• Becoming an FSC Auditor (2020-04-08)
    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.

  • Online Expert Mediators (2020-04-08)
    Claudia Egher Maastricht University

    Using Collins and Evans’ concept of interactional expertise, this article examines the online activities of three bloggers diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It argues that by combining medical knowledge with their situated experiences, and by utilizing the affordances of blogs, these bloggers have become a new type of stakeholder, the online expert mediator. Collins and Evans’ concept is extended by taking into consideration the role of the medium through which interactional expertise is displayed and by showing that its bi-directional character is more substantial than they had envisaged. The rise of this new stakeholder category denotes a possible turn from community activism to exceptional entrepreneurial selves. Despite views that the internet would have broad democratizing effects, the findings show that the high standing of online expert mediators is not the result of a subversive use of this medium, but of a dynamic alliance with ‘traditional’ experts and of a strong media presence.

  • Sensory Science in Tension: How Environmental Odour Sensing Involves Skills, Affects and Ethics (2020-04-08)
    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 (2020-04-08)
    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 (2020-04-08)
    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 (2020-04-08)
    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 (2020-04-08)
    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.

  • Researching Collaborative Interdisciplinary Teams: Practices and Principles for Navigating Researcher Positionality (2019-11-05)
    Rebecca Freeth Leuphana University Ulli Vilsmaier

    Collaborative interdisciplinary research is on the rise but can be difficult and daunting. There is much to learn by studying the inner workings of collaboration, to the potential benefit of both science and technology studies (STS) and those who collaborate. We have been studying the inner workings of a collaborative interdisciplinary team using formative accompanying research (FAR). Assuming multiple insider-outsider vantage points implied adopting dynamic positionality in relation to the team. In this article, we outline an approach to navigating positionality based on these research experiences. Navigation is aided by identifying learning orientations to a collaborative team, to learn about, with or for the team; and by adopting practices and principles to balance i) observation and participation; ii) curiosity and care; and iii) impartiality and investment. We illustrate what we have learned so far, demonstrating how to apply these navigating instruments so that the skilful use of FAR positionality can advance the understanding and practice of collaborative interdisciplinary research.

  • Love and Fear? (2020-04-08)
    Lisa Lindén Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg

    Social media are increasingly envisioned by public health authorities as a new promising arena for public engagement. Against this backdrop, this article attends to how citizens confirm, debate and resist governmental framings of health information online. By drawing upon STS and affect theory, it centers on the digital mediation of feelings on a Facebook engagement site for HPV vaccination. While the public authorities framed HPV vaccination as a matter of love and fear, a wide register of positive and negative feelings were mediated on the site. The article proposes the notion of ‘digitalised literary devices’ to analyse how mundane literary habits, such as the use of punctuation, online have been transformed to digital devices that, for instance, mediate public feelings. By conceptualizing public engagement as ‘civic intensities’, it shows how digital devices, such as digitalised literary devices, mediate and intensify public feelings of engagement.

  • Science Blogs as Critique — Building Public Identities in the Field of Translational Research (2020-04-08)
    Barbara Hendriks Humboldt-University Berlin, German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies Martin Reinhart Humboldt-University Berlin, German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies

    Clinician scientists are pivotal figures in translational research. Although the discourse on translational research is favorable to clinician scientists, their role within it and their view of themselves has received little attention. In this exploratory study, we analyze the view of clinician scientists on translational research by drawing on surveillance studies and the pragmatic sociology of critique and examining the potential for critique of science blogs. From analyzing science blogs and the blogging selves they represent, we find a fundamental dilemma of being torn between the two worlds of clinic and research. Although translational research seeks to support clinician scientists, it intensifies this conflict even further. The arguments of clinician scientist-bloggers are emotionally charged with feelings of contradiction, unpredictability, and skepticism. These feelings undergird a critical agenda that shows indignation as the result of being a pivotal figure in the discourse on translational research.

  • New Bikes for the Old: Materialisations of active ageing (2019-09-26)
    Aske Juul Lassen University of Copenhagen Tiago Moreira

    In the last 15 years, STS has established a research programme focused on the sociotechnical reconfiguration of later life, particularly as new political programmes aim to deploy ‘active ageing’ in contemporary societies. In Denmark, the bicycle is a key technology in this aim, because of how it articulates sustainable living, health and social participation. Thus, two new ‘inclusive cycling’ initiatives for older people have been developed. Drawing on ethnographic data, we explore the ways the bikes differ, and how they explicitly mobilise active ageing as a form of ‘good old age’ in different ways. We argue that whereas ‘Cycling without Age’ rickshaws attempt to assemble social participation for older people, ‘Duo-Bikes’ aim to enable capacities through physical activity in later life. We further explore what happens when these two schemes meet, and suggest how searching for a compromise will be necessary to enhance opportunities to cycle in later life.


  • Is the Patent System the Way Forward with the CRISPR-Cas 9 Technology? (2020-01-15)
    Franc Mali University of Ljubljana

    CRISPR-Cas9 technology is reshaping the way scientists conduct research in genetic engineering. It is predicted to revolutionise not only the fields of medicine, biology, agriculture and industry but, much like all revolutionary technologies of the past, the way humans live. Given the anticipated and already seen benefits of CRISPR-Cas 9 in different areas of human life, this new technology may be defined as a true breakthrough scientific discovery. The article presents several challenges connected with various dimensions of the CRISPR-Cas 9 patent landscape. The central argument is that today the biggest challenge is finding a intermediary way that ensures a balance between providing sufficient openness for the further progress of basic research in CRISPR-Cas 9 such as ‘niche’ areas of the latest genetic engineering and adequate intellectual property rights to incentivise its commercialisation and application. The article contends the endeavours by academic scientific institutions to arrive at short-term benefits of the new CRISPR-Cas 9 technology do not constitute such an intermediary way, especially when the CRISPR-Cas 9 patent landscape is viewed as part of a series of controversial bioethical discussions that have been underway for over 40 years.

  • Public Discourse on Stem Cell Research in Russia (2020-02-19)
    Valentina Polyakova National Research University Higher School of Economics Konstantin Fursov National Research University Higher School of Economics Thomas Thurner National Research University Higher School of Economics

    This paper studies the evolution of the media discussion surrounding stem cell research in Russia from 2001 until the issuance of the first national law in 2016 and its impact on stem cell’s ‘social career’ in the public discourse in Russia. It analyses how the interaction of different media frames stigmatized either the biomedical technology, or the expert community. It is argued that the regulatory framework in Russia lags behind technological developments in the country and mostly reacts to signs of fraudulent actions from drug makers or practitioners. Moral issues, in contrast to the international discourse, have been not the main reason in Russia.


  • What is 'Cosmic' about Urban Climate Politics? (2020-03-10)
    Anders Blok

    While Bruno Latour's criticism of Ulrich Beck's cosmopolitanism helped set the stage 15 years ago for the highly productive research approach of cosmopolitics, including as concerns urban ecological politics, a nagging doubt remains that more blood was spilled than necessary in the exchange. In this short discussion piece, I re-stage the Latour-Beck debate as part of on-going inquiries into the more-than-human politics of climate adaptation in Copenhagen, exploring what exact senses of 'cosmos' might be helpful in making sense of this increasingly common-place situation. At issue, I suggest, is the question of what it means to say that ‘natures’, in the plural, are put at stake in such settings. Far from any synthesis, in turn, I conclude that scholars in STS and beyond might do well to extend a shared hesitation towards both sides of the debate - cosmopolitics, cosmopolitanism - and thus take the opportunity to share unresolved conceptual tensions in the service of posing better problems.