Enculturing Innovation – Indian engagements with nanotechnology

Dear friends,
Very happy to announce that I successfully defended my PhD thesis last week (10 March 2016)  and have now been awarded a doctorate.

The thesis is titled ‘Enculturing Innovation – Indian engagements with nanotechnology’ and is in the field of Science and Technology Studies. The research was conducted as part of a project at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University under the supervision of Prof Wiebe Bijker, Dr Aalok Khandekar and Dr Ragna Zeiss

Please msg me or send me an email at psekhsaria@gmail.com if you would like to read the thesis and I will be happy to send you the pdf. A short (3 page) summary of the thesis is also available….

The thesis can be accessed online from the Maastricht University library website at the following link:  http://pub.maastrichtuniversity.nl/00b75ea0-379b-4a9d-8689-e92a3b878a9b

You can also write to me at psekhsaria@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to email the pdf across to you!

Best wishes

pankaj

Enculturing Innovation Final Pankaj Sekhsaria PhD Thesis

Call for papers: Valuation, Technology and Society

I hope this is of interest to many. We are aiming to bring together people from STS, Valuation Studies, Social Studies of Finance and Accounting, Economic Sociology, and so on (see below).

Feel free to get in touch early to discuss your ideas!

 

Workshop Announcement and Call for Papers

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting Workshop

Valuation, Technology and Society

Organizers: Hendrik Vollmer (University of Leicester), Yuval Millo (University of Warwick), Mike Power (London School of Economics), Keith Robson (HEC Paris)

A Workshop Sponsored by Accounting, Organizations and Society

21-22 April 2017, College Court, Leicester

A growing number of researchers across the social sciences are investigating valuation as a social process. Alongside the long-standing interdisciplinary research into accounting as social and institutional practice, a number of new fields of research and thematic banners have been arising in areas relevant to the study of valuation, fields such as the social studies of finance and sociological studies of “economies of worth” (see, among others, Callon, 1998; Boltanski & Thévenot, 2006; Callon, Millo, & Muniesa, 2007; Knorr Cetina & Preda, 2012; Aspers & Dodd, 2015). Valuation practices have been studied with respect to the construction of markets, firms or states, and they have been associated with the making of economic agency in various shapes and forms. Technological aspects of valuation from organizational routines to calculative practices, computer algorithms and information systems continue to figure prominently throughout such research. In particular, valuation devices – artefacts, processes or assemblages that enable, frame and bring about valuations – have been a focal point in interrogating and revising central concepts of social and economic theory, most notably with respect to concepts of economic action, markets, performativity, human and non-human agency.

Despite such common focus, convergence of empirical findings is still limited with respect to how the spread and use of valuation devices affects the diverse social settings in which valuation takes place – and, critically, how the use of such devices transforms values and valuations. Recent publications indicate that such convergence is increasingly coming within reach (Kjellberg et al., 2013; Antal, Hutter, & Stark, 2015; Dussauge, Helgesson, & Lee, 2015; Kornberger, Justesen, Madsen, & Mouritsen, 2015). We observe considerable momentum across fields in addressing questions such as: how do tools and technologies of pricing, costing, indexing or projecting value change the ways people in firms, markets, in the profession, and in everyday life value goods, activities, or one another? To what extent do valuation devices create novel accounts of value? Are there regularities in the types of accounts and accounting which valuation devices bring about? In what respect do collective valuations change once they are increasingly supported by ready-made technologies of accounting, measurement and calculation? What is the effect of black-boxing valuation in artefacts and does the diffusion of such artefacts change, consolidate or dissipate economic agency? To what extent does it decentralise how value is being accounted for, e.g., through the use of social media or online rating systems? How does the diffusion of valuation devices across society affect the work and occupational niche of valuation professionals such as accountants or market analysts?

The “Valuation, Technology and Society” workshop aims to build on the wealth of research currently addressing these questions by bringing together a broad range of scholarship from across (and not necessarily limited to) accounting, finance, anthropology, sociology, economics, history, science and technology studies, media studies or social psychology. We are specifically seeking papers that use in-depth empirical analyses of valuation devices in social contexts in order to address the analytical and theoretical challenges in understanding valuation as a social process and indicate points of convergence across cases.

Indicative themes are:

– the impact of valuation devices on banking and finance, for example, in the delivery of financial services in retail banking or the making of investment decisions; the extent to which the use of valuation devices has brought about and supported new forms of recruiting clients or interacting with stakeholders; the impact of valuation devices in creating new lines of business, for example in the emerging fintech sector and in blockchain banking; how valuation devices have transformed markets and organizational cultures through dynamics of disruptive innovation, pressures to innovate or the recruitment of IT talent.

– the mobilization by valuation devices of different types of qualitative and quantitative data, algorithms, ratings and rankings; the ways in which they make use of ‘big data’ and internet traffic; how valuation devices make use of mobile computing.

– the effect of valuation devices on technologies of the self through the introduction of new forms of measurement and value, for example, in health and personal fitness; how mobile or ‘wearable’ technologies are part of broader information systems in tracking fitness or risky behaviour; how valuation devices contribute to the management of populations.

