skip to main content

4S Preview: Re-configuring Knowledge Practices: Folding Margins and Norms into Dynamic Hybridity

Ellen K Foster and Karin Patzke

22 August, 2016

We are publishing a series of posts highlighting some of the tracks on the program of the 2016 4S conference, which will convene jointly with the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) in Barcelona, August 31-September 3. The theme of this year’s 4S/EASST conference is “science and technology by other means” For more information on "Re-configuring knowledge Practices: Folding Margins and Norms into Dynamic Hybridity" and to view the accepted abstracts, please see the track page

Action, Interaction and Change (or what our 4S title session really means).

Taking up the 4S/EASST theme “Science & technology by other means: exploring collectives, spaces and futures,” we organized this panel with the intent of bringing together a diverse scholarship that embraces alternative knowledge practices. In our original call, we asked panelists engaged in ethnographic research how interlocutors imagined alternative futures and how tacit knowledge practices interacted with those futures. We were interested in scholars who engaged in feminist STS scholarship that demonstrates not only that alternatives are no longer marginalized studies, but robust sights of inquiry that develop apart from (and not only in opposition) to normative thinking/structures/systems (Gibson-Graham 2006, Bardzell 2010).

Early on in the development of this panel, we knew we wanted to include the work of Sam Smiley and Niranjan Sivakumar, whose work examines alternative knowledge practices -- both through ethnographic methodologies like observation and interviews, and also through actually engaging those practices. These two scholars’ research examines how epistemic cultures influence future imaginaries and contemporary action -- key themes we were excited to explore in the panel. As the CFP deadline approached, we contacted various scholars who we thought might fit well into our own panel’s CFP, including Daniela Rosner. After reaching out to Rosner, she quickly responded in regards to a like-minded panel that Tania Pérez-Bustos and her  were also organizing, suggesting that we combine panels/forces.  Rosner described their panel as “an experimental closed session on intersecting technical knowledges and histories of craft” that “enlivens connections between engineering knowledges and histories of women’s craftwork rooted in a feminist politics of fracture.” Reading the abstracts by Daniela Rosner & Rose Paquet Kinsley, Julia Pollack & Bonnie Mak, and Tania Pérez Bustos, we realized that incorporating craft practices opened up our panel to include tacit knowledge structures often omitted in STS scholarship. Delighted at this happy coincidence, we immediately agreed to combine our panels to explore these complementary themes and after some consideration, chose the title “Reconfiguring Knowledge Practices: Folding Margins and Norms into Dynamic Hybridity.” While Daniela Rosner and Rose Paquet Kinsley will not be able to join the panel due to conflicting circumstances that have since arisen, their ideas and contribution to the panel design remains key.

It is our intent that having a panel that examined the cultural value of knowledge would help to get at the ephemeral qualities of practice while also revealing the hegemonic discourses that link individual identity to dominant systems of social order. Each of the panel participants draws on a specific task to extrapolate the tacit conditions of knowledge production. Julia Pollack & Bonnie Mak highlight the work of women librarians and citation. Tania Pérez Bustos examines how shared and mutual learning takes place in collaborative endeavors. sam smiley explores how DIY kits structure knowledge about genetics and biology more generally. And Niranjan Sivakumar presents the work of cryptography through the lens of hackers and hacking.

Instead of a traditional panel in which the audience sets passively to hear the work of each scholar, we’ve taken seriously the 4S/EEASTS call “by other means” and have organized a panel that attempts to engage each member of the audience on an active, yet informal level. Each panel draws on a different form of performance—from workshops to endurance—to not only “report” on their findings, but to situate alternative knowledges as real tangible practices. In Barcelona, we hope to structure the session such that the audience moves to each presenter and—to varying degrees—actually participates in the tacit practices of the field.

Informed by our ethnographic fieldwork, we strive to understand how contemporary and historic practices imagine multiple futures. Within these contexts difference and marginality are not posited against normative hegemonic structures, but are seen to stand as systems in their own right, requiring the cultivation of and participation in not only shared cultural values, but also shared tacit knowledge(s) and practice. We contend that the cultivation of such shared values, tacit knowledges, and practices are important as we imagine futures without racism, bigotry, environmental degradation, and misogyny. However, we don’t want to essentialize or privilege a particular positionality as a means of getting to that future. Instead, we hope this panel performs how diverse future imaginaries are rooted in mundane, yet specialized, practices that “work” to achieve some semblance of equity.

"Re-configuring Knowledge Practices: Folding Margins and Norms into Dynamic Hybridity" will take place on September 3, 2016 at 14:00 (Room 112b)



Bardzell, Shaowen. “Feminist HCI: Taking Stock and Outlining an Agenda for Design.” Conference Proceedings for CHI 2010: HCI For All, Atlanta, Georgia, April 10-15 2010.

Gibson-Graham, J.K. The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2006.

Backchannels / Projects

Descriptions of current work—the makings and doings—of STS scholars across the globe. This includes individual work, as well as collaborations between / with academics, practitioners, and policy makers.