International Workshop on Phones, Drones, and Disease

Date: 17-18 May 2018
Time: Day 1(17 May): 9am - 4pm; Day 2 (18 May): 9:30am - 12:30pm
Venue: CPD 2.42, 2F, The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus, The University of Hong Kong

This two-day workshop at the University of Hong Kong brings together researchers and practitioners from science and technology studies, public health, medicine, history, and anthropology to consider the strategic uses of communication technologies in managing disease and delivering health. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries – particularly with the commercialization of the Internet in the 1990s – developments in communications including satellite-dependent technologies, such as GPS-enabled smart devices, cloud computing, and the convergence of GIS with social media, are transforming the methods and scope of public health.

Participants to the workshop will explore diverse but interrelated technologies and their deployment for health and disease surveillance: from mobile phones and high-resolution satellite imagery to unmanned aerial vehicles, or ‘drones.’ They will consider the opportunities and challenges that these technologies present, and they will consider their possible futures.

Key questions addressed in the workshop will include:

- How are communication technologies reconfiguring health?
- To what extent are they creating para-systems that erode terrestrial infrastructure?
- Who benefits from these technologies, and who pays for them?
- What consequences stem from the migration of technologies across domains – from the military use of drones, say, to their - re-appropriation for health?
- What kinds of resistance and countervailing effects are thee technologies producing?
- How should these be regulated?
- In what ways are they shaping new forms of governance?

Hong Kong provides a unique site for broaching these issues. While locales in Southeast and East Asia are considered ‘hotspots’ for emerging infections, the region has also acquired a reputation for tech expertise – with China leading developments. Neighboring Shenzhen is today a center for hardware innovation and the headquarters of the world’s largest commercial drone manufacturer. The workshop will provide an opportunity to critically examine the development, acquisition, and integration of datafied devices into public health and offer a forum to consider the futures of these technologies.

This workshop is funded in part by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region China (Project No. HKU C7011-16G, ‘Making Modernity in East Asia: Technologies of Everyday Life in 19th – 21st Centuries.’