– how valuation devices affect the construction of social problems like economic growth, climate change, air pollution, immigration, public spending or sustainable development; how the scope of valuation has been extended to take into account social and environmental impacts of organizational action; the effects this has had on finance, investing and the management of risk.

– the involvement of valuation devices in processes of reorganization and reform; their roles in dis-assembling and re-assembling organizations and institutions.

– the effect of valuation devices on the competition among professions over the recognition of expertise and the struggle over professional jurisdictions; whether valuation devices instantiate particular forms of ‘adversary accounting’.

– how valuation devices affect the very logic of account production, for example by involving customers and clients in the construction of ratings and rankings.

– whether there is a specific role for valuation devices in valuing objects that are unique and ‘singular’, for example, rare items or works of art.

– how different forms of social science contribute to the development of valuation devices;  whether novel forms of social science are made possible through the use of valuation devices in society; the roles of accounting in exploring these possibilities.

We believe that social science has much to gain from a more continuous understanding of how accounts of value are produced and circulated among human and non-human actors, facilitate action and organization, and underpin markets, networks and institutions.

Please send an abstract (about 500 words) of your intended contribution by November 10th 2016 to the organizers of the workshop c/o Hendrik Vollmer, hv25@leicester.ac.uk.

 

Antal, A.B., Hutter, M., & Stark, D. (eds.) (2015) Moments of valuation. Exploring sites of dissonance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Aspers, P., & Dodd N. (Eds.) (2015). Re-imagining economic sociology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Boltanski, L., & Thévenot, L. (2006). On justification. Economies of worth. Translated by Catherine Porter. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Callon, M. (Ed.). (1998). The laws of the markets. Oxford: Blackwell.
Callon, M., Millo, Y., & Muniesa, F. (Eds.). (2007). Market devices. Oxford: Blackwell.
Dussauge, I., Helgesson, C.-F., & Lee, F. (Eds.) (2015). Value practices in the life sciences & medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kjellberg, H., Mallard, A., Arjaliès, D.-L., Aspers, P., Beljean, S., Bidet, A., Corsin, A., Didier, E., Fourcade, M., Geiger, S., Hoeyer, K., Lamont, M., MacKenzie, D., Maurer, B., Mouritsen, J., Sjögren, E., Tryggestad, K., Vatin, F., & Woolgar, S. (2013). Valuation studies? Our collective two cents. Valuation Studies, 1(1), 11-30.
Knorr Cetina, K., & Preda, A. (Eds.). (2012). The Oxford handbook of the sociology of finance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kornberger, M., Justesen, L., Madsen, A. K., & Mouritsen, J. (Eds.). (2015) Making things valuable. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Island worlds – a photographic exhibition

And here’s a review of Island Worlds, my photographic exhibition that was held in Pune, India between Feb 13 and 20:

Activist as artist

Photographs from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands printed on raw silk glimmer with beauty, but also with compassion…

 

To read the full review click here

Urban Colloquium 10: The Andaman & Nicobars, An Island Journey

Urban Design Collective

UDC’s first Urban Colloquium of 2016 was held in Pondicherry with a presentation by writer and activist Pankaj Sekhsaria, on his work in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and about his new book The Last Wave, a novel set in the islands. The event was held in collaboration with PondyPHOTO. We thank Kasha ki Aasha for generous use of their space.

Guest contributor Ketaki Chowkhani shares with us her thoughts on Pankaj’s presentation.

The Andaman and Nicobars: An Island Journey

‘When I first surveyed this creek seven years ago,’ David finally spoke, ‘it was full of crocs. It was amazing how many you could see in a single night. It used to be great fun but not anymore. This creek has now been trashed. Completely trashed. Too many people, too much encroachment. Only the first wall of the mangroves now stands. Everything beyond has been converted to paddy fields and…

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Uncommon Walking Tour of Bristol

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In a fascinating post about walking, Will Self offers an uncommon walking tour of Bristol. According to Self, “walking was the way to break free from the shackles of 21st-century capitalism.” Walking tours, sometimes also called pedway tours, are growing in popularity; pedways are pedestrian walkways and they can be both above ground and below; they are sometimes discussed as a form of ungoverned or unplanned civil engineering.

Self, who guides the walking tours, gets meta pretty quick; he “began with a brief introduction to the situationists – the Paris-based artists and thinkers of the 1960s who championed the concept of “psychogeography”, the unplanned drifting through an urban landscape to become more in tune with one’s surroundings.”

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Island Worlds

 

Picturing paradise

By: Kunal Ray

Author and photographer Pankaj Sekhsaria’s photography exhibition offers a multi-dimensional view of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Pankaj Sekhsaria grew up in Pune and has been working and researching in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands for the last two decades. He is a freelance journalist, academic and author of The Last Wave — An Island Novel, a story based in the Andaman Islands. He has authored-edited three other, non-fiction books, two of which are based in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Of Land and Sea & Island Worlds, scheduled to be held from February 13-20, is his second photography exhibition. Excerpts from an interview:

http://www.punemirror.in/entertainment/unwind/Picturing-paradise/articleshow/50949785.cms

Memory Architecture and Infrastructure–Post 3 of 3

What about the ethics of memory?

