At this Conference, we invite you to explore social work research that looks more closely at how technological innovations and communication through technologies are changing and shaping social work interactions, relationships, interventions and practices. How do they impact political, ideological and scientific discourses relevant for social work and social policy? What new research is necessary for social work to understand changing physical and social environments? How do these changes affect social work service users’ lives and their needs for services? Are there well-established social work practices that should be protected from technological intrusion?
The term “Industry 4.0”, or alternatively, the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” refers to the transformation of production of goods and services resulting from the application of a new wave of technological innovations: interconnected collaborative robots; machine learning; Artificial Intelligence; 3D printers; the simulation of interconnected machines; the integration of the information flow along the value chain; multidirectional communication between manufacturing processes and products (Caruso, 2017).
Technological innovation significantly impacts various levels of human life and social relations, which, in turn, reshapes the landscape of practice and research in social work and social policy. On the individual level, technologies may contribute to self-identity, self-control, and perpetuating a personal narrative. On the macro level, by changing mentality and cultural norms, they can destabilize existing institutions, power relations, social structures, reigning economic and technological systems, and cultural assumptions.
There is a growing need to examine what happens at the encounter of technological innovations and social work research. The rapid integration of technologies into social work practice opens up new themes, questions, and avenues for research, such as testing technological tools, evaluating their impact on wellbeing and quality of life, and developing new theories for better understanding of social realities and human interactions with non-human devices. The impact these technologies on human relations, social institutions, inequality, privacy and ethics needs to be explored.
Changes in social work practice, research, and education brought about by new technologies, might shape the discourse and change the social work identity. Will the new tools and expanded opportunities help improve the societal image of the profession? Or, on the contrary, will the social work profession lose its human face, its core values, and its commitment? We invite you to join us in Vilnius to discuss and debate these and other important questions for social work research, in relation to the following conference subthemes:
- Challenges and opportunities for social work research, practice, policy or education in contemporary contexts
- Social work research, policy, practice or education across national, social, cultural, disciplinary and professional boundaries
- Exploring the impact and effectiveness of social work practice
- Social work history and identity as a profession and discipline
- Linking the industry 4.0 and digital welfare state
- Theorizing social work and/or social work research
- Linking social work research and practice, including the co-creation of knowledge
- Methodological development, innovation, technologies and capacity building in social work research
- Technology-driven changes in social work identity, ethics, values and commitments.