Podcast recapping the Futures & Foresight Science Conference

After the Futures and Foresight Conference in Warwick in December, three members from the Association of Professional Futurists (APF), Andrew Curry, Wendy Schultz, and Tanja Hichert, sat down and recollected their takeaways and highlights from the conference and recorded it as a podcast. As the first in an occasional series of “Compass” podcasts, we were honored that Matt’s presentation was able to generate some laughter from them (you will find their recap of Matt’s talk at 15:30 about our work in this paper, this one, and this one). Perhaps readers of Installing Order would like to contribute some podcast material in the future (!?) — we would be happy to put it on the blog.



CfP: Science, Technology, and the Politics of Knowledge in Global Affairs



Science, Technology, and the Politics of Knowledge in Global Affairs

An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference at the Buffett Institute for Global Studies

Northwestern University, Evanston IL 

March 30-31, 2017

Keynote: Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard Kennedy School

Organizing Committee: Kevin Baker, Savina Balasubramanian, and Omri Tubi

Scientists, state actors, international institutions, and lay activists vie for credibility and legitimacy to both frame and control global issues. Science and technology are routinely cast into a supporting role to bolster their claims. From nuclear energy in the battle against climate change to the politicization of “big data;” from new information technologies in emerging regimes of global surveillance to the use of randomized controlled trials in international development research – scientific and technological expertise operate as instruments of power and authority, which can serve to legitimate or contest new forms of global governance and intervention.

The Buffett Institute’s second annual graduate student conference will investigate expert knowledge in contemporary global affairs, looking at the ways this knowledge is created, invoked, circulated, and contested in the international political arena. We invite graduate students to present work that explores questions such as: How do various international actors attempt to position themselves as credible participants in global politics? Under what conditions does expert knowledge come to be seen as legitimate on the global stage? How and why do global issues become understood as primarily technical, rather than political? In what ways do international actors frame these issues and what must be done about them? How is scientific and technological expertise marshaled or ignored in processes of claims making and action to structure interventions into global “problems?” And, finally, how do these practices organize, sustain, or challenge structures of global inequality and power?


Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • The politics of climate change, climate science, and environmental security
  • The rise of actuarial and genetic approaches to global crime
  • Biosecurity, global health, and the regulation of infectious disease
  • Globalized technologies of risk and quantification
  • The technologization of global finance and economic markets
  • The politicization of social and computational science in an age of “big data”
  • New regimes of information and global surveillance
  • The changing nature of international development interventions
  • The constitution of transnational lay expertise in global social movements

We invite graduate students across the humanities and social sciences to submit abstracts of no more than 250 words by December 15, 2016using the submission link on the conference webpagehttp://buffett.northwestern.edu/programs/grad-conference/. There will be no deadline extensions. Accepted presenters will be notified by January 5 and papers are due to faculty discussants by March 7. The Buffett Institute will provide hotel accommodations and will subsidize travel costs (fully for US-based graduate students and partially for international students). Please direct all queries to the Graduate Organizing Committee at: buffettgradconference@northwestern.edu.

Unintended Consequences Go Hog Wild


If you find yourself teaching unintended consequences, consider this case “Radioactive wild boars rampaging around Fukushima nuclear site.” The animal population, which was previously hunted as a delicacy, has expanded dramatically (likely on account of nobody wanting to eat the radioactive meat); the hogs have pillaged the environment local to the Fukushima nuclear site, eating all manner of contaminated fruits and vegetables.

Call for Papers: 4S, 2016, Barcelona


Consider submitting to our track at this year’s combination 4S / EASST meeting in Barcelona, August 31 – September 3! (submission deadline, fast approaching: Feb 21, 2016)

Title: Social Studies of Politics: Making Collectives By All Possible Means

Short Description: The challenge: to explore new ways of studying “politics as usual” by taking inspiration from the conceptual repertoire developed in STS for scrutinizing “science as usual”. We invite proposals for papers which mobilize STS concepts, methodologies, and practices in studying with “politics as usual”.

Long Description: The adage “technology is politics by other means” emphasizes that technoscientific practices contribute to the making of collective orders which are not given by nature, but made, involving decision, power, and authority. While the 4S/EASST motto “science & technology by other means” is meant to be a conspicuous alternative to laboratory and epistemic authority-based reality-making, it also provides an occasion to come back to “politics by the same means”. The challenge: to explore ways of studying “politics as usual” by taking inspiration from the conceptual repertoire developed in STS for scrutinizing “science as usual”. We invite proposals for papers that mobilize STS concepts, methodologies, and practices for studying and engaging with “politics as usual”. This includes actors, knowledges, institutions, discourses, practices, infrastructures, etc., that make-up what we “traditionally” call politics and the political process, but also those that are not on that traditional list. Examples include studies of publics, policy, parties, interest groups, social movements, terrorist groups, state and non-state agencies, political representation and communication, democracy and participation, parliaments and lobbyism, nation-states, populations and stateless persons, international relations, diplomacy and conflict, multi-level and global governance, protest and resistance. A general interest is with the tools and machineries of knowing and assembling governance, the epistemic and ontological practices that make these specifically political realities, actors, processes, powers, and modes of authority. Recalling the conference motto: what are we to do about the seemingly intransigent politics of re-assembling “technoscientific practices along routes that do not follow once established divides”?

Conveners: Nicholas Rowland (The Pennsylvania State University), Jan-Peter Voss (Berlin University of Technology), and Jan-Hendrik Passoth (Technische Universität München)

CfP: “The Platform Society”


Call for Papers: IPP2016 “The Platform Society”

Location: Thursday 22 – Friday 23 September 2016, University of Oxford.
Convenors: Helen Margetts (OII), Vili Lehdonvirta (OII), Jonathan Bright (OII), David Sutcliffe (OII), Andrea Calderaro (EUI / ECPR).
Abstract deadline: 14 March 2016.
Contact: policyandinternet@oii.ox.ac.uk

This conference is convened by the Oxford Internet Institute for the OII-edited academic journal Policy and Internet, in collaboration with the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR) standing group on Internet and Politics.

See full call here: http://ipp.oii.ox.ac.uk/2016/call-for-papers

History of Technology: Call for Papers


Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), Annual Meeting – Singapore, 22-26 June 2016

Formed in 1958, SHOT is an interdisciplinary and international organization concerned not only with the history of technological devices and processes but also with technology in history, the development of technology, and its relations with society and culture –that is, the relationship of technology to politics, economics, science, the arts, and the organization of production, and with the role it plays in the differentiation of individuals in society.

See more at the website: http://www.historyoftechnology.org/call_for_papers/index.html

Decoloniality Mini-Conference


CONFERENCE OPPORTUNITY: Decolonialty mini-conference (9 panels) at the Eastern Sociological Society Meeting, Boston March 17-20, 2015. Panels on a number of topics including “Decoloniality and the State” and “Beyond the ‘Human'”. If you do non-human/post-human, postmodern state theory or state modeling, and can connect to decolonial options/epistemic disobedience get in touch asap (submission is on Oct 30) (write me at: njr12@psu.edu).

We are happy to host newcomers to decoloniality as well as seasoned/experienced scholars. Please consider this an open invitation to join the important discussion about decoloniality and the social sciences. There may also be opportunities to Skype into the meeting so please do keep that in mind.

NatureCulture, Casper Bruun Jensen (Free On-line)


NatureCulture is a new journal that is free on-line, which features articles from landmark STS scholars (Casper Bruun Jensen, Annamarie Mol, Christopher Gad, Marilyn Strathern, etc.), well-known in the networks of the Global North, alongside a fascinating group of STS scholars primarily in Japan (Mohácsi Gergely, Merit Atsuro, Miho Ishii, etc.).

The journal, after a quick perusal, is of high-quality. Rather than dense empirical work, the journal seems to feature relatively complex essays with a tone that shifts between conversational and erudite. Consider a great piece by Christopher Gad on the post pluralist attitude, an obvious nod to a previous work on the topic, another essay-form piece (Gad, C. & C. B. Jensen 2010. ‘On the Consequences of Post-ANT’, Science Technology & Human Values 35: 1, 55–80.).

While I cannot say for sure, the seeds for this project may well have been born from the 2010 4S meeting (held jointly with Japanese Society for Science and Technology Studies) … after all, Casper Bruun Jensen presented a paper title “Techno-animism in Japan: Shinto cosmograms, actor-network theory, and the enabling powers of non-human agencies.”

Anti-Crisis and Post-Crisis


At fellow blog “Society and Space” a recent book is under review, namely, Janet Roitman’s Anti-Crisis (Duke University Press, 2014). This discussion dovetails nicely with some topics on Installing Order some weeks ago with guest blogger Peter Bratsis, wherein I was attempting to suggest that “crisis” is a concept that is sort of like a balloon with the air let out of it (or an “empty container” to mix some metaphors 😉 ), stating:

Living in a state of semi-permanent crisis can be construed as a license to do nothing. Fatigue sets-in. Apathy ensues. Inaction seems plausible.

In Luca Follis’s review of Janet Roitman’s Anti-Crisis we see something similar. This line sticks out:

But is this global state of affairs merely a reflection of a historical, empirical moment or is it an expression of the ease and haste with which we label events as critical (and by extension the way we approach the broader category of crisis)?

Continue reading

Free PhD Class at Roskilde University


Free 3-day PhD Course: “Criticizing Contemporary Technology: From Drones to Google Glasses and Self-Driving Cars” w/ Prof. Evan Selinger (RIT, USA)

Deadline for sign-up: Monday 20th April to Søren Riis, soerenr@ruc.dk

Relevant dates: 29 June 2015 (day 1), 30 June 2015 (day 2), and 01 July 2015 (day 3).

Background: Prof. Evan Selinger is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Media, Arts, Games, Design, Interaction and Community Center (MAGIC) Head of Research Communications, Community, and Ethics at Rochester Institute of Technology. In addition to publishing widely on issues in philosophy of technology in the standard academic sources, he has also written extensively for popular media, including places like The Atlantic, Wired, Slate, The Nation, Salon, and The Wall Street Journal. Starting September 2015, he will spend a sabbatical year as a Senior Fellow at The Future of Privacy Forum. You can find out more by going to Prof. Selinger’s homepage (http://eselinger.org/) and following him on Twitter @EvanSelinger.

