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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.

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.

Digital Care with Susanna Trnka: New Research in ESTS

Aleka Gurel / 10 January, 2017

title Backchannels talks with Professor Susanna Trnka about her new research on young people's use of health apps.

Killing Birds

Kristoffer Whitney / 20 December, 2016

title Scientists 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.

Campo CTS na América latina e domínios psi: pequena crônica de encontros e desencontros.

Jimena Carrasca Madarriaga and Arthur Arruda Leal Ferreira / 19 December, 2016

What are the convergences, irritations and dialogues between PSY disciplines (psychology, psychiatry) and STS? Jimena Carrasco and Arthur Arruda Leal describe how some of these encounters are thoroughly explored and developed across Latin American scholar networks

Georgia Tech Gender Equity Champion Reflects on Role as Pioneer of Gender in Science Studies

Madeleine Pape / 05 December, 2016

title My research has introduced and established ways that the participation and performance of women and men reflect and are affected by social and organizational features of the places in which they are educated and work. I have addressed these complex processes in a range of studies encompassing education and educational programs, patterns of collaboration, evaluative processes, salary rewards, publication productivity, social attributions for success, work-family conflict, and dimensions of academic careers. Now, my focus includes the study of the growth and characteristics of the published knowledge that exists in gender and science research over time. This journey is endlessly interesting!

Lo que nos enseñan los cuerpos muertos sobre la vida, la muerte, la ciencia y los cuerpos

Julia Alejandra Morales y Santiago Martinez Medina / 20 November, 2016

title ¿Qué pueden los cuerpos muertos enseñarnos a los vivos? en esta entrada los autores reflexionan desde sus respectivos trabajos etnográficos sobre posibles lecciones desde la materialidad del anfiteatro y las clases de anatomia en Colombia.

Cross-national Genetic Research with Klaus Hoeyer, Aaro Tupasela and Malene Bøgehus Rasmussen

Aleka Gurel / 14 November, 2016

Backchannels interviews Klaus Hoeyer, Aaro Tupasela and Malene Bøgehus Rasmussen about their recent ST&HV paper, “Ethics Policies and Ethics Work in Cross-national Genetic Research and Data Sharing: Flows, Nonflows, and Overflows.”

A personal plea from Europe’s polar bears

Amanda Windle / 07 November, 2016

title Coverage in the press around how the EU Referendum will affect researchers has been heavily skewed towards the sciences, yet there is crucial EU funding available for all areas of research from tech through to the arts. The first impact will be that the research landscape becomes far more labyrinthian for UK researchers. It is already mind-numbingly complicated. But my way of dealing with the complexity has been to get involved, and to advise on priority areas such as the dual need for more research and skills training around audience development via digital means. Through Voices of Culture, I’ve been able to impact on policy and the funding agenda for culture. ... I can only join in with this work because the UK is a member of the EU. Leaving means funding potentially gets smaller, more complicated and we don’t get to input so widely into that agenda. How can UK research remain innovative if we’re not shaping that at the EU level?

Why A Partisan for Spaceflight Wants to Slow Down Space Exploration

Michael Bouchey / 27 October, 2016

title The ostensible reason for going to Mars is to save humanity. However, Musk wants enough people on Mars to save humanity from unforeseen disasters that might constitute an extinction event. He pays little attention to the extinctions already created by humans that have led this period on Earth to be called the anthropocene. If going to Mars is indeed a desirable way to save humanity (and planet Earth), then those who go will have to abandon the ways of living that have caused climate change (and the host of related environmental problems) and learn new ones. This will take time, and intelligent trial and error learning applies to this endeavor too. Musk’s proposal is too hasty to account for the immense learning that will be required to avoid spreading the environmentally destructive socioeconomics of the West to this new planet.

Restitución de derechos para victimas del conflicto y el NO en Colombia: relecturas desde los ESCT

Fredy Mora-Gámez / 17 October, 2016

title What do STS have to say about rights restitution and reparation in armed conflicts? What reflections might STS offer about the latest events in the Colombian referendum?. Drawing on different traditions of STS, this entry explores some possible questions and ongoing research in Latin America that might offer insights about the sociotechnical aspects of rights restitution and reparation in Colombia. Official numbers and practices of quantification are framed as possible targets of STS approaches. The displacement of pain and suffering by official numbers, information infrastructures and voting mechanisms are suggested as areas of empirical study and ethical reflection.

Molecular Detector (Non)Technology with Luis Reyes-Galindo: New Research in ST&HV

Aleka Gurel / 10 October, 2016

title Dr. Luis Reyes-Galindo talks to Backchannels about his recent ST&HV paper, "Molecular Detector (Non)Technology in Mexico."

Our digital society, from citizens to companies, needs to understand the trolls

Amanda Windle / 03 October, 2016

title Trolling had its moment in the press back in springtime, or at least it felt that way when it happened to me. This was a moment where academics like Mary Beard were writing about it. But just this week, Mary Beard was writing again about her trolling experiences, this time about the comments she receives about her work on – for the Times Literary Supplement. I caught myself this time wondering if the term trolling was still ‘fashionable’? Have we tired of the national coverage of violence towards women on social media? Would search page results on trolling still return trending articles that give little support to someone trying to soothe themselves with words? Similar results appear now as they did in March, except with slightly less of the punitive articles in abundance. I’m tired of trolling, but I’m also tired about how it gets written about and how useful (see: useless) those articles are for those experiencing it on a frequent basis.
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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.