Infrastructure Makes Prime Time Slot

Infrastructure Makes Prime Time Slot

This Sunday, Nov. 23, CBS’ 60 Minutes will feature an interview with American Society of Civil Engineers Past President Andrew W. Herrmann, P.E. SECB, F.ASCE discussing our nation’s infrastructure deficit while flying via helicopter over Pittsburgh.

The interview is part of a larger piece on the Highway Trust Fund hurtling once again toward insolvency. Tune in or set your DVR to 60 Minutes, which airs at 7:30 p.m. ET7 p.m. PT, to see ASCE tell the story behind our nation’s bridges.

Below are additional details of the segment.

AMERICA’S INFRASTRUCTURE IS “ON LIFE SUPPORT,” SAYS FORMER TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY RAY LAHOOD.  NEARLY 70,000 BRIDGES IN THE UNITED STATES NEED TO BE REPLACED OR SIGNIFICANTLY REPAIRED – “60 MINUTES” SUNDAY
November 21, 2014
Federal Highway Trust Fund  – Which Funds Road and Bridge Repair – is Nearly Broke

Ray LaHood, the former U.S. transportation secretary, tells 60 MINUTES  many of the roads and bridges we drive on every day are “on life support.” What’s more, nearly 70,000 bridges in the U.S. are deemed structurally deficient.   “I don’t want to say they’re unsafe. But they’re dangerous,” says Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation during President Obama’s first term.  “Our infrastructure’s on life supports right now. That’s what we’re on,” says LaHood, now co-chair of Building America Future, a bipartisan coalition of current and former elected officials seeking to increase spending on infrastructure. LaHood  speaks to Steve Kroft for a

60 MINUTES report on the state of America’s crumbling infrastructure.  It will be broadcast Sunday, Nov. 23 (7:30-8:30 PM, ET/7:00-8:00 PM, PT) on the CBS Television Network. Watch an excerpt.

60 MINUTES cameras capture the rust and the cracked concrete on bridges across the country, especially in Pennsylvania, where the problem is most acute according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.  LaHood says that the broken roads and bridges need to be fixed now, but the Federal Highway Trust Fund, the pot of money states rely on for new construction and maintenance of roads and bridges is just as broken.  The Highway Trust Fund is financed by the federal gas tax – about 18 cents per gallon – and it hasn’t been raised in 20 years.

“It’s falling apart because we haven’t made the investments. We haven’t got the money,” says LaHood.  “The last time we raised the gas tax, which is how we built the interstate system, was 1993.”  LaHood goes on to say “Politicians in Washington don’t have the political courage to say, ‘This is what we have to do.’ That’s what it takes…They don’t want to raise the taxes. They don’t really have a vision of America the way that other Congresses have had a vision of America,” he tells Kroft.

The failure is a bipartisan one says Rep. Earle Blumenauer (D.-Ore.),  a member the House Ways and Means Committee, just one of a handful of Committee’s responsible for funding long term transportation bills. Blumenauer says he’s been asking for a hearing on funding for the Highway Trust Fund for 44 months “It has, to this point, not raised to the level of priority for the Republican leadership. Although,  in fairness, when the Democrats were in charge, we had a few hearings, but not much action.”

3:1 — Post-STS — 3 of 3

First of all, I have to start with thanking Nicholas for such a warm welcome. I am still a little surprised, but (at the same time!) delighted by the invitation to join the @installingorder.org community.

With respect to this post, I have had the additional privilege of being the last person to respond to the question of “Post-STS!?”. I think the posts by Nicholas and Jan, have setup this conversation quite succinctly in terms of whether a world Post-STS would mean success or failure for STS as a interdisciplinary practice. I am going to shy away from this question. Mostly owing to my own biases (for the lack of a better word!), I have not been able to foresee this possibility.

I once asked Wiebe Bijker out of sheer curiosity, “What is NOT STS?” He smiled and said that every once in a while when he teaches a class, he asks his students to think of a problem that they think is outside the purview of STS and then, within the next few minutes, he turns the same problem into an STS problem. The trick, he said, is to understand that science, technology and society are thick concepts as well as “things” that are ubiquitous and the so-called STS toolkit is amorphous enough to be used productively to understand them.

So, within this context, I have tried to figure out what would a post-STS world look like? I have stared at the question for a couple of days now and then, I started to wonder when and how did the STS toolkit become concrete enough that we reached the stage of looking for a post-STS toolkit? How can I tell you what would be “Post-STS?”, when I don’t know the answer to the question: “What is STS”? To reach post-”Something”, we need a present-”Something” and my feeling is that the present-”Something” for STS is still in the making.

STS remains in a state of becoming because we engage with “wicked problems” that first need to be described or explained (whatever your choice of methodology!) before a possibility of intervention can be imagined. We celebrate multiplicity, plurality, and alternative imaginations of knowledge(s), technique(s) and expertise(s) but don’t necessarily resolve the problems that we try to elicit. Whether we simplify work within science studies as waves or enumerate traditions of recurring and partially overlapping preoccupations in STS scholarship, we are still figuring out new methods and strategies that have to keep pace with the development of new forms of technoscience. This entity/concept/”thing” called technoscience is NOT static enough for us to be able to situate ourselves concretely in a relationship with it.

Maybe post-STS lies within the hope of that resolving ways of engaging with technoscience or maybe it lies in our confidence to move beyond description or explanation to intervention, but, till then, it is the questions that we ask that makes STS unique: What is our place as humans in a world that is surrounded by “things” embedded in different and often conflating forms of technoscientific knowledge(s)?

Why the humanities: a call for papers

Call for Papers

International Conference

Why the Humanities:
Answers from the Cognitive and Neurosciences

http://www.kent.edu/cas/why-humanities

Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center
Kent, Ohio, USA
July 9-12, 2015

The purpose of this conference is to highlight and enhance the contributions that humanities education makes to personal well being, responsible citizenship, and social justice.

Continue reading

Call for Papers

Originally posted on EcoMaterialisms: Organizing Life and Matter:

EcoMaterialisms: Organizing Life and Matter

University of California, Irvine

Friday 15th May 2015

“EcoMaterialisms: Organizing Life and Matter” will bring interdisciplinary graduate work to  bear on the ongoing critical discussions grouped under the umbrella of “new materialisms.” While what exactly these new materialisms might be or look like remains a vitally open question, this conference is an attempt to map a number of conceptual coordinates that give this emergent field of inquiry some consistency. As Diana Coole and Samantha Frost write in the introduction to their edited collection on new  materialism, “If we persist in our call for an observation of a new materialism, it is because we  are aware that unprecedented things are currently being done with and to matter, nature, life,  production, and reproduction. It is in this contemporary context that theorists are compelled to  rediscover older materialist traditions while pushing them in novel, and sometimes experimental,  directions…

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Welcome Ranjit Singh (Cornell University)

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“Greetings from Ithaca,” our guest blogger Ranjit writes.

He is currently working on the history of the turn to technology studies within STS in the mid-1980s (which is, I think, related to this talk he gave a while back cleverly called “Back to the Future“) under the supervision of Prof. Trevor Pinch (who graciously loaned us all those 4S newsletters — they are on their back to you in the mail, Trevor, I promise).

He will be the final blogger for this week’s 3:1 on Post-STS.

Welcome aboard from the @installingorder.org community, Ranjit Singh!

*The image is of Rockefeller Hall on Cornell University’s campus where Trevor and Ranjit work.