Summary: In this 3-day PhD course, Prof. Evan Selinger gives a general introduction to the field of philosophy of technology and dedicates a day of presentations and discussions to three disputed topics: obscurity and privacy, automation and the ethics of outsourcing, and technology and public scholarship. The course is developed for graduated students across different disciplines: humanities, media studies, social sciences, IT and engineering.

If you’re in Denmark, happen to be in Denmark, or are close, write Søren!


3:1 — On “Decoloniality” (and the Nonhuman) — Post 3 of 3

This is the third post from the trenches of the Eastern Sociological Society’s conference in NYC this past weekend. The linked workshop entitled, “Decoloniality and the Social Sciences,” explored such diverse topics as floating medical clinics, non-GMO seed sharing, the high seas, cargo, zombies, pedagogy, dolphins, and derivatives.

For my part, I reflected upon decoloniality and the nonhuman. Elsewhere I have discussed the dolphin and posthuman security, and this topic has stayed on my mind. I recently visited Barataria Bay (home of the bottlenose dolphin, at least until the Deepwater Horizon disaster) and Venice, LA. I found it hauntingly desolate with a devastated post-disaster aesthetic; a place only a true ecologist can love—or an oil exec just off the heliport from the tour of his oil rig.





Pictures taken by the author, Feb 2015

The decolonial literature is new to me, and as I did my due diligence with a literature review, I was intrigued by Mignolo’s insistence on “decolonial thinking and doing.” Decolonial thinking de-links epistemically and politically from what he calls “the imperial web of knowledge.”

In short, we must decolonialize our very ways of thinking and being in the world. This epistemic disobedience is necessary for acts of civil disobedience that transform the world. This means body-politics comes before disciplinary management, or more pointedly, decolonial thinking places “human lives and life in general first.” Mignolo writes:

De-colonial thinking presupposes de-linking (epistemically and politically) from the web of imperial knowledge (theo- and ego-politically grounded) from disciplinary management. A common topic of conversation today, after the financial crisis on Wall Street, is ‘how to save capitalism’. A de-colonial question would be: ‘Why would you want to save capitalism and not save human beings? Why save an abstract entity and not the human lives that capitalism is constantly destroying?

Returning to the nonhuman, can this epistemic disobedience be a tactic that aids in co-creating a more just and kind world for all species on this planet? To rephrase as Mignolo’s question: Why would want to save neoliberal forms of production that destroy the only livable planet accessible to us? Capitalism is destroying more than human lives. It is destroying the very biosphere that allows life to persist and thrive. How is this topic not all that we talk, write, and think about in all epistemic communities? 

In my terms, can decolonialty be used against a human centered politics that takes the biosphere as a place to colonize and deplete?

In many ways, decolonial thinking and doing could encompass the nonhuman. Bodies of color and gendered bodies have been animalized in colonial and paternal regimes. Woman are chicks, bitches, sows, cows, birds. Rod Coronado reminds us that the treatment of wolves in the United States twins the way indigenous people were (and are) treated during North American colonization. In human centered politics, non- human animals are useful only in their kill-ability/eat-ability and nature for its rape-ability/use-ability. They are use value only.

This is another kind of “colonial wound,” (regions and peoples classified as underdeveloped economically and mentally), as Mignolo terms it. If decolonial thinking can link diverse experiences and histories heretofore ignored in colonial/imperial systems of knowledge, can it also create an ecological thinking? If colonial ways of being still can’t allow humans to be full humans, how is it even possible to widen this to the nonhuman world? I hope so, but I also know that hope will wear thin with the changes wrought by the Anthropocene.

Be it trees, lemurs, bacteria, mosquitos, koalas or homo sapien sapiens, we should, as members of a shared biosphere, be able to thrive on this planet—even if the way we thrive is different for all of us. A new complex web of co-worlding—snatched from the imperial one—is the only answer. Accomplice networks must be created. 


Walter D. Mignolo. Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and De-Colonial Freedom Theory, Culture & Society 2009 (SAGE, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, and Singapore), Vol. 26(7–8): 1–23

3:1 — On “Decoloniality” (and The Genomics of Race) — 2 of 3

The Genomics of Race: Implifications for Digital Cultural Health Capital

Following my involvement in the ‘Decoloniality and the Social Sciences’ Panel Series at the ESS meeting in New York City on March 1st, the editors of Installing(Social)Order have invited me to join the discussion of the theme of Decoloniality here on the blog. Many decolonial writers have made the argument that coloniality should not be reduced to the geographical division of Global North and Global South. Coloniality happens in many forms – which is why they should be resisted, according to Walter Mignolo, with ‘epistemic disobedience’ – in many places, including within and across the societies of the Global North. One major aspect of the relation between colonial power and knowledge within the Global North, especially within the United Sates, is facilitated through the concept of ‘race’, which has recently returned to the forefront of attention both politically (Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, etc.) and within science (genomics). In the following essay, I try to uncover some of the traces of the latter discourse and reflect on some of its political consequences for social scientific and STS research.

‘A spectre is haunting sociology, the spectre of race’. While I cannot be sure how many social science writers have deployed this little trope in the current discourses on genomics, race, and sociology, I find precisely the Derridaean allusion – that it is the trace of something that isn’t even there that becomes grafted and iterated – a powerful notion.
‘Race matters’ (in) biomedical terms. The emphasis in this sentence lies in the act of bracketing ‘in’. Within the social sciences, and the Science Studies may count as part of them, knowledge (practices) produced by the genomic regime, have ‘rebooted’ – is this silly Hollywood-ish word not ultimately fitting here? – the question of the materiality of the concept of ‘race’. Often enough, this ‘reboot’ is conducted with a blind eye to social history and a blind eye to the history of science. You do the math!

A slew of authors within the social sciences seem to blindly accept a scientistic approach (see Shiao et al. 2012), that proposes the following: ‘Genomics operates with a concept of race, sociologists may merely interpret the consequences of biomedical research after the fact.’ (Did one side really lose the science wars? My understanding was that both sides, that fought it, were still happy with the fact that it ended in a perpetual cease-fire agreement that no party actually showed up to sign). These authors then happily propose to discard any idea of the baggage that ‘race’ as a category bestows on people’s lived realities, while this baggage-by-any-other-name still weighs and matters heavily on the lives actually lived.

These realities are co-produced by genomic regimes because they do involve the increasing imbrication of biomedical research and health care practice regimes. President Obama’s recent announcement of a Precision Medicine initiative is just the tip of this ginormous iceberg: The (digital) collection, (digital) storing, and (digital) processing of all kinds of – ever BIGGER – data and biomedical materials, will not only be translated into more precise and personalized medical procedures, but it will also make possible intensified surveillance, control, exclusion, and silencing. Which will be the fault lines that these possibilities will move along as vectors? Should we really be surprised – as I argue in more detail elsewhere (2014, forthcoming) if these are the same old fault lines of social inequality and injustice that have been our concern in the 20th century: Ethnicity, race, age, dis/abelism, and sex/gender?

There is, on the one side, the fact that all these regimes of collecting, storing, and processing require access, competencies, motivations, and specific utilities to be able to participate in the digital informational infrastructures that govern them – and, in turn, their participants. On the other side, there are serious scientific, science sociological, and social scientific concerns: As Fujimura et al (2014) effectively demonstrate, many social scientists like Shiao et al (2012) operate with ‘misunderstandings of genetics’, that

‘ultimately pose an obstacle to studying how discrimination, racism, prejudice, and bias produce and reinforce socioeconomic inequalities and other disadvantages for racially marked individuals in society.’ (Fujimura et al: 220)

What’s at stake is, above all, the question of ‘meaning’ of these practices, how we make meaning, and what we make of it, for example politically (see also: Selg 2013).

At the same time, Janet Shim (2014), in extrapolating on the questions raised in the biomedicalization analytical framework (Clarke et al 2010), shows that when it comes to understanding the health outcomes, practicing(!) physicians’ understanding of ‘race’ differs effectively from the of the lived intersectional realities of patients, which leads Shim to introduce for analytical purposes an innovative notion of unequal construction and distribution of cultural health capital. In biomedical research, health care practice, and public health policy regimes (Roberts 2013), ‘race’ emerges therein as something that is equally ill-understood as a social fact as it is as a scientific fact, but it is understood by a great number of influential individuals as – some kind of scientific-sociological hybrid – ‘fact’. ‘Race’ becomes what I call (forthcoming) an implification – a neologism that combines to implicate and intensification. The deployment of ‘race’ in these biomedical and health discourse both implicates and intensifies, by establishing within the social science and from within the social science an inclusion-and-difference-paradigm (Epstein 2007) for contemporary and future health care. To be included, one has to submit biomaterials and other information for collection, storage, and processing, and one has to be able to do so in the terms of digital information architectures. By inclusion, one becomes reified in differences that are precisely not the lived realities one experiences in standing at the point of one’s intersection(alitie)s, but by the practices of a digital information expert regime. It is in this way that ‘race’ comes to matter anew (see also: Roberts 2012; Benjamin 2013). Expanding on Shim’s proposal, I have developed a concept of digital cultural health care capital (2014, forthcoming) to understand and study this development.

Finally, it is precisely because of this kind of haunting that ‘Black lives matter’: The necropolitical power (Mbembe 2003) in-play is worlded by the reification of race that implificates ‘Black lives’ as mattered in just such way that their lives ‘can be taken away’ – in the neocolonial terms of contemporary neoliberalistic regimes: the way Black lives are ‘matter’ is in terms of a negative interest rate on (the relevance of) life. In other words, the neoliberal regime and the way its practices ‘racialize’ translate Black lives to mean ‘a bad investment’, that is why for the neoliberal political economy Black lives appear mattered less relevant than others.

