Forthcoming

  • Programming Visuals, Visualising Programs (2018-07-06)
    Phillip Brooker University of Liverpool Wes Sharrock University of Manchester Christian Greiffenhagen The Chinese University of Hong Kong

    This article examines the role of visualisations in astrophysics programming work, showing that visualisations are not only outputs for those producing them, but can help those developing them understand how to do their work. Studies of visualization in programming have mainly been of social and cultural factors influencing scientific research. We concentrate on the material aspects of scientific work, as of interest in their own right and on methodological grounds (since capturing the material practices of computer screen-work is an underexplored area). Using a ‘video-aided ethnographic’ method we analyse an episode of computational astrophysics involving the use of the Python programming language. We identify a selection of activities comprising the screen work of an astrophysics researcher to unpack how those activities contribute to the production of scientific knowledge.

  • The One-Dimensionality of Scientific Relativism (2018-04-26)
    János Laki Institute of Philosohy, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

    The historicist approach to science has been accompanied by a spatial one in the last decade or two. Referring to the cultural origin of the fundamental standards, advocates of the “geographical turn” claim that “just as there is a rich history of science, so there is a rich geography of science” (Withers and Livingstone, 2011: 3). The emerging localism is perpendicular to the old historical segmentation and the combination of the two present science as a bunch of quasi-independent cognitive endeavours scattered in time and space. Taking the debate about the existence of the N-ray as an instructive example, I argue that by developing location-independent disciplinary communities, history made the community-structure of science culturally unique. Different historical eras may use incompatible concepts, methodological norms, and epistemological standards, but as this diversity does not extend onto its synchronous dimension, relativism remains one-dimensional in science.

  • Citizenship in Collision (2018-07-10)
    Beate Elvebakk University of Oslo

    In 2004, the Norwegian Accident Investigation Board (AIBN), previously restricted to civil aviation, was expanded to include a new section for road traffic, which was to investigate individual road accidents. The overall ambition behind the new organisation was to reduce the number of fatalities in road traffic. This article explores the idea that the main task of the Accident Investigation Board’s section for road traffic was to construct a new kind of narrative about road accidents, which would in turn open up new possibilities for intervention. The article examines what characterizes the narratives they have constructed and how these narratives interact with conceptions of risk and causality. It also discusses how they fit into the existing structure of road safety work in Norway. It concludes that the Accident Investigation Board’s narratives are implicitly political, as they partly deconstruct the notion of liberal citizenship underlying the legal system, and that this deconstruction can potentially have far-reaching practical consequences.

  • We Are Standing Together in Front (2018-07-10)
    Sarah Maria Schönbauer University of Vienna

    Reputation building and visibility represent pressing requirements for living and working in academia today. These demands have been key to the corporate world and are acted upon through ‘branding’ practices. ‘Branding’ has further been shown to impact on employees and workplace identities. In academia, researching identity work is especially important because of a competitive funding climate that requires research groups to resemble an outstanding image and reputation. At the same time, stable jobs are scarce, bringing forth insecure and volatile environments characterized for example by temporary limited contracts and required internationalisation in scientific careers. Based on ethnographic work in globally recognized life science departments, I explore how individual and departmental identities relate. Thereby, I propose the concept of ‘enrolling’, that conveys how a research unit acts as a ‘brand’, and show how ‘enrolling practices’ produces stability through coherence and distinctiveness in individual and collective identities. My analysis thus allows a critical reflection on academia and the re-orderings in today´s universities that create pervasive demands for living and working

  • The Many Faces of Participation in Science (2018-10-17)
    Philipp Schrögel Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) Alma Kolleck Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

    Participatory and dialogic formats are the current trend in scientific communities across all disciplines, with movements such as Public Participation, citizen science, Do-It-Yourself-Science, Public Science and many more. While these formats and the names and definitions given to them, are prospering and diversifying, there is no integrative tool to describe and compare different participatory approaches. In particular, several theories and models on participatory science governance and citizen science have been developed but these theories are poorly linked. A review of existing typologies and frameworks in the field reveals that there is no single descriptive framework that covers the normative, epistemological and structural differences within the field while being open enough to describe the great variety of participatory research. We propose a three-dimensional framework, the participatory science cube, which bridges this gap. We discuss the framework’s openness for different forms of participation as well as potential shortcomings and illustrate its application by analysing four case studies.

