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Society for Social Studies of Science

Open Panel Topics 1-33

1. Viewing Cultural Traces of Science and Technology in Africa

Organized by: Dafon Aimé Segla, Université d'Abomey-Calavi, République du Bénin

Social studies of science in Africa mostly come from a social science perspective. There is a need to start from more concrete realities of techno-scientific and multidisciplinary approaches. We know that during the 18th and 19th centuries, Western sciences were deployed in the new colonies. They were designed to be rational and then to serve the economy of imperialism, while the practices of colonized peoples were deemed irrational and therefore uninteresting scientifically. This session aims to contribute to current debates on sensibilities or insensibilities regarding the role of techno-scientific developments and infrastructures in Africa south of Sahara.  Questions include: By paying close attention to socio-linguistics and onto-epistemologies, how can the traces and paths of inherited knowledge be outlined without a simple distinction between “African philosophy” and “Other modes of knowing”?  How do lessons from African philosophy provide an opportunity to revisit the genealogy of theories, and help to suggest new approaches to a theory of knowledge from the South? How does science tackle the unexpressed, the unformulated, the paranormal, and the implicit (tacit) knowledge within African societies today? How does research within universities transform people with expertise in the local, in the contextual, and in different sensibilities/ontologies? In other words, how can research give value to lay innovators? How might we bridge the gap between researchers and local industry pioneers of knowledge production?

2. Tinkering with Data: Intersections between Critical Data Studies and Digital Methods

Organized by: Victoria Neumann, Technical University Munich; Marcus Burkhardt

Contemporary developments in many areas within STS research are concerned with data driven technologies, as concrete assemblages or socio-technical imaginaries. These technologies promise and require mobilization of massive amounts of heterogeneous data between information management systems and infrastructures that are able to combine different forms of information, as well as to modify information for a wide range of uses. Since those applications are never neutral, recent scholarship asks how data driven technologies are imbued with political, strategic and economic interests that impact the ways in which information can be used. While critical studies of data, algorithms, software, code and platforms aim at gaining a reflexive understanding of our contemporary media/technological condition, others ask how to make use of the available data and computational processes in the humanities and social science scholarship. In the area of digital methods, traditional methods are rethought and new methodological approaches are developed which bring forth tools and new approaches to research new sites. In this panel, we would like to push the discussions further into how we can change, improve and invent methodological approaches for critical inquiries when working with digital data. Possible questions include: How can digital methods be used for critical analysis of data-driven technologies? How can we critically reflect upon analysis tools and their ontological consequences for social science research and critical data studies? What does the role of tinkering with (research) data play when we're considering methodological aspects of data?  We aim at sharing experiences/approaches/ideas, and creating a space for reflexive discussions.

3. Television as a Contested Site of the Creation of Knowledge and Social Imaginaries

Organized by: Aadita Chaudhury, York University; Ingrid Ockert, Princeton University

Television has long been a site of impermanent knowledge production in societies all around the world. Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser linked the mass appeal of television to his notion of Ideological State Apparatuses, whereby ideological hegemony could be achieved and reinforced through its programming. Conversely, according to film theorist Andre Bazin, each shot in film was a revelation of God expressed through images of creation. While scientific educational programs have aimed at creating public awareness of science, fiction-based television programming has also been equally responsible for creating new ways of thinking about scientific practices and technologies in a rapidly changing political, ecological and social landscape.  As historian David Kirby has suggested, television allows viewers to virtually witness science. Yet, the impermanence of the medium also leads viewers to question the supposed objective reality of science. This panel seeks to explore the ways television programming has co-produced social imaginaries and situated knowledges in a variety of realms and societies, and the ways in which television programming and their appeal can teach us about the salience of specific public imaginations concerning the state of the world, the presentation of varying knowledge systems from feminist, postcolonial, indigenous and other ideological standpoints. We are seeking to create a relatively informal discussion regarding the impacts of television programming on science, science research and education and the field of science and technology studies itself.

4. Placebos, Nocebos, and the Contradictions of (In)Sensible Biomedicine

Organized by: Ada Jaarsma, Mount Royal University; Suze Berkhout

We propose an open panel that brings together STS thinkers who share an interest in the work of placebos/nocebos in biomedicine and other realms of scientific research. Placebos (and their sinister twin nocebos) proffer compelling sites at which to dig into the conference theme, (In)Sensibilities. On the one hand, placebos are solicited by pharmaceutical and medical research as a way to purify treatments from noisy contaminants; new drugs enter the market because they emerge, triumphant, out of placebo-controlled trials. This triumph depends upon the demonstration of the insensibility of efficacy: a drug works because of its contrast with overly sensitive placebos, not because of its own entwined sensibilities. On the other hand, placebos index the very sensoria of biomedicine (and other forms of scientific practice) that placebo controls seek to block. Placebos include white lab coats, prescriptions and brand-name pills, and placebo effects mark these highly potent and sense-able ingredients of medical practice. Indeed, drugs work—and work better—because of placebos. Nocebos, in turn, include signed consent forms outlining potential treatment side effects; nocebo effects demonstrate that sensibilities can harm, as well as heal. This panel seeks to explore the contradictions between the (in)sensible ambitions of biomedical treatment and the sensible workings of placebos and nocebos. Papers might examine the insights of science studies scholars like Isabelle Stengers and Vinciane Despret into the conceptual import of placebos. They might draw out the significance of work by scholars like Joseph Dumit into the technological use of placebos in biomedicine.