Benjamin, Ruha. People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2013.
Clarke, Adele E., Laura Mamo, Jennifer Ruth Fosket, Jennifer R. Fishman, and Janet K. Shim, eds. Biomedicalization: Technoscience, Health, and Illness in the U.S. 1 edition. Durham, NC: Duke University Press Books, 2010.
Epstein, Steven. Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2007.
Fujimura, Joan. H., D. A. Bolnick, R. Rajagopalan, J. S. Kaufman, R. C. Lewontin, T. Duster, P. Ossorio, and J. Marks. “Clines Without Classes: How to Make Sense of Human Variation.” Sociological Theory 32, no. 3 (September 1, 2014): 208–27. doi:10.1177/0735275114551611.
Mbembe, Achille. “Necropolitics” Public Culture 15, no.1 (Winter 2003): 11 – 40
Roberts, Dorothy. Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-First Century. New York: New Press, The, 2012.
Roberts, Dorothy E. “Law, Race, and Biotechnology: Toward a Biopolitical and Transdisciplinary Paradigm.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 9, no. 1 (2013): 149–66. doi:10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-102612-134009.
Selg, Peeter. “The Politics of Theory and the Constitution of Meaning.” Sociological Theory 31, no. 1 (March 1, 2013): 1–23. doi:10.1177/0735275113479933.
Shiao, Jiannbin Lee, Thomas Bode, Amber Beyer, and Daniel Selvig. “The Genomic Challenge to the Social Construction of Race.” Sociological Theory 30, no. 2 (June 1, 2012): 67–88. doi:10.1177/0735275112448053.
Shim, Janet K. “Cultural Health Capital A Theoretical Approach to Understanding Health Care Interactions and the Dynamics of Unequal Treatment.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 51, no. 1 (March 1, 2010): 1–15. doi:10.1177/0022146509361185.
———. Heart-Sick: The Politics of Risk, Inequality, and Heart Disease. Biopolitics : Medicine, Technoscience, and Health in the 21st Century. New York: New York University Press, 2014.
Stingl, Alexander. “The ADHD Regime and Neuro-Chemical Selves in Whole Systems. A Science Studies Perspective.” In Health and Environment: Social Science Perspectives, edited by Helena Kopnina and Hans Keune, 157–86. New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers, 2010.
Stingl, Alexander I. “Braining Your Life and Living Your Brain: The Cyborg Gaze and Brain-Images.” In Neuroscience and Media: New Understandings and Representations: New Understandings and Representations, edited by Michael Grabowski. Routledge, 2014.
———. “Digital Fairground ? The Virtualization of Health, Illness, and the Experience of ?Becoming a Patient? As a Problem of Political Ontology and Social Justice.” In Mediations of Social Life in the 21st Century, 32:53–92. Current Perspectives in Social Theory 32. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2014. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/S0278-120420140000032004.
———. The Digital Coloniality of Power. Lanham, MD: Lexington, forthcoming.
Stingl, Alexander I. “Digital Divide.” In Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics, edited by Henk ten Have. New York: Springer, forthcoming.
Stingl, Alexander I., and Sabrina M. Weiss. “Mindfulness As/is Care.” In Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Mindfulness, edited by Ellen Langer, Amanda Ie, and Christelle T. Ngnoumen. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

Alexander Stingl, our guest


Just a quick note that Alexander Stingl has offered to join us this week as we explore ideas related to “decoloniality,” a fresh and growing perspectives about the “other half” of modernity, namely, coloniality, and ways that people might learn to de-link from the colonial matrix of power it is based on.

As I mentioned previously, Alexander played a critical role in getting the topic of decoloniality to the Eastern Sociological Society’s annual meeting (possibly the first time significant time has been devoted to the topic in this venue — so bravo!).

Thanks Alexander!

3:1 — On “Decoloniality” — 1 of 3


“Decoloniality” is our topic for the week. It is immediately important to note that decoloniality is not the political process of decolonizing previously colonized nations (i.e., decoloniality cannot be reduced process of decolonization); decoloniality is not the academic study of living, thinking, and acting in a decolonized land or producing theoretical models of it (i.e., decoloniality cannot be reduced to academic research in post-colonial studies); decoloniality is also not the equivalent critique of modernity that post-modernity offers either (i.e., decoloniality cannot be reduced to post-modernism because post-modernism was/is a critique of Western modernity from the inside).*

In contrast, coloniality is what Walter Mignolo refers to as the “darker side of modernity;” the idea that modern science, modern capitalism, belief in progress, gargantuan architectural and infrastructural advancements (the brighter side of modernity, one might say) all brought with them a few genuine liabilities such as major justifications for colonialism largely based on selective understandings of Europe’s “advanced place in history” and the advent of scientifically based racial hierarchies. Obviously, this dates as far back as the Renaissance.

Coloniality is a logic. We think and act through it; the logic is undergird. It lasts longer than the colonized peoples of a colonized nation are no longer colonized. It is a logic of many things, many things good and bad, for example, a logic of selective intervention, selective classification, de-personalized knowledge, and so on (this is quite complex, so, to those interested, this list will expand as you read more). The impact is long lasting, as well. When a panel of men determine women’s access to reproductive rights, we can see the logic — not in the outcome, but in the very existence of of such a panel being legitimate in the first place; we might say this is the colonization of reproduction (which is not to say that discussing women’s access to reproductive rights is wrongheaded, it is only to say that the idea of intervening into such matters for women or on behalf of women is perhaps not so legitimate as it may at first glance appear). Likewise, when poor individuals living in cramped urban environs, and the “right answer” is to start a war on poverty and intervene into the lives of people, build a massive public housing infrastructure and then step away from such matters, we might say that this is the colonization of poverty. This sort of coloniality is perhaps the most obvious when indigenous knowledge about the environment and nonhuman inhabitants comes into contact with outside forces like the state, for example, in this herring fishery controversy featuring fish, bears, aboriginal peoples, police at fishing docks, and more (one of the more difficult parts of this case is that the fishing industry is not pressing for fishing rights in these waters off of British Columbia and scientists seem to have heard and support local indigenous knowledge on the need to leave herring alone in these fragile waters). So, this is something of the lasting logic of coloniality as might be apparent even now in our postmodern times, and the pillars of science, the state, modern medicine, and the like help to produce the long-lived “colonial matrix of power” (along with all the distinctions Latour is happy to point out regarding the split between human and nonhuman, man and beast, culture and nature, and so on).

The goal of the decoloniality project (writ large) is to “de-link” from the colonial matrix of power by as many means as are possible, and so far, this has mainly implied decolonial thinking and doing (i.e., epistemology and political praxis, respectively). The goal is to identify “options confronting and delinking from […] the colonial matrix of power” (Mignolo 2011: xxvii).

This week, I (Nicholas Rowland), Stef Fishel, and Mary Mitchell, contributed to a panel session about decoloniality at the Eastern Sociological Society’s annual meeting (in good old New Amsterdam … er. New York). This week, we will be talking about the cases we shared at the conference to give readers a sense of what STS might be able to offer this line of research and research activism which largely comes from the non-Westernized world, the Global South, and academically speaking from the humanities. Also, we are deeply indebted to those who presented in the panel and specifically to Sabrina Weiss and Alexander Stingl for overseeing and organizing the panels!

*As you might note the wikipedia page for decoloniality is marked at the top by a message claiming that it is not balanced and fair by wikipedia’s standards. Given what has been discussed about the colonial matrix of power, this is both a cautionary thought and possibly evidence for the difficulties of de-linking from the colonial matrix of power (especially the critique that the piece is not neutral, with the implied message “it should be neutral,” given that neutral can be used precisely to neutralize political or radical ideas).

Latour Workshop


Latour saves the earth once again, this time, at a workshop. 

Bruno Latour and Environmental Governance

Call for Papers: submit abstracts by 16 March 2015
Workshop: 18-19 May 2015, Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, UK

Since the 1980s Bruno Latour has attempted to supplant the prevailing image of science by proposing a pragmatic and anthropological perspective. According to Latour, scientific practices forge ‘objective’ and ‘accurate’ knowledge that speaks on behalf of the world. Latour has written extensively on climate change and ecological politics, and on the challenges posed by the figure of Gaia for thought and for scientific and political practice. However, he has made limited reference to the specifics of the work carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and similar institutions involved in mobilising knowledge for environmental governance.

The IPCC is the leading international authority for the assessment of climate change. Formed in 1988 by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the IPCC produces reports that assess and summarise scientific literature on the physical science of climate change, adaptation and mitigation.

The two-day workshop takes as its starting point the idea the Latour’s work can be used to explain and understand the workings of environmental governance, using the IPCC as a prime example.

Slavoj Žižek on Kafka and Love

Slavoj Žižek explains his concept of “The Event” on Big Think; the event, get this, “retroactively creates it’s own causes.”

He describes how literary predecessors do this (i.e., it is only once the new author is established that the predecessors are obvious or “produced”) and how falling in love is a good example of an event (i.e., the lighting bolt of first love immediately revising all which came before it as merely a precursor for the moment which had not — until that moment — happened yet).

“You are not in love, you just make one night stands maybe here and there. You meet every evening with friends. You drink. You go to blah, blah. Then all of a sudden in a totally contingent way let’s say you stumble on the street, somebody helps you to stand up. It’s a young girl or boy blah, blah. And, of course, it’s the love of your life. A totally contingent encounter but the result can be that your whole life changes. Nothing is the same as they say. You even spontaneously perceive your entire past life as leading towards this unique moment, you know, the illusion of love is oh my God, I was waiting all my life for you. This – something like this would have been the love event. And I think it’s getting more and more rare today. “

Zizek has previously appeared in other Big Think videos like “The Purpose of Philosophy is to Ask the Right Questions,” and “Why be Happy When You Could be Interesting?

Why the humanities: a call for papers

Call for Papers

International Conference

Why the Humanities:
Answers from the Cognitive and Neurosciences


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.

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


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!

Continue reading

4S Volume 1 Issue 4 (Fall, 1976)


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.

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.


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

DSC07164 - Copy (640x64)

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.

Just in: EASST deadline extended for Poland


Here is the message, as a session convenor, from EASST leadership; please consider joining us on track D3 at EASST 2014 conference, Track Title: STS and “the state”.


Here’s the message:

To all track convenors EASST2014 conference

After the close of call for abstracts last week we have reviewed the level of submissions.  We feel that the publicising and timing of the EASST 2014 Conference deadline has led to difficulties for many members of our community in submitting abstracts by the agreed deadline.  We are very appreciative of the efforts of those who did manage it.  However we have decided to extend the deadline until Friday 9 May to ensure that all of those who wish to present at the conference have the opportunity to submit their abstract.

As a convenor we are asking you to help in encouraging more submissions for your track.  We ask you to look at the current submissions … and identify any ‘missing’ individuals’ that you would have hoped to submit and then email them encouraging submission.  The goal should be for each convenor to attract one extra abstract. This could deliver on average an extra 3 or 4 abstracts per track.

We hope it was also clear that any papers you wish to present yourselves should also have been submitted within the system.

