Promising Post-4S Conference at LSE

Just got this from Peer Schouten, PhD Researcher, School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg and it looks promising:

Call for papers

 Accounting for heterogeneities in the international: writing symmetry, engaging with criticality

A double panel and a seminar hosted by Theory Talks & Millennium during the 2012 Annual Millennium Conference


October 20-22 2012, at the London School of Economics

Conveners: Rocco Bellanova, Julien Jeandesboz, Peer Schouten


Technical devices such as algorithms, databases, and robots mediate the production of (in)security and the conduct of war; ‘non-places’ such as financial markets remap and reshape the exercise of state sovereignty; previously established distributions such as between ‘private’ and ‘public’ entities are increasingly entangled in hybrid assemblages. These and other heterogeneities of the international are part of a renewed focus on materialities and material practices in international relations (IR).

World politics is thus increasingly recognized as involving the participation of multiplicities of heterogeneous elements, many of which were until now smoothened out in mainstream IR accounts. When IR researchers shift their analytical lenses, they bring into focus agencies and practices that actively contribute to the assembling of the international—in doing so, they intervene in, and reformulate some of, IR’s most classical concerns. Point of departure for this workshop is that dealing with such seemingly new world politics, and accounting for these constitutive heterogeneities, however remains a difficult challenge.

 Aim of the event

The main goal of the event is to bring together researchers that, in different ways, depart from an understanding of IR premised on homogeneity and engage with entanglements and multiplicities that go beyond rational choice and inter-subjective social constructions. The ambition is to foster debates and exchanges on shared concerns with accounting for heterogeneities in the international. In particular, the aim of this event is to bring to the fore the potentialities and pitfalls of working with ‘thinking tools’ that hail from beyond the traditional disciplinary horizons of IR, such actor-network-theory (ANT), science, technology and society studies (STS), or performance theories.

 Structure of the event

This event consists of two conference panels and a seminar. The seminar, structured around two sessions and a keynote speech, will take place on Monday the 22nd, the day after the Millennium Conference.

 Conference panels

Each conference panel revolves around a specific theme: first, symmetries in the international; and second, the black-boxing of security. The first panel—symmetries—opens up analysis of entanglements of discourse and practice, social and material, in the constitution of the international; the second panel—black-boxing—addresses the politics of ‘securitization’ from a different angle, focusing on the processes of silencing, stabilizing, and separating out people, flows, and practices.

The participants are expected to contribute papers presenting their angle on, and use of, these concepts in relation to their own research. In order to foster a hybrid discussion, each panel will have two discussants, both an ‘outsider’ (from the fields of STS, ANT, or sociology) and a senior IR scholar discussing papers and presenting their understandings/applications of the notions at hand. The two conference panels will translate into two homonymous workshop sessions.

 Panel 1: Accounting for symmetries in the international

The first panel opens up analysis of assemblages or entanglements of for instance, discourse and practice, social and material, human and technical in the constitution of the international. It opens up space for contributions specifically trying to create balanced accounts of international phenomena that can most fruitfully be approached as heterogeneous or constituted across the ontological divides that traditionally structure analysis of international relations.

 Panel 2: Black-boxing international security

This second panel addresses the politics of ‘securitization’ from a different angle, focusing on the processes of silencing, stabilizing, and separating out people, flows, and practices. How do dominant security solutions and securitizations arise out of controversies and how are competing understandings, configurations and practices silenced and how are security practices themselves used to stabilize other assemblages?

 All participants need to submit a paper specifically focusing on one of the two panels. Co-authored contributions are particularly welcomed. Abstracts of around 300 words are due by May 1 and should be submitted both to and


This second part of the event shifts the accent to ethical and methodological issues, that is, the question of how to account for heterogeneities. It will take the form of two roundtables connected to the homonymous panels in which participants (both previous paper-givers and discussants/chairs) will be asked to share and discuss their own hesitancies, their tactics and ploys when confronted with the challenge of writing accounts of heterogeneities in the international. The seminar additionally aims at addressing questions as: what are the limits of translating STS/ANT into new fields? Is critical engagement still possible when the starting point of the research is symmetry? How can we be reflexive (and do we need to be) with regard to the researcher’s own practices of translating, black-boxing and assembling?

Participation to the seminar is open to all researchers participating to the Millennium conference. While presentations will trigger the debate among participants, the chairs will ensure that stimulating questions (and answers) coming from the public will not be lost.

 Seminar: How-to account for heterogeneities in the international?