  • Engineering Publics: The Different Modes of Civic Technoscience (2018-10-17)
    Sascha Dickel TU Munich Christoph Schneider Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Carolin Thiem TU Munich Klara-Aylin Wenten TU Munich

    Amongst the many modes of citizen science in the past years TechnoCitizenScience has emerged. In this paper we argue that it is necessary to distinguish between science and technoscience since they are based upon different practices and goals. Whilst 'science' tries to explain the world, 'technoscience' tries to technologically construct worlds. Whereas citizen science involves publics to contribute to data gathering and interpretation, TechnoCitizenScience involves publics in technological world making. The article analyses three different cases of TechnoCitizenScience in a FabLab, a professional Makerspace and a civic hackathon. Whilst particular similarities such as discourses of inclusion and engineering rationalities guide these activities we show that TechnoCitizenScience takes place in diverse settings to fulfill different agendas. By creating prototypes for engineering publics TechnoCitizenScience expands the regime of technoscience into society.


  • Citizen Science Across a Spectrum: Building Partnerships to Broaden the Impact of Citizen Science (2018-11-15)
    Shannon Dosemagen Alison Parker

    Environmental protection as a movement is broadening to both invite and require the participation and energy of everyone, including federal agencies, local governments, activists, and enthusiasts. Citizen science and community science, approaches rooted in non-traditional partnerships and diverse participation, are a strong approach to science, and they are especially strong approaches to a wide range of outcomes with direct impacts on the protection of the environment, from civic engagement all the way to enforcement action. There is evidence that institutions and agencies are moving towards more inclusive visions of their missions, and citizen and community scientists are motivated to engage. We propose a spectrum of engagement that defines opportunities for citizen science and community science beyond the participation of volunteers in institution-driven or scientist-driven research; we also provide examples of projects and efforts that have led to outcomes for each of the spectrum categories. We argue that the impact of citizen science and community science can be strengthened through the recognition of a wide range of partnership structures, including long-term community documentation, community pattern identification, community problem source identification, and advocacy to community. Citizen science and community science represent a more inclusive version of science, and provide a model for embracing truly collaborative environmental protection, as well.  

  • “Citizen Science”? Rethinking Science and Public Participation (2018-10-30)
    Bruno J. Strasser Jérôme Baudry Dana Mahr Gabriela Sanchez Elise Tancoigne

    Since the late twentieth century,  “citizen science” has become an increasingly fashionable label for a growing number of participatory research activities. This paper situates the origins and rise of the term “citizen science” and contextualises “citizen science” within the broader history of public participation in science. It analyses critically the current promises — democratisation, education, discoveries — emerging within the “citizen science” discourse and offers a new framework to better understand the diversity of epistemic practices involved in these participatory projects. Finally, it maps a number of historical, political, and social questions for future research in the critical studies of “citizen science”.

  • Modes and Existences in Citizen Science (2018-12-19)
    Charlotte Julie Mazel-Cabasse Université de Lausanne

    In the Bay Area of San Francisco, the earthquake contours are not easy to define: seismology is still a relatively recent science, and controversies around methods to evaluate the earthquake risk are constant. In this context, the invitation to think about the modes of citizen science is an opportunity to reflect on the modality of hybridized scientific practices as well as the process by which the plurality and complexity of the earthquake characteristics can be articulated, and sometime reconciled. Looking at different existences of the earthquake risk, the paper investigates different assemblages that question the clear-cut distinction between citizen science and science. I’ll situate the question of the mode of citizen science within the larger framework of interdisciplinarity knowledge infrastructures and the work on ‘mode of existence’ initiated by Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers (2009). Expanding our understanding with regard to how CS is performed opens the possibility of reconsidering the specific types of assemblages and infrastructures from which these modes emerge and on their distinct trajectories. It is also an invitation to make visible the integration processes, the communities, and the imaginations that “make” science.

