EASST Review: Volume 35(4) December 2016
Politics by other means: Sitting at an angle by Vicky Singleton
The Padova University PaSTIS unit and the infrastructuring of STS research in Italy by Paolo Magaudda, Federico Neresini
The emergence of PaSTIS was a bottom-up process, a sort of alchemic blend, the contingent product of a work of ‘heterogeneous engineering’ which was the response to a situation: the Italian university system. One of the positive circumstances that helped to develop and sustain PaSTIS has been the growing of a wider STS movement in Italy, making our local unit an intersection in a wider process of ‘co-evolution’ involving an entire national academic community.
Techno-scientific Issues in the Public Sphere (TIPS) by Paolo Giardullo, Andrea Lorenzet
The TIPS project is based on mass media and online newspapers as a source for analysing the representations of science and technology in the public sphere mapping its relevance and evolution. It monitors the eight most important Italian newspapers, in a time span ranging from 2010 to yesterday. In 2014 the TIPS platform also began collecting two UK, two US, one Indian and seven French newspapers. TIPS calculates ad-hoc ‘techno-science indicators’ based on more than 2.6 millions of documents: it computes ‘salience’, ‘prominence’ and ‘presence’ of techno-science. TIPS also provides a ‘risk indicator’, operationalising risk as an ontological analytical dimension of public techno-science discourse.
Materiality, Politics and Infrastructuring work by Stefano Crabu and Alessandro Mongili
The study of infrastructures in terms of “infrastructuring” and “infrastructuring work” represent a starting point for an in-depth disentanglement of the multidimensional process of technoscientific innovation and societal change. The project on Wireless Community Network led us to conceptualize bottom-up infrastructures as the emerging outcome by a heterogeneous process in which the mutual engagement of media activists, hackers and scientists turns a political project into an innovative digital infrastructure model. In performing our investigation on design and development in computing, we argued that infrastructuring is a field of heterogeneous activities and challenges extant relations, work positions, skills and hierarchies.
Somatosphere: a medical anthropology website by Eugene Raikhel
How to inherit from Barcelona? by Ignacio Farías
Yet Another Industrial Revolution — A Dialogue on Tensions in Digital Fabrication by Yana Boeva, Bruno Chies
This year’s 4S/EASST annual meeting brought many tracks portraying the recent practices and activities in making, hacking, craft, do-it-yourself. One of them, organised by Johan Söderberg, Adrian Smith, and Maxigas, focused on digital fabrication. Track 011 looked at the conflicting nature of digital fabrication as it oscillates between democratising the future of technology production and design and its heritage in Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technologies and deskilling of workers. The ten papers portrayed the plurality and tensions in contemporary digital fabrication through a range of empirical cases and theoretical developments. In this short conversation, we reflect upon the identified tensions to discuss further the relevance of historical comparisons within this research context.
Inspired by the keynote plenary intervention of Madeleine Akrich on “Inquiries into experience and the multiple politics of knowledge” at the 4S/EASST Conference in Barcelona 2016, this article discusses the profile of an emerging perspective in STS research: a tinkering living laboratory of care. Moreover, it provides a closer examination of care theories and practices as they were addressed in three sessions from the same conference. A tinkering living laboratory of care is a source of knowledge “by other means”, it overpasses an individual way of thinking, and argues for collective-orientated theories and methodologies.
Elsewhere: a reflection on responsibility in and of the Anthropocene by Antonia Walford
A short reflection on my involvement in the only panel at the 4S/EASST this year that took the Anthropocene as its theme. The panel asked contributors to think about the responsibility of academics involved in discourse around the Anthropocene. The piece uses recent events in the science fiction community to think about how certain forms of speculation might be an important element of responsibility.
The doctoral day which preceded 4S/EASST 2016 saw 50 researchers from around the world come together to discuss the complexities of a PhD “by other means” at Hangar, an art centre and medialab in post-industrial El Poblenou, a neighbourhood in Barcelona’s Sant Martí district. This paper explores the power-geometries of spatiality and history that characterize our experiences of Poblenou and also its influence on the urban fabric of Barcelona. The neighbourhood’s local struggles during successive revitalization and gentrification processes are explored, in the words of geographer Doreen Massey, as “complex web[s] of relations of domination and subordination, solidarity and cooperation” (1992: 81), the collective energies of which now inspire our own work as hybrid researchers in between worlds of theory, practice and community.
From Innovator to Maintainer: The Anti-heroic turn by Michelle Kasprzak
The topics of repair, care, and maintenance, which were featured across tracks at 4S/EASST, also presented a rejection of the notion of the hero. This development might seem an inevitable result, given that narrative aggrandizement is considered unscholarly. In STS we often question who gets to perform science, or seek to understand larger structures and groups of people who enabled certain innovations and inventions. However, casting light on previously-unsung members of a larger team also runs the risk of heroicising them. In this article, I reflect on two papers which indicated a sensitivity to this danger and hinted at an anti-heroic turn.
