The 5th Workshop on Unintended Consequences, Warsaw 8-9 May 2017

By | 05/23/2016

Dealing with the Unintended: Externalities, Side-Effects and Overflows in Everyday Life

 

The effects of purposive activities on third parties which were not initially accounted for but are further constitutive of the circumstances of social action, constitutes one of the main areas of interest for social sciences.

As far as sociology is concerned, the treatment of such indirect consequences is somehow legitimized by reference to economics, where the term of externalities is known to have surfaced. Yet, there is a bit of a difference of focus in the two framings. The sociologists usually look at how the indirect effects of behavior may be desirable or undesirable for actors who were not initially accounted for. While the designation per economists attempts to include the effects of actions and transactions in actors’ calculations and negotiations. Though both framings of externalities may be shown to have surfaced in sociology and economics alike, the former is more representative of the sociological angle, while the latter of the economic one.

Thus, the sociological discourse is more likely to interpret the consequences on third actors as side-effects, and to ask about the formation of social norms aimed to reduce these. This angle is known to have initiated research in the framing of social actions as well as the distribution of guilt and responsibility for the occurrence of indirect consequences. While recently, it also began to question whether the unintended  consequences are really unanticipated, and hence to investigate the mechanisms that lead to the ignorance or underestimation of the hints that unpleasant surprises or accidents might have happened or are likely to happen.

This tendency to look at the unpleasant and problematic side-effects notwithstanding, sociology never ceased to emphasize the positive externalities and phenomena related to happy accidents and serendipitous gains. As with the unintended consequences that are to a certain extent anticipated, the unanticipated pleasant surprises are currently beneficiating of vivid consideration as well.

In line with these analytical traditions and recent developments, the Workshop welcomes papers dealing with such topics as:

  • Strategies of dealing with the unintended and unexpected consequences
  • Framing and interpreting the effects of social action
  • Tensions and ambiguities in everyday life
  • Internalization of externalities
  • Positive externalities, happy accidents and serendipitous gains
  • Discourses and narratives about externalities, side-effects and overflows

 

The Organizing Committee hopes the Workshop will contribute to the conceptual and theoretical enrichment of the studies of the dealing with the unintended and unexpected in everyday life by social actors and organizations, will create an apt platform for revisiting well established assumptions and paradigms, and help opening new research sites for empirical investigation.

 

 

 

 

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