3:1 — Post-STS — 2 of 3

Do academic disciplines die? They are born, they are propagated, they are institutionalized. But can they disappear? While thinking about possible paths into a (hypothetical) Post-STS world, I tried to think of blueprints of such a path. There are some examples, yes, but none of them can really serve as a banner case: classic rhetorics, alchemy, classical (national) economy — sure we are post them, but what happened? Rhetorics? Still valued, but even in ancient Greece it has been a craft and a science and it seems that it today just embraces craft-i-ness. Alchemy? Well, yes, but that was, if you will, the lab work of natural philosophy and both lab and theory live on in modern chemistry and pharmacology. Classical (national) economy? Oh come on — that is not dead, it just serves as the dismissed precursor of neo-classical economy. So…do disciplines die? Well, we have talked about leftovers quite a lot and it seems part of the “dark side” of institutions is that it is hard to finally get rid of them.

That set aside: in a way I agree that the dream of STS has always been one of a world in which it is no longer necessary, but there are two versions of that dream. The first is mainly about the background of those who turned to STS: Wouldn´t it be great if sociology, philosophy, history and so on were more about science and technology? Isn´t STS sociology, philosophy or history how it should be? And would a world in which STS is no longer necessary not just a world in which the old disciplines finally noticed the importance of S&T for our contemporary world? The second is this: Wouldn´t it be fantastic if we could help technoscience to be so reflexive and aware of how they shape our world that no STS is necessary any more? And isn´t a Post-STS world just a world of upgraded technoscience? Both Post-STS worlds are incompatible as the success of the latter makes the former impossible: if technoscience does not need STS anymore, if sure does not need an upgraded sociology, philosophy or history of science or technology. But if technoscience still needs STS it would be counterproductive to disband the joint forced of our inter-discipline and talk different S&T related sociological, philosophical and historical lingo again, right?

Given these options, a Post-STS world would be one of failure, not of success. But on the other hand: given that the death of a discipline is a rather rare event, we can be pretty sure that STS will be around for a while. After all: look at Horizon 2020 (the current EU funding scheme) or similar statements of national funding agencies. The more they ask projects in particle physics or urban engineering to integrate ELSA (ethical, legal, social aspects), the more they strengthen the demand for sociologists, philosophers and historians who can help. In living the Post-STS dreams, it seems, we are strengthening an STS world.

3:1 — Post-STS — 1 of 3

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For this 3:1, we consider “Post-STS,” not because we know what that means exactly, but as an experiment to explore what a Post-STS world might mean, signify, or imply.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a Post-STS world would be a mark of success. What I mean by that is that STS, from the start, to my mind, was always a little on the defensive and positioned themselves as self-proclaimed inhabitants of the margins. Merton, during the very first year of 4S, claimed that we were a rag-tag bunch, but that what we were doing – making legitimate space for social inquiry into science and technology – was possibly a little bit noble. The message to me what clear: we were doing what the social and political sciences weren’t; we were attending to science and technology.

When the interdisciplinary space of STS is framed like that, a few consequences emerge, in particular, when STS is not seen as marginal. I primarily think of a meeting a couple years back, a “Theory Talks” meeting organized by Peer Schouten and company, after a Millennium conference at the London School of Economics the previous few days. The point of the meeting was for a bunch of STS scholars to get together with a bunch of IR (international relations) scholars. The Millennium conference itself is an IR event, and this meant that we STSers were “invited guests.”

That it appeared that IR scholars were coming to STS scholars for new ideas, possible collaborations (we found Stef there, after all!), and fresh directions for inquiry in IR. This surprised me. Really. That STS would intentionally be injected into a major line of inquiry in Political Science was, in my naïve understanding at the time, truly surprising. “Wait,” I thought, “has STS made it?”

The inroads of STS into IR is not exactly a cake-walk, but the very idea of a field coming to us in STS for direction was thought-provoking if only to contemplate the following scenario: STS does not have many programs to train students, and, from my read of things, most of the scholars that have ever called themselves STSers hailed from “other” disciplinary homes such as sociology, history, political science, and so on (possibly an anthropologist or two in there). But IR folks, instead of jumping ship and joining the ranks of STS, apparently wanted to import some of the ideas, tends, and theories associated with the STS attitude toward inquiry into IR. Their scholars are not leaving IR to come to STS; they brought the STS to IR.

With that in mind, I provide my closing remarks: my read on STS is that from the start, scholars in STS have always dreamt of a world where STS isn’t necessary. I once read a book about heavy metal (music) that made much the same argument: a lot of heavy metal is about a world that does not need heavy metal anymore. I guess a Post-STS world, to me, would be a victory because we would no longer need to carve out “special space” to do STS in.

Lucid Theory Workshop: Between Philosophy & World Politics

Originally posted on Global Theory:

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Lucid Theory

Writing Between Philosophy and World Politics

Monday 24 November 2014
The University of New South Wales, Australia
Morven Brown Building, Upper Campus, Room 310

Places are available: Please RSVP to a.burke@adfa.edu.au and a.bloomfield@unsw.edu.au

Download the full LucidTheory_Program+map.

This workshop aims to stage a dual dialogue: between the methods and concerns of philosophy and international relations, and between philosophers and international relations theorists themselves. It recognizes that while IR theorists have long been drawing upon and contributing to philosophy, and philosophers have been directly engaging problems and ontologies in world politics, there are few useful sites of contact, crossover and collaboration between these two scholarly communities. They have separate traditions and sites of intellectual training, tend to publish in different journals, and rarely attend the same conferences. Even as they are pursuing trans-disciplinary forms of scholarship, they do so separately. We use the term “lucid” purposefully to reflect…

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4S, reflections on Buenos Aires

bird_watching

In this thoughtful blog post on CASTAC,* Luis Felipe R. Murillo (pictured, who is or was a grad student in anthropology at UCLA) reflects on the 4S meeting in Buenos Aires (this August) with special attention on the relationship between (American) anthropology and (nationality not defined) STS.

Some relatively fresh ideas include the notion of “fault lines” as a way to characterize cross-disciplinary work:

This is where we operate as STS scholars: at intersecting research areas, bridging “fault lines” (as Traweek’s felicitous expression puts it), and doing anthropology with and not without anthropologists.

The blog post reviews two sessions, mainly just relaying what was discussed and who does that sort of research, but the common thread pulled through all this description is an earnest inquiry into how do we do the anthropology/STS relationship and how should we do the anthropology/STS relationship. The piece closes with a somewhat haunting quote:

As suggested by Michael Fortun, we are just collectively conjuring – with much more empiria than magic – a new beginning in the experimental tradition for world anthropologies of sciences and technologies.

The blog supporting that post also has some cool posts about pedagogy and other research issues worth peaking through.

*Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing.

Relative realities, theoretical sensitivities

Nicholas:

Annemarie Mol’s take on empirical philosophy; I saw this talk, or a nearly identical one, when she later gave it at Københavns Universitet this fall. There is a thread to be curious about, however, and that is a comment she made during the Q&A of the session I attend. I asked: “I have read much of your work and recall words like “ontology,” “multiplicity,” and so on, which are now missing in your new work — why?” Mol’s answer, roughly paraphrased: “I like to keep things fresh so now I use “onto-norms”…” I thought: that’s a little odd, but perhaps new concepts for every new project has some appeal, but the “I don’t like them anymore” or “I prefer fresh concepts” just strikes me as more of an aesthetic decision than anything else, not that I dislike aesthetic decisions, but it just struck me as odd in a talk about empirical philosophy.

Originally posted on synthetic_zero:

Annemarie Mol’s take on empirical philosophy.

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Reflexivity, The Post-Modern Predicament

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Been reading a good book on reflexivity, Reflexivity: The Post-Modern Predicament by Hilary Lawson, after our 3:1 week on postmodernism and after thinking about some new directions for Jan and I’s old paper on reflexivity.

Here is a choice quote from the opening passage, in discussions about reflexivity being at the core of Western philosophical thinking:

This questioning, however, has led to views which are unstable. Such claims are ‘there are no facts’, ‘there are no lessons of history’, ‘there are no definitive answers or solutions’, are all reflexively paradoxical. For, is it not a fact that ‘there are no facts’, and a lesson of history that ‘there are not lessons of history’, and a definitive answer that ‘there are no definitive answers’? (page 1)

* Imagine from Roskilde University in Copenhagen, Denmark.

