Call for Papers: Special Issue on “Ethnographic data generation in STS collaboration”


Guest editors
Ingmar Lippert (, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin/Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Re­search & IT University of Copenhagen)
Julie Sascia Mewes (, Technische Universität Berlin)



STS scholars frequently engage in collaborative research, as groups of STS scholars as much as in collaborations with colleagues in other fields or non-academics. This SI ex­plores how ethnographic data is generated and transformed for STS analysis in a range of such collaborative contexts. The special issues (SI) aims to lead beyond reflexivity ac­counts of positionality in STS ethnography and establish a benchmark for the STS ethno­graphic study of how ethnographic collaboration configures its data.

This focus recognises that STS now build on and critically engage with a tradition of care­fully scrutinising how scientists pursue their research – in the field, the laboratory, at desks and conferences. Recognising that textbooks' presentations of methods cannot be mir­rored in their "applications" or "implementations", STS have questioned how to author STS accounts "after method"; and we may attend to "inventive methods" to pay attention to the various material and semiotic tools and devices (a) that configure research objects and (b) through which the researcher's data are achieved. Enacting our own STS ethnography's data involves a range of performances of "decisions", explicit and implicit assumptions and politico-normative inscriptions, contingent unfoldings and clashes with, potentially unruly, humans and non-humans; we have to "manage" our data as much as our relations within the research assemblages.

Interestingly, however, STS have not yet developed a strong tradition for studying how our own collaborations are shaping the generation and transformation of our ethnographic data. The SI focuses on studying the relation between collaboration, ethnography and its data as it is configured in negotiations of different worlds, in collaborations across differ­ence between researchers and other actants within their research assemblages. Who and what is accountable to what else and in what way in assembling researchers, our partners, subjects, objects, our devices and our data? How do these relations shape and effect not only data but also the objects we study? Ethnographically describing and analysing our method's data practices – this we call methodography. We deem developing and showcas­ing methodography a significant contribution to our field because this promises to equip STS not only with a resource that ethnograpically working STS scholars can well draw on to analyse their own method choices but also because this proposed SI performs exercis­ing a genre, or a language, for presenting and telling such analyses.



STS have a peculiar relation to methodological concerns regarding their methods in use. We now build on and critically engage with a tradition of carefully scrutinising how natural scientists pursue their research – in the field, the laboratory, at desks and conferences. (Knorr-Cetina 1999, Latour and Woolgar 1979, Latour 1988 [1993]). Relatively little interest has been shown in sociological description of qualitative social science research methods in practice (Greiffenhagen, Mair, and Sharrock 2011). In a trajectory of recognising that textbooks’ presentations of methods cannot be mirrored in their “applications” or “imple­mentations”, STS has turned to question how to author STS accounts “after method” (Law 2004); and we may attend to “inventive methods” (Lury and Wakeford 2012) to pay atten­tion to the various material and semiotic tools and devices that “configure” (Suchman 2012) research objects – through which the researcher’s data is achieved. The British project “The Social Life of Methods” has foregrounded method devices as performative and messy assemblages (Law and Ruppert 2013) shaped by the social as much as being performative – doing the social themselves (Law, Ruppert, and Savage 2011). The guest editors identify an emerging reflexive trajectory taking these sensibilities to STS’ own methods and data practices. This trajectory can now build on several texts that question STS methods-in-practice interweaving a prescriptive-normative take and a descriptive problematisation (e.g. Hyysalo, Pollock and Williams, forthcoming; Lip­pert 2014).

However, STS have not yet developed a strong tradition for accounting of how one of its key methods – collaborating ethnographically within and around the field – is shaping its generation of data. This special issue conceptualises the relation between par­ticipant ob­servation, collaboration and their data as configured in negotiations of different worlds in collaborations across difference between researchers and other actants of the research assemblage. Thus the special issue wonders: how do STS researchers’ data “gathering” practices relate to and are co-constitutive of other actants and relations in the research “in­frastructure” (Bowker and Star 1999, Star and Bowker 2006, Star 1999), the researchers’ “onto-epistemic appara­tuses” (Barad 2007)? How does STS ethnography practice their data? We are particularly interested in ethnographic descriptions and analyses of how STS researchers do STS data (cf. Kasper and Ross 2017; Greiffenhagen, Mair and Sharrock 2011, 2015) and to how that data is configured and shaped in our collaborations and/or co-laborations, whereby we use the neologism of co-laboration to point to both the labour in­volved in research and evoke the STS history of laboratory studies (Niewöhner 2016).

We contrast this proposed SI’s interest with a normative project of telling “how to” perform data or research well. Instead the SI shall enact care for how researchers practice care for what they encounter and relate to through collaborating. We are interested in careful ac­counts that inquire into formatting, standardising, silencing, re-presenting and performative engagements between colleboration and datafication – processes that shape and betray the matters of research.

Reflexivity of how STS researchers as subjects are involved in doing data does not need to be an end in itself. Instead, we hope to contribute to a conversation about how we con­figure accountability relations between researchers, our subjects, objects and our devices, whilst paying attention to how these assemblages are generative of the objects we study (cf. Kenney 2015).

