• User Representations as a Design Resource (2020-12-15)
    Kaisa Savolainen Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture Sampsa Hyysalo Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture

    The study of how the understanding of usages and users is achieved and turned into the characteristics of products comprises ‘the sociology of user representation’ in Science and Technology Studies. Whilst the early research on the topic was foremost a critique of designers’ imposition of theirimagination and preferences on prospective users, research has since discovered a richer research landscape in accomplishing the difficult task of anticipating the future contexts and identities of users. Our paper continues this line of work by examining a situation where first-hand access to users is blocked from human-centred design-oriented designers. Constructing an array of complementary user representations helps them to bridge the previously accumulated knowledge on users in their trade to the envisioned technology. The complementarities in the handful of key user segment representations and what is represented in their explicated form allowed the design team to make reasoned and accountable design decisions.

  • Mapping Case Studies of Public Engagement and Participation in Science and Technology (2020-12-22)
    Paulo Maia de Loureiro Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon Hugo Horta The University of Hong Kong João M. Santos Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL)

    In recent years, increasing criticism has been levelled against case study based research on public engagement and participation in science and technology (PEST). Most critics argue that such case studies are highly contextual and fail to provide global, holistic and systemic views of public engagement phenomena. In this study, we mapped the case study literature on PEST by identifying a robust sample of articles, and analysed it looking for emerging patterns that could provide empirical evidence for new frameworks of public engagement design and analysis. Results show that the case study based literature on PEST continues to grow, although concentrated in a few countries and knowledge domains. The trends that emerged from the sample reveal high centralisation and planning and suggest that deficit science communication models are still common. We argue that future frameworks may focus on decentralising hierarchical power and dependency relationships between agents.

  • The Pragmatic Turn in Clinical Research (2020-12-02)

    How does knowledge obtained in clinical trials apply to the actual treatment of patients? This question has recently acquired a new significance amidst complaints about the limited ability of trial results to improve clinical practice. Pragmatic clinical trials have been advocated to address this problem. In this article, I trace the emergence of the pragmatic turn in clinical research, starting from the first mention of ‘pragmatic trial’ in 1967, and analyse the changes to how pragmatism has been conceived. I argue that contemporary version of pragmatism risks missing the mark by focusing exclusively on establishing similarity between the trial and the clinic for the purpose of greater generalizability. This focus eclipses the move for carefully aligning medical experimentation with conditions, needs and concerns in the clinic aimed at greater usefulness. 

  • The Democratisation Myth (2021-02-19)
    Marcel Knöchelmann University College London/Yale University

    Open access (OA) in the Global North is considered to solve an accessibility problem in scholarly communication. But this accessibility is restricted to the consumption of knowledge. Epistemic injustices inhering in the scholarly communication of a global production of knowledge remain unchanged. This underscores that the commercial or big deal OA dominating Europe and North America have little revolutionary potential to democratise knowledge. Academia in the Global North, driven by politics of progressive neoliberalism, can even reinforce its hegemonic power by solidifying and legitimating contemporary hierarchies of scholarly communication through OA. In a critique of the notion of a democratisation of knowledge, I showcase manifestations of OA as either allowing consumption of existing discourse or as active participation of discourse in the making. The latter comes closer to being the basis for a democratisation of knowledge. I discuss this as I issue a threefold conceptualisation of epistemic injustices comprising of testimonial injustice, hermeneutical injustice, and epistemic objectification. As these injustices prevail, the notion of a democratisation of knowledge through OA is but another form of technological determinism that neglects the intricacies of culture and hegemony.

  • Bodies Translating Bodies (2020-12-29)
    Alvise Mattozzi Laura Lucia Parolin University of Southern Denmark

    STS and 'aesthetic studies' share an interest in artifacts and the aim to describe and analyse both artifacts and their agency. The present article contributes to such dialogue, first by reconstructing the relation between Actor-Network Theory and 'aesthetic studies' and then by proposing an analytical model enabling the description of 'aesthetic practices', by considering artifacts as bodies. Such model draws on Latour’s (2004) reflection about bodies, on Ingold’s (2007) one about materials and especially on Fontanille’s (2004) semiotics of the body. To illustrate the relevance of the model, the article offers a description-analysis of the development of a prototype of an electronic circuit designed for a data glove.


  • Complexity Sciences (2021-02-19)
    Fabrizio Li Vigni LISIS, UGE

    Social scientists have proposed several concepts to give account of the way scientific life organizes. By studying “complexity sciences” – established in the mid-1980s by the “Santa Fe Institute” in New Mexico (USA) –, the present article addresses to interdisciplinary studies and emergent domains literature by proposing a new concept to describe this domain. Drawing from Bourdieusian sociology of science and STS, a “scientific platform” is defined as a meeting point between different specialties, which, on the basis of a flexible common ground, pursue together shared or parallel socio-epistemic objectives. Most of the specialties inscribed in complexity suffer from a relative marginality in their disciplinary field. The term “platform” refers to what the heterogeneous members of the collective mutualize, both in cognitive and social terms, in order to exist and expand.