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.
Prince K. Guma / 28 April, 2017Software 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.
James H. Collier / 22 May, 2017Of 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.
Leo Matteo Bachinger / 08 May, 2017In 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.
Scott Macleod / 24 April, 2017How 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.
Joshua Pitt / 10 April, 2017Joshua 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.
Michael Penkler / 27 March, 2017The 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.
Helen Verran / 13 March, 2017Helen 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.
Neil Stephens and Rebecca Dimond / 07 March, 2017Dr. Neil Stephens and Dr Rebecca Dimond discuss their recent ESTS paper, "Debating CRISPR/cas9 and Mitochondrial Donation: Continuity and Transition Performances at Scientific Conferences."
Brian Hamilton and Rachel Gross / 27 February, 2017Our “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.”
Susan Cozzens / 13 February, 2017Susan 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".
Aleka Gurel / 06 February, 2017Dr. Sainath Suryanarayanan talks about his recent ESTS paper, "Intractosoma: Toward an Epistemology of Complexity Based on Intra-acting Bodies."
Scott Smith and Georgina Voss / 30 January, 2017On 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.
Jonathan Coopersmith / 16 January, 2017In 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.
Aleka Gurel / 10 January, 2017Backchannels talks with Professor Susanna Trnka about her new research on young people's use of health apps.
Kristoffer Whitney / 20 December, 2016Scientists generally considered themselves exempt from concerns about over-hunting, despite the fact that “collecting” bird specimens, as it was and is euphemistically called, involved the same techniques, tools, and in many cases individuals as out-and-out sport or market hunting. The scientific response to vanishing bird populations was often both intensely conservation-minded and specimen-hungry. If a species of bird was going extinct, in fact, would you not do your best to protect it and procure as many specimens as possible for science and posterity? Live birds were valued in many ways, including as pest control for agriculture, but dead bird “skins” were valuable for answering a host of scientific questions related to taxonomy and population distribution.
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.