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Society for Social Studies of Science

4S News

President’s message #21, July 2015


Update: “STS Making and Doing Program” in Denver
The STS Making and Doing Committee has accepted 76 proposed installations for the inaugural program in Denver! 

Presenters come from 16 countries and include 33 individual scholars and 43 groups of scholars.

The types of installation include design and prototype demonstrations, web-based activities, DIY science and engineering projects, documentary films, and artistic performance.

Some of the topics include geoscience, information systems, nuclear politics, surveillance, power and electricity, social entrepreneurship, biomedicine and life science, and sustainability and development.

The STS Making and Doing Program will take place on Thursday, November 12, noon to 4:00pm, in the open concourse connecting the hotel’s two towers.  The 4-hour time slot is designed to reduce the effects on regularly-scheduled sessions.

Sharing is the leitmotiv of this format. Too many scholarly practices of STS making and doing live and die with their founders/creators.  Come to share, learn, build on, examine, extend, laugh, cry, rethink, learn, share, etc.

Council has taken a risk by approving formal recognition of up to three installations at the Prize/Bernal Lecture plenary on Friday. The purpose is to enhance the visibility and status of scholarly practices of STS making and doing by juxtaposing recognition of their value alongside other forms of STS scholarship.  The naming of a few is designed to be a celebration of the many, traveling in a multitude of directions, separately yet together, and hopefully multiplying in the process.

The Committee expects to launch an online preview website in September. 4S members will be encouraged to comment. Meeting attendees will be encouraged to participate in the Committee’s assessment process. Stay tuned for further details.

Members of the STS Making and Doing Committee include: Sulfikar Amir (Nanyang Technological U [chair], Joseph Dumit (U California Davis), Nina Wakeford (Goldsmiths, U London), Chia-Ling Wu (National Taiwan U), Sara Wylie (Northeastern U), and Teun Zuiderant-Jerak (Linköping U).

Update: Ethnografilm Festival
The Ethnografilm Festival, co-sponsored by 4S, continues to flourish. In April, Ethnografilm 2015 screened 97 films at Ciné 13 in Paris!
For the second year, traveling Ethnografilm festivals will take place in India and Kenya.  
In June, a selection of films was invited for screening at the 2016 Kochi Biennale.

Contribute suggestions for the 4S statement of purpose!
Accepting the recommendation of the 4S Governance Review Committee, Council is drafting an updated statement of purpose for the Society.

Please submit by July 31 any comments, suggestions, and/or recommendations you deem appropriate for Council to consider in drafting the statement of purpose. 

Council as a whole serves as the committee for this initiative, co-chaired by Claire Waterton (Lancaster University, UK) and myself.
We will seek your comments on an initial draft prior to final Council deliberation.

Our homepage asserts the following: “The Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) is a scholarly society founded in 1975 with an international membership of over 1200. Its main purpose is to bring together those interested in understanding science, technology, and medicine, including the way they develop and interact with their social contexts.”

“About 4S” adds a brief mission statement as well as lists of member groups and areas of study:

“Mission: The Society for Social Studies of Science exists to facilitate communication across conventional boundaries that separate the disciplines and across national boundaries that separate scholars.

4S includes:

  • scholars in sociology, anthropology, history, philosophy, political science, economics, and psychology
  • areas of study that fall outside of the traditional academic disciplines such as feminist studies and cultural studies, as well as those addressing science and technology for the public
  • studies of knowledge, policy, R&D, the development and use of specific technologies
  • working scientists and engineers interested in the social aspects of their fields
  • members of the public who have an interest in the way that science and technology affect their lives”

Below is the justification and recommendation from the Governance Review Committee’s report:

“Any charitable organization (with the same legal status as 4S—a US 501(c)3 organization--­nonprofit, tax exempt) is expected to have a mission statement that could well be more elaborate to answer such questions as: ‘what will it do with your money and how?’ Having a mission statement that further elaborates the statement of purpose in the 4S Charter would provide some guidance and act as a touchstone for discussions about strategic and policy choices that the Society needs to make.

Drafting a more elaborate mission statement is also a subtle task. Such a statement should be inclusive enough to allow for the broad range of activities that 4S has established over its [more than 30] years of development, and it should be open enough to allow for future development without need of frequent redrafting of the mission statement. Yet, it might also address such questions as:

  • What are the topics of study of the Society? (not only science, but also technology, medicine, …)
  • What is the intended membership of the Society? (in terms of nationality, professional background, level of education, …)
  • What does the Society do to promote members’ professional development? (opportunities for young STS scholars, special or regional meetings, use of Technoscience …)
  • What are the means of realizing the Society’s goals? (annual meetings, publications, curriculum development and teaching support, …)

We recommend that Council discusses the possibility of drafting a more detailed mission statement . . . .”

Thanks much in advance for your help!

Come to Denver!  Plan for Barcelona (August 31-September 3, 2016)!

Gary Downey