Looking at the debate that has ensued thus far it seems important to make a distinction between personal memory and collective memory. As I wrote in an article for Critical Military Studies, one should be careful with conflating what an individual remembers with what a community, or nation, remembers. For Avishai Margalit, in The Ethics of Memory, collective memory is “shared memory” with the “we” as collective or communal, not a simple aggregate of individual memories, but built instead on a division of mnemonic labor. This shared memory travels from person to person through institutions (archives) and communal mnemonic devices (monuments) (Margalit, 56).

Remembrance is an act symbolic exchange. With this distinction, we needn’t worry as much about memory as such, or about who is speaking for whom, but rather what ethical engagements follow from remembering together. This remembering can be less about “exercising sovereign power” as Jordan writes and more about the experiences we share as a community and what this means for our actions in the future.

In fact, these shared memories can produce an obligation on a community beyond sovereign control; each of us has a responsibility to keep memories alive, but all shoulder this burden in some way. This, in turn, makes shared memory’s relationship to morality and action different from that which stems from individual memory. This is memory that is based on keeping promises to generations that preceded and those that will follow. Memorialization and monuments can fulfill this ethical call, and have in many cases. It is when nation building and state politics try to control this process and dictate what a people should remember that ethical engagement tends to fall away.

Collective memory must be a relationship to the future; it must be a promise to the future. In this, monuments are less about what happened and more about where we are going. As Margalit writes “the memory that we need to keep our promises and follow through on our plans is this kind of prospective memory…to remember is to know and to know is to believe” (Margalit, 14).

This can be about deploying policy decisions, but it can also mean one policy might be followed rather than another based on what we are allowed to remember together. This makes Jordan’s MAI productive, but what ethics that follow from that productivity are unclear and must be understood contextually.

Call for Papers: 4S, 2016, Barcelona

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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)

2 of 3: Memory Architecture and Infrastructure (MAI)?

Ernst-Thaelmann-monument-640x426.jpg

Ernst Thälmann Memorial, Prenzlauer Berg, East Berlin (a commonly defaced memorial of a communist leader tortured by Nazis).

First, I’d like to thank our guest blogger this week Jordan Andrew for his intriguing post “The Architecture and Infrastructure of Memory (MAI),” which was a new topic to me.

Second, the picture in his post was original, he revealed in comments later on, which makes Jordan one of our best guest bloggers we’ve ever had.

So, my post follows-up on the original. Close readers will notice that my title is identical, with one exception, the “?”. The question mark has to do with a discussion that ensued after the post appeared. Deliberation ensued regarding whether or not “MAI facilitates (and limits) possibilities and creates complex connections between these possibilities” or if “what connects them is actually” Jordan’s post? That discussion is here; however, the sticking-points include that “there are no actual/infrastructural networks” (per Jordan’s opening line of paragraph 1) and that “memory is a thing we do and not a thing in the world right” (per Jordan’s closing line of paragraph 1).

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Island Worlds – Photo exhib on the A&N Islands

Coming up in less than a week, in Pune, India – ‘Island Worlds’ my new photo exhibition on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands

The photographs have all been specially reproduced on silk fabric to offer a new visual and aesthetic experience even as they explore the many moods and dimensions of the islands that I have myself seen and experienced over the last two decades.

At the inauguration on February 13, the poetry-music band, Mystic, will present a new concert ‘Singing the sea’ that will evoke the spirit of our world of water.

See
https://www.facebook.com/pankaj.sekhsaria/posts/10153629292299079
‪#‎thelastwave‬ ‪#‎islandworlds‬

Post 1 of 3: The Architecture and Infrastructure of Memory (MAI)

Leviathan Monument

Hobbes’ Leviathan frontispiece revisited: Dingpolitik and object-oriented governance.

 

What is the connection between the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and the National Holocaust Monument currently being built in Ottawa, Canada? (Chalmers:105) Though this question seems rather peculiar at first, the answer is far less obscure when considered within the context of memory architecture and infrastructure (MAI). This is because MAI is intricately bound up in both remembrance and sovereignty.

The connection between memory and the authority or power to govern is nothing new: the correspondence between the two was established in early Greek mythology. According to Hesiod’s Theogony, the ability to rule over others was granted to certain favoured individuals by the Muses through their unique bond with their mother Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory and guardian over what should be remembered. As history would have it, memory would be stolen from Mnemosyne along with Hephaistos’ fire (thanks to our friend Prometheus) and humanity (led by the privileged few) became able to record their own past via material culture and technology. Mnemonic technologies (texts, film, photographs, commemorations, digital memory, the internet, etc.) have become increasingly complex, varied, and augmented as those responsible for filling the void left by Mnemosyne go about constructing our past(s).