5. IPBES and Sensing the Politics of Biodiversity

Organized by: Aleksandar Rankovic, Sciences Po; Alice B. M. Vadrot, University of Cambridge

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), sometimes referred to as the "IPCC for biodiversity", released its first assessments in 2016, with several others on the way. Compared to previous international assessment mechanisms on biodiversity, IPBES innovates in its ambition to integrate a great diversity of academic and non-academic knowledges, thus potentially rendering it more sensitive to the various worldviews and framings that can be found in biodiversity debates. How this has been translated into practice and has influenced the works of IPBES, how these works influence biodiversity politics and policies, and what this teaches us about the politics of biodiversity more generally, require collective stocktaking and reflection.  This panel welcomes papers on three themes. The first theme is how IPBES makes itself sensitive – or not – to certain types of issues, knowledges, worldviews, and how this is reflected both in its procedures and its productions. The second theme concerns the impacts, potential or actual, of IPBES on biodiversity debates, policies and conservation. Accounts of how IPBES releases have been mobilized in different contexts are especially welcome. Despite its young age, IPBES has already been the object of a relatively important number of works. The third theme concerns analytical and/or reflexive accounts on the literature dealing with IPBES, especially in STS, with a particular attention to identifying the questions that have been investigated so far on IPBES, and those that have not. An intertwining of the three themes in the papers is of course welcome.

6. Feminist STS Analyses of Reproductive Medicine, Technologies, and Practices

Organized by: Alina Geampana, McGill University; Skye Miner, McGill University

This panel is centered around applying feminist STS perspectives to the study of human reproduction. Papers will explore how reproductive practices and artifacts are shaped by personal and cultural meaning while being at the same time embedded in local, national and transnational politics. Feminist STS authors have drawn attention to social inequalities perpetuated through the use of assisted reproductive technologies, new forms of contraception, prenatal genetic testing, as well as other reproduction-related practices impacted by new scientific and technological developments. We seek to further conversations about reproductive medicine and how it can both reinforce and challenge existing inequalities. This panel will give particular emphasis to the ways in which contraception, fertility, pregnancy, and birth intersect with identity categories such as gender, class, race, and sexuality. Critical perspectives on the role of government and public policy will also be central to our inquiry, but we will remain attentive to the health issues, needs and lived reproductive experiences of individuals across different contexts. Following this line of inquiry we aim to situate feminist perspectives on reproductive politics into larger STS frames such as biopower and biomedicalization, while at the same time problematize the implications of ideologies and policies for reproductive practices across the world. We welcome submissions from scholars who explore historical and current power dynamics that shape reproduction in global contexts.

7. Making Sense of Conferences

Organized by: Alison Cool, University of Colorado Boulder; Baki Cakici, Goldsmiths, University of London; Nick Seaver, Tufts University

Ethnographic work in science and technology studies often involves doing research in and at conferences, public consultations, meetings, symposia, lectures, seminars, research presentations, and other formal social gatherings. What are the ethnographic challenges and theoretical possibilities of these kinds of field sites?  What methods and ethics are appropriate for these venues? We invite papers exploring the ethnography of conferences, as both a methodological and theoretical concern. Possible topics include the role of language, e.g. English as a professional language, speech genres, code-switching, visual aids, multimodal communication, humor; Conference presentations as performance and ritual, performing science and expertise, doing things with (scientific) words, Q&A as interaction ritual; Conference sociality, including rules and habits of conferencing, conferences as rites of passage, conferences as gendered and racialized spaces, conferences as spaces for work and play, conferences as non-places, sociality of teleconferences, livestreaming, and new conference formats; Stratification, hierarchy, and status, e.g. scheduling of panels, role of discussants, grad student panels, the role of economic and social capital for access to conferences; Conference Materiality, e.g. the significance of programs, badges, tote bags, business cards, mugs, swag, and other artifacts; The role of the conference ethnographer, including participant-observation and reflexivity, conferences as public/private spaces, informed consent and ethics.

8. Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Technocence: STS meets World-Ecology

Organized by: Andrzej W. Nowak, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland; Jason W. Moore, Binghamton University SUNY; Krzysztof Abriszewski, The Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń

The goal of this panel is to explore the trialectical meeting of STS, Anthropocene and Capitalocene approaches. The concept of the Anthropocene and its planetary scale challenges STS myopia and ethnographic methodology. This is the first tension – between a global (planetary) scale of thinking and a local methodology of research. But there is a second, more important tension: standard interpretation of the Anthropocene offers a very Eurocentric and depolitized approach to history. The switch from Anthropocene to ‘Capitalocene’ forces us to reconsider a more politically historically situated starting-point: “The Capitalocene signifies capitalism as a way of organizing nature—as a multispecies, situated, capitalist world-ecology” (Jason W. Moore). World-ecology analysis (an ecological version of World-System Analysis) combined with STS gives us an opportunity to engage in a strictly critical, “glocal” situated analysis. There is also the third tension between science as expertise in the dominating Anthropocene narrative, and the hot, fragile and complex science as viewed by STS. We propose our panel as a trialectical research platform which will allow us to rethink and "unthink” concepts of development, innovation, knowledge, technoscience, nature and capitalism. We would like to focus on the mutual (re)creation of knowledge (technoscience), nature and capitalism. For the panel we propose the following areas to explore:  methodological and ontological analysis of holistic/ecological ontology of human societies (oikeios ontology); the future of structures of knowledge challenged by the Anthropocene/Capitalocene; methodological discussion about possible situated and critical “glocal” research; relations between technoscience and capitalist appropriation of Nature; sociohistorical analysis of anthropogenic and technoscientific (re)creation of Nature; possible use of Anthropocene as a Utopian rather than descriptive term.

