STS Seminar Series to focus on automated neoliberalism, Oct. 8

Kean Birch
Kean Birch
Kean Birch

The third event in this year’s Research Seminar Series in Science & Technology Studies (STS) takes place on Oct. 8 and features Kean Birch, York University geography professor and director of the Graduate Program in Science & Technology Studies.

Now in its 26th year, the series has hosted hundreds experts from across Canada and around the world presenting on a wide range of STS-related topics. The talks are free and open to the public, and STS majors are especially encouraged to attend. Refreshments will be provided.

The Oct. 8 seminar, titled “Automated Neoliberalism,” will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in 203 Bethune College (Norman’s).

The core contradiction in neoliberalism studies is that markets are organized and require significant bureaucratic co-ordination and governance. In light of the increasingly technoscientific nature of contemporary capitalism, it is important to examine exactly how markets are organized and how their governance is configured by techno-economic processes.

In this talk, Birch will argue that the entanglement of technoscience and capitalism has led to an automated neoliberalism in which markets are automated through technology platforms, personal lives are transformed into private data assets, and social relations are automated through algorithms, distributed electronic ledgers and rating systems. Two questions arise in light of these changes. First, are markets being automated away, in that market exchange ends up no longer underpinning social order or organization? And second, does individual and social reflexivity problematize techno-economic automation, in that new platforms, data assets and ranking algorithms are all dependent on individuals telling the “truth”? It is worth considering the political implications of this automated neoliberalism and our reflexive enrolment in it.

Here’s a look at the rest of the Fall 2019 lineup:

Oct. 22: Zbigniew Stachniak (York University), “The IBM Images Archive”

Nov. 5: Kelly Bronson (University of Ottawa), “Data-driven: Agribusiness, Activists and Their Shared Politics of the Future”

Nov. 19: Kate Henne (University of Waterloo), “Grey Matters: Imagining Traumatic Brain Injury Through the Lens of Sex Difference”

Dec. 3: John McLevey (University of Waterloo), “Democracies in Crisis? Online Deception, Disinformation and Political Polarization in Comparative Perspective”

Unless otherwise specified, all seminars in this series will take place on Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in 203 Bethune College (Norman’s).

Further details will appear in YFile prior to each talk, and the lineup for Winter 2019 will be released at a later date. This series is sponsored by York University’s Department of Science & Technology Studies, Faculty of Science, and co-ordinated by members of the department. For more information about the Research Seminar Series in Science & Technology Studies, contact Professor Conor Douglas at or visit