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4S Preview: Valuation Practices at the Margins as a Centre of Attention

Kristin Asdal, C-F Helgesson, Freyja Knapp, Francis Lee, and Steve Woolgar

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 "Valuation Practices at the Margins" and to view the accepted abstracts, please see the track page.



Heaven and earth, the living and the dead. Anything, it seems, can become an object of a valuation practice aiming to establish what is good, worthy, valuable and so forth.

How is ‘what counts as valuable’ established in valuation practices, and by what criteria? What and who participate in such ventures and what are the effects? A growing number of scholars have shown interest, across a number of disciplines, in analysing and problematising valuation practices: the ways by which values are established, assessed, negotiated, provoked, maintained, constructed and/or contested. This has resulted in a surge of studies within STS, as well as in a broader emerging transdisciplinary field of valuation studies. At the centre are explorations in the means, measures, and procedures for performing valuations; those who participate in performing valuations; and to what ends and consequences. 

The “Valuation Practices at the Margins” track at 4S/EASST in Barcelona is situated in this growing space of work focusing on the margins of valuation (see Mennicken, Andrea, and Ebba Sjögren. 2015. “Valuation and Calculation at the Margins.” Valuation Studies 3(1):1-7). Attending to valuation practices at the margins elicits new facets of valuation that further our understanding of the practices and what they entail. Attending to margins can take multiple shapes. For example: examining how new phenomena are becoming subjected to practices of valuation, or how new techniques and tools are brought in to reform established valuation practices. An attention to margins can also involve studying asymmetric struggles over valuations, such as encounters between dominant techniques and other means of valuing that may be performed in the shadow of more influential modes. The track further explores how attending to the margins of valuations may tease out the “core” conditions for manufacturing values, and how these conditions may be challenged and transformed by way of new and emerging techniques.

The track contains thirty-one papers, organised thematically in seven consecutive sessions. The sites and objects differ immensely. For example, scholars will be variously discussing decency in correctional services, human excrement, and high-end audio. The contributions equally span varied sites, such as hospitals, used goods markets, and earthquake early-warning systems.

Gathering contributions that focus on such a rich and varied set of sites and objects brings a particular leverage to spaces of inquiry. The juxtapositions at play when focusing on different valuation practices at the margins present new opportunities to interrogate several STS-favoured sites in new ways. For instance, they give the possibility to examine, the practices of scientific knowledge production, and the mundane practices of everyday life as both involving socio-material practices of valuation.

The track is convened by Kristin Asdal, C-F Helgesson, Freyja Knapp, Francis Lee, and Steve Woolgar. It runs in seven consecutive sessions starting at 9:30 on Thursday 1 September and finishes at 15:30 on Friday, 2 September.

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.