Laboratory for Meaning and Understanding in the Contemporary World (LASCO)

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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.

A laboratory for innovation in social sciences, Institut Mines-Télécom’s LASCO IdeaLab – including researchers from Institut Mines-Télécom Business School, Institut Mines-Télécom Atlantique and Mines Saint-Étienne – strives to be an original platform for collaboration in industrial innovation and digital technology for the academic social sciences research community.

Its scientific objective 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 the globalization of certain economic models.

Scientific projects


LASCO’s research focuses on three lines of research:

  1. Collective action to find meaning in the digital age

  2. Subjectivation, corporeality and smart objects

  3. Identities, autonomy and data governance


Collective action to find meaning in the digital age

Innovation in the digital world can lead to fundamental questions about who we are and who we want to be, both individually and collectively. The world of business is affected by these issues as much as the public sphere. It therefore follows that a scrupulous elucidation of our discourse and lifestyles, and of their existential meaning, takes place, engaged by organizational methods that increasingly favor paperless, transparent and autonomous approaches. What world views are supported by these dynamics that value hyper-connectivity and give rise to the automated processing of data flows? What horizons of meaning and shared world could possibly emerge from action that is no longer simply ‘communicative’ (in the sense that theorists at The Frankfurt School were able to analyze it), but rather ‘tele-communicative’? In a complementary manner, the development of new digital territories justifies the renewal of a critical approach. One issue here is better identifying, through several disciplines (by integrating social sciences, digital design, economics, engineering sciences, etc.), new spaces for social innovation and contributing practices that can come to life alongside digital transformation.


Subjectivation, corporeality and smart objects

One issue within this topic consists of questioning the influence of contemporary technologies and the forms they adopt within the emergence and development of subjectivities. By subjectivity, we don’t mean an entity that is autonomous from the outset, but rather the provisional and fragile result of a self-construction, a constant negotiation of one’s own borders, in this complex game of interaction with the structural effects induced by digital technologies. On such a horizon, the body is the object of a transdisciplinary reflection, including normative and ethical questions, the philosophy of technology, 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, for example). Taking on the task of orienting the present towards ‘possible futures’ therefore implies working non-stop to awaken a constructive and critical approach at a time when our digital environments are likely to create unprecedented forms of dispossession and desubjectivation.


Identities, autonomy and data governance

In the context of the growing importance that companies and states alike give to our digital identities, their surveillance and management, it is imperative we question ourselves, both from an ethical and political viewpoint, about the effects these industrial, economic and political issues have on becoming a subject, as well as on our abilities to act in digital environments. This research topic intends to take up this challenge by dealing with the intrinsic ambivalence of digital technology. While, in certain aspects, the current transformation is opening up new possibilities, in others, it is differently redistributing the game in terms of constraints and incentives, while tending to create a greater malleability of individuals. It is therefore necessary to examine the new modes of existence and subjectivation that are created by these operations, articulating them to the various realities that digital innovation covers (digital identity information management systems, Big Data and machine learning, smart objects, quantified self, smart cities). Such an effort of discernment is one of the conditions for developing and paving the way for a more responsible method of data governance.