs conference would like to highlight other problems (human, social, cultural, political,
and economic) facing societies in which ICTs are widespread and play a major role. In the years to
come, what bugs will affect these societies frequently referred to as information societies,
programmed societies or knowledge societies? The conference is an invitation to leave the ground
of overly simple short-term calculation and confront a social universe which includes both possibilities
to be identified and fulfilled and problems to be circumscribed and resolved. In short, the challenge is
to think about pervasive communication in all its complexity from the perspective of its long-term
implications.

Convergence and diversity are two concomitant tendencies in this perspective, one that requires us
to identify and analyze simultaneously the forces pushing towards harmonization, integration and
even globalization, and the factors which, at the same time and in the same places, help to
maintain and develop plurality.

In addition to workshops, the conference will feature five panels with invited participants from
the business, the public and the academic sectors:

1. 50 years of thinking about and investigating ITCs and society


Since Harold Innis published Empire and Communication in 1951, the place and role of
communication technologies in the development of societies has remained the focus of
theoretical controversies. From such notions as the global village and the network society
to telematics and programmed societies, models of the relationships between ITCs and
society have proliferated, without necessarily providing diverse explanations. This panel
will provide an opportunity for presenting and examining various assessments of these
models.

2. Competition and convergence: a first appraisal

The convergence between informatics, telecommunications and the audio-visual sector which
has characterized the development of communications since the early 1950s has not only been
fuelled by tougher competition, but it has also been driven by mega-mergers, alliances and
partnerships. Where do we stand after a decade of convergence and competition? What can we
say about the future of communications? Which dynamics will drive their development? What will
the major actors look like in this near future?

3. More precise uses, more diverse users.


Users of information products and services have become the focus of both political and economic
strategies. But which users for which uses? Which kinds of development could reduce citizens to
mere consumers? Or, to the contrary, what are the conditions for the appropriation of these
products and services to contribute to individual and collective emancipation?

4. The regulation of networks. The State and the market


The development of networks, the proliferation of channels and services, and free trade
agreements have frequently brought into question the role of the State, regulatory bodies
and public institutions in the cultural and communications sectors. If the mechanisms of
political regulation created by Welfare States are no longer working, are they going to be
replaced? If so, what are the replacement mechanisms?

5. Globalization and cultural diversity. A utopia?


Negotiations about international trade are raising the question of culture at the global level.
Are cultural products commodities like any other? And should they be subject to the same trade
agreements? Or does their distinctiveness call for the adoption of a different set of rules?
The question is not just a theoretical one. Huge cultural, economic and political issues
are at stake. Is it utopian to conceive of a plural global world?

Different workshops will allow the presentation of research findings and reflexions. Paper
proposals should be submitted to the program committee before March 1, 2001. They
should fit into one of the following three categories:

1. APPROACHES:
Papers in this category should discuss global models that analyze
phenomena related to the development of digital information and communication systems.
They might also critically assess theories and concepts referring to notions such as information
society, informational society, knowledge society, network society.

2. STUDIES AND SECTORIAL IMPLEMENTATIONS:
Papers in this category
should analyze the implications and issues raised by concrete attempts to introduce new
information and communication systems in different social fields such as education or health
systems, public administration, commerce, public life, labour organization, territorial scope
of media and means of communication, regional planning, etc.

3. PROJECTS: Papers in this category should explain the aims, programs and strategies
put forward by different social actors concerned by the development of ITCs, be they public
organizations or private corporations. They should discuss issues such as the development
of the role of the State and public services, perspectives and demands of institutional or
informal social groups, etc.

WORKING LANGUAGES. Papers will be accepted in English, French or Spanish. The high
cost of providing simultaneous translation services for the workshops is, however, beyond
our means. Participants are thus invited to make the effort to understand and to be
understood (by, for example, displaying the contents of their paper on overhead
transparencies or providing a detailed summary in one language while presenting
it in another one). After all, this is only one requirement of diversity and pluralism!


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