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Reflections

Commentary on the current and future state of the field or subfields within science and technology studies. Can include interviews, meditations on particular concepts or methods, biography / autobiography, essays, and other more personal and less formal writings.

Leon Olivé or the citizen philosopher

Mónica Lozano / 20 June, 2017

title On February 10, 2017, the philosopher and mathematician Leon Olivé died in Mexico, one of the most important contemporary Mexican thinkers and a reference in Latin America for philosophical and social studies on science and technology. This text renders a posthumous homage to science philosopher and to the teacher, through presenting what, in my judgment, is one of his main contributions: to discuss the role of science and technology in Latin America from a perspective on multiculturalism

Undoing the Ontology of the Poor: A Participatory Design Project

Mariacristina Sciannamblo and Maurizio Teli / 30 May, 2017

title Mariacristina Sciannamblo, Maurizio Teli unpack the political implications of social science methods in their co-producing understandings of poverty and the polices that seek to counteract it. In an participatory design approach the "Commonfare" project rethinks – and critically engages with – the ontological politics of these population categorizations.

Is STS All Talk and No Walk? Steve Fuller

James H. Collier / 22 May, 2017

title Of course, STSers are free to contest any individual or group that they find politically undesirable—but on political, not methodological grounds. We should not be quick to fault undesirables for ‘misusing’ our insights, let alone apologize for, self-censor or otherwise restrict our own application of these insights, which lay at the heart of Latour’s (2004) notorious mea culpa. On the contrary, we should defer to Oscar Wilde and admit that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. STS has enabled the undesirables to raise their game, and if STSers are too timid to function as partisans in their own right, they could try to help the desirables raise their game in response.

Silenced Issues 4: (Un-)Silencing Issues in Thinking Through Environmental Data

Leo Matteo Bachinger / 08 May, 2017

title In the fourth entry to our ongoing series Leo Bachinger reflects the different ways in which he experiences how data is used to silence – but also "un-silence" – issues around environmental governance and Climate Change.

Researching Sprawling ‘Mobile’ Infrastructures in Nairobi

Prince K. Guma / 28 April, 2017

title Software development, mobile-enabled infrastructural engagements, and the mobile money market are increasingly becoming key signifiers of Nairobi’s identity. Nairobi’s unfettered innovation vivacity is not exceptional, however. Nairobi only serves as a reflection of the extent to which African cities are becoming increasingly synonymous with new formations caused in part by the emergent reliance on mobile media, devices and technologies in the everyday life.

Q&A: Global Trouble

Scott Macleod / 24 April, 2017

title How is it that groups which identify with very different kinds of issues—sexual rights, or questions of poverty, or issues of literacy, or perhaps non-violence, or anti-militarism—how do they articulate with one another? How do they come together? Not just physically in the square or on the street, but how do they begin to articulate their political demands in a coalition that demands that they identify what they wish to achieve and who they wish to defeat, having that kind of clear sense of the primary antagonism. And how then do those groups work together even when they do not fully identify with each other, or they do not fully agree with one another? That interests me on the left. We have to assume that harmonious ideas of left unity are not plausible. ... My sense is rather that we have to think more about how to live with those we don’t particularly like, and never chose to be in solidarity with, but with whom we are obligated to cohabit the world and enter into solidaristic alliances despite what might be some pretty heartfelt hostilities.

Silenced Issues 3: Silenced Issues in Academic Publishing

Joshua Pitt / 10 April, 2017

title Joshua Pitt, Senior Commissioning Editor for Science and Technology Studies sheds light on how biases and preferences (both individual and systematic) prevail in academic publishing to silence issues and voices alike.

Performing Moral Stories through Bodyweight

Michael Penkler / 27 March, 2017

title The media’s fascination with bodyweight is at least partly tied to how it allows for the fabrication of moral stories. “Fat avalanche,” “land of the fat,” “Our society is getting sicker and fatter,” “ticking time bomb:” Austrian newspaper are not stingy with hyperbole when it comes to reporting on the so-called ‘obesity epidemic’. But such media stories turn out not to be just stories about a biomedical condition, but also stories about society and its moral state. They offer what we have termed ‘diagnostic narratives’: narratives that not only frame a particular health phenomenon in a specific way but that produce at the same time a diagnosis of society. In reporting on how “we” get “fatter and fatter,” they offer a story of moral decline, in which the loss of traditional values and social orders is blamed for a society in disarray that results in broadening waistlines. Importantly, the seemingly objective terrain of health reporting allows to formulate a fairly conservative critique of contemporary society and calls for returns to traditional orders (like for moms to stay at home with their children) that would not be as easily formulated in other contexts.

Silenced Issues 2: Stumbling upon a History of STS Concepts in Aboriginal Australia

Helen Verran / 13 March, 2017

title Helen Verran, for the second entry in the series on "Alternative Histories and Practices of STS", reports about Leigh Star's distributed self in Aboriginal Australia.

Extending the ‘14 day rule’ on embryo use for research? Conferences as mobilising points

Neil Stephens and Rebecca Dimond / 07 March, 2017

title Dr. Neil Stephens and Dr Rebecca Dimond discuss their recent ESTS paper, "Debating CRISPR/cas9 and Mitochondrial Donation: Continuity and Transition Performances at Scientific Conferences."

A Syllabus for Contextualizing Energy Policy Debates

Brian Hamilton and Rachel Gross / 27 February, 2017

title Our “America First Energy Plan” Syllabus suggests that we cannot understand current climate and energy debates without thinking historically. Drawing on historian Paul Sabin’s 2010 call for historians to engage in climate change and energy debates, we suggest that discussions of the Trump Administration’s energy proposals would be enlivened by exploring how, in Sabin’s words, “our energy system embodies political power and social values as much as the latest engineering and science.”

Silenced Issues 1: A Story from STS Feminist History

Susan Cozzens / 13 February, 2017

title Susan Cozzens offers autobiographical insights into the feminist history of STS and explains how 4S got its first prize named after a woman: the Rachel Carson Prize. This blog entry is the first of a series on "Silenced Issues - Alternative Histories and Practices of STS".

Intractosoma with Sainath Suryanarayanan: New Research in ESTS

Aleka Gurel / 06 February, 2017

title Dr. Sainath Suryanarayanan talks about his recent ESTS paper, "Intractosoma: Toward an Epistemology of Complexity Based on Intra-acting Bodies."

Will Populism Kill Your Jetpack?

Scott Smith and Georgina Voss / 30 January, 2017

title On the road up to November 8th, technology companies sold visions of an advanced economy powered by technological step-changes—self-driving cars, smart infrastructure, and sustainable power. Those dreams may fade as the United States scrambles to satisfy a populism that cares far less for imagining shiny, high-tech futures and much more about reviving industrial pasts. At best, we see the technology sector entering an uncertain climate for breakthrough developments. At worst, its forthcoming innovations may be steered toward applications that more risk-averse—or less democratic.

Obama’s legacy in science, technology and innovation

Jonathan Coopersmith / 16 January, 2017

title In office Obama was fundamentally an optimist about the potential of science and technology to improve society and safely expand the economy. His most significant (and low profile) near-term initiatives elevated and institutionalized the foundations of scientific research – exploration, data-based experimentation and policy, openness, transparency, and access to information – into routine government activities. These steps should accelerate the commercialization and diffusion of research.
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Backchannels

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.