If Latour were a craft-beer-brewer, his name’d be …

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… Steve Wright. Check out this innovative ANT account of craft beer tasting, now on-line, free of charge. Investigation into the flavor profiling of craft beers as well as auto-ethnographic blind beer tasting and tasting exams, this paper — and by paper, I am referring to a 277 page thesis — is replete with outstanding detail.

Also, upon even modest reflection, the teaching potential of this document is striking.

My favorite part is the explanation of language-sensory experience:

The historical construction of the contemporary language of sensory assessment supports the construction of the style guides. Once assembled into an information infrastructure the style guide is extended to act in multiple different ways: its propositions are translated into testable facts with multiple choices, it functions as a technology of material ordering and coordination, as a regulatory technology placing limits on how taste judgements can and cannot be expressed or recorded, and as a re-enactment and materialisation of individual cognitivist models of assessment.

Bite Size Theory: The Way We Argue Now

Originally posted on Pop Theory:

“If anyone else had published the second and third volumes of the History of Sexuality, they would have had little to no impact on the theoretical domains of literary and cultural theory in the U.S. academy.”

Amanda Anderson, 2006, The Way We Argue Now: A Study in the Cultures of Theory. Princeton, Princeton University Press, p. 121.

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Latour’s inconsistencies unveiled

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In this terrific article in New Literary History, Graham Harman draws-out some of Latour’s inconsistencies in his shift from old ANT days (i.e., the early Latour) to the more recent emphasis on “modes” (i.e., the late Latour) related to his culture-nature rejection-reficiation (played with a few of these idea a decade ago reviewing his book PoN).

Teaching STS: Construction of Time and Daylight Savings

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In the “Teaching STS” collection, we’ve discussed teaching lessons (with some resources) about the social construction of time a number of times related to whether or not time exists at all (with research from the Max Planck Institute), reflections on the notion of aberrant time such as “leap seconds” (students are bothered by this one), and, even though when we write about the olympics, it is usually about derelict stadiums, it occurs to me that when the atomic clock was adopted and the length of the second transformed, “timing” at the Olympic games might have been an interesting topic to think about for students who imagine that the length of the second back in 1936 should be identical to the length of the second that Michael Phelps was swimming in 2008 (in Beijing).

At any rate, a nice entry point for a classroom situation for discussing time might be to use humor before you get into the nitty-gritty of “existence” or whether or not the basic units of measurement are less stable than we previously thought. Enter a satirical trailer about daylight savings … it would work to kick off a class on the topic of time.

3:1–Postmodernity–3 of 3

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I have to admit, I wanted to post a blank page. Would that be post-Dada poetry in a post-paper world? I decided to save my cheeky response about simulacra and how this blog didn’t really get written for another time, and briefly discuss what “postmodernism” might mean in International Relations (IR).  Or at least, how I imagine the huge and varied response to high modernism that emerged in the last century in architecture and art most notably, finds its way to IR.

International Relations Theory is organized around these semi-fictional “debates” that may or may not have happened.  Certainly they were not debated in the usual sense, but the common understanding of our discipline comes from organizing it into a first debate where “idealism” took on “realism” (and lost); debate two between the “behaviorists” and the “traditionalists” (no clear victor), the third debate between the neorealists and, um, the rest, I guess (new theories attack! Go Marx! Go Bull!), and finally the great fourth debate the positivists and the post-positivists duke it out over methodology and the role of science in International Relations (by some accounts this is the really the third debate and we are still in it.  Just ask anyone with a critical project trying to present work at a conference or get a job in US without a bunch of wonky quant in your work).

So, here we pause and see if this fourth (third) debate is where we can locate the postmodern as such in IR. Not as a facile periodization around the word “post,” but rather as interpretive strategies and analysis that engage with modernity and the changes it wrought. Generally framed as “poststructuralist” or “post-positivist,” this type of analysis finds many sites in IR, especially those engaged in emancipatory or critical projects. Think of it less than a theory and more of an attitude. A perking up of the ears to marginalized voices and perspectives. This is a profoundly ethical engagement with the world. A postmodernist critique would want you to feel unsettled and challenged. To look at those common sense assumptions about the world “out there” and question how power operates in seemingly simple common sense assumptions. Oh, and you’d want to understand that power isn’t monolithic and traded in blocks by sovereign states by the pound, but rather seductive and productive and pleasurable….and intertwined with knowledge….

This returns us to methodology. For IR, the “critical turn” would encompass seeing knowledge as fractured and epistemological claims as dependent on relations of power. These claims are not “countable” or empirical as a positivist would understand it, but rather they wrestle with the “real” and what it means to shape the real into reality.

Infrastructural Lives — new book out now

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Add this one to your reading list. Steve Graham and Colin McFarlane have edited a book, which has just come out, Infrastructural Lives (http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415748537/).

Contributors include AbdouMaliq Simone, Maria Kaika, Vyjayanthi Rao, Mariana Cavalcanti, Stephanie Terrani-Brown, Omar Jabary Salamanca, Rob Shaw, Harriet Bulkeley, Vanesa Caston-Broto, Simon Marvin, Mike Hodson, Renu Desai, Steve Graham, and myself.  Arjun Appaduria kindly provided a thoughtful foreword for the book.

3:1 — Postmodernity — 2 of 3

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Growing up with Baudrillard, Lyotard and Luhmann as well as with Bobby Brown, White Noise and Twin Peaks it always seemed to me that the tenets of postmodern thinking are so deeply engraved into my perception that I can hardly distance myself from that. This is still evident whenever I see someone raising a point that just has the smell of modernism: “trust in the independence of science!”, “We can manage our natural resources in a rational way!” or “This is why Ukraine wants to turn towards the West!” As a well trained postmodern I cannot help myself, I have to utter at least a statement of doubt, if not disbelieve. I also never felt the need hide this well habituated scruples when it comes to modernism, as for me, feeling well aligned to a tradition from Weber and Simmel to Adorno and Luhmann the task of sociology has never been simply to understand modernity but to work on the intellectual tools to deal with the both the pleasures and the discomfort it creates.

On the other hand: raised in sociology just before the turn of the chiliad I also never experienced the playfulness that made postmodern thought so appealing to some that were trained just a decade or two earlier. It must have been liberating for someone raised to be a modern, serious sociologist in a time when quite obviously the principles of modernism were crumbling. But I never really felt the pleasure of pastiche, bricolage and of following the interwoven threads of intertextuality – for me what was most evident about the postmodern condition was the inevitable horror and the unshrinkable terror that Jean Baudrillard´s hyperrealism and David Lynch´s Blue Velvet captured so well. There it was again, the discomfort that I assumed early sociologists tried to deal with at the turn to modernity. Modernity was gone, the terror remained. For me postmodern sociology, like its modernist sibling, was damn serious.

Only that of course it was not. Diving into Cultural Studies and Semiotics, into Intertextualities and interwoven layers of denotation and connotations when I turned towards media studies I could not help it: All that emphasis on empowered readers and on the politics of pleasure that consumption offered seemed to me seemed to just cover the entrance to the limbo of our contemporary condition. The doubt about ways of the moderns — isn´t it also justified in the case of the postmoderns? If we have never been modern, have we ever been postmodern? My best guess is that we have not. We do not need to be. We need to take the achievements of both the moderns and the postmoderns serious: science, technology, politics as well as hyperrealism, simulacra and irony — without trying to be either modern or postmodern. And we are still in need on the intellectual tools to deal with both the pleasures and the discomforts that both modernism and postmodernism provided us with.