  • Profiles of Malaria Research in Portugal (2018-07-23)
    Ana Ferreira Centro Interdisciplinar de Ciências Sociais CICS.NOVA - Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas - Universidade Nova de Lisboa (CICS.NOVA.FCSH/UNL) Ana Lúcia Teixeira Centro Interdisciplinar de Ciências Sociais CICS.NOVA - Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas - Universidade Nova de Lisboa (CICS.NOVA.FCSH/UNL)

    Synergies between globalization and knowledge economy were suggested to direct biomedical research towards economically-interested activities. In this context, research in malaria, a disease endemic to poverty, may be at a paradoxical stance. This study addresses this issue assessing whether malaria research is driven by the accumulation of economic and/or other forms of capital. Drawing upon academic and epistemic capitalism, malaria research is characterized through the analysis of all Web of science-indexed publications involving Portuguese organizations (1900-2014; n=467). First, data was systematized by content and bibliometric analyses. Subsequently, multiple correspondence analysis revealed a bi-dimensional landscape (who’s publishing; what’s published) and cluster analysis identified three profiles (beginners; local appropriations; global science). This study reveals the construction of Portugal’s scientific system and unveils the assimilation of dominant modes of organizing, doing and thinking despite malaria’s research low profit potential. Extending this approach to other biomedical fields can unravel the dimensions underlying science’s (re)construction.

  • The Factish in the Field (2018-07-15)
    Andrew Flachs Purdue University

    Research in GM crops is of pressing importance to biotechnologists, development economists, government officials, and concerned citizens.  Each of these stakeholders carries preconceived notions of success and failure that not only influence how data regarding GM crops is shared but also reify the objective reality of GM seeds as a technology that might exist outside the idiosyncracies of a farmer’s field.  In this essay, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork conducted among GM cotton planting farmers in Telangana, India to deconstruct the process by which scientific facts are created, leveraged, and then divorced from their subjective contexts in agricultural research.  In paying closer attention to the ways that the science of agricultural development has limited possibilities of farmer experience and transformed GM seeds into autonomous beings, this paper attempts to take up Latour’s call for a compositionist investigation of a common world slowly assembled by its constituent actors.

  • Method Matters in the Social Study of Technology: Investigating the Biographies of Artifacts and Practices (2018-07-12)
    Sampsa Hyysalo Aalto University Neil Pollock Robin Alun Williams

    Science and Technology Studies understandings of technological change are at odds with its own dominant research designs and methodological guidelines. A key insight from the social shaping of technology research, for instance, has been that new technologies are formed in multiple interlinked settings, by many different groups of actors over long periods of time. Nonetheless, common research designs have not kept pace with these conceptual advances, continuing instead to resort to either intensive localised ethnographic engagements or extensive historical studies, both of which can generate only partial and limited accounts of the processes they suggest are at playThere has, however, been increasing interest in extending current methodological and analytical approaches through longitudinal and multi-site research templates, which include the emerging ‘biographies of artifacts and practices’ (BOAP) framework. Since its onset in the 1990s, there are now numerous exemplifications of the BOAP approach. This paper outlines its basic rationale and principles, and its significant variations, and discusses its contribution to STS understandings of innovation, especially user-led innovation. We finish by arguing that if STS is to continue to provide insight around innovation this will require a reconceptualisation of research design, to move from simple ‘snap shot’ studies to the linking together of ‘a string of investigations’.

