Tag Archives: Conference

6th Postgraduate STS Conference in Lancaster – Connecting Links in the North West

 

On March 21st-23rd 2016, the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Science Studies at Lancaster University hosted its 6th annual Postgraduate Science and Technology Studies (STS) Conference. The event was supported by a range of academic departments and the Economic and Social Research Council North West Doctoral Training Centre in recognition of its increasing importance for the STS postgraduate community in Lancaster, and increasingly for the North West. For the second year, the conference invited students working on STS and related fields from the University of Manchester and the University of Liverpool. This invitation attracted students and academics from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives including Science Studies, History of Science, Educational Research, Geography, Management and Organisational Studies.

The conference was generously supported by academic staff and is entirely student led. Its primary purpose is showcasing postgraduate work-in-progress and opening it up for discussion. It thereby reinvigorates the North West STS community by offering Ph.D. students the chance to present their work and join the ongoing discussions about the field’s developments. The conference was opened with a keynote speech which this year was delivered by Gail Davies, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Exeter and member of the Home Office Animals in Science Committee. Professor Davies presented on “Economic values, animal affects, and the length of the (primate) working day” discussing her work on situated experimental practices, ethical debates of animal labour and the forms of animal agency associated with researching the neuroscience of reward using macaque monkeys.

The keynote speech was followed by two days of postgraduate presentations on their work-in-progress. Postgraduate presentations bring together academic staff from different departments to create one of the annual forums to discuss STS related concerns. In this respect, the annual conference reflects the interdisciplinary and engaged nature of STS work in the North West. The presentations are followed by commentaries and discussions that help to further research objectives and modes of inquiry in a supportive and engaging atmosphere.

 

Professor Law started his presentation by remembering his colleague Professor John Urry
Professor Law started his presentation by remembering his colleague Professor John Urry

 

We believe that scholarship is rooted in a continued interest in other people’s work, and to flourish we need to learn from each other as a community of scholars. This commitment is reflected in our review process, where each presenter submits a paper before the conference that is reviewed by both an academic and another student. Each reviewer gives feedback after the paper is presented, and once all the papers in a session have been presented, reviewers are invited to open a more general and wide-ranging discussion picking up on issues that emerge across the papers in that session. This system is popular with students and staff alike as students develop the vital skill of peer review, and receive more detailed questioning and suggestions compared to most conferences.

In 2016, the presentations charted a wide range of topics on the borderlands of established understandings of human, science and technology, which both necessitated and facilitated conversations across disciplines. Finding a common theme, as such, would be difficult. Student’s work addressed issues of how devices and bodies as diverse technologies, microbes, standards and screens are refigured when crossing the boundaries of not only laboratories or clinics, but homes, churches, farms, communities of amateurs, the “Global South” and the Iron Curtain.

While the diversity of topics could be seen as unusual in other disciplines, it displays how STS works across boundaries and draws together different connections. Additionally, the scholarly practice of unsettling research objects remains reliant on bringing heterogeneous cases together. In spite of this diversity, two themes seemed to surface in most of the presentations: (1) a troubling of and with method, where tools of knowledge-making, may it be our informants’ or our own, remain always problematic and open to questioning; and (2), a interest in displacement and how things, bodies and methodological tools ‘travel’, and how following these voyages enable problematisation.

In the last few years, it has become a tradition for the closing lecture to be delivered by a senior faculty from Lancaster, such as Professor Brian Wynne or Professor Maureen McNeil. In 2016, Professor John Law gave an account of his “journey through STS”. Professor Law touched upon both his engagement in developing actor-network theory and its successor material-semiotic approaches, and diagnosed some of the present challenges STS scholars can face in providing more symmetrical accounts of issues. More specifically, Professor Law discussed how knowledge making in STS remains bound up with Euro-American locations and tropes. Drawing on common work with Taiwanese Scholar Wen-yuan Lin, he explored how we can benefit from enrolling non-Western ideas into our analytical frameworks.

This year, the conference was suspended for an hour on receiving the news of the sudden death of Professor John Urry, a friend and mentor as well as co-worker to many conference participants. This enabled colleagues to assemble, reflect, tell stories and begin to grieve. He will be very much missed, but his legacy remains influential both in Lancaster and beyond.

The 2016 conference was organised by Lancaster research students in alphabetical order, Peter Fuzesi, Victoria Gorton, Jess Phoenix, Derly Sanchez Vargas and Andy Yuille. We extend thanks to the North West Doctoral Training Centre and Lancaster University for funding and supporting this event and hope it will continue to develop productive links between STS scholars in the North West and beyond.

News from EASST Council

The EASST Council (the elected body that runs our association) meets twice a year, last time in Munich in October and next in Copenhagen in April. Issues which are currently being discussed and progressed include:

  • Elections: the terms of office (normally 4 years) of the majority of Council members, and the President, come to an end this year. There will be a specific call for self-nominations and details of the election process later in the year. However, if you want to know more about the Council you can see the current members from our website at https://easst.net/about-easst/easst-council-members/ and read the constitution at https://easst.net/about-easst/easst-constitution/. If you want to know more, please contact our secretary via estrid.sorensen(at)rub.de or the president at president(at)easst.net
  • Current Conference: there has been a massive response to the call for papers with over 2,500 received. Track Conveners and the Scientific Committee are busy assessing these. Students from 4S and EASST are working together to put together a Postgraduate Workshop to procede the conference. Both EASST and 4S have funds to support the conference attendance of students and those at early career stage who have had papers accepted. To keep in touch with developments follow the conference website at http://www.sts2016bcn.org/ .
  • Future Conferences: a reminder that we issued a call for those interested in hosting EASST’s next conference in 2018 (or at a future date). Council will be discussing this at the beginning of April so please get in touch straightaway if you are interested but have not yet told us.
  • Membership: a reminder that our membership year ends on 30th Those members who have a Futurepay agreement to cover renewals will receive a reminder about this – and an opportunity to cancel if you want to. If you know that your credit card has been renewed or changed over the year let us know and we can tell you how to update it. Others will receive an invoice as normal. A reminder that membership offers a discount on conference registration rates.
  • Awards for collaborative activities: thanks for your nominations. Council is considering those and the awards will be made in Barcelona.
  • Science and Technology Studies: our peer reviewed online journal has a new editor Salla Sariola. Thanks to Sampsa Hyysalo, the outgoing editor, for all his hard work. The journal has increased its issues from 3 to 4 per year based on the quality and quantity of submissions. Council is discussing other developments including an open journal platform and a pre-publication repository.
  • Website: we are currently making some amendments to our website to make its format more compatible with mobile and tablet use. We will use this opportunity to make some other minor changes. Look out for our new site soon.
  • EASST Review: we are always keen to hear your news via submissions to EASST Review. To discuss this contact our editor at ignacio.farias(at)tum.de