*image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/julie_coulter/5070699614 (CC)

Doing ANT on ANT

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In Gad and Jensen’s (2009) excellent paper “On the consequences of Post-ANT” — available here free – we read a number of slightly cheeky comments in the abstract, but the one I am curious about I put in bold below:

Since the 1980s the concept of ANT has remained unsettled. ANT has continuously been critiqued and hailed, ridiculed and praised. It is still an open question whether ANT should be considered a theory or a method or whether ANT is better understood as entailing the dissolution of such modern ‘‘genres’’. In this paper the authors engage with some important reflections by John Law and Bruno Latour in order to analyze what it means to ‘‘do ANT,’’ and (even worse), doing so after ‘‘doing ANT on ANT.’’ In particular the authors examine two post-ANT case studies by Annemarie Mol and Marilyn Strathern and outline the notions of complexity, multiplicity, and fractality. The purpose is to illustrate the analytical consequences of thinking with post-ANT. The analysis offers insights into how it is possible to ‘‘go beyond ANT,’’ without leaving it entirely behind.

Question: Does anyone know precisely what paper or presentation — or “other” sort of document — they are referring to when stating “doing so after “doing ANT on ANT”? 

*Also, please forgive in advance the image of mating ants used for this post on “ant on ant.”

3:1 — Postmodernity — 1 of 3

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In the ‘90s, as a student, I was mesmerized by postmodernity’s rejection of all things holy to sociology. In place of depth, we emphasized surface. In place of a singular self, we emphasized multiple selves. In their vision of the academy, scholars were ironic in earnest rather than dry and serious. I was dumbstruck; this seeming reset of all things sociology was inspiring. That is not to say that I knew what to do with it, and after my interest being piqued I put all things postmodern on the shelf and focused on ‘serious sociology’ — the kind that ‘gets you a job.’ After a couple of years doing neo-institutional organizational analysis, I was drawn back into ‘things’ postmodern — literally — through actor-network theory, which took the form of Jan and I’s ‘actor-network state’ concept. I’ve hardly left it behind since, but a recent invitation to the Eastern Sociological Association’s next meeting to oversee presentations on ‘decoloniality’ has helped me to rethink postmodernity a bit.

How has decoloniality made me rethink/reconsider postmodernity? Decoloniality has primarily been developed in the Latin American context as a critical theory approach to ethnic studies, and constitutes practical and academic ‘options [for] confronting … the colonial matrix of power,” which is constituted by the imposition of colonial measures like race, ethnicity, gender, and all other manner of imperial state categorization schemes (Mignolo 2011: xxvii) (in this way it dovetails nicely with the “social studies of politics” that Jan and I have been cultivating over the last half-decade). The decoloniality project problematizes ‘modernity’ not as an intellectual or industrial sea change, but through emphasis on all the ‘other’ things modernity brought with it like ecocide, genocide, and the foundational self-defining notion of modernity that situates Europe in the center of the world and others on the periphery.

That’s the hang-up. Postmodern theory — I’m thinking of Lyotard, for example — meaningfully questioned modern rationality and knowledge production. This was a boon for science and technology studies, no doubt. Recognition that scientific facts are not as stable as previously believed (if that itself was ever true) resulted in research emphasis on the creation of scientific facts, which, in turn, revealed so much about the exigencies of producing “truth” and how the scientific enterprise “worked.” Postmodern theory also — I’m thinking of Harvey or Jameson now — meaningfully questioned modern industrial production and the rise of service economy and rationality of ‘late capitalism.’ This too was insightful because in addition to rationality, modernity brought industrialization with it.

According to members of the decoloniality project, while attending to knowledge and industry, postmodernists tend to reify some of the most foundational elements of modernity, namely, genocide, ecocide, and the foundational self-defining notion of modernity that situates Europe in the center of the world and others on the periphery, which advanced sociological theory might just as well serve to perpetuate. With rare exception, postmodernity contains few practical solutions to these ‘other’ thoroughly modern problems.

*Image from: http://karaflaherty.com/infographic-new-york-school-postmodernism/

Latour on “Digital Methods”

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In a fascinating, apparently not-peer-reviewed non-article available free online here, Tommaso Venturini and Bruno Latour discuss the potential of “digital methods” for the contemporary social sciences.

The paper summarizes, and quite nicely, the split of sociological methods to the statistical aggregate using quantitative methods (capturing supposedly macro-phenomenon) and irreducibly basic interactions using qualitative methods (capturing supposedly micro-phenomenon). The problem is that neither of which aided the sociologist in capture emergent phenomenon, that is, capturing controversies and events as they happen rather than estimate them after they have emerged (quantitative macro structures) or capture them divorced from non-local influences (qualitative micro phenomenon).

The solution, they claim, is to adopt digital methods in the social sciences. The paper is not exactly a methodological outline of how to accomplish these methods, but there is something of a justification available for it, and it sounds something like this:

Thanks to digital traceability, researchers no longer need to choose between precision and scope in their observations: it is now possible to follow a multitude of interactions and, simultaneously, to distinguish the specific contribution that each one makes to the construction of social phenomena. Born in an era of scarcity, the social sciences are entering an age of abundance. In the face of the richness of these new data, nothing justifies keeping old distinctions. Endowed with a quantity of data comparable to the natural sciences, the social sciences can finally correct their lazy eyes and simultaneously maintain the focus and scope of their observations.

The 3:1 Experiment’s First Experiment

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We previously mentioned that in addition to our regular posts on matters of relevant interest we would start to blog in short snippets (500 words, no more). We will be, from time to time, inviting experts from the field to join us in these short pieces and we are calling the whole thing “The 3:1 Project.”

The concept is simple: three scholars respond to one idea, hence, 3:1 (or 3 to 1). But there is another meaning and that reading is more like “3, 2, 1, go!” because we are to write short pieces that are written, in effect, without reflection or editing. Sort of like when you’re delivering a presentation at a conference venue and the organizer shows you the “you have 2 minutes left” card even though you’ve got 10 more slides in your presentation. What do you do in that situation? You skip to the end and rapid-fire deliver only the essentials. That is what we are hoping to do. Only the essentials rapid-fire.

Starting next week – and this will be our structure into the foreseeable future – we will provide three posts, the first on Monday, the second on Wednesday, and the third on Friday. Together the three will constitute a 3:1 bundling and can be read apart or separately, or however you like.

See you Monday.

New review of Graham Harmans “Reassembling the Political” on Circling Squares

Philip over at Circling Squares just blogged about his first read of Graham Harman´s new book on Latour´s political philosophy. Both book and review are worth a look (and: remembering my impressions when reading the Prince of Networks I assume Philip´s thoughts on Harman´s new book resonate with me quite well…):

Much like his previous writings on Latour, Harmans new book should not be read as a neutral introduction. Just like Prince of Networks, Harman really ends up talking about himself and his own interests via the medium of Latours concepts. Harmans clear, accessible and sometimes entertaining prose style, and the excessively extended introductory quotations, should not distract from this point. The final two fifths of the book are far stronger than the earlier part with interesting and valuable discussions of Zizek and Strauss. However, as mentioned above, it appears to be a book written both in a hurry and in a style that fosters the appearance of being relatively neutral and introductory while in fact being anything but. Once again, Harman completely ignores the more interesting and complex, pluralistic aspects of Latours work and his unwavering groundedness in problems.

 

via Circling Squares: Harmans Reassembling the Political—Some first impressions.

Conference CFP: Agency of Things

Agency of Things:
New Perspectives on European Art of the Fourteenth–Sixteenth Centuries

Conference: 11–12 June 2015
Deadline for abstracts: 30 November 2014

Co-organized by Institute of History of Art, University of Warsaw
and National Museum in Warsaw

This two-day interdisciplinary conference seeks to investigate whether agency of things as a new research model more accurately than traditional theories and methods informs our understanding of religious, social, political and ideological systems or networks which shaped various communities (court, city, convent, pilgrim) during the period under investigation.