9. Sensibilities and Responsibilities in Research and Innovation


10. Science out of Comfort:  Ethics as an Act of Violence

Organized by: Anna Croon Fors, Umeå University, Sweden; Eva Svedmark

Discomfort, disturbance, disharmony and disgust tend to provoke traditional science and research, bringing about questions of truth in relation to what is to be seen as emotional contamination of results and knowledge production. But what if uncomfortableness is the deal breaker for training our sensibilities and judgement as an important compass of care and ethics? What if the disharmony is an important act of violence when performed on norms and discourses of hegemonic power? Aligned with the theme of this annual meeting we invite contributions that reflect on the extent and limits of our sensibilities as STS scholars, teachers, and activists. We especially seek contributions that speculate on and figure concepts like ”dirt", "the uncomfortable" and "matters out of place” in order to attain new critical sensibilities through composition, intra-action and critical reflective practices.  With the theme Science out of Comfort, we would like this panel to offer a track of contributions that explore phenomena and concerns that antagonize and ruffle in order to break free — in order to feel and sense how the world is made differently sense-able through multiple discourses and practices of knowledge-making, as well as that which evades the sensoria of technoscience and STS. We welcome contributions that explore how alternative forms of knowledge production can support new critical sensibilities in which disturbances and uncomfortable affects and emotions are used in order to slow down and make room for critical reflection and attention.

11. “Hidden Disasters”: Unexposed Element(s) of Sociotechnical Accidents

Organized by: Anto Mohsin, Northwestern University in Qatar

STS scholarship has shown that many sociotechnical disasters expose the messiness of our technological world, display the tight interdependency of society and technoscience, and reveal the vulnerabilities of our risk societies. While we have gained crucial insights on the nature of disasters, such as that there is no such thing as “natural” or “technological” disasters but only sociotechnical ones, and that understanding the politics of disaster matters in how the disasters are handled and managed, sometimes there are elements of a disaster that remain hidden, unclear, or unexplained. They may include the unexplored circumstances that led to the disaster, the “actual” causes of a “natural” disaster, the plight of the disaster victims, or a “hidden” agenda behind a disaster’s cleanup and mitigation efforts. Included in this category is “unexpected disasters,” i.e. unpredicted catastrophes that resulted from the specific construction and organization of our sociotechnical systems. This open panel invites paper abstracts that critically examine unexposed factors of a disaster and/or the explanation of why these elements were initially “hidden,” or of disasters that occurred “unexpectedly” as a result of a specific arrangement and management of a sociotechnical system.  Paper abstracts that compare two of these so-called “hidden disasters” are also welcome.

12. Racism and Health: In/sensibility of Embodied Inequality and Inclusion

Organized by: Anne Pollock, Georgia Tech; Melissa Creary, University of Michigan; Jonathan Metzl, Vanderbilt University

Both racism and health are in/sensible: elusive to define and measure, and yet urgent and palpable.  What can scholars in science and technology studies contribute to understanding how racism and health intersect in science and in society?  This open panel welcomes a broad range of approaches to this question.  Papers might explore how social inequality becomes materially embodied; how scientists and social justice advocates mobilize data about the impact of racism for antiracist projects; the future of identity politics for health in shifting political landscapes in specific countries and transnationally; the epistemological practices of biological and social sciences that make truth claims about racism and health; the roles of pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, and other technologies in ameliorating/exacerbating inequality; the ways that pseudo/scientific racial narratives operate within and beyond scientific spheres; and much more. This open panel invites papers that make empirical and theoretical contributions to the intersectional, interdisciplinary viewpoints of how racism (not just race) alters modes of technoscience, knowledge production, and governance around health. It seeks to generate new networks and conversations among STS scholars to interrogate these vital questions.

13. Sensing Robots

Organized by: Arne Maibaum, TU Berlin; Dr. Andreas Bischof, TU Chemnitz

To explore how the world is made ‘sense-able’ it is worthwhile to look at how we build technology that is supposed to coexist in everyday lifeworlds. Recent developments in robotics are challenging this question. Whether commercial products like “Jibo” or academic endeavours, robots will inhabit our homes and workplaces. Sensing the world is crucial for this undertaking, e.g. the widespread “sense, plan, act” robot control methodology. In order to cope with human environments, robots can not only ‘see’ and ‘hear’, they possess senses beyond that, eventually also beyond human capacity. We want to discuss how and what robots for everyday worlds sense, and how that might change the sensing of and in these social worlds. These questions relate to comprehensive perspectives on science and technology. What are robots supposed to sense? Which knowledge of the sensible world is thereby inscripted into robots? Which concepts of sensing constitute robotics? How are usage scenarios and users thereby pre-scripted? How is the perceptible world made into a laboratory? And beyond this, what knowledge about the world is created while building such sensible artifacts? Furthermore, we learn about our own (in)sensibilities when we examine the design and construction of robotic technology mediating perception. What does STS perceive of robotics as practice? Do we have the methods and theories to address the blind spots of the sensing machines? What are the epistemics of robots sensing everyday worlds? How does STS reconstruct sensing robots (including material practices; technical limitations)?

