Preventia – Optimizing Bios through Technologies

Preventia – Optimizing Bios through Technologies

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Institute for Advanced Study

Lehmkuhlenbusch 4

27753 Delmenhorst


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This hybrid (online and in person) symposium is about prevention and prevention-related technologies (with a certain focus on aging)

About this event

Keynote speakers: Deborah Lupton (USNW Sydney) and Stephen Katz (Trent University) and Klaus Hoyer (U Copenhagen)

Political scientist Richard Freeman, in 1992, wrote about the paradox that “nowhere is there agreement about quite what prevention is, while everywhere there is agreement that it is a good thing”. Also, philosopher Peter Sloterdijk (2018) questions the centrality of prevention in many societies as a (Christian) illusion – as if “self-defense could be projected into the future”. The politics of defense that predominate discussions in the health and life sciences, often merge the future with the present (with a wink to relevant bios-related events in the past), and ground ‘illusions’ in probabilities and certitudes embedded in logics displayed in, for instance, statistics, models, and certain biomarkers.

This hybrid (online and in person) symposium is about interrogating the concept of prevention and its elusive nature vis-à-vis the proliferation on prevention-related technologies. Which roles do technologies play within the idea of optimization and prevention? We want to debate this question by looking at ideally historically embedded, future-oriented policies, artifacts, and practices of optimizing lives through technologies.

Most preventive technologies (sports apps, cognitive training, wearable technologies, dental flossing, vaccinations, etc.) quantify life; they further transcend the frontier between natural and artificial, body and environment, and enhance and discipline performances as much as expectations. Preventive technologies address several individual and collective anxieties directed towards the future, but also towards the technology itself. And although not exclusively, we want to put a certain focus on technologies that target the aging person - her brain, body, and environment. Is there a specificity to preventive technologies that are slowing down, optimizing, transforming – even preventing, as some think – aging and decline? And can such a specificity ultimately result in rethinking prevention as a central concept in our lives?

In this symposium

 We are interested in learning about how preventive technologies are being conceived, propagated, contested and used in different social and disciplinary contexts;

 We invite case studies of technologies of prevention, from high tech to everyday technologies;

 A central question we pose is how the lifecourse gets impacted by preventive technologies and how aging and the end of life might get reconceptualized through them;

 Rethink “prevention”.

Photo: Américo Vermelho

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