As digital technologies increasingly shape efforts to end conflict and build peace, much attention has been paid to their role in producing information, data and evidence. This indicates that technologies have largely been understood as a vehicle to enable a “sincere” attitude that is concerned with knowing the world as it really is. Yet, little attention has been paid to how technology also enables a “subjunctive” sensitivity for possible, future worlds. Yet, the latter perspective is particularly pertinent in peacebuilding contexts, because they are characterised by multiple, intertwined types of uncertainty that reach beyond the epistemic dimension, into politics and society. While sincere uses of technology face limits in contexts characterized by uncertainty, the subjunctive thrives in uncertainty, and thus harbours an unrecognized potential to shape peacebuilding dynamics. Conceptualising affordances as the intended and unintended uses of technology that emerge in the entanglement of technology design and technology use, the article explores their role in enabling subjunctive practices. It introduces a non-exhaustive compilation of subjunctive affordances that help users move on in the face of uncertainty: shepherding them along the process, detaching them from content, narratives and perceptions associated with conflict, reframing their perspectives on the world and envisioning possible futures, and lastly, unlocking existing social structures and evoking new ones through enabling a form of digital communitas. The article demonstrates that subjunctive affordances of technology enable peacebuilding practices that are powerful in their performative capacity to move their users away from the past and present, towards possible future worlds.
About the speaker
Andreas T. Hirblinger is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. His current research explores the effects of the increasing use of digital technologies by conflict parties, conflict stakeholders and those who aim to make or build peace. His past projects explored the challenges of using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in peace mediation and theincipient practices of digital inclusion in peace mediation. He has been awarded an Ambizione career grant and a SPARK grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation. Andreas holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge. His research has been published inter alia in the Security Dialogue, Journal of International Intervention and Statebuilding, and Journal of Eastern African Studies.
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