Coming Together in 2012

Coming Together in 2012

Dear Readers,

Just to let you know that this edition of the EASST Review has been put together by the joint effort of the EASST Council. Anne Rudinow Sætnan, our Editor, is taking a well-earned ‘three issues off’ for health reasons. We wish her all the very best and look forward to her return in good health and spirits in the New Year.

In the meanwhile, there are some exciting developments to report on. The current EASST council has been busy on several fronts and we aim to give you a favour of ‘what is going on’ through this short editorial.

First, we hope that many of you will have seen the announcement for the joint 4S/EASST meeting in 2012 (also published later in this Review). It has been a tradition since 1992 that joint 4S/EASST meetings are held in Europe every 4th year. In 1992 the very first 4S/EASST meeting was held in Gothenburg, Sweden. This one, 20 years but only five joint 4S/EASST meetings down the line, will take place from October 17th-20th, 2012, at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. These joint meetings are what one might call a ‘great occasion’. They are usually spectacularly well-attended, ambitious, and ‘buzzy’ – and they also do lots of other work. Such as, for example…. providing the chance for North American and European STS scholars to work together to organise the conference; creating a space in which we can showcase and explore a particular theme in STS (more on this below); providing the opportunity to take stock of developments across the field every four years; celebrating the recent achievements of STS scholars across the world; and giving everyone the chance to visit a different STS-active ‘site’ each time, and to appreciate its particularities, its specific focus, its STS-shaped talents, and of course, its hospitality!

Almost all of the eight Council members together with our brilliant EASST administrator, Sonia Liff, had the opportunity to visit Copenhagen Business School this September. We held our council meeting in Copenhagen so that we could check out the conference venue, talk to the local organisers, and generally support the conference planning process. The building in which we met (pictured) was stylish, earthy and invigorating. We later learnt that it had won a RIBA European award in 2006. Even without this knowledge, however, it felt as if it had been cleverly designed with learning, communicating, and the social and intellectual lives of learners and their teachers in mind. Right away, this felt very promising. On our subsequent tour of the different buildings that will host the conference in 2012, we were led through the green campus and we all appreciated the kinds of spaces envisaged for 4S/EASST members to gather, talk, listen, eat, celebrate and even dance and have fun….

The venue is only part of it, of course. The Council were very pleased to hear about the planned theme for the conference. This both highlights the particular preoccupations and strengths belonging to the scholars of the host venue and makes links to a strong theme running through other strands of STS research. Perhaps it is important to say here that this theme is not prescriptive – that is, papers and sessions not related to the theme are as welcome as those that are directly connected. However, as the Council commented during their visit, the idea of ‘a theme’ pulls things together, it gives a flavour, it hints at situated knowledges and their ability to connect with wider issues and concerns. It is very STS!

So, this year’s theme is ‘Design and Displacement’. To take just a few words from the full blurb that you can see later in this Review, the theme is meant to invite ‘careful analyses of the way design practices take part in shaping worlds’. Through the idea of displacement, the organisers want to explore challenges to the idea of design as well as the customary celebration of this human art. They want design to be scrutinised for its role as catalyst for change, conflict and controversy, as well as for appreciation or ideas of harmony. They also suggest we might think about STS itself as design work and think critically about our interventions as kinds of designs. The council felt that this is an exciting and appropriate theme coming from the city of Copenhagen and the Copenhagen Business School and one that can readily spawn connections to many other aspects of STS.

One last thing about the 2012 conference. Taking a similar approach to the ‘tracks’ developed at the EASST Trento Conference (2010), a call for ‘open panels’ at the 2012 Joint Conference 4S/EASST has now been announced (deadline 4th January). A ‘panel’ is defined as a collection of papers that address a shared theme, and the purpose of calling for open ‘panels’ is to stimulate the formation of new networks around topics of interest to the 4S/EASST community. It is suggested that these ‘may take inspiration from the conference theme ‘Design and Displacement’’, but they do not have to. The selected open panels will then be included as part of the formal call for papers and sessions in January (where closed panels and single abstracts can also be submitted).

Before we sign off, we thought it would be good to give you an idea of what else has been keeping the Council busy since the Trento Conference in September 2010. Our main concerns are to support EASST members all the time (not only in EASST Conference years), and to nurture a sense of EASST as a vibrant, heterogeneous, intellectually and geographically wide-ranging community. With this in mind:

  • we have continued a fund to support inter-conference year workshops (two reports from recipients appeared in the last Review. In this issue there is one more);
  • we are redesigning our website to make it more EASST-user-friendly, more comprehensive, and more of an STS ‘meeting place’ (the new site, being designed by NomadIT will come on stream early in 2012);
  • we continue to support the discussion list, Eurograd, on our website;
  • we have launched a new directory of members that allows one to find other members by name, location or interests, see the members page;
  • we are working to recruit and support more members from Central, Eastern and Southern European countries;
  • we are planning to offer three new EASST awards to be made at the conference in October 2012. These recognise individuals who have shaped the social studies of science and technology, but are sadly no longer with us. The awards are designed explicitly to reward collective endeavours within STS, and contributions to a sense of cohesion and community within our field (see article later in the Review);

We’d like to sign off by suggesting that we very much welcome comments or suggestions from EASST members on EASST activities, including suggestions for future developments. We hope you will be inspired to come to Copenhagen and we invite you to keep up to date with further developments via our webpage at EASST 2012.