All speakers will be invited to visit the newly reopened Gallery of Medieval Art at the National Museum in Warsaw with its curator Professor Antoni Ziemba.

We invite proposals from a variety of disciplines and perspectives, provided that they present innovative insights into the realm of agency of artistic and non-artistic objects. Acceptable topics may include, but are by no means limited to, the following topics:
  • Scale and size of things as conditions of their agency
  • Physical and sensory agency of things
  • Animated things and things for manual handling
  • Objects actively defining and operating within a space
  • Things used in performances, rituals, recitations and sermons
  • Craftsmanship and its role in agency of things
  • Human subjects in a process of dissemination of objects
  • Emotional and psychological agency of things

Papers should be twenty minutes in length and will be followed by a ten-minute Q&A session.
Please e-mail an abstract of no more than 300 words to Ika Matyjaszkiewicz and Patrycja Misiuda-Ramlau to agencyofthings@uw.edu.pl by 30 November 2014. Along with your abstract please include your name, institution, paper title and a brief biography of no more than 150 words. Successful applicants will be notified by 30 January 2015. The conference proceedings will be published after the event, therefore please indicate whether you would be interested in further developing your paper for a publication.

FREE Review of Lemke’s “Biopolitics”

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Great review of Thomas Lemke’s excellent book Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction is available here free. The review is written by Michael Lait, who was, at the time, a PhD student at Carleton University (Ottawa) (I think he still is a PhD student there). We look forward to more good work from Michael, and, just recently, we have seen it! His new draft paper neatly titled “The rotting heart of Gatineau Park: Mapping issues, institutions and publics in a unique political situation” is now on-line and worth a read, available also free here.

* Picture shamelessly borrowed from: http://foucaultsociety.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/buffaloreport_foucault11.jpg

The 3:1 Experiment

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The 3:1 Experiment

An experiment in rapid, concept based, multidisciplinary digital conversations.

Who is invited?

Sociologists, theorists, anthropologists, archaeologists, political scientists, philosophers, economists, and everybody in between.

Why?

The experiment is transdisciplinary. No discipline has jurisdiction over this experiment; no discipline will receive the right to one-up another.

What is it? Dialogues, exchanges, conversations, texts, literature, journalism, poetry, and writing.

Most importantly, it must always be ephemeral, reactionary, and rapid.

The 3:1 Experiment is an investigation into rapid-fire trandisciplinary blogging.

3 writers: 1 concept … and we limit ourselves to 500 words each so each of the three writers must get straight to the point straight away.

Think of that feeling in the final two minutes of a presentation…

12 more slides left…

Just that last crucial point…

3…2…1…

***

Installing (Social) Order is launching a new format in digital conversations called “The 3:1 Experiment” and it will take the format described above.

Three interventions: 1 topic

3 writers: 1 concept

3 bloggers: 1 blog

Three exchanges in 500 words or less

3…2…1…GO.

In the first round, we will introduce—without irony—posts about Posts. You know them; they’re all so Postmodern.

Post-method. Post-empire. Post-nature. Post-culture. Post-science. Post-irony. Post-revolution. Post-war. Post-state. Post-fashion. Post-horror. Post-nihilism. Post-future. Post-empiricism. Post-security.

So, coming-up next: Three perspectives on what happens after…

Blog a bit…it’s only 500 words.  Shot from the hip.

Interested?

Contact installingorderblog@gmail.com 

In which I am reminded of Latour…

In a recent “interview” on CNN, John McCain speaks of facts.

While watching, I think “Aren’t we tired of facts?” and I am reminded of Latour writing in the introduction of Making Things Public, (pp 9-11) about Powell and the Iraq War:

“Facts and forces, in spite of so many vibrant declarations, always walk in tandem. The problem is that transparent, unmediated, undisputable facts have recently become rarer and rarer. To provide complete undisputable proof has become a rather messy, pesky, risky business…”

“Mr. Powell, given what you have done with facts, we would much prefer you to leave them aside and let us instead compare mere assertions with one another. Don’t worry, even with such an inferior type of proof we might nonetheless come to a conclusion, and this one will not be arbitrarily cut short?” 

For many critically minded scholars and citizens of the world, we would to spend less time on facts and perhaps more on ethics, “matters-of-concern,” and a “new eloquence”.

“This is what we wish to attempt: Where matters-of-fact have failed, let’s try what I have called matters-of-concern. What we are trying to register here in this catalog is a huge sea change in our conceptions of science, our grasps of facts, our understanding of objectivity. For too long, objects have been wrongly portrayed as matters-of-fact. This is unfair to them, unfair to science, unfair to objectivity, unfair to experience. They are much more interesting, variegated, uncertain, complicated, far reaching, heterogeneous, risky, historical, local, material and networky than the pathetic version offered for too long by philosophers. Rocks are not simply there to be kicked at, desks to be thumped at. “Facts are facts are facts”? Yes, but they are also a lot of other things in addition. 

And especially for Mr. McCain:

“For those like Mr. Powell, who have long been accustomed to getting rid of all opposition by claiming the superior power of facts, such a sea change might be met with cries of derision: “relativism,” “subjectivism,” “irrationalism,” “mere rhetoric,” “sophistry”! They might see the new life of facts as so much subtraction. Quite right! It subtracts a lot of their power because it renders their lives more difficult. Think of that: They might have to enter into the new arenas for good and finally make their point to the bitter end. They might actually have to publicly prove their assertions against other assertions and come to a closure without thumping and kicking, without alternating wildly between indisputable facts and indisputable shows of terror. We wish to explore in this catalog many realist gestures other than just thumping and kicking. We want to imagine a new eloquence. Is it asking too much of our public conversation? It’s great to be convinced, but it would be even better to be convinced by some evidence. 

Teaching STS: Sexual Harassment in the Field

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A piece in the New York Times recently discusses sexual harassment while scholars are out in the field conducting research.

A topic worth of discussion in its own right, I can see this being a solid introductory read for undergraduate students interested in how gender and science meet. A lot of the literature in that area centers of feminist technology, seeing the underlying sexism in scientific depictions (i.e., the sperm is active while the egg lays in waiting, and so on), and, of course, access to and participation in science and engineering broken-down by gender (sort of like a version of the Matthew Effect, only with women falling out of the pipeline to professional scientist/engineer, perhaps it should be called the Molly Effect or something like that).

At any rate, the piece covers a number of important issues such as power/gender dynamics while in the field, the issue of “sleeping arrangements” while conducting research at non-local venues, as well as the reality that when sexual harassment looms in university-based research activities the matters are often settled internally (rather than in a public forum).

These are matters worth of more public discuss, especially on college campuses, and, to my mind, the sooner the better (perhaps, even in high school) 

4S Newsletter Volume 02 Issue 03 (Summer, 1977)

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Quote of the issue: “On 26 August 1975 … fifty scholars assembled … [to] declare themselves members incorporate in 4S” (August 26th is 4S’s birthday!) Aarnold Thackray and Daryl Chubin, 1977.

Issue in brief (PDF is here: 1977 Volume 2 Issue 3 Summer).

  1. Editorial on the origins of the professional society — interesting,
  2. Preliminary program for the 2nd annual meeting — at Harvard University. You’ll also note that in the elections for members, the status hierarchies of old are all represented,
  3. Fact Sheet for 2nd annual meeting — $15 pre-registration; $20 at the door … makes me wonder what a 1976-2014 registration fee chart might look like,
  4. Thought and opinion section about citation research with an odd opening remark that I think might be about Latour’s 1976 presentation at 4S (but I can’t be sure),
  5. David Edge offers a retort — an excellent one — to the (at best peripheral) acceptance of quantitative (co-)citation analysis in the sociology of science. Well done!
  6. Commentary on the Psychology of Science, which is a field no longer in strong standing (to my knowledge),
  7. A piece on teaching STS in Papa New Guinea — interesting,
  8. STS in the Netherlands,
  9. Excellent reviews of about Zuckerman’s Scientific Elite (a text that challenged the idea that scientists needed to have their great breakthrough by 30, but a book that also did not necessarily support Merton’s Matthew Effect among elites … where it was thought to be strongest), and
  10. The closing pages contain the freshly revised charter.

