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Special Talk - Beyond Techno-Narcissism: Self and Other in the Internet Public Realm

  • Seminar Rooms I to III, First Floor, Kamaladevi Complex India International Centre, Lodhi Estate, 40, Max Mueller Marg, Lodi Estate New Delhi India (map)

Sign up for the event at this link. This is necessary given seating requirements.

Expectations that the Internet would provide a suitable place for the flourishing of democracy have recently encountered some grave setbacks.  The rise of monopoly control within platforms of communication has greatly magnified the economic and political power of oligarchies.  Techniques for harvesting personal data to fuel targeted “computational propaganda” threaten to undermine the integrity of elections and to erode citizen confidence that their outcomes are fair.  While both roots and possible remedies for these maladies exist within large institutions, the erosion of democracy may have origins closer to home - in the activities and experience of selfhood on the Net. After all, who are we on the Internet?  Looking for connection and community, do we now encounter something entirely different?

Opening remarks by Air Marshal (Retd.) Naresh Verma – Director, India International Centre

Chair: Ambassador Vijay K. Nambiar- former UN Secretary General's Special Advisor on Myanmar


Prof. Langdon Winner-  Thomas Phelan Chair of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York.

The talk will be livestreamed on the IIC website; available on Facebook-live on the Metamorphoses Facebook page; and video recordings will be available on YouTube, as well as disseminated through social media channels hosted on the Metamorphoses website. The promotional video for Metamorphoses can be accessed here.

Questions will be taken on a special number through SMS, provided at the venue, and selected ones will be answered given time constraints. 

Prof. Langdon Winner is a political theorist who focuses upon social and political issues that surround modern technological change. He is the author of Autonomous Technology, a study of the idea of "technology-out-of-control" in modern social thought, The Whale and The Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology, and editor of Democracy in a Technological Society. Praised by The Wall Street Journal as "The leading academic on the politics of technology", Mr. Winner was born and raised in San Luis Obispo, California. He received his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley with a primary focus upon political theory.

Langdon is Thomas Phelan Chair of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Over the years he has taught at The New School for Social Research, College of the Atlantic, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, Harvey Mudd College, MIT and Colgate University. Langdon has lectured widely throughout the United State, Europe, China, and Latin America.  In the early 1990s he was research fellow at the Center for Technology and Culture at the University of Oslo, Norway.  In 2010 he was Fulbright Scholar at the Complutense University in Madrid and regularly participates in research projects on computers and ethics there organized by his colleague Professor Javier Bustamante.

At present Langdon is preparing a book of his essays, Political Artifacts, and working on a study of 20th century American technology critics and their disquieting insights.  His occasional writings on various topics appear in his blog "Technopolis".

Ambassador Vijay K Nambiar joined the Indian Foreign Services in 1967. In 1968, he studied Chinese in Hong Kong and served in China from 1970-72. Subsequently he served in South Block and Udyog Bhavan from 1972 till 1976 and was then posted to Tito's Yugoslavia. He did multilateral assignments in the Indian Mission at the United Nations (UN) in New York from 1979 to 1982 and served in Delhi as Director (NAM) during the 1983 NAM Summit and after. 

From 1985 to 1987, Nambiar was appointed as India's Ambassador in Algeria. He returned to  Delhi as Joint Secretary East Asia in the Ministry of External Affairs in 1987 and helped prepare for Rajiv Gandhi's historic visit to China in 1988. He subsequently served as India's Ambassador/High Commissioner in Afghanistan (1990-1992), Malaysia (1993-1996), China (1996-2000), Pakistan (2000-2001) and Permanent Representative to the UN in New York (2002-2004). 

Post-retirement, Nambiar served as Deputy National Security Adviser of India (2004-2006) and then was deputed by the Government of India to serve in the United Nations Secretariat as Under Secretary-General, Special Adviser to Secretary-General Kofi Annan (2006-2007), as Chef de Cabinet to Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon (2007-2012) and later as Adviser on Myanmar (2012-2016).  

Metamorphoses is a modest effort to try and bridge the gap between digital technologies, which are transforming our lives, and our understanding of their multiple dimensions. It will unfold in a series of nine interactions covering different aspects of the digital revolution.

This series will examine the impacts of digital technologies on the human psyche and on societies – exploring ways in which some of the negative elements may be mitigated. There will be a peep into the future – of what machine learning and artificial intelligence may bring to human experience – and the moral and ethical dilemma associated with these. It will also delve into issues relating to data privacy and cyber security as well as the emerging legal regime to regulate this critical domain.