However, though the figuration of memory has changed over time, the relationship has remained very similar: those who possess the ability to shape what is remembered and how it is re-collected are in an auspicious position to exercise sovereign rule, and inversely, those who wish to maintain such authority take a special interest in doing so. This is in part why memory studies scholars have written so extensively on both the more recent proliferation of commemorations (memorials, monuments, etc.) and their role as part of modern state attempts to reconstruct the past. The salience of state-sponsored memorials and monuments is particularly distinguishable in national capitals, where commemorative landscapes are often extremely composite and interconnected.

As a specific example of mnemonic technology, memorials and monuments are durable structures that have become delegates or heads of populations that are the punctualized result of previously formed assemblages composed of a multiplicity of actors (politicians, special interest groups, community organizations, artists, architects, city planners, academics, government organizations/departments, etc.). To say that these sites and their structures are delegates is to say that they ‘speak’ on behalf of the array of different actors who had gathered to establish them (and have since become ‘silent’ – an effect of punctualization), but it is also to say that they represent histories, specific events, ideologies and ideals, among other knowledges. Additionally, they participate in a discussion with a host of other such memorial delegates that exist within local, national, and international commemorative networks: with other delegates representing punctualized networks that then come together to form even larger commemorative networks.

It is these networks that form what is referred to here as memory infrastructure, or the organization of various punctualized assemblages that have been made durable (and to an extent more stable) through practices of art, design, and architecture.

Why is it important that we recognize MAI? Just like roads, sidewalks, trails, electricity, the internet, power plants, etc… MAI facilitates (and limits) possibilities and creates complex connections between these possibilities for both individuals and governments. This is how Canadian economic or foreign policy can be connected to a mass genocide in Europe during the 1940s (as well as a myriad of other seemingly unrelated issues). Memory infrastructure and architecture establish thoroughfares that align a variety of translated interests in order to guarantee (as much as possible) a certain range of agencies: in this case, the governments ability to successfully deploy policy decisions.

Squirrels, Sharks, and Eagles, oh my!

While teaching STS, I was recently talking to my students about what constitutes an “internet attack.” The students arrived with clear examples in mind (and in hand, which was part of the assignment). The answers were primarily in the form of human-based hacking projects, and, as most of you know, they are abound. Giving the timing of the assignment, most of the cases had something to do with hacks against the US, hacks against power production facilities, and financial institutions.

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However, one student brought this: Sharks, replete with jokes about Sharknado as evidence of the prowess of the shark. Seeing as how a previous lesson was about ANT, with an emphasis on non-human agents as not-to-be-ignored agents in understanding social order, broadly speaking, this was a sign that at least one student “really got it.”

Another student brought in this: an eagle hitting a drone, hard.

Not a few days pass, and the blog’s oldest friend, dmf, sends me to a great website, half-serious, half-satire, CyberSquirrel1. The site is a terrific description of how our critical infrastructure is seemingly the most danger from other nation-states; however, the empirical materials do not seem to suss-out such an explanation; in fact, squirrels and other non-humans are responsible for more “attacks” than anyone else.

Makes for a great lesson if you want to find a fresh new way to bring infrastructure and the agentic role of nonhumans into the classroom in a way that is, to my mind, far better to the early discussions that Latour made about stop signs or door hinges.

This May Be the Best “Acknowledgments” Section of All Time

Most Honest Acknowledgements Section I’ve Seen

the way of improvement leads home

This morning I finally made it to the book exhibit at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Atlanta.  (More on that in a later post). While browsing at the Oxford University Press booth I came across Brendan Pietsch‘s Dispensational Modernism.   

I met the author of this new intellectual history of American Protestant fundamentalism a few years ago at an event sponsored by the Louisville Institute.  At the time I think he was still working on his dissertation at Duke University.

When I picked up his book and turned to the Acknowledgments this is what I found:

Pietsch

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A river’s journey

A river’s journey

“Rising along the eastern slopes of the Agasthyamalai range of the Western Ghats, the Tamirabarani river travels a short 125 kilometres before reaching the Gulf of Mannar near Punnaikayal. Passing through Tirunelveli and Thoothukkudi districts in Tamil Nadu, it spells life for those in the dry and arid plains along this part of the south-eastern coast of India. …”

 

Continuing from my last post on the forests of KMTR, in India’s southern western ghats, here is a feature on the River Tamabarani that originates in these mountains – the journey of a river from source to the sea, from the canopy to the coast and the many things that happen along the way…This feature appeared in The Hindu Sunday Magazine on October 18, 2015, and really really underlines the nature’s infrastructure theme for me in more ways than one. For the full text and more pics click here

 

NEW BOOK: Assembling Policy

Portada final

I am Sebastian Ureta and Nicholas has invited me to discuss my new (November 2015) book Assembling Policy.

Also, I owe a big thank you to MIT Press for publishing Assembling Policy!

For readers of the blog: Given past interest in Foucault, the origins of governmentality, and hybrid infrastructures, I thought the book would be of interest, seeing as how I mix classic STS with governmentality studies (among other things). I’ve published in The Information Society, Social Studies of Science, Organization, Public Understanding of Science, Urban Studies, and a few other places, if you’re curious about other work.

