The Industrial Revolution 4.0: Preparing for Disruptive Technologies in 21st Century Asia

Sharon Ong's picture
Call for Papers
June 23, 2017
Subject Fields: 
Southeast Asian History / Studies, South Asian History / Studies, Social Sciences, Popular Culture Studies


The Industrial Revolution 4.0: Preparing for Disruptive Technologies in 21st Century Asia

Date | 26 - 27 Oct 2017
Venue | Asia Research Institute, Seminar Room, AS8 Level 4, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260

We are entering into a Fourth Industrial Revolution where ICBM technology (I.O.T., Cloud, Big Data and Mobile) and A.I. systems (Artificial Intelligence) could become the logic of operation that sustains the world’s economy. Automation and data-mining-based prediction technology are revolutionizing the business ecosystem. Asian governments have been developing policy frameworks to incorporate big data, IoT and Cloud: e.g. Singapore’s ‘Smart Nation Initiative’ (2014), China’s ‘Made in China 2025’ (2015), India’s “100 Smart Cities” project (2015) and South Korea’s ‘Comprehensive Countermeasures on Artificial Intelligence Society’ (2016).

However, as demonstrated by the U.S. government’s concern expressed in its white paper, ‘Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence’ (Oct 2016), A.I. and related technologies are innovative but can also be disruptive. The ways in which societies adopt new technologies often re-structures socio-cultural, political and economic conditions, which in turn change the employment landscape.  With the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we are expecting the creation of large numbers of lower-skilled workers and older people who need retraining, which will produce social problems (see, e.g., Amazon’s job-cut case resulting from warehouse automisation (Forbes, 2016), accelerating commodification of service in On-Demand and Sharing Economies (Lessig, 2008) and consequential labour precarity.) 

According to the UN specialised agency International Labour Organization (2016), nearly 60% of employees in Southeast Asian regions would leave fearing for their jobs “in the next couple of decades” because of atomization. Although concerns about the impact of these technologies on social inequality are increasing, we have not yet explicitly heard the voices of those in precarious conditions who are potentially vulnerable to these changes. We have also not seen any detailed government plans explaining how this impact will be mitigated; how will governments protect and enhance the welfare of their citizens, minimize social inequality and address the technology gap? The dominant social discourses on ICBM, A.I. and Industry 4.0 tend to focus on the techno-economic-centric consideration of the embeddedness of new technology and measuring the sustainability of society. These discourses often follow Western development trends as a basis for discussion.

The aim of this conference is to explore the social implications of emerging and disruptive technologies in Asian contexts, focusing on Southeast Asian regions in particular, taking into consideration the different levels of ICT embeddedness (e.g., infrastructure readiness). This conference will update ICT social and cultural studies in contemporary Southeast Asia at comparative levels.

The conference will avoid techno centric approach or industrialisation based approaches to A.I. It focuses on present and near-future effects rather than speculative futures. Instead, this conference will cover socio-political issues related to Industry 4.0 from a ground-up perspective and will explore current strategies for how to manage this new era in everyday practice.

Possible topics and questions include, but are not limited to

  • What are comparable policy frameworks on A.I. and Industry 4.0 in Southeast Asian countries? How do these countries set up their own strategies to tackle social issues through policy?
  • What political issues influence these policy frameworks? What have been missing from such frameworks?
  • What have been the outcomes of these policies, and what have been their effects on the population?  
  • Does Industry 4.0 minimize the digital divide or bring out a new form of digital divide?
  • What are social inequality and social justice challenges that emerge from Industry 4.0?
  • How do the governments in the regions support local start-ups’ sustainability as well as that of the creative industry? 
  • What types of (online) activism is occurring in response to Industry 4.0? How do we create methods and approaches to protect ordinary people from vulnerability and (re)training conditions?
  • How do we shed light on the precarity of low-income and lower-skilled workers, older people, and other minority groups in Southeast Asia? What would be the best way to support them?


Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (250 words maximum) and a brief personal biography of 150 words for submission by 23 June 2017 (extended deadline). Please submit your proposal, using the provided proposal template to Dr DongHyun Song at Successful applicants will be notified by 7 July 2017 and will be required to send in a draft paper of 5,000-8,000 words by 2 October 2017.

Please note that only previously unpublished papers or those not already committed elsewhere can be accepted. The organisers plan to publish a special issue with selected papers presented in this conference. By participating in the conference you agree to participate in the future publication plans (special issue or edited volume) of the organisers. The organisers will provide hotel accommodation for three nights and a contribution towards airfare for accepted paper participants (one author per paper).


Dr DongHyun SONG
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
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Dr Eric KERR
Asia Research Institute, and Tembusu College, National University of Singapore
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Contact Info: 

Miss Sharon Ong
Conference Secretariat

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