 09:00-10:30     Roundtable session 1. Accounting for symmetries in the international

Chairs: Rocco Bellanova & Nick Srnicek

 10:30-10:45     Coffee break

 10:45-12:15     Roundtable session 2. Black-boxing international security

Chairs: Julien Jeandesboz & Peer Schouten

 12:15-13:00     Keynote speech: John Law (tbc)

 13:00               Closing by Millennium/Theory Talks


Not an open panel…Methodologies and Theories of Scale

As CfPs for “Open Panels” at 4S/EASST are frequently flooding our email clients at these days a remarkable regular panel (I actually have just seen two of them) is focussing on a topic we have discussed a few times: “Methodologies and Theories of Scale”. As regular panels are such a rare thing this year, I would really encourage people to send in good papers for this one – I would love to see good talks and papers on that topic. And no: I do not know Max Liboiron personally, this is not a friend´s recommendation 🙂

CFP: Methodologies and Theories of Scale
Panel proposal for 4S Annual Conference
October 17-20, 2012, Copenhagen, Denmark

Scale is not about being big or small. At different scales, different relationships matter. In the last two decades, there have been heated contests over the meanings and methodologies of scale, not the least because our historical moment faces economic systems, power structures, and ecological problems at global and planetary scopes. In these contexts, the use of the term “scale” is often unreflective and scholars inadvertently create “scalar fallacies,” particularly in the realm of environmental advocacy and design, where the scale of the problem and the scale of the solution are mismatched. This panel invites scholars whose work explicitly deals with theories and methodologies of scale, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • the epistemological versus the ontological aspects of scale
  • how interscalar relationships are defined and investigated
  • the relationships between time and space at different scales
  • the implications of terms and ideas such as “global,” glocal” and “planetary”
  • problems presented by designing technologies or actions meant to address different scales
  • methodologies that test designs and actions for scalability
  • methodologies that address scalar politics, and/or the politics of scale
  • designing technologies, policies or actions for specific scales
  • innovations in scalar theories or methods

Please send a 250 word abstract and CV to by
March 10th, 2012.

Note that acceptance onto this panel does not guarantee acceptance
into the conference, as the panel as a whole must go through the 4S
acceptance process. The title and description of this panel are
mutable, and we will adapt each to the types of submissions received.

Max Liboiron is a PhD Candidate at New York University in the Media,
Culture, and Communication Dept.

4S/EASST Open Panels: Program Practice

Copenhagen is coming closer every day – only 263 days to go until the next 4S/EASST joint meeting will take place this October. Nicholas already announced that we are going to organize a so called Open Panel on “On states, stateness and STS: Government(ality) with a small ‘g’?” which can hold up to 15 papers. I repeat the call here: we are still looking for good contributions – please feel free to contact us!


(c) Photo: Tobias Sieben

As there are 106 panels in 10 thematic fields many of you might have noticed the flood of emails with CfPs on the various STS lists. Although the list of Open Panels is included in the overall CfP many (we are no exception) felt the necessity to individually post the call. You might have guesses that this has to with promoting our own work, but well…no, that is not the reasons. The reason is: software.

Here is why: To submit a paper to an Open Panel the submitted has to tick a checkbox – that is how a paper proposal gets linked to a panel. The problem for us organizers is the following: we do not know what has been submitted yet – there might already be 15 papers, there might be none. We simply cannot see that until the call is closed. So: the only way to get informed is getting individual notifications from those who submit. I guess that is the “secret” reason for individual calls: To remind potential submitters of who is organizing which panel individual calls are one opportunity…we still do not know the exact number of submissions until March 18th, but we can try to get an approximation. So: you would do us a real favor if you could send us a notice when you submit a paper to our panel. Thanks a lot!

Panels approved for 4S/EASST Copenhagen meeting

Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) 2012: Copenhagen


October 17-20, 2012, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark

Sessions: On states, stateness and STS: Government(ality) with a small “g”?

Organizers: Jan-HendrikPassoth,, Bielefeld University + Nicholas J. Rowland, Penn State, PA, USA

Description: The relationship between science, technology, and governance shapes and is shaped by states. While it has been influential in STS research on how modes of governance influence scientific practice and technological innovations, the converse question of the influence of both on governance is underrepresented.

This panel explores the inter-play between this relationship and its depiction in social/political theory. We engage and question well-trodden artifacts of social and political theory such as state entitivity, state materiality, and the much distributed Foucauldian model of stateness. What does STS have to offer broader social and political theory devoted to the depiction and performance of political action? Likewise, what can STS learn from these traditions that have shaped previous research on state formation, degradation, and revision? Hence, we explore empirically and conceptually the possibilities of research based on an STS approach to politics, states and stateness, governance and governmentality. Just like early lab-studies came back from the lab to inform us empirically about science with a small “s”, an STS approach to states and stateness would be the attempt to study govern(mentality) with a small “g”: It looks at the many interwoven processes of designing, planning, maintaining and displacing the infrastructural setting of modern political practice as well as the re-assembling of the respective actors and entities.