  • Futures Work as a Mode of Academic Engagement (2018-07-23)
    Mikko Jalas Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture Mikko Rask Tatu Marttila Tero Ahonen

    Strategic research indicates a problem-oriented, collaborative process of knowledge creation. Analysing a Finnish research project Smart Energy Transition and a related Delphi survey, we conceptualize strategic research as ‘futures work’ and as translations of technologies, time frames and narratives into a future vision. We ask 1) What is the role of the notion of disruption in strategic research and in the acts of translation? 2) What are the available means of articulating “disruption” in a Delphi survey? and 3) How do academics carrying out strategic research align themselves as part of actor networks? We find that the notion of disruption mediates the boundaries between science, business and policy. Moreover, plural time frames of short-term changes in actor networks and long-term speculative visions enable boundary work. Alignment between actors hinges on methodology, specific academic backgrounds and expertize, public energy discourses, national and industry interests, as well as neoliberal policy approaches that see futures as business opportunities.

  • Reassembling Energy Policy (2019-01-11)
    Stefan Cihan Aykut Universität Hamburg

    Ongoing debates about the need to deeply transform energy systems worldwide have spurred renewed scholarly interest in the role of future-visions and foreknowledge in energy policy. Forecasts and scenarios are in fact ubiquitous in energy debates: commonly calculated using energy models, they are employed by governments, administrations and civil society actors to identify problems, choose between potential solutions, and justify specific forms of political intervention. This article contributes to these debates through a historic study of foreknowledge-making – modelling, forecasting, and scenario-building – and its relationship to the structuring of ‘energy policy’ as an autonomous policy domain in France and Germany. It brings together two strands of literature: work in the anthropology of politics on ‘policy assemblages’, and STS research on the ‘performative’ effects of foreknowledge. The main argument is that new ways of assembling energy systems in energy modelling, and of bringing together policy networks in scenario-building and forecasting exercises, can contribute to policy change. To analyse the conditions under which such change occurs, the article focuses on two periods: the making of national energy policies as ‘energy supply policies’ in the post-war decades; and challenges to dominant approaches to energy policy and energy modelling in the 1970s and 1980s. It concludes by arguing that further research should not only focus on the effects of foreknowledge on expectations and beliefs (‘discursive performativity’), but also take into account how new models ‘equip’ political, administrative and market actors (‘material performativity’), and how forecasting practices recompose and shape wider policy worlds (‘social performativity’).

  • Becoming an FSC Auditor (2018-12-17)
    William Clark Cook Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group, Wageningen University Esther Turnhout Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group, Wageningen University Severine van Bommel

    This paper aims to open up the black box of auditing for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management standard. Specifically, we delve into the early steps of becoming an FSC auditor by examining two auditor training sessions in northern Europe. Using a mix of participant observation and unstructured interviews, the paper subjects the trainings to analysis focusing on the ways in which trainees are taught to become FSC experts. Alongside being an exploratory piece on the nature of FSC auditor training, we show how auditing expertise is a matter of performing objectivity and how interpretation is a key aspect of these performances. Learning how to do interpretation, and what values should guide this interpretation, is part of the training but also poses a challenge to the teachers because these aspects cannot be seen to impinge on the objectivity of auditing. We suggest that the mitigation of these tensions during the performance of objectivity is the hallmark of auditing expertise. We conclude our analysis by discussing expertise as a matter of reflecting on and aligning objectivity, values, and interpretation.

  • Sensory Science in Tension: How Environmental Odour Sensing Involves Skills, Affects and Ethics (2018-10-17)
    François-Joseph Daniel ENGEES

    For the last 15 years, sensory science has frequently been recommended to industrial actors to monitor odours, assess the quality of the environment and improve their factories’ functioning. Resident “sniffing teams” have been put in place in different contexts to assess odorous pollution. These teams are groups of local residents living in the neighbourhoods of industrial facilities, who have been trained to report pollution emissions. This article describes these teams as sensory devices and argues that their functioning relies on the consent of the residents to allow themselves to “be affected differently” by smells – from annoyance to interest and curiosity about odour recognition and reporting activity. This consent, which is based on an ‘ethic’ of sensing, centered on the sniffers’ own feelings, is delicate, tense and reversible, given the emotionally-loaded contexts of odorous pollution.