This newsletter contains information about the origins of the society. According to opening editorial, in connection with the Montreal Congress of the International Sociological Association (who knew?), the earliest foundations of the professional society were laid and an informal committee was established in 1974-75. On 26 August 1975, 50 members assembled in San Francisco to ratify a charter for 4S. Apparently, the 26th of August is 4S’s birthday!

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4S Newsletter Volume 02 Issue 02 (Spring, 1977)

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Quote of the issue: “A new society resembles a new baby: all hope and weak sphincters,” (about the 4S professional society in 1977) Harold Orlans.

Issue in brief (PDF is here: 1977 Volume 2 Issue 2 Spring).

  1. The call for the second annual meeting (to be held in Cambridge, Mass.) is in here, but the real fun is in the “Thoughts and Opinion” section, which features:
  2. “Councillor’s Commentary: Nicholas Mullins”
  3. “On 4S: Harold Orlans”
  4. “The Internationality of 4S: Michael Moravcsik”
  5. “Retrospective TA: Ruth Schwartz Cowan, et al”
  6. “Letter to the Editor: David Bloor”

This newsletter (see the picture, as if it where signed by Trevor Pinch for us later on) is a nice historical piece. According to the council minutes, by January of 1977, 4S boasted 539 members (note to self: chart these). Council minutes also indicate that the professional society was still working hard to determine if a professional society journal partnership could be developed — candidates at the time were none other than the Social Studies of Science, Minerva, and Newsletter on Science, Technology & Human Values. I know that it is just part of training in STS, but we all develop early-on an appreciation for the question (roughly paraphrased here) “how did now-stable things get that way?” and (thank you chapter 7 of David Noble’s Forces of Production) “What roads were not taken?” … might be interesting, as a thought-experiment, to consider what STS might look like if the professional journal were Minerva rather than STHV …

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More on Lego gender battle

shopping

BBC chimes in on the Lego gender battle, which we discussed here and here.

CHOICE QUOTE:

David Robertson, a former Lego professor of innovation at Switzerland’s Institute for Management Development, says such criticisms are unfair. “If Lego was still marketing sets the way it used to, it’d be out of business.”

In his book Brick by Brick, he details the company’s fear in the late 90s that Lego would soon be obsolete. The patents were out of date and a new approach was needed. Instead, the company focused on stories, which in practice meant tie-ins like Star Wars and Harry Potter.

Law on fish ponds and multiplicity

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“A salmon is … ?” that is the ontological question. 

In this free paper, Jon Law addresses practice and theory, and he does it nice and slow with great care to unpack the context of this paper and the broader fields he contributes to, chiefly, of course, Science and Technology Studies. 

Of all people, of course, Law can direct readers through the maze of ANT, but does an even nicer job than usual. For example, regarding theory as coterminous with practice (rather than an appreciable divide):

… And that is the problem when we start to talk about ‘actor-network theory’, or indeed ‘theory’ tout court. Theory including ANT sounds – and often it is – formulaic. It is as if it were there, sitting in a box fully formed, waiting to be applied whole and ready.

Then he shifts gears and moves to “animals,” … “But let me come to the question of actor-network theory in a different way by thinking about how it relates to animals.” He reminds readers that the differences between people and things like animals is not “natural” so much as the difference is an effect of their relationality (and an important step away from “human exceptionality”). Instead of studying scallops (like Callon in 1986), Law studies farmed Atlantic salmon in Hordaland in West Norway. Still, scallops are not irrelevant: “Starting with a focus on multiplicity, I consider how ANT started to put entities such as ‘animals’ back together again after the 1986 relational storm. This, then, is an exploration of strategies for reassembling objects within the ANT tradition.”

I won’t ruin the concluding remarks for readers, but suffice to say, he concludes trying to answer the basic ontological question: “A salmon is … ?”

4S Volume 02 Issue 01 (Winter, 1977)

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Issue in brief (PDF repository for all issues is here, just click the issue you want to view in PDF format):

  1. HM Collins, Dorothy Nelkin, and a young Thomas F. Gieryn reflect on the first annual meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science.
  2. Abstracts from all the papers presented at the first meeting in Ithaca, NY — nice.
  3. A flattering transcript of Polsby’s introduction to Merton’s presidential address.
  4. A lengthy review of Bloor’s “Knowledge and Social Imagery.”
  5. In the “recently completed dissertations” section, we see that Thomas F. Gieryn has just completed his work at Columbia working under Merton.

I will devote my commentary primarily about the reflections — by HM Collins, Dorothy Nelkin, and a young Thomas F. Gieryn — on the first annual meeting. However, Polsby’s introduction to Merton is a must-read for history buffs.

First, Collins is way funnier than I remember him. His opening remarks are about his fears of America and mention fertilization after marriage! Also, he hits on a part of the professional society that is alive today — “for meeting the unsuspected individuals here and there, often in isolation, with whom one was immediately “on a wavelength.”” He goes on to make some outlandish comments about the organization of tables during the banquet and how he “took too much wine.” Still, he closes mentioning that he hopes that the friendly criticism and international flavor of the event can be extended into the future years.

After the meeting, Nelkin refers to the society as operating in a “postpartal stage” — odd. She mentions that sociologists essentially thought of the professional society — or, at least, had dominant numbers during the foundation — but that the society attended to issues far beyond sociology as usual (even sociology of science as usual). Dorothy mentions a number of “troublesome” observations such as why there seemed to be little methodological coherence among the papers, why developing countries were rarely mentioned, or why political science seemed so distant from the concerns of the presenters (by the way, one might mention those same concerns at any of the meetings I’ve been to, but perhaps they are less pronounced now than then, but it is interesting to see how enduring these concerns are). Her comments on Latour are fun:

Latour proposed another interesting tool through which to understand normal science: using anthropological methods, he investigated science as “action,” studying the smallest units of research activity, its patterns of gestures and informal communication. In the early development of an organization that has formed on the basis of common interest in a topic, such methodological innovation is crucial.

While Nelkin acknowledges that the diversity of presentations cut both ways — annoying that there was no common approach or core, but also that it was one of the most endearing part of the meeting as a whole — still, it ought to be preserved in future years, she concludes. Nice.

Gieryn, having perhaps just completed his dissertation and presumably going to Ithaca with Merton himself, provides an astute set of reflections, opens with:

The self-exemplifying character of the 4S Conference is, for one sociologist, the prominent memory of three packed days. Our actions in Ithaca provided many examples of our ideas about such occasions.

He balances his observation that the meeting signifies a stage of advancing institutionalization of the previously invisible college of STS, while:

The dialogues and often satirical criticisms following just about every paper at the Conference demonstrate that the 4S is following the modal pattern of scientific societies which adopt a pluralistic position with regard to intellectual aims and methodological strategies.

His final paragraph includes “Dutch Uncle” and reference to Simmel’s “Stranger,” after which he concludes that:

The stimulating Conference would have sunk to an insipid state were it not for these and other unignorable figures who cause us to look to the second 4S gathering not with weariness but with eager anticipation.

As always, all issues are here.

4S Volume 1 Issue 4 (Fall, 1976)

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Issue in brief (PDF is here: 1976 Volume 1 Issue 4 Fall).