For guidance about the overall programming, we propose 90 minutes sessions of 4 papers.  24 papers should be the normal maximum in any one track.

You may also wish to advertise this extended deadline through your networks.


Critical Infrastructure and Climate Change


Sometimes things juxtapose themselves. Dmfant wrote a reply about a terrific piece now available on-line, free, as an mp3. Backdoor Broadcasting Company’s academic broadcasts currently host access to the file, which is from:

The Political Life of Things: A One Day Workshop at The Imperial War Museum, London, UK; Nick Vaughan-Williams (Warwick) & Tom Lundborg (Swedish Institute of International Affairs): There’s More to Life than Biopolitics: Critical Infrastructure, Resilience Planning, and Molecular Security

The piece is about critical, self-healing infrastructure, and, of course, require this discussion requires significant use of the “human/non-human” distinction, if only to dash them to bits. Well, while this piece is years old, Dmfant just posted it in response to a previous post about an upcoming event.

There is a piece in the New York Times today about the third time that world scientists united in order to provide a broad response to the public about the realities of climate change. How these two pieces appear to be linked together so nicely is a claim made Tom LUndborg about how the linguistic turn in political philosophy has distracted us, on the whole, from the “social” concern over materiality and a full-fledged research base of studies on infrastructure. Tom goes further, though, claiming that the linguistic turn has made it much more difficult to be fully critical as theorists or, conceivably, as government agencies or even public citizens to take the next step … although, that is where the radio show ends.

PACITA’s 2nd European TA Conference


PACITA’s 2nd European TA Conference

The overall aim of the conference is to take stock of and support the exchange on TA capacities throughout Europe. Following the successful meeting of researchers, TA practitioners, policy makers and civil society organizations at the 1st European TA Conference in Prague in March 2013 we look forward to continuing the fruitful discussions and networking at the 2nd European TA Conference in Berlin. The Conference is organized within the framework of the four-year FP7 project PACITA (“Parliaments and Civil Society in Technology Assessment”). Generally, the PACITA project and the Conference define “Technology Assessment” in a broad sense. TA comprises methods, practices and institutions for knowledge based policy making on issues involving science, technology and innovation, including TA-related fields such as Foresight, Science and Technology Studies (STS) and research on Ethical, Legal and Societal Aspects (ELSA) of science and technology.

We submitted and we’ll let you know if we get a spot (along with some invitations).

Here is our submission:

Session Title: The State as a Concept In Practice

If it is necessary to reflect upon concepts that support democratic problem solving and decision making, then no concept is more important or central to this aim than “the state.” Over the last decade, scholars in science and technology studies (STS) have developed an innovative and useful model for understanding the state. In particular, they show how the state is an academic concept — a theory, to be specific — that is used routinely in the everyday practices of contemporary Continue reading

Presentation and Roundtable: Jan-Hendrik Passoth and Nicholas Rowland on “The Possibility & Contours of State Multiplicity: Preliminary Findings”


Jan and I recently gave a talk at the School for International Affairs in the Law School at The Pennsylvania State University, which is available HERE.

The presentation, “The Possibilities and Contours of State Multiplicity: Preliminary Findings”, featured Jan-Hendrik Passoth (Technische Universität Berlin), Nicholas Rowland (Penn State University) presenting their latest research work on state theory, and Larry Catá Backer (Penn State) as discussant.  The conference was recorded and all are welcome to watch and comment, engage.

Description of the talk:

For at least 100 years, scholars in law, political science, philosophy, international relations, and various branches of sociology have asked: What is the state? And, for at least as long, answers to that question have commonly taken the form of a petty and seemingly endless game of conceptual one-upsmanship. An alternative direction exists from the small world of science and technology studies. State multiplicity. The shift toward seeing “the state” as multiple implies that we understand the state to be, convincingly, both one thing and many things simultaneously. In this talk we draw on more than 100 years of research on the state to document the possibility state multiplicity and then we hazard a few tentative and counter-intuitive conclusions based on our preliminary findings.


The Passoth-Rowland Presentation and Roundtable may be viewed HERE (via mediasite) or on Penn State Law’s Multimedia Page.  It may also be accessed through the Coalition for Peace & Ethics Website: HERE.

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EASST is a lock for STS and the state


Sometimes you find out about these things on facebook!

At any rate, our session about STS, infrastructure, and the state is secured for EASST — please consider submitting an abstract.

STS and “the state”


Nicholas Rowland (The Pennsylvania State University) email
Jan-Hendrik Passoth (Technische Universität Berlin) email
Mail All Convenors

Long Abstract

For “Situating Solidarities,” let’s return to classic issues of science, technology and politics. Normative answer exist: of how science, technology and politics should be related. However, we have seen a rising interest on how the practices of governing and “the state” are interwoven with science and technology. We would like to see:


1. Empirical cases of “the state” as manifest in infrastructure and everyday life: Recent work on

infrastructural developments offers cases to reconsider theoretical approaches to understanding what the state is. “The state in everyday life” offers a perspective that gets at mundane experiences and routine activities that either bring us closer to the state or fend us off from it.

2. Empirical cases of “the state” as manifest materially in institutional arrangements: State formation has been a perennial question in state theory. However, as scholarship develops, the old theories of the state, which emphasize war-making and international treaties, have given way to new research on the practical aspects of state formation and transformation.

3. Where is the state and where is not the state? State absense/state presence: This topic emerged organically from the last 4S meeting in San Diego, and while it is new to us and is far more experimental than the above themes, we consider it of vast potential.

Chair: Jan-H. Passoth, Nicholas J. Rowland

Propose paper

Latour´s Cosmocolosse. A project of Gaia Global Circus

I am just listening to the german translation of the radio version of Latour´s first play “Cosmocolosse. A project of Gaia Global Circus (written with Frédérique Ait-Touati & Chloé Latour) that was just released in December. I remember that Paul Edwards told me about this being work in progress last summer – and it seems there is no english translation that you can listen to. But the text is available…and reading (to cite Niklas Luhmann´s comment on why he had no TV set) is much faster than listening or watching.

4S and EASST invitation, 2014

Screenshot 2014-01-10 12.07.42

Open letter to readers:

This is Nicholas Rowland and Jan-Hendrik Passoth. This year we’re chairing sessions at the annual meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) (20-23 August 2014, Buenos Aires, Argentina) as well as the annual of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) (17-19 September 2014,Toruń, Poland). Consistent with years past, we have proposed a session with multiple panels, all organized around the broad and basic topic of STS and “the state.”

We invite you to submit your work to the sessions. Over the past half-decade or so, we have done our best to host papers on a variety of topics related to the state in some way (state and state infrastructure projects, policies, and practices, and anything related to state theory itself).

Also, consistent with the last few years, 4S and EASST leadership have required us to be a little more formal when it comes to submitting papers. So, if you do decide to submit your work (and we hope you do), please submit the paper abstracts individually through the formal 4S and EASST on-line paper submission process.

For 4S, the deadline for submissions is March 17th. Here is the website for the conference. You can submit here; they want 250 words and a title. We are track 74.

For EASST, the deadline for submission is March 28th. Here is the website for the conference. The submission site is not yet up (the deadline for session proposals was only 08 Jan 2014; they will likely want 250 words too and a title. We will update this as soon as the system goes live.

We look forward to expanding and extending in new ways the discussions we started in Cleveland in 2011, Copenhagen in 2012, and San Diego in 2013.

our very best,

Nicholas Rowland

Jan Passoth

p.s., our track to 4S is here and our track sent to EASST is so similar we don’t need to share it again.

Andrzej Nowak joining as Guest Blogger


Our colleague and friend Andrzej W. Nowak from Adam Mickiewicz University (Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu) in Poznań, Poland, is joining the blog as a Guest Blogger.

Please welcome him.

I’ll introduce him through a bit of information that he sent me recently. He shared with me this 3-min film, which briefly shows the police’s violence at the Economic University in Poznan, PL. The police attacked a small group of people peacefully protesting against a pseudo-‘scientific’ lecture (“gender as a destruction of the human and the family”) delivered by a priest (& lecturer from theology dept at Adam Mickiewicz University).

The event took place on 5th Dec. Unfortunately, Andrzej couldn’t find any news in English.

Andrzej is falsely accused in Polish right wing blogs as well as a few newspaper as a hooligan; someone who was main provocateur of this event. Just the right sort of company for us on the blog!


*And the photo above was taken at the event by one of Andrzej’s friends.

P.s., when I first asked Andrzej to join the blog he wrote back: “I don’t have time to make science when I really did STS and State exercise (batons, shield, electroshocks)” (!)

Andrzej W. Nowak on “Ontological Imagination”


Our colleague and friend Andrzej W. Nowak (see him on academia.edu) from Adam Mickiewicz University (Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu) in Poznań, Poland, just put a new paper on-line and it deserves some attention.

His new paper “Ontological imagination: Transcending methodological solipsism and the promise of interdisciplinary studies” is available free here. This let’s the cat out of the bag, so to say, but here goes:

To conclude, without phronetic politics, ontological analyses are only an esoteric game, whereas politics and critical reflection are blind without a posthumanist, historical ontology.

Nice, no? If you don’t know Nowak or his work, we have mentioned him on the blog before with regard to our annual 4S meetings. This year, his talk at 4S with the long title “The fragile life of the state and its ambivalence: from the vaccination commando to the anti-vaccination movement. Merging Actor-Network Theory with World-system Analysis” was outstanding. At one point, the crowd was audibly gasping when Nowak discussed the state as akin to a jar of pickles — see the original slide below and then a follow-up slide where he makes the claim (in person) even more forcibly:


DSC07030 - Copy

At any rate, I will post about presentation as part of a series starting in the new year. So, his new paper. Here is his provocative abstract:

This text is a presentation of the notion of ontological imagination. It constitutes an attempt to merge two traditions: critical sociology and science and technology studies – STS (together with the Actor-Network Theory – ANT). By contrasting these two intellectual traditions, I attempt to bring together: a humanist ethical-political sensitivity and a posthumanist ontological insight. My starting point is the premise that contemporary world needs new social ontology and new critical theory based on it in order to overcome the unconsciously adapted, “slice-based” modernist vision of social ontology. I am convinced that we need new ontological frameworks of the social combined with a research disposition which I refer to as ontological imagination.

