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.
Johan Söderberg, Maxigas, Adrian Smith / 03 August, 2016The challenge is that it is not only technology's promises of emancipation that have been betrayed, we are being betrayed by those very promises. Recall that, fifty years ago, social ecologist Murray Bookchin welcomed a future in which collectives would own tools and organise production non-hierarchically around 'liberatory technologies'. The maverick priest Ivan Illich defined tools as "convivial" in much the same way. Although they were much too refined thinkers to hinge their hopes on some single tool set, the future they longed for required a wider cultural and social transformation, this transformation was centred on a small-is-beautiful ethos. Meandering through time and institutions, that same dream became part of the normative backdrop of the STS field, as exemplified by our preferential treatment of users (and non-users, misusers....) and lay experts. Grassroots appropriation of digital fabrication in hackerspaces, makerspaces, FabLabs, etc., fit the bill. This sums up the common subject field of the track, but not what is most important about it. Ask not what theory can do for your empirical findings – probably not much more than debunk a few inflated and self-serving promises about the future - but ask what the findings can do for theory development. That is to say, how shall we recalibrate the normative compass of STS in light of the impasse, where the democratization of the tools and scientific-technical expertise have not translated into an equivalent democratization of political influence and economic means?
Katherine Weatherford Darling, Natali Valdez, Emily Vasquez, Christoph Hanssmann, and Melissa Creary / 20 July, 2016We are publishing a series of posts highlighting some of the tracks on the program of the 2016 4S conference. Here, the contributors to the track entitled “Situated Meanings of ‘Good’ Care and Science ‘Worth Doing’” reflect on their collaborative efforts to explore situated, contested, and contingent moral understandings of good practice in both biomedical research and settings of biomedical care.
Don Ihde / 14 July, 2016We 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. This post highlights panel 131, "Science has always been technoscience."
Katie Vann and Daniel Lee Kleinman / 12 July, 2016Is it possible for scholars to publish work that critically considers a pressing contemporary problem and offers a kind of extended op-ed in which an STS analytical lens informs the commentary? Is it possible for scholars to publish compact work that crystalizes an innovative critical concept of potential use in the analysis of STS-related issues? Yes! At 4S’s new open access journal, Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, we are experimenting with the possibilities.
Yelena Gluzman / 27 June, 2016Like those infrequent but recurring celestial events, the appearance of a new Handbook of Science and Technology Studies can be a landmark event for a generation. The editors of the forthcoming Fourth Edition—Ulrike Felt, Rayvon Fouché, Clark Miller and Laurel Smith-Doerr—speak with Backchannels’ Yelena Gluzman to give a taste of what we can expect.
Gwen Ottinger, Drexel University / 18 April, 2016What’s in the air in the neighborhoods closest to oil refineries? In general, we don’t know. Advocacy for better monitoring is slowly expanding the data available to fenceline communities, but “available” does not necessarily mean “accessible” when it comes to data. Gwen Ottinger set out to learn how these data can become a more important part of the public conversation about air quality in fenceline communities, which led her to a broader question: what does it mean to reshape data cultures to enable community participation?
Maria Rentetzi / 18 April, 2016The Oxford dictionary defines the box as “a container with a flat base and sides, typically square or rectangular and having a lid.” Indeed, boxes preserve and protect; are used as storage containers or to transport precious things; and often serve simply as aesthetic artifacts. Historically, the objects to be contained dictated the fabrication of specific boxes, underlining the intimate relation between the content and its container. Yet, throughout history and as an important part of the material culture of human civilization, the box has always functioned as more than a simple container. Science and technology studies scholars have shown that boxes, although ordinary objects, define their content and by doing so they produce knowledge about it. Especially in laboratory studies, boxes and all kinds of containers classify, tag, preserve, transport, and organize knowledge in a pervasive way. To the “jungle of scientific practice,” a simple box can play crucial epistemic roles.
Vivek Kant, Nanyang Technological University / 04 April, 2016The goal of Teach311.org is "to enhance the collective knowledge of scholars worldwide working at the intersections of history of science and technology and Asia by presenting, annotating and organizing pertinent scholarly work and teaching materials." Here we feature a post that provides ideas for classroom discussion of a documentary film by 4S Council member, Sulfikar Amir.
Max Liboiron / 28 December, 2015You simply cannot see the vast majority of marine plastics (Emmelhiez 2015). They are tiny. They are dispersed. If you have a body of water near where you live, work, play, or pray, chances are excellent that there are plastics in them. Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC), a citizen science NGO, has found tiny plastics in samples gathered from remote river headwaters in the far north, as well as waters in Maine, Alaska, Argentina, Thailand and Antarctica–everywhere their volunteers collect water (you can join as a volunteer here). I’ve collected water for ASC, and to my eyes, it was plastic free. Yet they found tiny microscopic plastics in the sample.
Jen Henderson / 04 December, 2015The Society for the Social Studies of Science, 4S, is currently recruiting graduate students to join the 4S website committee where they will help solicit posts and manage social media for their new blog, Backchannels. Students are welcome from any discipline related to issues of interest to the 4S community.
Mitali Thakor and Stephen Molldrem / 26 October, 2015In sum, we want to collectively ask, In the spirit of Michael Warner and Lauren Berlant (1995): What, if anything, does queer theory/queer studies teach us about ‘X,’ if ‘X’ is a concept or approach in STS? How might an STS notion of performativity differ or coincide with Butler’s use of the term; what might a “queer counterpublic” look like in the context of Actor-Network theory?
Katrina Petersen / 01 June, 2015Scholars at Lancaster University's Centre for Mobilities Research have created three projects to better understand how the (im)mobilities of people, materials, information, and ideas about and during disasters produce ethical and social matters of concern and how these might be collectively addressed. BRIDGE: Bridging Resources and agencies in large-scale emergency management; SecInCoRe: Secure Dynamic Cloud for Information, Communication and Resource Interoperability based on Pan-European Disaster Inventory; and Children, Young People and Disasters: Recovery and Resilience. To work with the complexities of ethical, legal, and social entanglements between human, technology, and world that STS theory highlights, all three projects facilitate collective, experimental, embodied engagement, and experience.
Hanna Rose Shell / 01 April, 2015The heap we see is viable, and indeed potent, as a source for scholarship because of its embodied status, its being in the world and in time. Looking, touching, searching, smelling, filming reveal a story with historical and contemporary implications, and–for me– lays out the framework for a material archaeology of waste. The site of the heap is the starting point for a book and a series of interconnected short films and interactive media in progress, an excerpt of which is shown.
Max Liboiron / 24 March, 2015Write2know part of a larger movement in science and technology studies today that is calling for engaged scholarly research. It highlights STS scholars’ roles in civic participation and STS as an practice of “making and doing” politics in and through science. Crucially, this campaign engages issues where science and technology intersect with social and environmental justice.
Jim Collier / 31 January, 2015Social epistemology understands knowledge as a principle for social organization and action and welcomes the reformist impulse. In that spirit, as the Executive Editor of Social Epistemology, I initiated and participate in the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective, whose ideals and practices express the promise and potential of common purpose.
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Linguists first used the term backchannel to refer to the spontaneous responses and signals that provide interactivity to what is only apparently a one-way communication. Social media users have adopted the term to refer to the unofficial, multi-directional online conversation that parallels formal academic exchange at a lecture or conference. The Backchannels blog is intended to have a similar relationship to scholarly discourse in STS. It provides an outlet for alternative-format scholarly communications, publishing shorter, timelier, media-rich communiques of interest to the global STS community. The editors welcome proposed contributions.