14. Booms, Buzzes and Busts in Science and Technology Studies

Organized by: Leo Matteo Bachinger, Lee Nelson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Surveying STS conference programs, one finds what could be described as ‘booms’ followed by ‘busts’ of areas of research. This track invites papers to reflect on this phenomenon and to address questions concerning the epistemological, political, and marginalizing implications for our field. Potential themes include: Conceptualizations – What is an adequate conceptual language to address such phenomena in their diversity, emergence and unfolding? Marginalizations & Boundaries – How do booms/busts allow for, open up, and foreclose fields of engagement? What makes some topics boom and sustain while others bust? And to what extent does the language of “booms” and “busts” itself co-produce and/or erode those margins and boundaries? Temporalities & Epistemologies – Does the field shift temporarily? Is there a lingering alteration to types of considerations required of the field? What makes objects of concern stick/disappear, to what consequence? Failure, Learning, Developing – Should “booms” be considered alliance and bridge formations, while “busts” are a failure of sustained engagement? Or do booms indicate ‘consciousness raising’ while busts indicate that lessons have been learned? Epistemological and Political Consequences – What happens when a field or topic is “mined off”? How does (over/under) saturation ‘matter’?  Hopes, Desires, Responsibilities – Do our booms and busts reveal disciplinary desires, and political and epistemological stances & responsibilities?  Rather than being a track on the phenomena of ‘the new’, we ask for contributions concerning the long term effects of the ‘booms,’ reflections on topics that ‘bust’, and assessments of the mode with which the field of STS shifts. This track hopes to integrate presentations with a workshop approach, prioritizing discussion.

15. Cold War Science, Technology, and Policy: The Americas in a Global Perspective

Organized by: Barbara Silva, Universidad Catolica de Chile; William San Martin, MIT / UC Davis

As part of a broader public concern regarding the intersections between science and politics, approaches from the social sciences and humanities to the study of knowledge production and transfer have increased during the last decades. Cold War historians have expanded traditional political and social histories and integrated scientific knowledge as a critical element shaping the geopolitical dimension of the Cold War on a local and global perspective. Similarly, History of Science, STS, and Policy Studies have uncovered new questions about the means and mechanisms that produce, transfer, and transform expert knowledge within communities and political systems at different scales. While entering a post-Cold War global order, these approaches raise several interrogations about the intersections between science, technology, and policy in the 21st century. Examining Cold War politics and its aftermath can bring significant insights to understanding the origins and developments of current issues concerning science, technology, and policy.  How can STS, History of Science, and Cold War Studies better contribute to ongoing debates on public policy in a national and transnational level? What interdisciplinary dialogues and bridges are still needed to inform citizens and decision-makers on a local and global scale? Using the Americas as a case study, this panel examines theoretical, methodological, and epistemological problems combining History and STS to the transnational study of science, technology, and policy during the 20th and 21st century.

16. Exploring Prediction: Fortunetelling, Prognostication, and Futurism

Organized by: Yuh Chern Lin, National Tsing Hua University

In popular understanding, predicting the future is usually associated with superstition. However, predicting is not simply nonsense; it builds complex relations among science, bodies, and culture thus constructing and revealing systems of nature and society. For example, in some eastern Asian societies, fortunetelling is a knowledge system that simultaneously draws on traditional understandings of nature and the body, medical science, and social values. The fortuneteller is like a mediator establishing a network of understanding among nature, society, the body, and the self. In other words, predicting can be a perspective for revealing the human-nature relationship.  In this panel, we are looking for papers treating prediction as an embodied, technical, and culturally embedded practice for revealing the human-nature relationship. Papers could address a range of questions, including:  What factors contribute to and are shaped by predicting practices? How do predictors’ and recipients’ flesh matter in predicting? What are cultural, material, and scientific bases of predicting and how do they work? How do the practices and skills of predicting configure and reconfigure predictors, customers, and predicting itself? Who are the actors and the actants in the network of predicting? What is the politics of predicting? What kind of the human-nature relationship does predicting establish? Who counts as a legitimate predictor and who does not? Through those questions, we are seeking STS perspectives that revisit the human-nature relationship in fortunetelling, prognostication, and futurism.

17. Contested Meatspace(s): Cultured Meat, Cellular Agriculture and the Futures of Foods

Organized by: Benjamin Wurgaft, MIT (Visiting Scholar); Neil Stephens

In 2013, a Dutch physiologist unveiled the first hamburger grown through cell culture techniques. This international media event created great interest in "cultured meat" and other "cellular agriculture" technologies (including “cultured milk” and “cultured egg whites”), presented as "foods of the future" against a backdrop of climate change and the pressing need for sustainable alternatives to industrial animal agriculture. The event also renewed interest in other protein alternatives, including plant-derived meats and insects. Promoted by entrepreneurs, scientists and other actors, these foodstuffs combine biotechnological innovations, including tissue engineering and synthetic biology, with powerful moral claims. We are told that cellular agriculture could save us from a wide range of crises, ranging from climate change, to animal welfare, to human malnutrition. In this panel we will use the tools of Science and Technology Studies to examine these novel foodstuffs that seek to use laboratory technique to replace animals and their farmers in livestock production; we will also examine the social, cultural and economic systems, out of which these foods emerge. Papers may focus on any of a variety of topics, ranging from the role of stem cells (drawing from the growing literature on stem cells from anthropological and STS studies of medicine), to the way "cultured meat” has enabled the re-imagining of human-animal relations, to the way foods of the future might change how we understand “edibility formation,” or the criteria by which humans define things as worthy "food."