Andrzej wants nothing more than to slam together, with so much rhetorical force that they fuse, the likes of C. Wright Mills and Bruno ANT Latour. Do accomplish this, he follows the lead of Flyvberg, stating:

My starting assumption is that one of the problems plaguing the contemporary humanities and social sciences is their isolation from social problems (Flyvbjerg 2001: 166). … Today we know that these fictively-traced boundaries of modernity
cannot be upheld (cf. Beck 1992, Feenberg 2010: 181). The ozone hole, anti-vaccination movements, energy security, terrorism and religious revival do not fit simple modernist frames (cf. Latour 2011).

It initially reminded me of Latour’s Politics of Nature (which I reviewed), but as I read on, I am not so sure. In fact, I am now thinking that perhaps Nowak got it better than Latour did.  In the end, Nowak’s “ontological imagination” amounts to this:

The notion of ontological imagination is conceived as multi-faceted, and if one follows Mills and draws and analogy to sociological imagination, at least three main aspects thereof can be listed: methodological, sociological-historical, and moral-political. Let us characterise each of them. The methodological aspect of ontological imagination is, above all, the abandonment of the ideal of science as theory and letting go of the illusions related to humanistic fundamentalism (Abriszewski 2010: 143-157). Using ontological imagination requires noticing the complex network of actors that construct our collective, in accordance with the principle of symmetry, raised by Bruno Latour (Latour 2011). The second aspect consists in the response to the challenge posed by the so-called reflexive modernity and to the fears evoked by technoscience (Nowak 2012). It is the hope that disseminating such sensitivity and cognitive disposition will help to empower groups and individuals in the world of technoscience.

Check out the conclusion for the real push: to be ontologically imaginative will also require us to engage real social problems and perhaps engage in the social change we supposedly only study…

To be, for a moment, critical: The term “ontological imagination” (though sociological in form and function in Andrzej’s use) is not an original term; in fact, this idea has been used elsewhere, for example, in literature, on blogs, in books, and even lectures, often featuring pragmatist thinker William James who, it seems, is not featured in Nowak’s work.

4S deadline was last Friday; we submitted


Here is our session proposals for 4S in Argentina next year; hopefully we see you there. I think leadership at 4S will select the sessions it wishes to host in about two or so weeks.


First name: Nicholas J.
Last name: Rowland
Co-authors: Jan-Hendrik Passoth
Session Title: STS and “the state”
Session Description:

Consistent with the general theme of the conference, “Science in context(s): Souths and Norths”, we encourage 4S and ESOCITE scholars researching the emerging intersection of STS and “the state” to submit their work. This jointly-held meeting affords us the unique opportunity to balance South/North perspectives on both “the state” and STS, which is a rare opportunity indeed, and will be the source of a rich discussion among participants.

We anticipate hosting a series of papers in a series of “Open Panels.” In particular, we are hoping to find papers that give rise to new dialogues and exchanges on the following four topics:

1. Empirical cases of “the state” as manifest in infrastructure or in everyday life: New and exciting work in infrastructural developments offer fresh perspectives and cases to reconsider dated theoretical approaches to understanding what the state is and what they state is becoming. Likewise, a new line of research in “the state in everyday life” offers a perspective no less fresh that gets at mundane experiences and routine activities that either bring us closer to the state or fend us off from it. How these differ in the North/South divide are of prime concern.

2. Empirical cases of “the state” as manifest in material or in environmental arrangements: State formation has been a perennial question in state theory. However, as scholarship develops, the old theories of the state, which emphasize war-making and international treaties, have given way to new research on the practical aspects of state formation, as in, how do you form a state. Chief concerns in this area are material activities associated with state formation and, crucially, environmental concerns related to forming states in the first place and sustaining them in the long run. Again, how these differ in the North/South divide are of prime concern.

3. Where is the state and where is not the state? State absense/state presence: This topic emerged organically from the last 4S meeting in San Diego, and while it is new to us and is far more experimental than the above themes, we consider it of vast potential. One way to re-think the state is to ask where it is and where it is not. Are there new boarders emerging between states? Are there areas inside of the traditional territorial zones that bound states where the state simply does not appear to be present? Is it possible that the state is present even in its absence, under certain conditions? We don’t know the answers to these questions; it is the most “open” of the open panels.

4. Theoretical approaches to the state and state theory: No doubt, state theory has odd and deep roots in the Northern tradition of scholarship. Ideas that need to be challenged. We anticipate this coming from two directions if we are sensitive to STS and the state. First, in the North, fresh perspectives on the state are emerging through the lens of STS. Second, in the South, fresh perspectives on the state already exist as alternatives to traditional Northern scholarship on the state (and, of course, STS shapes these discourses too).

Please consider sending your abstracts to our set of open panels. The multiple panel format ensures a sustained audience and prolongs the discussion of our work far beyond a single paper or a single panel.

Research at Cornell


Just last week, I visited Cornell University to visit Trever Pinch, a well-known STSers from the early days. Trever has been an active member of the two most important professional association in STS, the Society for the Social Studies of Science and the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology.

With outstanding luck for me, turns out Trever is something of a pack-rat too, and has original conference proceedings for every single event in the history of both organizations. I’m in the process of using them to chart how different topics have been used in the history of the organizations. After my initial run, they will be donated to their respective professional organization.

While studies of 4S seem relatively rare, there was a recent (and interesting) project reviewing EASST, which is here: EASST_conf_summary. Still, a couple of older 4S programs are available on-line. In what appears to be Sal Restivo’s personal program from the first meeting at Cornell University in 1976, available here: 1976 4S at Cornell, we can see into STS’s past.

During the 1976 meeting, Bruno LaTour (sic!), for example, was still a member of the Salk Laboratories presenting on citation analysis, which would later be the groundwork for Laboratory Life (which, in the 1986 edition, as a great postscript). S. W. Woolgar was present to, at the time hailing from Brunel University, discussing sociological analyses of scientific accounts. H. M. Collins attended, speaking about replication in science, which, as many of you know, would be the work that Woolgar, along with his student Malcolm Ashmore, would later bring Collins to task on in Ashmore’s incredible (and incredibly playful) The Reflexivity Thesis (read the preface for a hilarious letter from Woolgar to the editor). R. K. Merton gave the lunch talk. Karen Knorr gave two talks and John Law gave one on Anomie(? Anybody know what happened to that paper? Maybe it’s sitting in an edited book nobody reads anymore…).

At any rate, as these are completed by my assistant, I’ll occasionally a comment or two.

The EASST meeting in Torun, Poland, is now accepting session tracks


The EASST meeting in Torun, Poland, is now accepting session tracks for those who would like to propose some productive sessions (or unproductive ones too, I suppose).

Link to the call for sessions is here, and December 16 is the deadline.

December 16: Proposal for convenors and thematic tracks deadline
January 2014:Communication to the convenors of acceptance of
January 31 2014: Call for submission of abstracts with the final track list included
March 28 2014: Deadline for abstracts submission
May 16 2014: Communication of acceptance/rejection of abstracts to authors and opening of online registrations

Surely, I will try to attend this meeting so friends in state theory and related issues of infrastructures, please do let me know if you’ll be there/submit!

About the conference

The EASST conference 2014 addresses the dynamics and interrelationships between science, technology and society. Contributors are invited to address the meeting’s theme of ‘Situating Solidarities’ though papers on any topic relevant to the wider field are also welcome.

The theme of ‚situating solidarities’ addresses asymmetries of power through a focus on material, situated sociotechnical configurations. Heterogeneous networks of actors are stabilised to different degrees through complex negotiations.  Rather than seeking universal abstractions the theme asks questions such as: What do the chains and networks of asymmetries look like? How do they travel? What do they carry? Do asymmetries translate to inequalities? What are the solidarities that shape the practices, artifacts and ‚know-hows’ in situated material contexts?

Political and ethical engagement is a central concern for a view of science as changes in collective practice, rather than as individual contemplation. How should STS observe or influence the raising and erasing of social and technical asymmetries in everyday life? What do the ‚situated solidarities’ of dealing with asymmetries and inequalities look like? Can STS contribute to the work of solidarising to connect asymmetric agents, places, moves and networks to weaken inequalities and change hegemonic relations?

A more detailed call for tracks will be available on the EASST website and circulated on Eurograd shortly.

The city of Torun is located on the banks of the River Vistula.  It has an extensive medieval town centre which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university and the city provide a great location for the EASST 2014 conference.

When in doubt, de-center humans


The challenge of de-centering humans — especially in the traditional home of human-centricity like sociology or anthropology but also in the humanities — has been gaining attention for years; however, a few ongoing developments are worth considering.

First, in human and cultural geography, our fellow bloggers at THE ANTHROPO.SCENE have recently posted (thanks, dmfant) a video “Decentering the human in human geography“, which is a lecture about ontological, epistemological, and even moral issues related to “human exceptional-ism” in our social sciences. The talk is by Kay Anderson, University of Western Sydney. At 45 or so minutes long, the talk defies simple summary; however, one might hazard this synopsis: humans have been deemed irreducible to nature, but their very ‘humanness’ is precisely predicated on their transcendence of mere beasts; the specialness of humans (and this is no news to long-time readers of ANT), thus, distracts us from material forces of significance; our presenter then historicizes, thus rendering vulnerable, human exceptionalism, treating the concept like an artifact of time rather than one of truth; hence, the lesson is that de-centering humans through historicizing the processes of centering humans, in the first place, and by appreciating humanism’s materiality and smashing the boundary between humans and nature, can we finally get a de-centered view of humans in geography. Of course, there are many more voices in this discussion that have been overlooked (by me, of course).

What makes Anderson’s talk so interesting is that by historicizing the concept of human exceptionalism we can take the concept to be an empirical matter rather than a presupposition for starting analysis (we tried to do this move with reflexivity). But this requires a careful tour of early biological sciences (e.g., Linneaus) and especially naturalists and anatomic crainiology, but in so doing, we realize that the claims toward human exceptionalism, under the bright light of empiricism, were often unstable and frequently revised in substantial ways. While I fully realize that post-humanism has been around for decades (although Haraway’s cyborg seems so odd now, so 90s), Anderson’s shift of perspective is a welcome development, and one, I contend, could be replicated in other areas. Here is the only room for criticism, though: in biological sciences (and perhaps I am raising the boundaries I would just as well smash, but …) there is not such a clear or direct link to the social sciences wrought with human exceptionalism; I agree that Anderson is uncovering the roots of this plague (i.e., human exceptionalism), but once it leaves the proper confines of biological sciences and then it taken-up as a presupposition or justification for “doing anthropology”, for example, the concept has been transported and, to some extent, changed as a condition of transport. Thus, surely, human exceptionalism has historically meant something different in anthropology as compared to sociology, each of which could be uncovered in a future analysis, or, consider, a comparison to international relations, which brings me to my second point … ir.


