• 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.

  • Composite Method (2021-03-09)
    Ryanne Bleumink University of Amsterdam Lisette Jong University of Amsterdam Ildikó Zonga Plájás University of Amsterdam

    This paper explores how race comes to matter in the practice of police facial composite drawing. The confidential nature of criminal investigations prevented us from using research material collected through observations of police practices. The authors developed an experimental film project in collaboration with two forensic artists to illuminate the production of (visual) differences in the context of facial composite drawing. We recorded the process using a variety of technologies to produce different materializations of the drawing event. The experimental setting created a reflexive space for all participants, albeit not in the same way. Tinkering with the materials generated allowed us to analyze the enactment and slipperiness of race in practice. This paper combines written text with experimental montage to address three different practices through which race takes shape in the process of making facial composite drawings: 1) touching as describing; 2) layering and surfacing; and 3) articulating the common.

  • Embodiment in Ethnographic Collaborations (2021-03-23)
    Alexandra Endaltseva École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales Sonja Jerak-Zuiderent Amsterdam University Medical Centres

    This article – grounded in ethnographic fieldwork within the organization of chronic patients with multiple sclerosis in Russia – empiricizes and problematizes the work it takes to craft ethnographic collaborations with care. We attend to the notion of collaboration ‘from a body’, or, rather, from bodies-in-movement. By scrutinizing three turning points of our ethnographic fieldwork along with our relations with partners in the field, we specify how movement matters in ethnographic collaborations. Attention to the embodiment work allows us to specify the energy and resources such collaborations ask for and that are otherwise silenced or neglected. We distinguish three instances of embodiment work in such collaborations – composition, moving with and being moved by, as well as pausing. By attending to how ‘we know’ through crafting and maintaining ethnographic collaborations, this article contributes to a broader question of how to care for differences in ethnographic collaborations.

  • 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.


  • Interdisciplinary Projects as an Expert-Network (2021-03-23)
    Neil Stephens Brunel University London Phil Stephens Cardiff University

    We report an analysis of how an interdisciplinary project bringing together biologists, physicists and engineers worked in practice. The authorship team are the Principle Investigator who led the project, and a social scientist who studied the project as it was conducted by interviewing participants and observing practice. We argue it is accurate and productive to think of the interdisciplinary team as an Expert-Network, which means it was a managed set of relationships between disciplinary groups punctuated by specific junctions at which interdisciplinary exchange of materials, knowledge, and in limited cases, practices, occurred. We stress the role of trust in knowledge exchange, and document how hard sharing knowledge – and especially tacit knowledge - between disciplines can be. Key is the flexible management of the network, as the membership and required skill set change. Our analysis is embedded within, and contributes to, the Sociology of Experience and Expertise (SEE) framework. We close by suggesting advice for others seeking to manage a similar interdisciplinary Expert-Network.

  • Affordance, Role, and Script as Complementary Concepts of Artefact-User Interaction, Illustrated by the Example of an Egg Separator (2021-03-30)
    Ingo Schulz-Schaeffer TU Berlin

    This article suggests employing the affordance concept, the role concept, and the script concept in a complementary manner as analytical tools for investigating artefact-user interaction at three different levels of stability, abstraction, and interrelatedness. It argues that the affordance concept is best suited to describing general possibilities for action constituted by common technical features in combination with common taken-for-granted knowledge of how to use them. The script concept, in contrast, is best suited to analysing the most concrete situations of interaction between artefacts and users: those situations in which the interaction is defined by one particular course of action. In between, there is a middle level characterised by artefacts and users being involved in several interrelated activities for which the role concept provides the tools for analysis.

  • 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.