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.

Hearing the Planetary

Sep 25 2023

What can sound tell us about the future? Recounting his encounter with the Fjallsárlón glacial lagoon, Lukáš LikavĨan invokes a situated philosophy through the act of listening.

Fortune or calamity? A Thai perspective on ChatGPT

Sep 18 2023

By discussing Thailand’s take on ChatGPT with Prof. Soraj Hongladarom (Chulalongkorn University, Thailand), we can appreciate how different approaches to ChatGPT are less due to culturally diverging metaphysical interpretations of reality than due to culturally diverging relations to trust.

What does a Critical Data Studies look like, in 2023?* A Workshop Report

Sep 11 2023

In this post, Catriona Gray reports back from a workshop on data materialities and infrastructures at the University of Cambridge and reflects on the field of Critical Data Studies today.

Our “Hidden Gills”: A Report on the 2023 Animal Studies Summer Institute

Sep 4 2023

Backchannels Assistant Editor Richard Fadok ferrets out thematic convergences between STS and animal studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Animal Studies Summer Institute.

Challenges of flood control technologies on Kosi River in India

Sep 4 2023

Flood-control structures on rivers shape the experience of living with floods. In this post, Kanisha Singh reflects on the ambivalence around these structures – their promises and risks – on the Kosi River in India.

Different regimes of technosolutionism: AI and the development/underdevelopment dilemma in Brazil

Aug 21 2023

In this post, Guilherme Cavalcante Silva shows how technological solutionism in recent AI developments in Brazil is crucially affected by the question of dependency. He suggests that to deal with technology policy in peripheries, STS scholars need to address the social constitution of the very notion of development and underdevelopment.

Speculative Visions, a Decade Later

Aug 14 2023

This post reflects on changes in STS through a discussion of the tenth anniversary of UC Berkeley’s 2013 conference, “Speculative Visions of Race, Technology, Science, and Survival.”

UNESCO platform regulation guidelines: the troubled waters of a global model for Internet governance

Aug 7 2023

Among the globally upscaling interests on how to regulate the digital space, so too did the UNESCO join the cohort and drafted its global guidelines for regulating digital platforms. Looking into concerns expressed by the Global South towards these guidelines, what do these guidelines tell us about a colonial reminiscence present in contemporary global enterprises?

AI and the Micro-Materialities of Hardware: Reflections on Theory and Methods

Jul 24 2023

In this blog post, Ludovico Rella delves into the GPU computing hardware behind recent advances in AI to reveal a site of epistemological, geopolitical, and economic significance worthy of closer inquiry.

Writing in STS as a transnational collaborative practice

Jul 17 2023

Mariana Pitta Lima reflects upon her experiences of participating in the STS writing workshop held at the 4S 2022 meeting in Cholula, Mexico. She describes how making space for and encouraging the participation of early career researchers in such workshops could help reduce transnational inequalities and demonstrate the relevance of STS research originating from the global South.

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