Second, in international relations, a book is underway that considers ‘the human’ from a post-anthropological perspective. Some of us contributing to the book are using this opportunity to de-center humans too, only this time, it is an experiment to see how far one can de-center humans and still have viable theories for international relations, in our case, theories of the state. The opening lines of the to-be book are above in the image and give one a sense of the tone for the book.

An upcoming event is going to be held at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main4th Global International Studies Conference 2014” (Aug 6-9), which I would love to attend, will no doubt also deal with issues related to de-centering humans. This would be a great opportunity to blend some of the thinking in geography, anthropology, and international relations precisely because the book, which is related to this conference. is considering a “post-anthropological international relations” …

The conference details are:

Our goal is to provide an interaction space in which International Relations research expertise can be shared on an international level and thus contribute to the expansion of a truly global professional network. For this purpose, IR scholars from around the world will meet in Frankfurt and present their research to a broad audience made up of scholars and experts in all fields of international studies. The overarching theme of the conference is „Justice, Peace and Stability: Risks and Opportunities for Governance and Development“. In addition to classical issues in diplomacy, security and development studies, panels and roundtables will pay special attention to novel issues in global politics, including emerging actors in international relations and new forms of south-south cooperation.

Our paper that will be part of the book, opens like this;

Acting in international relations? Political agency in post-humanist state theory


Jan-H. Passoth, Department of Sociology, Technische Universität Berlin

Nicholas J. Rowland, Department of Sociology, Pennsylvania State University


This edited volume sensitizes readers to a budding divide in International Relations (IR); a shift away from crafting overly-anthropological accounts to describe the practice of international relations (ir) and toward what our editors are calling post-anthropological scholarship.[1] The chief difference hinges on the position of the human element in IR; front and center, in the former, peripheral and de-centered, in the latter. The upshot for patient readers is insight into what the consequences of this shift will mean for IR and ir.


Our chapter constitutes an experiment to test the outer limits of this shift. We ask: how far can we, as scholars, decenter the human element before our models of international relations implode? To this end, we selected ‘the state’ as our test case. By only analyzing models of the state, we were finally able to dis-inhabit the state of the human element entirely, but, in the process, we were challenged to re-conceptualize many our otherwise taken-for-granted, anthropological assumptions about political agency. No doubt, some readers will be dissatisfied or un-persuaded by our experiment in post-anthropology; admittedly, we had no choice but to scour many, occasionally incompatible literatures to trace-out a fully uninhabited state in the course of our analysis. That being said, we generally believe that our analysis identifies and explores some of the outer limits of what it might mean to legitimately de-center the human element in IR. This test in post-anthropology also has an important implication for the relationship that binds IR to ir. One of the enduring quests in IR and beyond is to determine a universal, ontologically sound definition of the state once and for all. However, we now take this as a fruitless, if not reckless, endeavor. One viable alternative direction for future IR research would be to formulate and, ultimately, implement a model of the state that is more consistent with models of the state that are used in ir (i.e., out there in practice). Put another way, in IR, we need models of the state that capture the complexity of how models of the state are actually used in ir. This shift requires not a theory, but an approach to theories – a model of models – and we develop this line of inquiry forthwith.

[1] Regarding merely the label ‘post-anthropology’; we are fully aware that this term could quite easily be misinterpreted if taken too far from its orienting context in this edited volume, or if it is taken to be a literal description of our scholarship here. It is important to note that the post-anthropological turn in IR scholarship has nothing at all to do with the long tradition of Anthropology as a discipline, and, coming from the small world of Science and Technology Studies, it is significant for us to be clear that post-anthropology in IR is not a direct challenge to the anthropology of science, which our area of study has done so much to cultivate. From this point forward in the chapter, when we use the terms ‘anthropology’ and ‘post-anthropology’ it will be in the same spirit that our editors layout in their orienting introductory chapter, to wit, our title contains the term ‘post-humanist’, which we see as consistent with this distinction.

Workshop: Simondon and Digital Cultures, 21-22 November, 2013


Workshop: Simondon and Digital Cultures, 21-22 November, 2013

Centre for Digital Cultures, Leuphana University Lüneburg

Organizers: Yuk Hui (Leuphana Universität), Erich Hörl(Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Jeremy Gilbert(University of East London/New Formations)

Confirmed Speakers: Jean-Hugues Barthélémy (FR), Anne Sauvagnargues(FR), Ludovic Duhem(FR), Erich Hörl(DE), Yuk Hui (DE), Michael Cuntz (DE),Jeremy Gilbert (UK), Andy Goffey(UK), Luciana Parisi (UK), Christoph Brunner(CH),

This workshop is dedicated to Gilbert Simondon: our contemporary. It will explore and delineate the significance of his work for the analysis of our contemporary techno-medial condition. Therefore it focuses on the question of the digital, and aims to put forward a critical agenda for research into digital cultures, informed by  Simondon’s thought.

In Du Mode d’Existence des Objets Techniques(1958), Simondon showed us a new approach to the understanding of ‘technical objects’, and rethought the relation between humans and machines, cultures and technologies. Today we are witnessing  the proliferation of types of object – digital objects in particular – while the very notions of object and objectivity are being transformed by digitizing processes.

This has inevitable implications for experiences and concepts of subjectivity, and Simondon’s work on individuation – in particular in L’individuation: à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information (2005) – remains one of the most original and complete, yet one of the most neglected, explorations of this topic in the history of Western philosophy. This work remains particularly invaluable for its  compatibility with his work on technical systems and technological culture.

What do terms such as ‘object’ and ‘subject’ mean today? If they are undergoing a displacement in the era of digital cultures, then this issue was perhaps most obviously pre-figured by Felix Guattari’s anticipation of a ‘post-media’ age when we wrote:  “one can hope, from there that operates a revision of power of mass media which crashes the contemporary subjectivity and a new entry toward a post-media age consisting of an individual-collective re-appropriation and an interactive usage of machines of information, communication, intelligence, art and of culture”.

While the adventures of post-humanism and cyber-feminism have explored this territory for several decades already, we contend that Simondon’s work – like Guattari’s – remains a crucially under-exploited resource for understanding the ‘post-media’ age, its consequences for subjectivity, the politics of networks, the nature of digital objects, and the role of imaginations, innovation and participation in the information society  (L’invention dans les Techniques, 2005; Imagination et Invention, 2008 ) ( Communication et Information, 2010). While Simondon’s work is known indirectly by readers of Stiegler, Hansen ,and Massumi, very little has been done to develop his ideas for the analysis of contemporary digital culture and its political implications, despite its obvious relevance. We propose this workshop as a first step towards rectifying this situation.

Reports from 4S this week

During the 4S meeting later this week, Jan and I will be blogging from the conference about the presentations we oversee.


We will be chairing three sessions, back-to-back-to-back, on State Multiplicity in STS.

If you want to join us, please do:

I: State Multiplicity, Performativity and Materiality: Current STS Research on State and Stateness: I

Scheduled Time: Fri Oct 11 2013, 10:30 to 12:00pm, Building/Room: Town and Country / Hampton

II: State Multiplicity, Performativity and Materiality: Current STS Research on State and Stateness: II

Scheduled Time: Fri Oct 11 2013, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Building/Room: Town and Country / Hampton

III: State Multiplicity, Performativity and Materiality: Current STS Research on State and Stateness: III

Scheduled Time: Fri Oct 11 2013, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Building/Room: Town and Country / Hampton

The first session will include: *Anna West (Stanford University); *Olga Restrepo Forero (Universidad Nacional de Colombia), *Malcolm Ashmore (Loughborough University); *Kevin Donovan (University of Cape Town); *Luisa Farah Schwartzman (University of Toronto), *Jennifer Elrick (University of Toronto); and  *Govind Gopakumar (Concordia University).

The second session will include: *Huub Dijstelbloem (University of Amsterdam); *Evelyn Ruppert (Goldsmiths, University of London); *Keith Guzik (Bloomfield College); and Vincenzo Pavone (CSIC – Consejo Superior Investigaciones Cientícas), *Elvira Santiago (Consejo Superior Investigaciones Científicas)

The third and final session will include: *Nicholas J Rowland (Pennsylvania State University), *Jan-Hendrik Passoth (Technische Universität Berlin); *Manuel Tironi (Pontificia Unversidad Catolica de Chile), Rafael Crisosto (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile); *Andrzej Wojciech Nowak (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan); *Steffen Dalsgaard (IT University of Copenhagen), *Christopher Gad (IT-University of Copenhagen); *Patrick Carroll (University of California, Davis)

Peer Schouten, at it again!

We introduced Peer back in March … well, his paper presented in last year’s 4S meeting at the Copenhagen Business School (and subsequent ISA meeting at London School of Economics) is now in press!

Check it out; its an alternative answer to traditional interpretations of “failed states” in conventional IR research, and, of course, the alternative to orthodox social contract theory appears to be ANT (or, at minimum, ANT can draw our attention to alternative explanations … or, better yet, help us to understand the infrastructural underpinnings that make explanations possible, like those used by our friends in social contract theory [although their friendships seem oddly contractual]).


Cheers, Peer!

Oh, he even mentions as much in the acknowledgements:

Further thanks to the following people for comments on a previous draft of this article:the editors Graham Harman, Maximilian Mayer, the participants in the panelOn States, Stateness,and STS: government(ality) with a small “g”?, Society for Social Studies of Science & European Association for the Study of Science and Technology Annual Conference, Copenhagen, October17-20 2012, and participants in the Millennium/Theory Talks workshop at the Millennium Annual Conference, London, October 20–22 2012.

Abstracts are in for 4S 2013 San Diego!!!