18. Frontiers of Climate Change and Extinction: Rendering Worlds Familiar and Strange

Organized by: Annette L. Bickford, York University

How are frontiers (for instance, the “new frontier” of Mars, the Arctic as the “final frontier”) being identified, and what are the transnational politics of access? How are innovations in science and technology informing ways in which frontiers are being interpreted and actualized as accessible, and how is that access variously framed politically, economically and ethically? How is climate change an ethical boundary involving social structures and behaviors? This panel seeks papers that probe the intersection of frontiers, climate change, technoscience and exploration, bringing new perspectives to the rendering of worlds familiar and strange. Papers may include a wide range of subjects, including indigeneity, extinction tourism, governmentality, travel, resource extraction, neoliberal capitalism, markets, technologies, “vanishing” people and worlds, national identity, alterity, migration, neocolonialism, media, cultural policies, cultural memory, civilizationist rhetoric, human exceptionalism, spectacle, performativity, the politics of spectatorship, and the interplay of “nature” and “culture”.

19. Getting Past Inevitablist Despair:  On Guerilla and Action EthoEcologies

Organized by: Brian Noble, Dalhousie University

Isabelle Stengers has challenged us to think with the matter of catastrophe as our in situ condition of possibility.  This open forum asks:  how best do we act as scholars when met with insensibilities — the conditions of indifference and incapacitation — that can so easily arise in the face of dire, wordly inevitablisms?   Some are finding the means to act, and to think of new ways to act.  Those actions — spontaneous, coordinated, interventionist, relational, responsive — are what we seek to contour in the contributions to this forum.  Very recent technoscientific and political ecological conditions put our faith in scholarly efficacy at bay.  We face such conditions in massive, diverse, distributed and highly destructive human-wrought ecological disruptions: the seemingly unhalting appetite for fossil fuel extraction and distribution and consumption, the proliferation of environmentally toxic effluents, climate disruption at the faltering of photosynthetic carbon sinks, worldwide viral and microbial epidemics, the election of autocratic racial-nationalist leaders, exclusionary extractive-profit-at-all-cost governments in erstwhile neoliberal-democratic states. This forum considers what to do with this conundrum,  and what kind of projects are appearing on the horizon that defy such inevitablisms, generating hopeful, sustainable means to act, against the ground of widening catastrophe. Contributions may take on any or all of:  a) the conditions that lead to such insensibilities, b) the very experience of such incapactiation and suffocation, and c) the lines of flight and triggering to new modes of action and intervention in responding to such conditions and their attendant insensibilities.

20. Can Improved Science and Technology Mean Progress? More Intelligently Steering Technoscientific Systems

Organized by: Michael Bouchey, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Taylor Dotson, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Must technoscientific “progress” proceed so technocratically? Dominant innovation discourses implicitly support the view that scientific knowledge and technological innovation automatically translate into improved living. Such a view has led to the promotion of “permissionless innovation,” an ideology that legitimates a hands-off approach to the “disruptive technologies” designed by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and freedom of research in their R&D departments. However, scholars have shown that sociotechnical innovations typically benefit some people and organizations more than others. Thus it is clear to many within STS that those wishing to enact non-technocratic visions of progress face social as well as technical barriers. To mitigate or head off the worst consequences of permissionless innovation and other discourses that naturalize the politics of technoscientific change, scholars must consider alternative ways of steering technoscientific agendas, aside from allowing small groups of politically and financially powerful elites to make most of the decisions. How might new technologies and research programs be shaped to be more suitable for public purposes before markets let them loose into the world?  The purpose of this panel is to explicitly examine what would be required to guide science and technology toward better fulfilling more humans’ needs more of the time.  Possible topics include, but are not limited to, mechanisms for slowing the pace of technoscientific change, addressing the privileged position of particular decision-makers, counteracting the subtle effects of “permissionless innovation” and other naturalizing discourses, and better enabling lay citizens and experts to critically probe the politics of innovation.

21. Democracy, Science, and Technology

Organized by: Sandra Braman, Texas A&M University

Interactions between democracy, science, and technology run in both directions.  From the appearance of the democratic state, the very field of statistics developed in support of evidence-informed policy-making, constitutions and statutory law support intellectual property rights based on the belief that innovation is critical to state capacity, and governments have been involved in the practice of and funding for science and technological innovation.  More recently, we have seen the rise of demands for democratic participation in decision-making about the funding of "big science" and the use of research findings, and both citizen scientists and scientist citizens have become important roles. Recent political trends, however, appear to be breaking these relationships.  Policy-making is increasingly evidence-averse – or evidence-hostile – with consequences that touch the fundaments of society and the environment.  Shifts in funding and in regulation of science and technology threaten to undermine knowledge production and use.  There is again the possibility that taking particular scientific positions may be treated as a political rather than intellectual matter.  Already some scientists are declining to cross certain borders because of fear generated by political developments. This panel will look at relationships between democracy, science, and technology as they have been in the past, as they are in the present, and as they may be in the future.  Papers dealing with the problem of developing arguments and evidence that will be persuasive in what The Economist described as a "post-truth" environment, hostile to facts and to reason, are particularly encouraged.