Considering the performativity of STS research practices. And do it seriously! by Mariacristina Sciannamblo
This article portrays my experience at the joint 4S/EASST conference 2016 held in Barcelona. It provides an account of the two pivotal moments that characterized my participation to the meeting, that is the postgraduate workshop and the track in which I presented a contribution. These two events share a similar quite radical approach to the conference motto — “science and technology by other means” — which, in turn, reflects the spirit that drove me to the conference.
The Citizen Rotation Office: An immersive and speculative experience prototype. by Annouchka Bayley
This review considers the work presented by Luke Sturgeon as part of Track 070. The presentation, entitled, “The Citizen Rotation Office: An immersive and speculative experience prototype” discussed concepts including: the power of algorithms and their potential future in the development of smart cities; the changing styles of urban dwelling – with particular relation to issues of permanency / temporariness in the housing market; and the rise and character of state / corporate power in the everyday lives of citizens, with particular relation to control over housing, community experience and everyday purchasing ‘choices’ of individuals. The review focuses its consideration around the performance-style of the presentation given and how this develops concepts of diffraction, performatvity and material-discursivity found in the works of Karen Barad (2007) and Donna Haraway (2004) for the undertaking of critical research practice in the STS community.
Letters from Wanna Wonder and the Electric Nemesis by Anna Mann and Laura Watts
Illegal infrastructures: Technology as other practices by Khetrimayum Monish Singh
This review is based on the discussions in the 4S/EASST conference around big data analytics and institutional practices in the regulation and governance of illegality and ‘potential risks’ through data-driven categorizations of social groups and communities. However, the possibilities of resistance, of agency and rights can be made through a set of different political practices on building consensus around policies such as transparency, open data, open government initiatives, and digital rights in connection with biometrics based human machine interactions.
Data practice, data science by Klara Benda
Big Data has been attracting growing professional interest, and this has sparked intellectual curiosity and a sense of hope for exciting research within STS. In this piece I am surveying the discussions about data science and data practices at the recent EASST conference in Barcelona from the perspective of the opportunity for building a research practice at the confluence of STS and digital data. Some propose to bring the STS practices of research and analysis to data scienceby means of bringing either leadership or critique to the field. Others have taken the alternative path of embracing digital practices and taking up digital tools and programming for pursuing an STS agenda by other means.
STS and data science: Making a data scientist? by Daan Kolkman
Much data science related work was presented at 4S/EASST, demonstrating both the topicality of the subject as well as an enthusiasm of STS scholars to engage with this new phenomenon. The ongoing engagement of STS scholars with data science is paramount to counterbalance the considerable time and effort that are devoted to the technical advancement of data science. This essay builds on fieldnotes collected during 4S/EASST and identifies data-ownership, accountability, subjectivity-objectivity and transparency as topical themes for STS data science research. It then explores the definition of data science and data scientist through a short form digital ethnography.
An important, yet overlooked aspect of the field of Science, Technology and Society (STS) is the study of security technologies. In this article I speak of the necessity of regarding security actors as influential on Research and Development and how technologies are shaped by security interests. Various concepts from STS apply to the investigation of security technologies, therefore, the intersection between STS and security studies should become a more prevalent topic in the future. This article describes some of the central issues were raised regarding security studies at the 4S/EASST 2016 Conference in Barcelona.
This article refers to the main contributions emerged during the EASST conference, session T102. Everyday analytics: The politics and practices of self-monitoring.
Through provoking and personal reflections, this short paper analyses self-tracking activity of everyday life into two axes: the role of the self as a laboratory and the meaning of data as the degree of extrinsic reality. The purpose of realizing a self-knowledge through numbers involves several technologies and practices that are leading us toward a new version of the self.
Digitalization of life — How technology redefine the self in the global context by Barbara Morsello
Which horizons can we imagine for subjectivity in the global digital society? Which technologies of the self can somehow re-establish a relationship with the individual and collective self? How might the technical and scientific progress change, or even enhance, subjectivity? What do we mean when we say ‘digital subjectivity’? The session entitled ‘Digital subjectivities in the global context: new technologies of the self’ tried to answer some of these questions.
Talking Between the Panels: Coffee and Lunch Breaks at 4S/EAAST, Barcelona 2016 by Vidya Subramanian
The 4S/EASST Conference in Barcelona provided a fantastic opportunity for early career researchers to not just present their research in front of a global audience of peers, but also great networking opportunities. This article tries to capture the ambience of the lunch and coffee breaks at the CCIB (Barcelona International Convention Centre) during the course of the conference, and how these breaks provide an interesting opportunity to interact with fellow academics and forge bonds that could result in future collaborations and friendships.
This is a summary report on the track “Beyond the single-site study: the Biography of Artefacts and Practices” at the 4S/EASST conference in Barcelona. The track brought together an international community of scholars interested in advancing methodology for a better understanding of the role of technology in society. After a brief introduction of the biography perspective and an overview of the talks presented in the track, the report will reflect on the intellectual contribution of the biographical perspective inspired by presentations in the track “Emerging ‘forms’ of life”.