Submissions in! Jan and I (Nicholas) proposed an open session for this year’s Society for the Social Studies of Science meeting in San Diego this fall. We already have 18 submissions for the one session, which — at least I think — is the highest level of interest we’ve had in the state/stateness area of STS in the last few years of organizing these panels/sessions. Obviously, this is very cool, and we are stoked. If you sent us an abstract, thank you; they look great. Looks like we’ve got a month to put the abstracts into order. We are being allotted 15 total spots to spread over 3 sessions, which will also be the biggest set of sessions we’ve been allowed to host.

Timing: According to the webpage about the conference, by 12 May 2013 abstract submitters should learn of their acceptance notification and the placement of their respective papers (the day afterward, early registration starts, coincidentally).


Also, for those unfamiliar with the sessions we promote: We called the proposed session “State Multiplicity, Performativity and Materiality: Current STS Research on State and Stateness,” and our brief description reads:

Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), October 9 – 12, 2013 — San Diego, California


Open Session 43. State Multiplicity, Performativity and Materiality: Current STS Research on State and Stateness


Organizers: Jan-Hendrik Passoth; Nicholas J. Rowland


Currently, science and technology studies is rich with opportunity to conceptualize the state and comment on its consequences for global living. While long under the conceptual jurisdiction of traditional political science, political sociology, and political history, scholars in science and technology studies have, with their own concepts and style, taken to rethinking the state and, with renewed nuance, capture its many and multiple influences in our (decidedly) material world. Similar to the move made by scholars in the social studies of finance, when they showed us how to rethink economic sociology, recent work on the machinery and infrastructure of governing is growing in significance. We see large empirical studies of water infrastructure in India, Columbia, and US states such as California, research on public transportation systems and global logistics, work about census creation and population data gathering as well as growing and genuine theoretical contributions to state theory and theories of stateness have all been published in recent years.

The upshot: Conceptual lens such as multiplicity, performativity, and materiality, which are central to contemporary science and technology studies, provide one such direction toward an explicitly science and technology studies perspective on the state. We believe that this line of thinking, if properly developed in-house by science and technology studies scholars, has the potential to produce discourse-changing research even among our friends in traditional political science, sociology, and history. This open panel will consist of two or three sessions. We invite empirical and theoretical contributions on a wide variety of topics, regions, and theoretical approaches. We encourage work-in-progress as well as more mature projects to the session. We especially invite papers on the multiple ontologies of political entities such as states, the performativity of social and political theory, and the materialities of governing modern states and their environs.

Installing order in transportation: some intelligence about artificial intelligence in the making

Check out the following call for papers to see what our colleagues in artificial intelligence are currently up to with respect to installing order in transportation:


                               AITS @ EPIA2013

                            A Thematic Track of
     The 16th Portuguese Conference on Artificial Intelligence, EPIA2013
                 Azores, Portugal, September 9–13, 2013


The Thematic Track on Artificial Intelligence in Transportation
Systems (AITS) within EPIA Conferences aims to promote an
interdisciplinary debate on current developments and advances of AI
techniques in a rather practical perspective, focusing on
transportation and mobility systems. This Thematic Track follows up
the first edition of the AIASTS Thematic Track, held at EPIA'2007, the
second edition of the AITUM Thematic Track, held at EPIA'2009, and the
third edition of the AITS Thematic Track, held at EPIA'2011. This
event will act as a unique platform gathering the AI community,
transportation engineers and practitioners, as well as social
scientists to discuss how cutting-edge AI technologies can be
effectively developed and applied to improve transportation
performance towards sustainable mobility settings. This forum is thus
an opportunity for the technical and scientific community to present
progresses made so far, and as a means to generate new ideas towards
building innovative applications of AI technologies into more
efficient transportation systems.

As from this 4th Edition of the AITS Thematic Track, the event will be
promoted by the Artificial Transportation Systems and Simulation
(ATSS) Technical Activity Sub-committee of IEEE Intelligent
Transportations Systems Society. The EPIA Conference Series has been
ranked by the Computing Research & Education initiative as a “CORE B”
Conference, whose proceedings are published by Springer in their LNAI
Series and traditionally indexed by Thomson Reuters’ ISI Web of

As in many multidisciplinary knowledge fields, much advance in AI is
fostered through challenges imposed by issues that scientists address
when applying theory to solve practical problems. Thus, the AITS
Thematic Track serves as a working platform to discuss current
developments and advances of AI techniques in a rather practical
perspective. It will stimulate a debate emphasising on how theory and
practice are effectively coupled to tackle problems in the specific
domain of transportation.

Besides its economical, social, and environmental importance,
transportation is a very challenging domain, especially due to its
inherent complexity. It is formed up by geographically and
functionally distributed heterogeneous elements, both artificial and
human, with different decision-making abilities, collective or
individual goals, making its dynamics rather uncertain. Also, mobility
plays a major role towards citizen’s quality of life. With resources
even scarcer and the imposition of uncountable constraints to
mobility, contemporary transportation has experienced a great
revolution and has become highly evolving. This means that a rational
use of transportation infrastructures and the way they interact with
the environment must be managed on a sustainable basis.

Within the last two decades, this scenario has witnessed the advent of
the concept of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Rather than
increasing service capacity, one underlying approach of ITS-based
solutions is to ensure productivity and mobility by making better use
of existing transportation infrastructure, featuring them with
smarter, greener, safer, and more efficient technologies. Indeed, much
advance verified in this field is due to AI that is a key ingredient
to ITS. The relationship between these two areas is certainly mutually
beneficial, suggesting a wide range of cross-fertilisation
opportunities and potential synergisms between the AI community that
devises theory and transport practitioners that use it. Therefore,
contemporary transportation systems are a natural ground to conceive,
develop, test and apply AI techniques.

The AITS Thematic Track welcomes and encourages contributions
reporting on original research, work under development and experiments
of different AI techniques, such as neural networks, biologically
inspired approaches, evolutionary algorithms, knowledge-based and
expert systems, case-based reasoning, fuzzy logics, intelligent agents
and multi-agent systems, support vector regression, data mining and
other pattern-recognition and optimisation techniques, as well as
concepts such as ambient intelligence and ubiquitous computing,
service-oriented architectures, and ontology, to address specific
issues in contemporary transportation, which would include (but are
not limited to):

• different modes of transport and their interactions (air, road, rail
and water transport);
• intelligent and real-time traffic management and control;
• design, operations, time-tabling and management of logistic systems
and freight transport;
• transport policy, planning, design and management;
• environmental issues, road pricing, security and safety;
• transport system operations;
• application and management of new technologies in transport;
• travel demand analysis, prediction and transport marketing;
• traveller information systems and services;
• ubiquitous transport technologies and ambient intelligence;
• pedestrian and crowd modelling, simulation and analysis;
• urban planning towards sustainable mobility;
• service oriented architectures for vehicle-to-vehicle and
vehicle-to-infrastructure communications;
• assessment and evaluation of intelligent transportation technologies;
• human factors in intelligent vehicles;
• autonomous driving;
• artificial transportation systems and simulation;
• surveillance and monitoring systems for transportation and pedestrians.

Contributions must be original and not published elsewhere. Papers
should strictly adhere to formatting instructions
(http://www.epia2013.uac.pt/?page_id=564) of the conference, and can
be of two types: regular (full-length) papers should not exceed twelve
(12) pages in length, whereas short papers should not exceed six (6)
pages. Each submission will be reviewed by at least three members of
the International Programme Committee of the AITS Thematic Track. This
process will follow a blind-review approach, so we kindly ask authors
to take reasonable care not to indirectly disclose their identity,
removing their names from the manuscript and any reference that might
explicitly identify them.

The best papers will be included in a volume of the Lecture Notes in
Artificial Intelligence (LNAI) Series, to be published by Springer
(proceedings indexed by the Thomson ISI Web of Knowledge). All other
accepted papers will be published in the local proceedings.
Publication of accepted papers is subject to at least one co-author
registering for the conference and presenting the paper during the
AITS session at the Conference.

Further and up-to-date information can be found on the official Web
site of the EPIA Conference at http://www.epia2013.uac.pt/

• Deadline for paper submission: March 15, 2013
• Notification of paper acceptance: April 30, 2013
• Camera-ready papers due: May 31, 2013
• Conference dates: September 9-13, 2013

Rosaldo Rossetti
   LIACC, DEI/FEUP - University of Porto, Portugal (rossetti@fe.up.pt)

Matteo Vasirani
   École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland

Cristina Olaverri Monreal
   Technische Universität München, Germany (olaverri@lfe.mw.tum.de)

• Adriana Giret, U.P. Valencia, Spain
• Agachai Sumalee, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
• Alberto Fernandez, Rey Juan Carlos University, Spain
• Ana Almeida, Polytechnic Institute of Porto, Portugal
• Ana Bazzan, UFRGS, Brazil
• António Castro, University of Porto, Portugal
• Carlos Lisboa Bento, University of Coimbra, Portugal
• Constantinos Antoniou, National Technical University of Athens, Greece
• Danny Weyns, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
• Eduardo Camponogara, UFSC, Brazil
• Elisabete Arsénio, LNEC, Portugal
• Fausto Vieira, Instituto de Telecomunicações/FCUP, Portugal
• Federico Barber, U.P. Valencia, Spain
• Fei-Yue Wang, University of Arizona, USA
• Francisco Pereira, SMART/MIT, Singapore
• Geert Wets, University of Hasselt, Belgium
• Giuseppe Vizzari, University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy
• Harry Timmermans, Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands
• Hilmi Berk Celikoglu, Technical University of Istanbul, Turkey
• Hussein Dia, AECOM, Australia
• Javier Sanchez Medina, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
• Jeffrey Miller, University of Anchorage, USA
• Jorge Lopes, BRISA S.A., Portugal
• José Manuel Menendez, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain
• José Telhada, University of Minho, Portugal
• Jürgen Sauer, University of Oldenburg, Germany
• Luís Nunes, ISCTE, Portugal
• Luís Paulo Reis, University of Minho, Portugal
• Maite López Sánchez, University of Barcelona, Spain
• Michael Rovatsos, University of Edinburgh, UK
• Miguel A. Salido, U.P. Valencia, Spain
• Paulo Leitão, Instituto Politécnico de Bragança, Portugal
• Ronghui Liu, ITS/University of Leeds, UK
• Sascha Ossowski, Rey Juan Carlos University, Spain
• Shuming Tang, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
• Thomas Strang, DLR, Germany

From our friend Peer Schouten: IR and ANT at ISA

Last year, Jan-H. and I went to the Millennium conference at the London School of Economics. Following the conference, Peer and his peers put together an informal workshop to assess the relationship of International Relations with Actor-Network Theory (or just IR and ANT). It was a stunning success, in my estimation, and was quite interesting to see how the ideas in these different starting-points gelled (or failed to).