22. The Ethnographic Effect: Imagining a Next Generation of Methodological Possibilities

Organized by: Brit R. Winthereik, IT University of Copenhagen; Andrea Ballestero, Rice University

STS scholarship draws on two distinct methodological imaginaries when considering how it produces knowledge. On the one hand there are detailed, meticulous and somewhat prescriptive guidelines to data collection, production and analyses sanctioned by particular scholarly communities. On the other hand, we find theoretically innovative descriptions of results based on methodological tactics that privilege unruly, creative and improvisational approaches.  This panel invites scholars who wish to explore the space in between these two families of methodological approaches. It begins from the assumption that while academic knowledge production depends on methods and theories, unruliness and creativity are intrinsic to their emergence. We hope to recuperate the notion of the exercise as an embodied space of rediscovery while excising from it the idea of “mastery.” Whether being carefully designed or invented on the fly, exercises unleash intuition, invention and recuperation of generative traditions. Exercises enable the conditions for the ethnographic effect, which we take to be unexpected journeys with our materials after they have been generated. We invite scholars who have developed their own exercises to discuss the theoretical and political underpinnings of their thinking and doing. We will focus on the ‘mechanics’ of their inventions as well as on how their contributions build upon, expand, interrupt or redirect existing ideas. Recognizing that the promise of mastery is misleading and that methods are both generic and discovered anew each time they are performed, we open a space to consider practicalities and politics of methodological creativity and analytical innovation.

23. (Non)Sense-making in/of Neural Sciences and Technologies

Organized by: Kevin Chien-Chang Wu, National Taiwan University College of Medicine

As neural sciences and technologies evolve, we have observed and experienced an expanding range of discourses on how to make (non)senses in/of them. Although it is hard to differentiate, roughly speaking, “in” is from the perspective of the scientists and technicians about procedures, and “of” from that of the users about products. The open panel calls for STS papers addressing the above issues and, if suitable, with senses of reflexivity. Since the 1980s, there has been an avalanche of static/dynamic neuroimages statistically constructed to explore activities of human brain/mind. It seems that finally we could “see” trans-skull the structure and functioning of brain/mind. These “brain/mind maps” are immutable mobiles that could be transported, shared and examined by all the stakeholders. Critiques and anti-critiques on their deficits include brain v. mind, inside v. outside, inferential distance/indirectness/circularity, artefactual and arbitrary coding and scaling, overly claiming or seduction, etc. In addition to neuroimages, booming up are neurotechnological practices such as brain computer interface, cyborgs, robotics and even the futurist version of nano-bio-info-cogno technology convergence. How neural scientists and technologists construct and construe the (non)senses in/of the technologies are also related to the imaginations we use for self/social governance. STS scholars could not avoid the issues of (non)sense-making because we are embedded in these contextual, net-worked human imaginations as we analyze, critique, and construct relevant discourses. Assembling participating papers with converging and diverging viewpoints, the panel aims at making itself a reflexive testing field of (non)sense-making in/of neural science and technology.

24. Cryo (In)Sensibilities: Reproduction in the Age of Ice

Organized by: Charlotte Kroløkke, University of Southern Denmark

Reproduction has entered a new preservation age: In the face of serious disease, reproductive tissue can be preserved for later use; egg freezing is, at times, offered as a company perk, while men training to become chefs are encouraged to protect their gametes from the heat of the kitchen by cryopreserving them. In Israel, parents can legally inherit their dead son’s cryopreserved sperm, while parents located in the West imagine the products of their fertility travel—the embryo as a frozen sibling temporarily residing abroad. Clearly, preservation technologies radically change our understandings of reproduction, including notions of reproductive time. By enabling people to procreate in other temporalities, preservation disentangles reproductive time from the somatic time of the body, simultaneously reorganizing normative temporalities in ethical discussions, within the law, and in the popular imagination. Meanwhile, preservation opens up new business opportunities such as reproductive/health markets as well as the commercial efforts involving reproductive gamete and tissue banking. This panel welcomes papers interested in the ways that preservation technologies are made to appear (in)sensible within the arenas of bioethics and law, in clinical practices, by freezers themselves, in various commercial entanglements, during different historical points of time as well as in various sociotechnical imaginaries (Jasanoff, 2015).

25. The Poetics of Denial: Knowledge-making and Expertise in a “Post-fact” Era

Organized by: Chloe Ahmann, Raquel Machaqueiro, George Washington University

If pundits are to be believed, we are living in a “post-fact” era—a moment when science and expertise are being thoroughly unsettled. Following the contentious Brexit referendum and the divisive U.S. presidential election, in which “lies” urged but often outstripped “fact checks,” there has been a renewed emphasis on personal belief over extrinsic evidence, on individual experience over scientific consensus. Though these are by no means new developments (STS scholars have long interrogated the conservative distrust of intellectualism, for example), today’s policy worlds seem to invite more boastful denial than their predecessors. In this context, this panel aims to explore the poetics and consequences of such denial. Focusing on processes of knowledge production, inscription, translation, and occlusion, of wordplay and rhetorical evasion, we consider the style of so-called political assaults on scientific sense-making. What techniques are being used, among counterpublics, citizen scientists, and lay audiences, to undercut traditionally expert knowledge? What forms of thinking, knowing, and imagining are offered in their place? What are the technologies of perception that render science politically (in)sensitive, that destabilize its authority, that strategically—even mockingly—defang it? And in this process of unsettling, what role does “common sense” play? This panel invites scholars working on examples of contested knowledge—from climate change and energy to toxicity, polling, and forensic science—to reflect on these questions while also considering the status of “denial” within the humanities. As scholars studying science, expertise, and policy, how is our own sense-making bound up in these debates?