This short review of the Track 091 ‘Exploring the role of materials’, sets out the key outcome of the track. The review draws out themes that lay under all the track talks, and the divisions the themes caused. The outcome of these themes was a set of theoretically informed questions on how to treat materials, where to approach practices, and also on what materials are. The review sets out some emerging avenues for future collaboration, highlighting the value of the conference in bringing together disparate sets of researchers focussed on similar narrowly specialised topics that might not have otherwise collaborated.
This essay was prompted by the author’s participation in the 2016 4S/EASST conference that took place in Barcelona. Session T153, in particular, on Don Ihde’s material hermeneutics offered an insight in the relation between Ihde’s postphenomenology, and Roman Ingarden’s aesthetics of art. This relation is briefly described in the text for the case of culinary [gustatory] aesthetics and the example of the Catalonian high-end restaurant
elBulli is presented as a potential case study.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has arisen as a grand challenge and global problem confronting the world in the 21st century. AMR is truly global not only in the geographical-political sense, but also in that it runs across and proliferates through the complex interactions of human medicine and patterns of health care on the one hand, and veterinary medicine and the livestock industries on the other hand. Even though the ‘science-question’ seems rather subordinate at this point in the politics of AMR, STS has a vital role to play in researching and contributing to engaging this matter of pressing concern. Yet, it confronts STS with the need and the opportunity to engage more eagerly with other fields and communities of social science research, particularly the field of critical policy studies.
Organizing the track Infrastructures of Nuclearity in the context of the 4S/EASST conference in Barcelona was a novel and highly enriching experience for me. During the panel, I came to identify some important issues and threads for the future of nuclear studies in STS and its related disciplines. These include the role of the researcher in studying nuclearity and, second, the new wave of infrastructure studies and how it can feed into nuclear studies.
Couched within themes emerging from the broader whirlwind that was 4S/EASST, the track “STS and Planning” included a diverse set of presentations that offered an opportunity to reflect on planning research within an STS framework. Of particular interest to me was the openness to the types of knowledge that go into planning and the sometimes unexpected ways in which they perform. Many empirically rich examples showed how boundaries between familiar categories such as lay communities and professionals, expertise and personal judgement, scientific models and non-scientific judgements, are fluid and porous. The unpacking of ‘rational’ planning processes opened up room to consider how planning occurs in practice, and what planning may represent for different groups.
Towards a Just Society: STS in the International Panel on Social Progress by Sameea Ahmed Hassim
The International Panel on Social Progress is attempting to produce a reflexive and interdisciplinary perspective on social progress. While STS articulations of the role of experts, expertise, power, governance and the social construction of science and technology have found meaning in such an endeavor, the IPSP could further reflect on its knowledge production process so that the global community recognizes the products of this endeavor as credible and legitimate.
In this short essay I reflect on two 4S/EASST Barcelona conference events in which I participated: the “Governing Research Excellence” track and the postgraduate workshop. While thinking through the themes discussed during both events, I highlight that STS scholars, like any other researchers, are affected by research policies that define excellence increasingly narrowly. However, I suggest that STS researchers are very well-positioned to engage with this issue by examining not only the expertise, but also the “humanity” of those enlisted to produce research excellence, thus offering critiques of and alternatives to the excellence rhetoric and structures.
Scientific thinking and method have incredible potential to improve the world. To utilise it, a relationship between science and society needs to be positive and strong. Current post-truth environment, however, detracts from science’s legitimacy as a source of knowledge, worsening the perceived value of science in the society. At the conference, two relevant issues stood out for me the most: science communication and scientific research. Consequently, I formulated three questions to consider for science-society relationship: ‘Could we use museums as a platform for more direct engagement with science?’; ‘Could we improve science communication practices by a careful inclusion of lay knowledge?’; and ‘How to approach reproducibility crisis if open data practices are at best only part of the solution?’
Open Science in Practice STS by Katja Mayer, Eduard Aibar
Our conference track invited STS scholars to explore Open Science from an STS perspective and to discuss what STS can bring into the broader discussion. Open science is broadly defined as science that is transparent, accountable, and shareable, involving the participation of (all) relevant stakeholders in the scientific process. With this report we would like to highlight several discussion points of the broad spectrum from normative imaginaries of openness to undogmatic open practices. Therefore, while the emphasis of our remarks is on the diversity of enactments of openness, we can only present four snapshots of our track: co-production of knowledge in participatory settings, open data practices, scientific ethos and trust, and policy imaginaries of openness in research and innovation.
Based on the tracks “Open Science” and “Lives and Death of Data” at the yearly EASST/4S conference in Barcelona I make some remarks on how science studies analyse the so-called “open science” and the “lifecycle of data”. I propose that including ontological and historical aspects when studying these topics might benefit our understanding of the methodological, political, scientific or cultural determinants of the emergence of these categories, and also help unveil what our own roles as scientists are in shaping the things we then analyse.