The case: I analyze the Transantiago, a mayor infrastructural policy carried out in Santiago, Chile in 2007 with utterly disastrous results. You can see the publisher’s overview bellow.

*I am happy to expand/comment on any of the book’s contents — please ask in the comments!

Publisher’s Overview:

Policymakers are regularly confronted by complaints that ordinary people are left out of the planning and managing of complex infrastructure projects. In this book, Sebastián Ureta argues that humans, both individually and collectively, are always at the heart of infrastructure policy; the issue is how they are brought into it. Ureta develops his argument through the case of Transantiago, a massive public transportation project in the city of Santiago, proposed in 2000, launched in 2007, and in 2012 called “the worst public policy ever implemented in our country” by a Chilean government spokesman.

 

Ureta examines Transantiago as a policy assemblage formed by an array of heterogeneous elements—including, crucially, “human devices,” or artifacts and practices through which humans were brought into infrastructure planning and implementation. Ureta traces the design and operation of Transantiago through four configurations: crisis, infrastructuration, disruption, and normalization. In the crisis phase, humans were enacted both as consumers and as participants in the transformation of Santiago into a “world-class” city, but during infrastructuration the “active citizen” went missing. The launch of Transantiago caused huge disruptions, in part because users challenged their role as mere consumers and instead enacted unexpected human devices. Resisting calls for radical reform, policymakers insisted on normalizing Transantiago, transforming it into a permanent failing system. Drawing on Chile’s experience, Ureta argues that if we understand policy as a series of heterogeneous assemblages, infrastructure policymaking would be more inclusive, reflexive, and responsible.

KMTR’s one-mile corridor

KMTR’s one-mile corridor

The story of how a small patch of forest in India’s southern-western ghats (a global biodiversity hotspot) was saved in the 1970s…at it’s heart is the work in the decade of the 70s of two American primatologists, who were studying the rare and endemic Lion-tailed macaque, the enimatic, canopy dwelling primate of these forests…These forests are also the source of much of the water security of the region (a key point in the natural infrastructure’s that I’ve been discussing a bit on this blog!!)

For the full story including some incredible 1970s pics of the region by the primatologists see http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/conservation/field-reports/10169-kmtrs-one-mile-corridor

 

 

 

 

Threads of tenacity

Threads of tenacity

Continuing here from my last post – on the magic of indigo and the master Yellappa –  here is another older story of another such tradition and master-craftsman from the same part of the country…This is a feature on the technique of ikkat (tie-and-dye) weaving in the southern Indian state of Telangana; the story of K Narasimha…

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blink/article6488781.ece#im-image-001 chitiki Business line02chitiki Business line2

Pankaj Sekhsaria is Joining Us!

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Pankaj Sekhsaria, our most recent guest blogger, has agreed to join us for the long-term. 

Pankaj is a doctoral candidate from Maastricht University Science and Technology Studies. He just gave us a great piece on indigo, cotton, and dying infrastructure. You might recall mention of research on jugaad, but Pankaj’s work is so much more than that. If you review the academia.edu page, then you’ll see a substantial amount more about jugaad, including an engaging and well-read newspaper piece about the topic,  along with a piece in Current Science, India’s leading science journal, and there is also a chapter is an edited volume that is worth the read. Pankaj is also author of The Last Wave, a novel that is engrossing — I’m learning — and that was well-received on the topic of deforestation and, I think, finding meaning in a world ravened by capitalism’s insufferable appetite.

Welcome aboard, Pankaj!

Co-opting Participation Infrastructure?

DDD

Kenny Cuppers has a cool set of papers on the rise of shared “cultural centers” in major Postwar European cities. His is the first substantive chapter in a not-yet published book, which seems tailor-made for his research line, and which acts as a kind of companion piece for his published article “The Cultural Center: Architecture as Cultural Policy in Postwar Europe.”

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Last of the blues

Last of the Blues

Remembering the exceptional Yellappa, a man who carried the knowledge, skill and practice of colouring cotton yarn with natural indigo as part of a rich tradition in the Indian sub-continent.

In The Hindu Sunday Magazine, December 13, 2015

 

 

 

Infrastructural Lives, Reviewed

Add this one to your reading list: Steve Graham and Colin McFarlane have edited a book, which has just come out, Infrastructural Lives

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

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3:1 — Post-Neutrality –Post 3 of 3

I sat down to finish this third post in our three part series on “post-neutrality” and realized that while I am an informed citizen on the issues around net neutrality, I wasn’t sure what I could add to the excellent conversation happening this week (the first two here and here). I signed the petitions and sent my testimony to the relevant government agencies. I told them of the importance of protecting our access to the Internet from corporate control. I keep up on the issue as it disappears and reappears in the news.

I decided the direction to go for my addition was to look more closely at the idea of neutrality itself and how it works. How does neutrality function when discussing politics? As Nicholas pointed out, “neutrality” often works as a grand narrative like those of human emancipation: neutrality as a modern dream hid our biases and prejudices. And, as I would like to highlight in this blog, neutrality as a “hypothetical political position” often works to sustain the status quo.