26. Academic Evaluation in an Age of "Post truth"

Organized by: Claes-Fredrik Helgesson, Linköping University, Sweden; Steve Woolgar, Linköping University and University of Oxford; Mario Biagioli, UC Davis

STS has made major contributions in respecifying the key concept of “values”. We can no longer take for granted that values are given or that they straightforwardly determine action. We know instead how much is involved in making, articulating, enacting and manipulating values. In academic work, such practices abound: we know that determinations of academic value involve contingent practices of evaluating, rating and ranking performance. What are the implications of this understanding of academic evaluation in the contemporary situation, where standards of truth are allegedly undergoing significant modification? In a situation of “post truth” (nominated as OD's new word of 2016) what contributions can our pragmatist orientation to evaluation make, and how? Is it possible or important to retain symmetry, impartiality, and agnosticism with a phenomenon which so close to home? Is this simply to replay the contention that critique has run out of steam or are we witnessing the emergence of practices of evaluation that are inherently external to regimes of truth and thus of critique? Can STS make interventions that can make a difference? This panel invites papers which address the practices and transformations of academic evaluation in the age of post truth. These practices include, but extend considerably beyond, the use of diverse metrics and indicators. For example, the panel invites discussion of peer reviewing, grant proposal assessments, paper grading, appointments and promotions, awards and prizes, book endorsements and other professional practices. We welcome papers which discuss more (or less) appropriate future modes of academic evaluation.

27. Interspecies Sensibilities

Organized by: Christena Nippert-Eng, Indiana University Bloomington

This is a panel for those engaged in sense-making activities with, for, and across multiple species. We welcome papers that address the creative design, skills development, and research opportunities of such work as well as the myriad reasons that social scientists might choose to do it.  We especially welcome papers that draw on ethnographic, historical or other humanistic methods to talk about zoos, fields, labs, etc., as critical sites of inquiry, facilitating a rich, transdisciplinary discussion of interspecies research sensibilities.

28. Citizen Science: Beyond the Laboratory

Organized by: Carsten Østerlund, Syracuse University; Gabriel Mugar, Emerson College; Andrea Wiggins, University of Maryland College of Information Studies; Nick Lalone, Penn State University

Citizen science constitutes a rich and fast-evolving arena in the production of scientific knowledge, raising questions that speak to the core of STS scholarship. In its various forms, ranging from expert-driven crowdsourced and participatory sensing models to citizen-driven social and ecological justice initiatives, citizen science offers a rich empirical setting. This track will expand the dialogue around this growing practice of knowledge creation through traditional and cutting edge STS perspectives. Building on STS scholarship exploring the sociomaterial construction of scientific knowledge across settings and methods, we invite researchers to unpack citizen science’s spoken and unspoken sensibilities. Relevant themes include: the entanglement and evolution of technologies and communities in citizen science; the influences of policy, technology, and professional scientific communities on emergent practices of knowledge co-production; the production of novices and experts, and how roles in citizen science are defined and negotiated, tracing information flows between contributors and project leaders; how stakeholders attempt to shape volunteer contribution to fit a particular need; the (in)sensibilities of peer production; how data quality is constructed and reconstructed; and how both formal and informal data quality standards are embodied in practices, technologies, and social structures. Beyond questions of building and deploying citizen science practice, we also invite research that examine how stakeholders resist or repurpose existing models in order to meet their personal needs, the role of traditional and local knowledge in citizen science, and the impacts of scientific disciplines and scientific methods on the perceptions of citizen science practices and products.

29. Community Informatics and Science and Technology Studies

Organized by: Colin Rhinesmith, Simmons College; David Nemer, University of Kentucky

Community Informatics (CI) addresses concepts in the scholarship on computing phenomena regarding how individuals and groups can move from merely experiencing digital connections to deeper relationships, including shared behavior and the formation of community identity. It concerns how local, historical communities are using information and communication technologies in support of their own development goals. As a field focused at the intersection of research and practice, CI provides a unique space to examine how applied conceptual frameworks can guide meaningful work, particularly in the non-profit/public sector, where technologies are involved. As the balance of power among groups is often unequal and resources are used differently, CI presumes a critical need to explore not only how communities access, create, organize, and share information, but also the types and qualities of connections between and among their members and networks. This panel seeks to examine the contributions of CI to STS and vice versa by bringing together scholars at the intersection of both fields. While CI often draws from STS studies, few academic forums have provided opportunities to explicitly consider how the two fields can benefit from each other. Nuanced conceptualizations and robust research designs are needed to advance collaboration between both fields. STS-based theory and frameworks offer promising concepts and approaches to CI research. Likewise, CI’s concern with information systems presents an opportunity to deepen its focus, for example, on the infrastructural concerns within STS. This panel will provide a forum for STS scholars studying any aspect of community informatics, culturally-situated design tools, and appropriated technologies and to share research and exchange ideas about knowledge gaps and strategies for future research.