Well, Peer is at it again, this year at the International Studies Association’s (ISA’s) annual meeting. ISA will meet in San Francisco, CA, and Peer is organizing another workshop.

Check it out here:

Dear all,
As we are looking forward to the great events and panels at the 2013 ISA we want to invite you for an informal (ANT) meeting. This meeting is meant to bring together the diverse group of people interested in (ANT and) IR. This should provide space for exchanging ideas on how to further the translation of ANT in IR, developing common projects including publications, future workshops or grant applications, as well as having a drink or two.
First of all the meeting is meant to stick together and to advance the drive of last ISA and the Millennium conference/workshop in London last year. The meeting is however open to everyone with an interest in ANT. We are planning to meet in the evening either towards the beginning of the conference or at the end. If you are aware of further persons interested in joining please do forward this email.
Peer, Rocco, Maximilian, Julien and Christian

I think this direction has a lot of potential for growth over the upcoming years. So, please pass it along to any interested parties!

Reminder: March 17 is the deadline for 4S

As a reminder, the deadline for submitting abstracts to 4S this year is quickly approaching. As a break with years past, the leadership at 4S is getting a little bit stricter with each passing year so that submitting abstracts to session organizers informally is no longer been seen as an acceptable practice, and, instead, leadership would like all abstracts to flow through the formal system.

Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)

Just a quick reminder: Only two weeks remain to submit paper and session proposals for the 4S Annual Meeting in San Diego. Deadline is March 17. Visit the meeting home page to begin. http://www.4sonline.org/meeting

October 9 – 12, 2013 — San Diego, California, Town and Country Resort and Convention Center. Meeting home page: http://www.4sonline.org/meeting

Jan-Hendrik and I (Nicholas Rowland) have organized Open Session 43, which we anticipate will host, with luck, two or three panels of presenters. Per usual, we are in pursuit of the infrastructure of the state in its multitudinous forms and incantations.

See our session proposal below:

43. State Multiplicity, Performativity and Materiality: Current STS Research on State and Stateness
Jan-Hendrik Passoth; Nicholas J. Rowland
Currently, science and technology studies is rich with opportunity to conceptualize the state and comment on its consequences for global living. While long under the conceptual jurisdiction of traditional political science, political sociology, and political history, scholars in science and technology studies have, with their own concepts and style, taken to rethinking the state and, with renewed nuance, capture its many and multiple influences in our (decidedly) material world. Similar to the move made by scholars in the social studies of finance, when they showed us how to rethink economic sociology, recent work on the machinery and infrastructure of governing is growing in significance. We see large empirical studies of water infrastructure in India, Columbia, and US states such as California, research on public transportation systems and global logistics, work about census creation and population data gathering as well as growing and genuine theoretical contributions to state theory and theories of stateness have all been published in recent years.
The upshot: Conceptual lens such as multiplicity, performativity, and materiality, which are central to contemporary science and technology studies, provide one such direction toward an explicitly science and technology studies perspective on the state. We believe that this line of thinking, if properly developed in-house by science and technology studies scholars, has the potential to produce discourse-changing research even among our friends in traditional political science, sociology, and history. This open panel will consist of two or three sessions. We invite empirical and theoretical contributions on a wide variety of topics, regions, and theoretical approaches. We encourage work-in-progress as well as more mature projects to the session. We especially invite papers on the multiple ontologies of political entities such as states, the performativity of social and political theory, and the materialities of governing modern states and their environs.

Please consider submitting to our session or writing us to inquire about whether or not your work would fit into the session’s framework.

"Viewing the Technoscientific State through the Heteroscope"

“Viewing the Technoscientific State through the Heteroscope: The State, displaced or misplaced?” (could also be called “The Dancer and the Dance”) Alexander Stingl, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt/Ode.


Alexander gave a dynmaic presentation in a style, for example, reminiscent of Deleuze. He opened with an interesting comment about governing and dancing, challenging audience members to rethink concepts they have happily taken for granted for decades. The high-watermark for me was hearing “The new State is, I argue, a nomadic entity that gazes at us just as heteroscopically as we gaze back at it.” The notion of a heteroscope implicates, in my best estimation, the idea of a complex state. Of course, actor-models of the state must be cast out in favor of a more diffuse and networked vision of the state. Put another way, it might imply what Patrick Carroll has been theorizing, namely, the state as a “complex gathering” or, as he sometimes says, “a thing” (the way that a party is a thing, both just one thing and also a thing made of other stuff like people and drinks and cake). The underlying theoretical justification for this ought to be found, and Alexander said as much during the talk, precisely where Patrick Carroll, Jan, and I find it … through the lens of actor-network theory.

I first met Alexander at 4S during the meeting in Copenhagen; however, I’ve seen his work, and he is quite prolific (see cv here).

I first read Alexander’s work in the American Sociologist. His paper, “Truth, Knowledge, Narratives of Selves,” is about:

Starting with a distinction of two types of discourse analysis—the analysis of a discourse and discursive analysis—the article discusses an analytical genealogy of truth and knowledge production, that can fulfill both empirical and archival requirements. The model’s main purpose lies in understanding diagnostic and therapeutic decision-making in doctor–patient interactions.

Stingl’s original abstract for 4S reads:

“How to govern?”, is a question that not only fazes governments, politicians and political parties but an increasing number of (world-)societal actors, enmeshed in the making of science policy and politics of science itself. They are subject to government while licensed to usurp governing positions over disbanded and unevenly organized societal collectivities, imbricated in regimes of governance that are post-legitimized, post-transparent, post-democratic procedures.

As STS scholars, we must critique the acceleration in dependence on techno-scientific practices of knowledge and management beyond the State: Citizens of nation-states and post-national conglomerates, and producers of techno-scientific knowledge demand legitimated representation, representative participation, and transparency, where post-democratic society and techno-scientific embeddedness of decision-making processes on the trans-local scale (trans-local meaning, broadly, that stake-holders and stock-holders do not share the same space of causes and effects) seem to suggest that people paradoxically proliferate and govern their existences in abandonment of the State, while transnational corporate entities rematerialize as quasi-state entities. STS critique demands suggestions for alternative forms of governance and novel conceptualizations of statehood: Does the techno-scientific state emerge naturally from the actual governance practices of actors such as corporations, NGOs and collective actors formed by interested private citizens as stakeholders? Will it redefine the boundaries of empirical and theoretical concepts in displacing or misplacing the State, and how does the state so placed see people and how do they look back? The new State is, I argue, a nomadic entity that gazes at us just as heteroscopically as we gaze back at it.

Locating the state? Kathryn Furlong

“Locating the state? Infrastructure, scale and the technologies of governing, a Colombian case.” Kathryn Furlong from Université de Montréal. Jan and I first learned about Kathryn’s work when discussing infrastructure, and in particular, the issue of scale, which was spurned by a discussion with Hendrik about flat infrastructure. Subsequently, we invited Kathryn to blog with us on installing order where we even saw a few precursors for the work she presented at 4S/EASST this year in a post from about a year ago.


So, this year we saw a great presentation about understanding the relationship between scale and infrastructure. In her old published work, Kathryn Furlong in Progress in Human Geography titled “Small technologies, big change: Rethinking infrastructure through STS and geography“, we also saw the underpinnings of an understanding about scale. In the conclusion of that paper, which could have gone on at much greater length, there is an important Latourian twist included about “inversions” of scale (even if “large” and “small” are ultimately unsatisfactory with regard to measuring scale):

“This paper signals the need to look beyond infrastructure as a single unit, static in its physical state and social and environmental effects. Breaking infrastructure down into assemblages of small technologies that matter enables one to see the possibility to employ small change to mediate large problems.”

One of the ways that she ‘makes good’ on her previous claims about getting away from seeing infrastructure as ‘a single unit’ is to get at the idea that technologies might be hybrid (per the picture below) or, using my lens in ANT, seeing more of the multiplicity in water was a gathering point for many visions of water … in Kathryn’s case, this is a slide about comparing city wanter and rainwater. For example, her data collection shows that citizens consider rain water ‘more clean’ or ‘higher quality’ as compared to city water piped in from afar, but this importantly depends on the location of the person and the water.


This all becomes even more interesting when applied to some of the central questions of state theory (e.g., what is a state? how do we make them? what can they do? can they do anything? etc.). Kathryn presents a commonplace distinction between the “North” and the “South”, but only for a moment, in order to get at the notion that in the Global South, the combination of government and infrastructure (which are otherwise imbricated in the Global North, comprising much of what is thought to represent ‘the state’) does not appear to operate in similar ways. Of particular importance, I think, is the idea that when a government attempts to impose a ‘unified infrastructure’ they will for sure end-up creating some sort of non-uniform thing variously composed of  especially in areas, and Kathryn contends, where infrastructure has not played a significant role in the previous years or decades (what she calls ‘omnipresent infrastructure’).


Kathryn’s original abstract:

In the North, many authors have noted the passage from government to governance; that is from centralized and hierarchical to more diffuse and inclusive forms of decision-making (Jessop 1998; Peters and Savoie 1995). Infrastructure networks have experienced similar shifts, from the exclusive “black box” to more malleable and participatory systems (Furlong 2011). Yet, in many contexts in the Global South, including Colombia, neither the government, nor infrastructure managed to cover the whole of the state territory. By examining such a case, this essay seeks to add relief to some broadly held conceptualizations about the state, infrastructure and governmentality. One of these is in relation to scale. Drawing on critiques of scale (e.g. Marston et al. 2005), the essay questions where to locate the state in relation to issues of infrastructure and governing. Where the state has clearly not been omnipresent, it is easier to see how the assumed hierarchy of state scale breaks down. This is exemplified through the case of regulatory attempts to create a uniform infrastructure sector, which have yielded perhaps as much change in regulation as they have in service delivery. Moreover, where infrastructure has not been omnipresent, rather than imposing a new “black box”, managers may have to compete with a variety of pre-existing technical and social practices resulting in new forms of hybrid infrastructures. As such, just as new technologies create shifts in governing (e.g. the internet), the introduction of absent technology can yield shifts in both governing and how the technology is traditionally conceived.