• Reckoning Resources (2019-12-13)
    Sophie Haines University of Oxford

    Participants in Belize’s water sector encounter challenges in identifying and living within shifting environments, and in conducting the work of expectation given ambiguities in rainfall patterns, historical records, institutional resources and political interests. Policymakers, scientists and practitioners generate and organise different kinds of foreknowledge as they anticipate future quantities, qualities and distribution of water, amid questions about the patterning of expertise and the nature of water as a resource. I present three ethnographic vignettes to address: the navigation of nonknowledge in water policy implementation; the frictions that arise in modelling workshops where trainees generate data-driven maps of future environments; and the situated sensing of environmental change. Building on a concept of ‘reckoning’ that highlights cross-cutting technical, relational, political and affective dimensions of meaning-making, I situate these foreknowledge practices in the socio-material contexts of environmental perception, socio-economic development, and the political lives of anticipation.

  • On the Plurality of Environmental Regimes of Anticipation (2019-12-13)
    Antoine Dolez PACTE / IRSTEA Granjou Céline Université Grenoble Alpes/ IRSTEA 2 rue de la Papeterie BP 76 – 38 400 St Martin d’Hères cedex / UMR PACTE (Grenoble) ; LISIS (Paris Est Marne la Vallée) Louvel Séverine PACTE UMR 5194 Univ. Grenoble Alpes, PACTE, F-38000 Grenoble, France / Sciences Po Grenoble, PACTE, F-38000 Grenoble, France

    In recent years, the social sciences have increasingly investigated ways in which futures are anticipated, fostered, and pre-empted. However, less attention has been given to how various predictive approaches inform different ways of acting in the present. Our article presents the results of an investigation into the current practices and agendas of forest scientists and managers in France. We first suggest how an anticipation of environmental futures is coming to the fore as an emerging field of expertise and practices in forest sciences, including predicting but also monitoring, preparing and adapting to projected futures. We then account for the co-existence of three “micro-regimes” of anticipation combining a certain approach to the forest, a certain vision of the future, and a certain type of scientific predictive approach, including different anticipatory objectives, different modelling practices, and different interactions between research and management: i/ Adapting forestry to future climates; ii/ Predicting Future Tree Biology; iii/ Monitoring forests as indicators of climate change.

  • Organising Policy-Relevant Knowledge for Climate Action (2019-12-13)
    Béatrice Cointe LAMES, Aix-Marseille Univ, UMR 7305 CNRS Christophe Cassen CIRED, UMR 8568 CNRS – Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, EHESS, AgroParisTech, CIRAD Alain Nadaï CIRED-CNRS

    Greenhouse gas emission scenarios are key in analyses of human interference with the climate system. They are mainly produced by one category of computer models: Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs). We analyse how IAM research organised into a community around the production of socio-economic scenarios during the preparation of the IPCC AR5 (2005-2014). We seek to describe the co-emergence of a research community, its instruments, and its domain of applicability. We highlight the role of the IPCC process in the making of the IAM community, showing how IAMs worked their way to an influent position. We then survey three elements of the repertoire that served to organise collective work on scenarios in interaction with the IPCC and the European Union, and which now frames the community and its epistemic practices. This repertoire needs to articulate epistemic practices with the pursuit of policy relevance, which shows how epistemic communities and patterns of co-production materialise in practical arrangements.

  • Inventing Prediction for Regulation (2019-12-13)
    Henri Boullier David Demortain Maurice Zeeman

    In policies targeting environmental and health hazards, an effort is frequently made to anticipate and avert more or less probable adverse events. In this context, computerized models are frequently portrayed as superior knowledge tools, for their capacity to extrapolate from existing data and predict hazards. This paper looks at the historical development and use of such models in regulation, with the specific example of structure-activity relationships (SARs) in the regulation of new industrial chemicals at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It asks how evidential culture(s) in a regulatory organization change, in particular how new methods and forms of knowledge find their place alongside others to forge regulatory decisions. The development and application of, first, a qualitative approach to structure-activity relationships, and then of quantitative models, show that the EPA had the necessary autonomy to imagine and adjust a method emerging in the research environment to respond to regulatory needs. This can be understood from a coproductionist perspective, if adjusted to take into account the bureaucratic knowledge that mediates the imagining and application of prediction in regulatory practice.

  • Magicians at Work: Modellers as Institutional Entrepreneurs in the Global Governance of Agriculture and Food Security (2019-09-21)
    Lise Cornilleau LISIS / Paris Est University and CSO / Sciences Po

    Global models of agriculture act as the epistemic basis for quantitative foresight, which guides international policymaking and research on agriculture. With the new political sociology of science as a backdrop, this article studies the actors who develop and use these models through the lens of field theory. Contributing to the dialogue between the neo-institutionalist field theory and its Bourdieusian version, it describes the structure and the dynamics of the strategic action field of modelling organizations, using the Bourdieusian notions of “succession” and “subversion” to refine the characterization of challengers. It also discusses the insights of the Bourdieusian concept of “homology” to analyse the relations between the field of model producers and the field of model users. Whereas Bourdieu provides a primarily descriptive account of homologies, which are close to a “social magic without magicians” for Roueff, the present text describes magicians doing the work of producing homologies. Some modellers use intercomparison to reduce competition and to have their models used in the field of global governance, thus strategically producing homologies, while resolving the main modelling conflict of the field. These actors benefit from the recent change in the modelling field under the influence of climate change, to behave as what Fligstein and McAdam have called “institutional entrepreneurs”. The article concludes that this amended version of field theory makes it possible to describe the co-construction of a range of models developed by competing organizations and the controversial making of global agricultural governance. Doing so, it complements the co-production framework, which often focuses on a given site of expertise production and a site of global governance.