  1. Specific but preliminary schedule for the first annual meeting — John Law, Karen Knorr, Nicholas Mullins, Sal Restivo, Robert Merton, Steve Woolgar, Bruno Latour (at the Salk Labs at the time!), H.M. Collins, and a 6:00pm cocktail hour.
  2. Plans for the second meeting chaired by Nicholas Mullins.
  3. List of current publications includes a few from Kuhn, Merton, and Nelkin.
  4. In the dissertations section, H.M. Collins’s dissertation from University of Bath is mentioned along with Donald McKenzie’s dissertation from University of Edinbugh and Steve Woolgar’s dissertation from University of Cambridge. A good year…
  5. Extremely odd: there must have been a misprint this issue because, as Trever Pinch’s bold arrow drawing verifies, we go from page 8 to page 21.

Given that a few pages are missing, this review is a bit limited. I wish I had a full copy — if anybody does, please write (njr12@psu.edu).

Arnold Thackray writes a short innocuous piece about the future of the burgeoning — purportedly, the society boasts 400+ members since its inception in a San Francisco meeting (anybody know anything about that particular founding meeting?) — society that reflections on the need for professional societies to attend to annual meetings and publication outlets for its members.

The first annual meeting program is in this issue too. The meeting was held in Ithaca, NY, at Cornell University. The meeting started November 4 (Thursday) with an invited panel on interdisciplinary in the social studies of science (including Jean-Jacque Salomon). After lunch, John Law give a talk “Anomie and Normal Science” (I’m not sure what project this relates to in his long publication history) and Karen Knorr gives a talk “Policy Makers’ use of social science knowledge: Symbolic or instrumental?”. The next session is about the structure of science where Nicholas Mullins and a big group from Indiana University present. On Friday morning the next session starts with Karen Knorr giving another presentation, this time about the organization of research units, along with Sal Restivo’s talk about Chinese social studies of science — interesting. After lunch, business meetings ensue, a cocktail hour at 6:00pm, and then during the banquet Nelson Polsby introduces Robert Merton’s presidential address. On Saturday morning (November 6, 1976) — I would really have loved to see this session, although I was not yet alive — “Problems in the Social Studies of Science” could be applied to the topics (and the participants), which includes Steve Woolgar’s (Brunel University) “Problems and Possibilities of the Sociological Analysis of Scientific Accounts,” Bruno Latour’s (The Salk Institute) “Including Citation Counting in the System of Actions of Scientific Papers,” and — another classic — H.M. Collins’ (University of Bath) “Upon the Replication of Scientific Findings: A Discussion Illuminated by the Experiences of Researchers into Paraphychology” (the research project that Ashmore later lambastes him for in The Reflexivity Thesis under … Steve Woolgar’s tutelage — perhaps Ashmore attended the session). After lunch we see another session by the same title with invited scholars — possibly from the ISA — from Bielefeld, Kiev, Hungary, and East Berlin).

Not a lot more of interest given that a few pages are missing — the missing pages include notes on the forthcoming meeting as well as an unnamed book review — but the list of just-completed dissertations is a fun tour of the past.

Dispatches from the Robot Wars; Or, What is Posthuman Security?

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Audra Mitchell discussing her work on posthuman security. Could our security as humans be premised on the the idea that humanity is a fundamentally insecure category? From the blog:

“The ‘human’ is intersected, conditioned and co-constituted by many other beings, and vulnerable to the shocks and reverberations that affect them. But our imbrication with these other beings also opens up possibilities for experience, attachment, attunement and transformation that far exceed the limitations of the dominant, modern, Western secular notion of the ‘human’.”

Originally posted on The Disorder Of Things:

Audra MitchellA guest post from Audra Mitchell, who is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of York. Audra is a Fellow of the Independent Social Research Foundation (2014-15) and has held or will hold visiting fellowships at the Universities of Queensland, Edinburgh and Melbourne. She is the author or editor of three books: International Intervention in a Secular Age: Re-enchanting Humanity? (Routledge, 2014); Lost in Transformation: Violent Peace and Peaceful Conflict in Northern Ireland (Palgrave, 2011) and (ed. with Oliver Richmond) Hybrid Forms of Peace: From the ‘Everyday’ to Postliberalism (Palgrave, 2011), as well as articles in Security Dialogue, Review of International Studies, MillenniumBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations, Third World Quarterly, and Alternatives, amongst others. She blogs at Worldy IR. Audra’s current research project explores how mass extinction challenges the ontological and ethical underpinnings of ‘security’.


“So when are the intergalactic robot…

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Prologue of “Sciencecraft”

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As promised, I will review the new-ish book Worlds of Sciencecraft bit by bit (the book is priced at a screaming-hot $100+ USD on Amazon.com).

Here is the first installment from the Prologue:

The book’s tone is personal, at least in the prologue. You get the feeling that you are sitting down with the three authors to engage in a discussion (although I’m not sure what the reader is doing beyond listening). The tone is academic but conversational; maybe an academic conversational tone. The prologue opens with a quote from Sal Restivo that is not from a book or article. It seems that in 2012 (Ghent, Belgium), he just “said” it — to whom we do not know, although it might be Sabrina Weiss, the other author of the chapter, but, again, we do not know.

The prose opens with a story about where the book came from:

The inspiration for the title of this work, “Worlds of Sciencecraft,” came from the popular massively-multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG), World of Warcraft. This connection arose out of a series of discussions between Restivo and Weisss and only later was crafted as an homage to this title.

The game, to them, raised fundamental questions about humans and human interaction as well as human/nonhuman interaction. From there, the authors claim that they could reconstruct a Whig history of the title choice, for example, retroactively searching for explanations about how sociology is sort of like the Horde or how philosophy was like the Alliance and so on … but this would, as they say, “merely reflections (rationalizations) after the fact.” The book was born of conversation.

The personal tone is understandable in this context — “[t]his book was born in a contentious dialogue between two scholars who stubbornly argued their perspectives and who decided to seek coexistence through this book.” The book is conversational because it is dialogic in origin. But there is a twist. The twist is named Alex. “In the process of writing this book we acquired our own Third in the form of Stingl: in so doing we have managed to per formatively enact the shift from dyadic to triadic interactions, and we are richer for it.”

The level of self-reflective meta-reflexivity employed might engage some readers but it will no doubt frustrate others — it is honest, but it is also navel-gazing. Scholars no doubt are familiar with long discussions about reflexivity in STS — best handled by Ashmore early on (The Reflexivity Thesis) or Lynch’s reflections on reflexivity in 2000 (Against Reflexivity as an Academic Virtue and Source of Privileged Knowledge) or maybe even our recent paper about infra-reflexivity (Beware of Allies! Notes on Analytical Hygiene in Actor-Network Account-making).

After summarizing the basic aim of the book, namely, conceptualizing ideas about bodies, minds, and interaction beyond business-as-usual in sociology, philosophy, and STS, the self-reflexive discussion re-commences:

[t]his book emerges at the intersection of three different biographies, three different intellectual paths, three different educational and training regimens, and two generational trajectories … If you understand that our intersection is also the intersection of a postmodern moment, an inflection point, a cusp characterized by a movement from old to new cultural and epistemic regimes you will be better prepared for the journey you are about to embark on. In this liminal age, we have mustered all of the resources we have at our disposal to get a glimpse of what lies ahead in the post-liminal age. … This book is the story of three thinkers in search of a way out of the liminal trap, trying to find our way to some light at the end of the postmodern tunnel.

Thus, if you are “on board” for a personalized journey and some gilded language, then this is the book for you. As we shall see, things get better from here …

4S Volume 1 Issue 3 (Spring, 1976)

4S Newsletter

Issue in brief (PDF is here: 1976 Volume 1 Issue 3 Spring).