It seems in many cases neutrality is a privilege and often not neutral at all, but rather blind to its privileged position. Neutrality means being able to have an absence of views or expression; a neutral party would have to have enough power to stand apart from a situation. One could argue that this is ideology working at its most efficient and powerful. Most of us are subject to forces that make us take a position in political and social contexts. Poland couldn’t be neutral in WWII, a black man faced with a cop’s aggression and drawn weapon, or a woman defending herself against her abusive husband can’t be neutral. Neutrality is not afforded to the oppressed. A stand is forced upon you. Sometimes it is personal violence and other times it is the pressure of racist or sexist institutions, unequal economic systems, and more often than not, it is that power that declares its neutrality. “I am the law: the law works equally for all. ” Continue reading

3:1 — Post-Neutrality — Post 2 of 3

neutrality

Neutrality is under fire, or, at minimum, “not finalized” (whatever that means), possibly, even dead. I am surprised, in light of discussions of postmodernism over the intervening decades, that we humor the metanarrative of human emancipation embedded in “net neutrality” in the first place. Continue reading

3:1 — Post-Neutrality — Post 1 of 3

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Thirty years ago, in 1985, the historian Mel Kranzberg proposed a “series of truisms” starting with Kranzberg’s first law: “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.”

Eighteen years later, in 2003, the law professor Timothy Wu coined the term “network neutrality” to refer to a “a system of beliefs about innovation.” Wu characterized defenders of this system of beliefs as “Internet Darwinians.” He approved of their theory of innovation—namely, that the Internet should be “indifferent both to the physical communications medium ‘below’ it, and the applications running ‘above’ it.” As a result, Wu argued, network neutrality was an “attractive” and “suitable goal of Internet communications policy.”

The simple version of my argument here is: listen to Kranzberg, and be wary of Internet Darwinians. Technologies aren’t neutral, so we shouldn’t defend norms or make laws that pretend they are.

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Our final 3:1 on “Post-Neutrality”

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Is neutrality over? If you’re talking about “net neutrality,” at least in the US, that case is going to appeals court (so maybe Tim Wu’s concept will not last long). If you’re talking about “political neutrality” amidst news outlets, again in the US, that bird also appears to have flown the coop (that, or the bias is so deep we cannot even tell anymore). Maybe neutrality was always something of a modern dream. Maybe it was always just a hypothetical philosophical position. Maybe only “neutral countries” Switzerland have it figured out.

A case can be made for post-neutrality, and this week, joining us, is Andrew L. Russell (Stevens Institute of Technology, arussell@stevens.edu | @RussellProf | http://www.arussell.org).

 

Latour on Paris Attacks

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Latour on Paris Attacks: 

What is so discouraging about the terrorist acts is that our discussion of what motivated the operations is as insane as the acts themselves. With each attack of this nature, we restage the grand war drama, the nation in peril and the protector-state purporting to rise up against barbarity. This is what states do, we say: we should have a basic expectation of security, and the state should have the means to provide it. End of story.

But what makes the current situation so much more dismaying is that the crimes committed on 13 November have occurred within a few days of another event about to take place that involves tragedies of a different kind, ones that will require that we come up with very different answers to wholly different threats that have nothing to do with ISIS/Daech. I am referring, of course, to the World Climate Change Conference in Paris, the COP21, which we are now liable to deem less serious, less urgent than the police response to the bloody escapades of those machinegun-toting lunatics.

See the rest here and here.

Presentation: 4S, 2015

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4S 2015 Denver is our (Jan-H and I’s) presentation from, unsurprisingly, 4S 2015 (Denver), wherein we reflect on the trends and recurrent themes in our five years of organizing panels around STS, governance, and the state, which we are now calling simply “Social Studies of Politics.” We have a chapter summarizing a bit of this in “Knowing Governance,” but the paywall is steep, steep!

CfP: “The Platform Society”

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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

Smart Fitness Infrastructure

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Report from 4S in Denver

In a session “The Reflexive Turn in Art and Science Studies: Art and Science 1: Power Relations in Art and Science Studies: Methods of Analysis” (long title, right?), Paula Gardner (OCAD University) gave a fascinating talk about smart fitness infrastructure titled “Pull, Process, Print: Aesthetic Interventions in Biodata.”

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Gardner talked about the, for lack of a better phrase for me as a sociologist, the McDonaldization (or rationalization) of personal activity and the tracking of voluntary self-care activities such as step-counting with pedometers, distances-estimates for biking, calorie-burning for running, and so on. Think: any infrastructure for health as manifested in stuff like Fitbit.

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Topics discussed included data fetichism, that data are not raw but always appear already processed for the user, that they assume a base-line, for example, size or step, that we are quantifying the self ourselves, that it is important for us to compare one another in this fitness architecture, that our activity levels may be used against us at work where we need to appear like active and productive employees (or else), and that there may be forms of “interference” (among other things) that these trackers impose upon our lives, our work-outs, and our health that are yet unknown. In all, a fascinating piece.