30. From Disruption to Obstruction: Race, Gender, Economics, and Other (In)sensibilities of Edtech

Organized by: Roderic Crooks, University of California-Irvine; Hemy Ramiel, Bar Ilan University

Edtech, a field characterized by the growing interest of commercial stakeholders in education and marked by a significant increase in private investments, presents itself as the next stage of educational technology, once constantly on the precipice of making fundamental, beneficial changes in education. The application of various techniques of data aggregation and analysis, the introduction of current generations of hardware and platforms into class instruction, and the rise of new kinds of blended public/private/for-profit/non-profit institutions promise, in various ways, to enhance, augment, innovate, disrupt or replace schooling. This technologization occurs amid — and greatly depends on — a vast privatization process in public education around the world, and the growing involvement of national and international policymakers, venture philanthropists, established Silicon Valley concerns, and tech incubators and startups. In their deployment of technological metaphors and digital economy concepts to the already intricate practices of education, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, developers, funding agencies, and others implicated in this domain simultaneously interpret and create the objects they observe. Our panel seeks papers that explore the practices of edtech, with particular attention to the cuts, exclusions, and voids that edtech material-discursive practices create. We welcome papers that attend to concerns occluded or made illegible by the guiding imaginaries of edtech, including (but not limited to) ethical, racial, cultural or gender dynamics of technology use, the inclusion of commercial media in learning, or the incorporation of forms of paid and unpaid labor in the production of educational content.

31. Making Nothing: Institutional Practices of Producing Absence

Organized by: Christy Spackman, Harvey Mudd College; Jennifer Croissant, University of Arizona

How do you make nothing? Brian Rappert and Wenda Bauchspies (2014) suggest that the “potential of what isn’t” not only signals lack, it can alert us to a misplaced presence, foster an appreciation of presence, or even be a presence. A range of scholarship has worked to reveal, unveil, or make present that which is normally unseen, yet the actual making of absence, and its affects and effects, remains under-examined. Many institutions routinely practice erasure: courts erase debts through bankruptcy; websites disappear; engineering firms design to remove noise from buildings and vehicles; food scientists mask off flavors in foods or medicines; environmental crews “clean up” toxic spills; corporations swallow each other, then let entire arms of production “die” out. These erasures are rarely complete; traces obdurately remain of the someones, and somewheres that make nothing. What types and forms of labor – visible or otherwise – go into the making of nothing? What infrastructures are put into place to enable the making, and circulation, of these nothings? How are meanings emptied out of objects, places, services, and peoples to facilitate global flows (Ritzer 2007)? How does the making of nothing shape aesthetic choices, daily environments, and behaviors (Bourdieu 1979)? Finally, what “hauntings” (Gordon 2008) do these institutional practices of erasure impose on bodies and communities? This open panel invites abstract submissions that explore the techniques, negotiations, practices, and consequences of making nothing as well as practices of mobilization and circulation inherent to these processes of making nothing.

32. Engaging Material Insensibilities and their Political Effects: What Feminist Materialisms Can Contribute

Organized by: Dagmar Lorenz-Meyer, Charles University in Prague; Sigrid Schmitz; Pat Treusch

Feminist materialisms provide a theoretical-empirical framework for accounting for the intra-actions of material becomings and meaning making, e.g. of bodily, technological and social forces, technoscientific research practices and their constitutive apparatuses, including normalizing discourses in the constituting of phenomena. These entanglements suggest that ‘we’ are always implicated in a web of ‘ongoing responsiveness’ (Barad 2007). Material feminisms thereby complicate ethico-political agency and responsibility whose epistemic purchase has also been queried in STS (e.g. Latour 2011). They show that sensing and attending to something also involves disengaging from other agencies to render phenomena sensible; importantly, they focus on the spacetimematterings of the nonrelational, nonparticipative, insensible and inhuman within relationality (e.g. Barad 2012; Yusoff 2013; Schrader 2015). This panel invites contributions informed by feminist materialisms that engage what the sensible-insensible conundrum might mean for our research, teaching and political efforts within the productivist timescapes of technoscience, and how STS researchers become response-able and accountable for their interventions. What research and teaching encounters – even forms of nonparticipation – might be created? When do insensibility and indifference become graspable? And how might they also link to ‘epistemologies of ignorance’ (Tuana 2006) or ‘regimes of imperceptibility’ (Murphy 2004)? How might an attentiveness to the insensible ‘help us think between natures to promote a noncontemporaneous ethics of apprehension’ (Yusoff 2013)? And how can such material agential contributions within intra-actions be made communicable within the STS community and wider publics? 

33. Dynamics of Knowledge: Bioeconomy and Health

Organized by: Maria Conceicao da Costa, State University of Campinas (Universidade Estadual de Campinas); Renan Leonel da Silva, University of Sao Paulo; Susanne Lettow, Freie University of Berlin

Social Studies of Science have been focused on the study of new relationships between health and new technologies. Advances have compounded the perception of the subject, multiplying the controversies and uncertainties: during the last century, changes in the epidemiological profile contributed to the emergence of new diseases and new perceptions on environmental and behavioral risks. In some areas of the sciences, sociological research played an important role in analyzing the implications of the use of scientific knowledge in contemporary society. The field of 'Life Sciences', for example, has a curious 'fluidity' in its disciplinary boundaries, especially over the last thirty years. Its intellectual analysis and its technological content have changed rapidly since the 1980s. The "bios" has evolved towards the production of different technologies of intervention in the biological and intellectual life of human beings. At the end of the twentieth century, production of biological knowledge was changing radically, reproducing new bases and research methods different from the pre-1980 stage. In this sense, the increase in the interactions between biological research and its implications for social life, and biotechnology, emerge as the theme for sociological analysis.  This is evident in the amount of work produced in the field since the 1980s. Some fields of science are quite controversial, and at the same time point to a field of research with a robust market and present issues related to ethics and governance. From this perspective, we propose to discuss the relationship between bioeconomy and health, to allow a deeper understanding of some new technologies and of society.