  1. Presidential Address by Robert K. Merton
  2. Preliminary Program for the first Society for the Social Studies of Science meeting
  3. Report on STS training in the US

This is the earliest issue of the 4S newsletter we have and it contains the preliminary program for the first meeting (ever) of the Society for the Social Studies of Science. We learned that the first meeting was delayed. The first meeting, which was held at Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), was supposed to be in late October (29-31); however, because of funding (unclear precisely what the issue was other than lack of funding) the conference was delayed one week until November 4-6 (one week later, which is oddly unfriendly to international guests, although so is holding a meeting in Ithaca). Never heard of delaying a professional conferences, but, at the time, it was a very young organization with small enrollment so perhaps this sort of thing just happens. The first meeting was a joint meeting (4S, apparently, has always had a history of joint meetings); held conjointly with the Research Committee on the Sociology of Science of the International Sociology Association.

In the presidential address, by Robert K. Merton, we learn that the social studies of science had 300 members at the outset (which is possibly untrue, given details in the next paragraph). With eloquence common to Merton’s writing, he mentions something that I still find true today: that in STS, though we are drawn from numerous disciplinary backgrounds, we feel more at home with the rag-tag bunch at 4S than we do in our parent disciplines. It also reminds me that while interdisciplinary was big news in mid-70s, it no longer seems so subversive (although that is up for debate). Merton encourages members to “avoid the double parochialism of disciplinary and national boundaries” as part of its “originating efforts.”

In the preliminary program, we learn that 22 papers were to hosted at Cornell that year that would be selected by a committee of 5. The newsletters are also a resource for advertising other events, in this issue, the International Symposium for Quantitative Methods in the History of Science, PAREX (a symposium on the Role of Research Organizations in Orienting Scientific Activities hosted by Karen Knorr), and Sektion Wissenschaftsforshung.

There is also a ballot for council members and we see some familiar faces: Nicholas Mullins on the selection committee (who we see in the research notes) and Dorothy Nelkin for a two year stint. Also, in the council meeting notes, we learn that the professional organization was working with the now flagship journal Social Studies of Science for a reduced rate for members. Interesting to consider a time when our primary professional society was haggling with journals for better prices from printed materials.

The report on STS programs in the US is more preliminary than conclusive, but it does identify 175 STS programs in various forms even in ’76. The “Eclectic-STS” category is particularly interesting, and the programs are detailed in the issue.

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The issue concludes with some recent publications, new job appointments (apparently, Paul Allison just landed his first job at Cornell that year),

Revisiting historic 4S Newsletters

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Thanks to Trever Pinch, we now have 4S newsletters from 1976 until the present, mainly of them I thought were lost forever. There are a couple of gaps, and as that becomes obvious we will ask around to see if anybody has a few of the old copies.

Please share with anyone you think might have an interest; the series of posts should last nearly one year as I scan these old paper documents and read slowly digest them.

I will start to post these periodically as a series commenting on what is the issue, who is named, and then reflect on the field. Should be interesting (and, if we’re lucky, occasionally uncomfortable to see our old dirty laundry). Of special note, long-time scholars will recall that annual meeting programs were embedded in these old issues, so that will be exceptionally interesting — even if only for purposes of nostalgia — to see how 4S meetings changed in form, function, and content over the years.

I will add a tab to the blog’s front page for easy access to these pieces as well as for easy access to the PDFs of the old newsletters.

Cheers and thanks to Trever Pinch!

Science and the Public in the Nation-State: Historic and Current Configurations in Global Perspective, 1800-2010

Science and the Public in the Nation-State: Historic and Current Configurations in Global Perspective, 1800-2010

Interdisciplinary workshop at the University of Tübingen, Sept. 11-13, 2014

Conveners: Andreas Franzmann (Tübingen), Axel Jansen (Tübingen, Cambridge/UK), Peter Münte (Bielefeld)
Organization and contact: Lars Weitbrecht (scienceinthenationstate AT gmail.com)

The workshop allows for the exploration of the relationship between science and the nation-state from a new perspective. In nation-states that have traditionally supported research science (such as England, France, Germany, and the US), the profession evolved under the protective wing and as an ally of the political sovereign. Academic professions have played a significant role in the consolidation of national states. The conference focuses on historical configurations of science and the nation-state in Europe and in North America in order to compare these configurations to emerging science-oriented states such as China and India – countries that have significantly expanded their science budgets in recent decades. The relationship between science as a profession and the nation-state will provide an analytical framework for discussing important historic developments in different countries. What has been the public role of the academic professions? And what are the effects on research of “national policy decisions”? Click here for full workshop exposé.

The workshop meets at Universität Tübingen, Alte Aula, Münzgasse 22-30, 72070 Tübingen/Germany (click here for map).

All welcome, attendance is free. If you wish to attend, please use our online form (click here).

The workshop is supported by the Volkswagen Foundation (Project “Public Context of Science”) and the Vereinigung der Freunde der Universität Tübingen (Universitätsbund) e.V.

Obama on infrastructure and business retention

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President Obama links infrastructural improvements to business retention, specifically, that unless American start to improve the country’s infrastructure, which will require Congress to discontinue divisive austerity-politics, or else we will continue to lose businesses abroad as they pursue higher-quality infrastructure for their business needs.

Perhaps this is a pathway that will result in some of the changes that are much needed. Whether this linkage is true or not (i.e., whether infrastructural improvement is linked meaningfully to business retention) is essentially unimportant; whether it results in actual political or economic change seems to be the only operant quality of concern given that truth in politics seems at most a tertiary concern for a generation of politicians.

Appropriately, Obama gives the speech near The Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge, the crumbling cantilever bridge spanning the Hudson River at one of its widest points. 

Ethics & Global Security: the OCIS session

steffishel:

I spent last week at the Oceanic Conference on International Studies in Melbourne. Here’s one of the amazing panels I attended on a new book that will improve security studies in in IR immensely. Check it out.

Originally posted on Global Theory:

Just last week my new book, Ethics & Global Security: A Cosmopolitan Approach, co-authored with Katrina Lee-Koo and Matt McDonald, was published. This happy event coincided with a panel at the Oceanic Conference on International Studies – chaired by Professor Toni Erskine (UNSW) – which heard searching commentaries on the book by Professors Robyn Eckersley (University of Melbourne), Jacqui True (Monash University), and Tim Dunne (University of Queensland). Matt McDonald introduced the book, and he and I responded to points made by the commentators and members of the audience.

Tim has kindly agreed to allow me to share his comments here, and I will include the others as they become available.

Professor Tim Dunne, Melbourne, 11 July 2014.

Thanks to my UQ colleague Matt McDonald for inviting me onto the panel but most of all thanks to Anthony, Katrina and Matt for providing the study of security with an innovative…

View original 1,365 more words

Twitter as a tool for political protests

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Just out is a new paper on using Twitter as a tool for social protest, written by Lisa Ems “Twitter’s place in the tussle: how old power struggles play out on a new stage” being published in Media Culture Society.

Abstract: 

The recent proliferation and impact of protest events in the Middle East, northern Africa, and the development of a worldwide Occupy Wall Street movement have ignited inquiry into the people, social structures and technologies that have helped give these social movements form. Three cases are described here which add to this discussion and lead to a pruning of the analytical landscape in this subject area. By looking to the use of Twitter as a tool for political protest in Iran in 2009, Moldova in 2009 and the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh in 2009, the complexity of the intertwined social and technological strands that have given rise to these new political protests is acknowledged. By realizing that this distinction is salient yet fuzzy, it becomes possible to make new observations, ask new questions and begin to understand the nature of recent political tussles and the communication tools used in them. For instance, this article posits that by seeing the particular use of a new communication tool – a socio-technical assemblage – as an artifact, analysts can learn something new about the motivations of those sitting at the negotiating table.

If you’re standing in front of the pay wall, consider this useful little link here.