Founded in Spring 2013, LASCO – Contemporary World is a laboratory of ideas created within the framework of a collaboration between research professors from the Université Paris Descartes and from the schools of the Institut Mines-Télécom. This laboratory brings together permanent research professors (Professors and Associate Professors), associate researchers (essentially foreign professors), young holders of doctorates from various disciplines of humanities and social sciences (predominantly sociology, the philosophy of technologies, ethics, semiology, linguistics, pedagogical sciences, management sciences, political sciences and anthropology) with a common program as a basis.
The main scientific objective behind LASCO – Contemporary World consists of analyzing the conditions under which meaning emerges at a time when subjectivities, interpersonal relationships, organizations and political spaces are subject to significant shifts, in particular with the expansion of digital technologies and with the globalization of certain economic models.
Taking such a situation as a base, it is on the one hand a question of understanding potential sources of ethical contradictions, indeed even crises of meaning which propagate throughout the contemporary world. On the other hand, it shall also deal with identifying the new conditions under which meaning is reactivated which are illustrated by new social, political, aesthetic, technological and pedagogical practices.
Finally, we plan to study the different visions of the world and the social imaginaries which underlie these practices :
The effort of comprehending and explaining the contemporary form of the subjects indicated above is illustrated by defining four thematic topics. These topic areas take the format of working, reflective and analysis groups designed to allow the laboratory to achieve a general synthesis, to design new projects, publications and public events.
If certain aspects of interpersonal communication are reconfigured by information technology machines, the way in which relationships have apparently become more fluid does indeed entail certain ethical risks. However, these are not always easily detectable; they need to be evaluated according to the socio-economic and cultural contexts in which the technological mediations are recorded: one never encounters technological artifacts alone, rather, they are always in the form of “techno-logies”. This brings us to logos and to the principles which accompany it, i.e. rationality, but also the discourse in which it is embedded and which gives it a symbolic expression.
In another respect, such a hermeneutic dimension allows one to emphasize the set of appropriations which is intended to accompany any technological mediation. The uniformization of technological methods does not entail, as it would in a cause and effect relationship, the uniformization of usage as the relationship to technology is, in principle, led by heritage and singular brands (which is in fact manifested by certain design practices today). However, it is only possible to diversify the way in which technological mediations are received by maintaining the diversity of the cultures in which they are embedded.
In the laboratory, the body is the object of a transdisciplinary reflection process including normative and ethical questions (health, performance, life and death-related statuses). It is also studied within the context of the philosophy of technology (information, cognition, hybridation, socialization) as well as in relation to the history of the processes of subjectivation and objectivation (the body as a subject for reification in the context of developing biometric technologies). It is also where individual and collective symbolism resides which stimulates reflections on education, (bio-) politics, anthropology and psychoanalysis.
The notion of the public space is at the heart of the democratic organization and of the political and social spheres within this, it defines the intermediate space in between civil society and the State as an organizing structure for participation as well as control of this public space. The State itself is undergoing profound techno-organizational and normative transformations which it will be fitting to analyze, as it will not be possible to speak of such a space today without evoking the complexity of the technological reality which defines it and transforms it.
At the same time, new media make it possible to create a much more extensive space than before. In sociological terms, it can be observed that the use of new media, in particular in the digital era, transforms the modalities of collective action, fostering forms of participation and commitment which are much more spontaneous and direct such as new forms of coercion and control which have become strategic, political and security-related matters.
However, do such formats contribute to a veritable recognition of the voices which are being expressed by new medias?
Does the networking of the public space allow for significant forms of sociality to be asserted, even the creation of “public counterspaces”?
What will become of publicity and public expression at a time when the organization of spaces, which are subject to extreme levels of security, accentuates the dividing lines within territories, particularly when the logic of exceptionality tends to redefine the contours of our political spaces?
The signs transmitted by a language or by non-verbal language (gestures, icons, visuals, proxemics, etc.) constitute the backdrop against which collective meaning is manifested and inscribed by means of culturemes and ideologemes. They form the genesis of a socio-cultural imaginary which each subject can move away from if they decide not to be duped by it and to produce conflict and crisis procedures, of which both the social and economic constituent parts need to be determined. The theories and methods of investigation call upon linguistics, but also more generally on social sciences and humanities, engaging an interdisciplinary process of reflection which contributes to defining an archeology of the ordinary in contemporary companies where the discourses, images and the backdrops which bear them are the subject of representations which commit us to redefining the foundations of extended hermeneutic activity in all spheres of our individual and collective existences. At this level, the issue at hand is an ecology of information.