  • From Barracks to Garden Cities (2018-11-29)
    Sophy Bergenheim University of Helsinki

    This article examines how Väestöliitto, the Finnish Population and Family Welfare League, developed into a housing policy expert during the 1940s and 1950s. Through frame analysis, I outline how Väestöliitto constructed urbanisation and ‘barrack cities’, i.e. an urban, tenement-based environment, as a social problem and how, respectively, it framed ‘garden cities’ as a solution. In the 1940s, Väestöliitto promoted a national body for centralised housing policy and national planning. When the ARAVA laws (1949) turned out to be a mere financing system, Väestöliitto harnessed its expertise into more concrete action. In 1951, together with five other NGOs, Väestöliitto founded the Housing Foundation and embarked on a project for constructing a model city. This garden city became the residential suburb Tapiola. This marked a paradigm shift in Finnish town planning and housing policy, which had until then lacked a holistic and systematic approach. Along the 1940s–1950s, Väestöliitto thus constructed and developed its expertise from an influential interest organisation to a concrete housing policy actor.

  • Collaborative Confusion among DIY Makers (2018-12-13)
    Eeva Berglund Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture Cindy Kohtala Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture

    Eco-oriented makers and grassroots subcultures experimenting with digital fabrication technologies, and other activists designing sustainable futures, are increasingly the subject of research. As they address problems of environmental sustainability beyond institutional contexts, their work may appear vague, even confused, yet their activities are underpinned by intense and principled commitment. Working through their confusion, many maker communities build new understandings about what ‘sustainability’ could mean. We argue that herein lie important resources for new knowledge, and further that ethnography is the ideal way to track these processes of learning and knowledge production. The ethnographer participates in local confusion, over values and the definitions of sustainability, but also about what constitutes useful knowledge. Supported by STS (and other) literature on environmental expertise, we argue that maker communities' own acknowledgement of this vagueness actually makes possible a position from which epistemological authority can be reasserted.

  • Realizing the Basic Income (2018-10-17)
    Bonno Pel Universite Libre de Bruxelles Julia Backhaus Maastricht University

    Current social innovation initiatives towards societal transformations bring forward new ways of doing and organizing, but new ways of knowing as well. Their efforts towards realizing those are important sites for the investigation of contemporary tensions of expertise. The promotion of new, transformative ways of knowing typically involves a large bandwidth of claims to expertise. The attendant contestation is unfolded through the exemplar case of the Basic Income, in which the historically evolved forms of academic political advocacy are increasingly accompanied by a new wave of activism. Crowd-funding initiatives, internet activists, citizen labs, petitions and referenda seek to realize the BI through different claims to expertise than previous attempts. Observing both the tensions between diverse claims to expertise and the overall co-production process through which the Basic Income is realized, this contribution concludes with reflections on the politics of expertise involved in transformative social innovation.

  • Affects and Effects in Two Interdisciplinary Projects on Obesity and Cholesterol Lowering Medicine at the University of Copenhagen (2018-10-17)
    Line Hillersdal University of Copenhagen Astrid Pernille Jespersen Bjarke Oxlund Birgitte Bruun

    Research across disciplines is often described as beset with problems of epistemological hierarchies and incommensurable categories. We recognize these problems working in two large interdisciplinary research projects on obesity and cholesterol lowering medicine in Denmark. We explore the affective tensions that arise in concrete situations when we meet other researchers around a shared research object. We propose that sensitivity towards such differences, and exploration of the affects they foster, can generate new epistemological and political openings. Analysing four interdisciplinary situations we suggest that embodied experiences of amusement, awkwardness, boredom and doubts are signposts of both differences and connections between people and concerns. Inspired by Haraway’s notion of “response-ability” (1997) and Verran’s concept of “generative critique” (2001) we propose that attention to affective tensions in interdisciplinary research collaboration can be generative of effects not only on modes of collaboration, but also on the ways we engage the world as researchers.