The Future Multiple

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New paper out that tackles a few issues about the ontological character of the future as it is enacted in practices of planning for it. Co-authored with Matthew Spaniol (see him here and here), an Industrial Ph.D. Fellow at Danish Maritime, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark. The paper is “The Future Multiple.”

*http://cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/e4acc771-e904-4efd-b626-16eee9b95e19/6c3a5e4c-4e63-481f-8389-30ccc16a2ad9.jpg

Frugal and Reverse Innovations – Quo Vadis?

*Frugal and Reverse Innovations – Quo Vadis?*
by Henri Simula, Mokter Hossain and Minna Halme
*Current Science*, 10 November 2015, 109(9), 1567-1572.
*Abstract*: The concepts of frugal and reverse innovations are recent
entrants to the innovation literature. Frugal innovation conveys the
important idea of innovating under circumstances of resource scarcity.
Reverse innovation refers to another significant turn in thinking and
practice – innovations from low-income contexts can enter wealthier markets,
a major shift from the previous innovation paradigm. There are some
hallmark examples of these types of innovations but the current academic
literature is still limited. The purpose of this article is to study these
concepts and present a conceptual framework that combines underlying
drivers. We also present ideas for future research avenues.

*Download Full-Text PDF*:
http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/109/09/1567.pdf

History of Technology: Call for Papers

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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

IO: Infrastructure Observatory

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Infrastructure Observatory (IO) is a “community devoted to exploring and celebrating the infrastructural landscape.”

Their mission: “to render visible the oft-invisible guts of modern life, and foster chapters of enthusiasts around these structures throughout the world.”

The group recently came out with this pocket-sized waterproof book about “shipping containers and the corporations that own them” (The Container Guide, 2015). They also held MacroCity, a cool-looking group of critical panels and city infrastructure tours wrapped into one conference.

Their main page is a little with interesting photographs of urban infrastructure — check it out. As of right now (late 2015), they are — somewhat obviously — set in major metropolitan areas: San Francisco, New York, and London. However, I’d love to see, in the future, groups like this China, India, or elsewhere.

Patterns of COMMONING

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Promises to be very interesting….
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Patterns of COMMONING
What accounts for the persistence and spread of “commoning,” the irrepressible desire of people to collaborate and share to meet everyday needs? How are the more successful projects governed? And why are so many people embracing the commons as a powerful strategy for building a fair, humane and Earth-respecting social order? Continue reading

Decoloniality Mini-Conference

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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.

A Jugaad reading list

Since it was jugaad that got Nicholas to get me to blog on Installing (Social) Order, here’s a ‘jugaad reading list’ that I’ve used in the writing of my doctoral dissertation. It’s reasonably comprehensive and is a combination of newspaper articles, Journal publications and also books. Some of these are accessible online and I do have pdfs of many of the journal publications – so if anyone is looking for the full text please email me at psekhsaria@gmail.com


A Jugaad reading list

Birtchnell, T. (2011). Jugaad as systemic risk and disruptive innovation in India. Contemporary South Asia, 19(4), 357–372.

Bound, K., & Thornton, I. (2012). Our Frugal Future: Lessons from India’s Innovation System. London: Nesta.

Cappelli, P., Singh, H., Singh, J., & Useem, M. (2011). The India Way – How India’s Top Business Leaders are Revolutionizing Management. Boston, Massachusets: Harvard Business Press.

Datta, P. (2010). A Case Study Special on Innovation – Making Aspirations Count (Editorial). In P. Datta (Ed.), (p. 4). New Delhi: BusinessWorld.

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2016 Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) Annual Meeting – Singapore

SHOT ANNUAL MEETING 2016
http://www.historyoftechnology.org/call_for_papers/index.html

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.

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NatureCulture, Casper Bruun Jensen (Free On-line)

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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.”

More on the wildlife-infrastructure conundrum

Continuing along the lines of my earlier post, Wildlife’s Infrastructure nightmare, here are links to two very recent news-reports on this wildlife-infrastructure link, if it can be called that…
a) Cutting a rail-link through a forests cuts off the corridor for primate movement and then we construct a bridge to bridge the earlier cut…The story of a rare primate in a small forest of the North-east Indian state of Assam
Bridge to connect gibbon families

and
b) And in the same region of the country, a wild Asian elephant dies, when human negligence results in the electrocution of the pachyderm when he comes in contact with a live high-tension electric cable: The death of an elephant

Wildlife’s infrastructure nightmare

Dear Friends,

I’m very honored and excited to be invited as a guest blogger on Installing (Social) Order and am hoping I can make some interesting and valuable contributions. And I start here on the issue of infrastructure, but from a completely different vantage point – that of wilderness and wildlife. One on my key interests going back more than 2 decades is wildlife conservation in South Asia, the part of the planet I belong to and have been living in since I was born. As part of my work with the environmental NGO Kalpavriksh, I have been editing a newsletter on wildlife for over 18 years now. It is called the Protected Area Update, and one issue that comes up repeatedly is the impact on wildlife, wilderness and the environment on account of our relentless drive to create more and more and more ‘infrastructure’. It is something I keep reporting and commenting on and here is one small editorial I wrote for the February 2012 issue of the newsletter. It’s a little old if one goes by the date, but the concerns on the ground today are just as real if not actually more acute. The piece is also a little India specific, but I think it captures the challenges and that is why I’m sharing it here.

