EASST Review: Volume 35(1) March 2016
A collaborative turn in STS? by Ignacio Farías
STS in South-East Europe: the Plovdiv University School by Ivan Tchalakov, Tihomir Mitev
Since 1997, STS in Plovdiv University was established as a rather “orthodox” program based on actor-network theory. Here B.A. sociology students study classical sociology of knowledge and Merton’s sociology of science, semiotics and ‘sociology of laboratory life’ where the key STS approaches are introduced. These are complemented by courses on risk societies, innovation and entrepreneurship, and economy of technical change. The academic courses are followed by annual STS summer practice, where the students examine the forms of engagement of human actors in laboratory science and large technical systems, thus seeking for the conditions thank make possible a deeper ‘moral’ commitment towards the studied objects and served technical systems as precondition for human agents’ responsible behavior in critical situations. Originality of the STS program in Plovdiv is in the elaboration of the concept of heterogeneous micro communities in science and technology, stressing the bodily (corporeal) and ethical layers of relationship between human and non-human actors. Also a special attention is paid to the everyday (language) practices, graphic materials and other visual data, allowing deeper understanding of the interactions taking place inside the heterogeneous communities.
The Plovdiv University STS Summer School by Elena Genkova, Gergana Dineva
Meson Press: Opening Up Book Publishing by meson press
The workshop explored affinities between the concept of bio-object and the practice and theory of multispecies ethnography. Bio-objects are materializations of new forms of vitality such as stem cells, bio-products, and other objectifications (Vermeulen, Tamminen, & Webster, 2012). Multispecies ethnography is a tool of emergent forms of anthropology that consider how animal, plant, fungal, and organic agencies can be most fruitfully incorporated into ethnographic accounts (Kirksey & Helmreich, 2010). After an introductory panel discussion of these two topics and two exploratory sessions, fueled by the work of PhD students from MIT and Europe, we explored whether “life” is objectified across a range of cases and, if so, how. We addressed how well “multispecies”-related concepts suffice for particular ethnographic or historical cases, and we sought to identify convergences and divergences between the terms and scout out new avenues for collaboration.
Experiments with “New Materialisms” – Workshop Report on “Sociology and New Materialisms” by Katharina Hoppe, Benjamin Lipp
The workshop “Sociology and New Materialisms” was driven by two interests: one genealogical and one experimental. The former arose from the observation that new materialisms are linked with existing debates on materiality and social sciences. We were therefore interested in the dis/continuities between neo-materialist approaches and existing materialisms in social theory. The experimental interest derived from a desire to shift the debate on new materialisms away from purely theoretical concerns towards the question how these concepts could make a difference empirically. We therefore asked our participants to employ neo-materialist approaches to let them prove themselves vis-à-vis qualitative field research. As a preliminary result, this report points out five problematizations of materiality which promise to be fruitful both for further conceptual work and empirical enquiry: apparative, de/stabilizing, multiple, withdrawing, and contested materialities.
“Making and Doing” at 4S Meeting (Denver): Let’s extend the experiment! by Julie Le Bot, Marianne Noel
In this report from the 4S Annual Meeting in Denver (2015) we highlight the dynamics of the “Making and Doing” Programme. Conceived as a response to a growing trend among STS Scholars in engaging in scholarly practices that produce and express STS knowledge beyond the traditional outputs, it took the form of an interactive exhibition. Projects’ initiators engaged dialogue with the audience, through original performances or carriers (websites, paperwork, videos, etc.). We shortly describe 15 initiatives (among 50) which have been embraced by collectives of all types and illustrate how STS insights are applied and implemented in practical processes of production, diffusion and utilisation of science and technology. We suggest to renew the experiment, in order to feed our common knowledge base with STS projects than can also used as case studies in courses and training sessions.
The conference in December 2015 that celebrated the launch of STS Austria provided a colorful map of the field of STS and thereby an excellent opportunity to take stock of its current state and directions. Contributions to the conference provide a rich view of the ways in which STS makes sense of the sociomaterial practices that build the technoscientific worlds in which we live across many domains and levels. At the same time, a concluding discussion identified that STS has not always been equally successful in applying its perspectives to its own practices. There are therefore several challenges ahead for strengthening the field’s solidity, impact and relevance; challenges that should be met with an open approach both within and beyond STS.
News from EASST Council by Sonia Liff