  • Situated Expert Judgement (2019-12-13)
    Brice Laurent Francois Thoreau U Liège

    In this paper we discuss the kind of expert judgement demanded by the development of a particular class of models known as “Quantitative Structure-Activities Relationship” (QSAR) models, used to predict the toxicity of chemical substances, for regulatory and other purposes. We analyse the production of these models, and attempts at standardizing them. We show that neither a technical nor a procedural standardization is possible. As a consequence, QSAR models cannot ground a production of knowledge along the lines of “mechanical objectivity” or “regulatory objectivity”. Instead, QSAR models imply that expert judgement is situated, re-worked for each new case, and implies an active intervention of the individual expert. This has important consequences for risk governance based on models. It makes transparency a central concern. It also means that new asymmetries emerge, between companies developing sophisticated models and individual experts in regulatory agencies in charge of assessing these models.

  • Reassembling Energy Policy (2019-12-13)
    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’).

  • Unfolding Algorithms (2019-12-13)
    Bilel Benbouzid LISIS-UPEM

    Predictive policing is a research field whose principal aim is to develop machines for predicting crimes, drawing on machine learning algorithms and the growing availability of a diversity of data. This paper deals with the case of the algorithm of PredPol, the best-known startup in predictive policing. The mathematicians behind it took their inspiration from an algorithm created by a French seismologist, a professor in earth sciences at the University of Savoie. As the source code of the PredPol platform is kept inaccessible as a trade secret, the author contacted the seismologist directly in order to try to understand the predictions of the company’s algorithm. Using the same method of calculation on the same data, the seismologist arrived at a different, more cautious interpretation of the algorithm's capacity to predict crime. How were these predictive analyses formed on the two sides of the Atlantic? How do predictive algorithms come to exist differently in these different contexts? How and why is it that predictive machines can foretell a crime that is yet to be committed in a California laboratory, and yet no longer work in another laboratory in Chambéry?  In answering these questions, I found that machine learning researchers have a moral vision of their own activity that can be understood by analyzing the values and material consequences involved in the evaluation tests that are used to create the predictions.

  • Unpacking the Concept of Bioeconomy: Problems of Definition, Measurement, and Value (2019-12-14)
    James Mittra, Dr University of Edinburgh Giorgos Zoukas, Mr University of Edinburgh

    In this paper, we critically explore the evolution and impact of the concept ‘bioeconomy’ as a descriptor and driver of diff erent scientific, technological, and policy initiatives in the life sciences. We unpack the different ways bioeconomy has been framed – as an emergent, present, or sometimes promissory economic regime underpinned by particular socio-technical practices - by tracing how its use has evolved in different disciplinary field and sectors. We also critically analyse three key reports that attempt to measure the size and contribution of the bioeconomy at regional levels. Our overarching questions are: What is the bioeconomy, how has it been used in different fields, and how might it be best understood and valued both economically and politically? In answering these questions, we build on and contribute to critical scholarship in science and technology studies, particularly theoretical work on biovalue, commodification, and assetisation; using this in conjunction with our empirical concept search and document analysis to contribute new knowledge and understanding of the bioeconomy’s past, present, and future.

  • The Power of Place (2019-12-14)
    Catharina Landstrom University of Oxford Stewart Kemp

    Investigating the role of geographical location in public engagement with science we examine the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) Partnership’s undertaking of one of the most extensive local public engagements with environmental risk science in the UK. The case study highlights the transformative impacts of this three-year long local engagement on both science and the public. Differently from other invited public engagements, organised as experiments controlled by scientists in spaces set aside from the everyday, the Partnership’s lay members led a process unfolding in the place that was potentially at risk. The Partnership had the authority to demand that scientists addressed issues of local interest. We frame the analysis with the notions ‘re-situating technoscience' and ‘re-assembling the public' to illuminate how scientific knowledge claims were modified and a new local public emerged, at the intersection of public engagement with science and public participation in environmental risk governance.

  • The Shaping of Urban Public Transport (2019-12-14)
    Lina Ingeborgrud Norwegian University of Science and Technology

    This paper investigates the shaping of urban public transport by comparing ‘alternative leading objects’ to the car in the Norwegian cities Trondheim and Bergen. These have chosen different transport technologies, bus and light rail respectively. I draw on the concept of technological frames and illustrate how interpretations and expectations of sustainable urban mobility guide transport planning. The paper contributes to discussions in STS by exploring technological frames as ongoing practices instead of as outcomes, and as performed by what I identify as two framing coalitions. Both coalitions emphasised that Trondheim and Bergen represented different city identities and topographies. The paper demonstrates the importance of making such identities and representations of public transport systems in particular urban contexts in order to replace a car-dominated transport system. The paper draws on an observational study in two transport offices, interviews with transport planners and politicians and document studies.

  • Comparing Forms and Degrees of Critique (2019-12-14)
    Jeremy Keith Ward Aix-Marseille Université

    This paper presents an analytical tool designed to evaluate the degree and type of divergence between a dominant orthodox discourse and that of heterodox actors who criticize it. This method of discourse analysis consists in a breaking down and classification of its different parts. It is grounded in Boltanski’s conception of critique and in analytical sociologists’ breaking down of social reality. By summarizing these differences in simple tables, the method proposed greatly facilitates comparisons of the discourses of a great variety of actors. To show the heuristic power of this tool, I apply it to the controversy that emerged in France in 2009-2010 over the safety of the pandemic flu vaccine. I present the social and medical ontologies on which these various critiques are grounded and their varying degrees of radicalism.


  • Becoming an FSC Auditor (2019-12-14)
    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 (2019-12-14)
    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 (2019-12-14)
    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 (2019-12-14)
    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 (2019-12-14)
    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 (2019-12-14)
    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 (2019-12-14)
    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? (2019-12-14)
    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 (2019-12-14)
    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.