Situating ourselves as part of the broad community of STS researchers, the special issue aims to discuss on and contribute to the following questions:

  • How do we, STS research community members, meet what we research? And how are these meetings generated and generative?
  • What is it that our collaborations are doing? What do they imply? What kinds of worlds are they opening up to us? And what kinds of worlds are they clos­ing off? (cf. Law and Ruppert 2013, 233)
  • How does our enactment of ethnographic collaboration construct, structure or configure empirical data?
  • In how far do our collaborations dis/en-able accounting for ontological differ­ences in and around the worlds we study?
  • How do relations of power reconfigure our accountability relations with what we encounter and collaborate with in participatory research?
  • How are participant observation and its data refigured in dialogue, mutual learning and caring relationships within heterogeneous research collectives? (Farías 2016)
  • STS is occasionally working as a bridge or translational device in research clusters and is encouraged to collaborate with the methods of other disci­plines. How does the doing of participant observation relate to, or is (re)con­figured in interactions with, other methods?

We invite methodography – not prescriptive methodology – to describe and analyse how methods shape data. We focus on data infrastructures and practices in participant obser­vation and in collaborating with other actants in & around the field, across difference.



by 15th March 2019               For book review essays, submit an Outline of the review that (a) identifies candidate books, events, etc that the review es­say would cover and (b) explains, in 300 words, how this se­lection of review items will contribute to this CfP to Ingmar Lippert via

by 30th April 2019                  For research and discussion papers, submit Extended Ab­stract of max 1,000 words (not including references) that de­tails (a) the empirical object of analysis; (b) the methods em­ployed to learn about this object (e.g. partici­pant observation, historiography, open-ended interviews, …); (c) the analytical apparatus employed and (d) on outline of the argument to Julie Sascia Mewes via

31st May 2019                        Decision by guest editors about invitation for manuscript sub­mission to the journal’s standard double blind peer review process.

by 30th September 2019       Submit manuscript to, for review by guest editors.

by 30th November 2019        Submit manuscript via Journal website. Publication after dou­ble-blind peer review process and manuscript acceptance with DOI and online first.



For a background on the discussions leading to this cfp, please see Lippert and Douglas-Jones (2019). Many formulations of this cfp originate in the call for contributions of the workshop “Participant Observation and Collaboration in STS Ethnography” (Berlin 2018) that emerged in conversations between the guest editors, Göde Both and within the organ­ising contexts of STS Lab at Humboldt University Berlin, ETHOS lab at IT University of Copenhagen and the Bureau for Troubles at Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.

Questions may be addressed at any time to the guest editors.



Barad, Karen. 2007. Meeting the Universe halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entangle­ment of Matter and Meaning: Duke University Press.

Bowker, Geoffrey C., and Susan Leigh Star. 1999. Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. Cambridge (MA)/London: MIT Press.

Farías, Ignacio. 2016. "A collaborative turn in STS?" EASST Review 35(1):4-5.

Greiffenhagen, Christian, Michael Mair, and Wes Sharrock. 2011. "From Methodology to Methodography: A Study of Qualitative and Quantitative Reasoning in Practice."  Methodological Innovations Online 6(3):93-107.

Greiffenhagen, Christian, Michael Mair, and Wes Sharrock. 2015. "Methodological Trou­bles as Problems and Phenomenona: Ethnomethodology and the Question of ‘Method’ in the Social Sciences." British Journal of Sociology 66(3):460‐485.

Hyysalo Sampsa, Pollock Neil and Williams Robin. Forthcoming. "Method Matters in the Social Study of Technology: Investigating the Biographies of Artifacts and Practices."  Science & Technology Studies.

Kasper, Gabriele, and Steven J Ross. 2017. "The Social Life of Methods: Introducing the Special Issue." Applied Linguistics Review:1-12.

Kenney, Martha. 2015. “Counting, accounting, and accountability: Helen Verran’s relational empiricism.” Social Studies of Science 45(5):749–771.

Knorr-Cetina, Karin. 1999. Epistemic Culture. How the sciences make knowledge. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Latour, Bruno. 1988 [1993]. The Pasteurization of France. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard Uni­versity Press.

Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar. 1979. Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts: Princeton University Press.

Law, John. 2004. After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. London: Routledge.

Law, John, and Evelyn Ruppert. 2013. "The Social Life of Methods: Devices." Journal of Cultural Economy 6(3):229-240.

Law, John, Evelyn Ruppert, and Mike Savage. 2011. "The Double Social Life of Methods." CRESC Working Paper Series No. 95.

Lippert, Ingmar. 2014. "Studying Reconfigurations of Discourse: Tracing the Stability and Materiality of 'Sustainability/Carbon'". Journal for Discourse Studies 2(1): 32–54.

Lippert, Ingmar and Rachel Douglas-Jones. 2019. "'Doing Data': Methodography in and of STS." EASST Review 38(1).

Lury, Celia, and Nina Wakeford. 2012. Inventive methods: The Happening of the Social. London: Routledge.

Niewöhner, Jörg. 2016. "Co-Laborative Anthropology: Crafting Reflexivities Experimentally [Finnish Translation]." In Ethnologinen Tulkinta Ja Analyysi. Kohti Avoimempaa Tutkimusprosessia, edited by Jukka Jouhki and Tytti Steel, 81-125. Helsinki: Ethnos.

Star, Susan Leigh. 1999. "The Ethnography of Infrastructure." American Behavioral Scien­tist 43(3):377-391.

Star, Susan Leigh, and Geoffrey C Bowker. 2006. "How to infrastructure." In Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Social Consequences of ICTs, edited by Leah A Lievrouw and Sonia Livingstone, 230-245. London: Sage.

Suchman, Lucy. 2012. "Configuration." In Inventive Methods: The Happening of the Social, edited by Celia Lury and Nina Wakeford, 48-60. London: Routledge.