And here’s where you can access the entire 24 page newsletter in case you are interested in reading the specific newsletter or the entire set check Protected Area Update – 2012

WILDLIFE’S INFRASTRUCTURE NIGHTMARE

(Editorial, Protected Area Update Vol. XVIII, No. 1, February 2012)

More roads that penetrate deeper, railway lines that connect better and faster, dam projects for power and irrigation, coal mining for more electricity, high-tension power lines to evacuate that electricity…. This is one side of India’s infrastructure and constantly lauded growth story.

There is another side to that very story which reads something like the following: Roads that cut through rich forests, railways lines that regularly kill elephants, dam projects that drown pristine forests and wildlife habitats, coal mining that rips apart tiger corridors, high tension lines that kill elephants in Orissa and flamingoes in Gujarat…

From the Nallamalla forests of Andhra Pradesh to the valley of the Alaknanda in Uttarakhand; from the elephant forests of Orissa to the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat – the story is the same – what is unfolding is nothing short of a nightmare for India’s wildlife. The infrastructure for our automobiles, power and lifestyles is leaving nothing of the natural infrastructure that the wild denizens need. As we travel faster, longer, and deeper and as the GDP becomes the only mantra, the elephants, the tigers, the leopards and even the flamingoes are getting hemmed in more and more with every passing day.

The fate of the flamingoes in Gujarat highlights this starkly. Their only option on being disturbed at night by vehicular noise in the Great Rann was to fly into high-tension wires hanging above and get charred instantly. Between the vehicle and the wire, India’s beleaguered wildlife is getting sandwiched and slaughtered like never before.

One ‘eco’ – the economic is soaring as everything ecologic is being torn to shreds. The tragic irony is that the same system sells to us and to the world the prowling tiger, the gamboling elephant, the soaring birds and, yes, the dancing tribal as ‘Incredible India’. We at the PA Update are part of a small crowd that’s watching on with incredulity. And with despair.

Call for Papers: Technoscience and the State

Special Issue on “Science, Technology, and the State”

Nicholas J. Rowland, Govind Gopakumar, and Jan-Hendrik Passoth

Call for Papers: Editors for the journal Engaging Science, Technology and Society (ESTS) have read our proposal and encouraged us to develop papers to submit as a thematic collection (i.e., special issue) on technoscience and the state. We are accepting proposals for scholarly research articles that engage and advance a theoretical and empirical synthesis of technoscience and the state. We invite a range of scholars from advanced graduate students to more experienced faculty members to contribute to this effort.

Submissions: Please send a title and abstract (250 words) to Dr. Govind Gopakumar by December 12, 2015 (govind.gopakumar@concordia.ca). Notification of interest in paper proposals will arrive within one month (no later than January 12, 2016).

Full call: SpecialIssue-ESTS-call

Pankaj Sekhsaria: Guest Blogger

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Pankaj Sekhsaria (doctoral candidate from Maastricht University Science and Technology Studies) will join us for the next month on the blog. You might recall mention of research on jugaad, but Pankaj’s work is so much more than that. If you review the academia.edu page, then you’ll see a substantial amount more about jugaad, including an engaging and well-read newspaper piece about the topic,  along with a piece in Current Science, India’s leading science journal, and there is also a chapter is an edited volume that is worth the read. Pankaj is also author of The Last Wave, a novel that is engrossing — I’m learning — and that was well-received on the topic of deforestation and, I think, finding meaning in a world ravened by capitalism’s insufferable appetite.

This is truly a joy to welcome Pankaj to the blog. Please join me in welcoming our guest.

STS Summer School

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Check out this call for STS Summer School at University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Some details:

Science and Technology Studies Summer School: Disclosing/Enclosing Knowledge in the Life Sciences

July 11-15, 2016
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, Madison WI

Applications from students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, and humanities for a five-day summer school that will provide training in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) are invited. This seminar is an excellent opportunity for graduate students who are interested in incorporating social and humanistic perspectives on science and technology into their research, and require an advanced level introduction to the field.

Infrastructure Toolbox

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This is a useful resource for anyone writing about or thinking about infrastructure from a big name (Gupta) and a rising star (Anand), it is the notion of an “infrastructure toolbox.”

One of the bottom-line insights appears to be that STS has had an impact on general thinking about infrastructure, in particular, legitimizing the “social” study of it (think: infrastructure ethnography, which I’ve discussed before too, especially in relationship to jugaad). Thus, we ask, what does infrastructure mean, even metaphorically, for “theory-making?”

Here is the opening passage (and it is freely available on-line): 

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