We propose an open panel, and anticipate two to three related sessions: we anticipate that one session focuses on conceptualization and theoretical approaches, dealing with the mechanisms and techniques of creating, maintaining and shifting the multiple ontologies of stateness. We also imagine that the additional sessions be devoted to papers that deliver a diverse set of case studies with empirical support on topics related to state ontology, state infrastructure, and techniques or practices of self-regulation under political (perhaps neoliberal) conditions.

Conference: Sustainable Transitions: Navigating Theories and Challenging Realities

We have had some discussion on Transitions. This is an upcoming conference in that area.

DTU Campus Lyngby

August 29, 2012 – August 31, 2012


3rd International Conference on Sustainability Transitions

Sustainable Transitions: Navigating Theories and Challenging Realities

August 29-31, 2012, Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark

Mail to organizers

The need for societal sustainability strategies is globally recognized and reflected in the coming Rio+20 Earth Summit. In the wake of the current international economic crisis such strategies are increasingly framed in a âgreen growthâ discourse, where economic and ecological problems are addressed through the promotion of clean technologies and âsmartâ solutions: Smart cities, smart grids and smart growth. While such efficiency strategies may provide for changes in specific sectors and cross-sector practices, they are not likely to facilitate the type of pervasive transformative changes at the system level needed to deal with the entrenched character of the current climate and resource utilisation challenges.

Previous STRN conferences in Amsterdam and Lund have explored the plurality of issues related to such transition processes. Various approaches have been developed to describe the path-dependency of socio-technical systemsâ developments and to explore and engage in transitionâs challenges.

This third IST conference hosted by the âSusTransâ research alliance in Denmark welcomes further explorative studies. Furthermore, it also aims to engage in the core research program of the community through deepening the analysis of how opportunities for transformative change of systems reconfigurations may be recognized and exploited. This includes strategies for changing or dismantling existing systems as well as nurturing diversity in solution frames.

The organizers encourage both contemporary and historic studies aiming to understand how societies have organised their socio-material interactions and how transitions evolve.

The ambition of IST 2012 is to offer a space for the exchange of experiences with a broad range of empirical investigations and interventions in the field of transition studies. These include studies of the contributions from firms, industries, organisations, social practices, consumption, civil society and social movements. It should also include studies of the territorial and spatial distribution of transition processes and the implications of transitions in the context of developing countries.

Important dates

Abstract submission:
31 January 2012
Notification of review:
28 February 2012
Full paper submission:
1 July 2012

Abstracts must be submitted to this conference site which will open for submissions from 12 January 2012.


Jan-Hendrik Passoth and I’s (Nicholas Rowland’s) comments at 4S

Jan and I organized Sessions 201 and 222 back-to-back on the topic of states, state measurement, and state theory. These talks and our comments were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Social Studies of Science in Cleveland, OH, November 05, 2011.

Session 201: Counting and Measuring

The relationship between science, technology, and governance is a relationship that shapes and is shaped by contemporary states. While this relationship has been influential in STS research on how contemporary modes of governance influence scientific practice and technological innovations, the converse question of the influence of both on governance is relatively underrepresented.

These sessions, therefore, take-up the task and explore this relationship and its depiction in history and social and political theory. The first session (session 201) is presenting a series of five case studies on the role of conflict, measurement and performativity for the enactment of stateness, drawing from rich empirical projects. The second session (session 222) is focusing on conceptualization and theoretical approaches, dealing mostly with the mechanisms and techniques of creating, maintaining and shifting the multiple ontologies of stateness.

Anat Leibler will show us the traditional science-state relationship, but from a new angle wherein the science of population measurement is embedded in states of conflict, in this case, being Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Hector Vera also emphasizes the central role of measurement, in his case; however, it is about measurement standards adopted by Mexico and the US, in a historical comparative case study approach.

Michael Rodriguez brings together the dual-tasks of counting and countings of populations, but on the level of micro-practices in his work on the role of “partnerships” with Latino communities that are often “undercounted” by traditional census techniques.

Keith Guzik returns our attention back to Mexico where rather than counting techniques or practices, he emphases the role of techno-infrastructure in his historical account of national security programs.

Daniel Barber also provides a historical view, but one more fine grained, drilling-deeply into the 1940s US Department of the Interior where two models of future energy use were evaluated quite openly; however, as we can all see, one of these methods has obviously become taken-for-granted.


Session 222: Theory and Ontology

Patrick Carroll shows us, through a detailed but theoretically oriented case study, how diverse, seemingly unrelated issues of water and water infrastructure became a – read, grouped or combined – political object of state governing.

Hendrik Vollmer describes another transformation which invokes the state; this time, however, through micro-measurement for sake of global comparison and regulation.

Erich Schienke grounds his paper in the fertile fodder of Ecocities in China, which do not yet fully exist (other than in discourse), showing how aggregated environmental indicators will be used, we think/he thinks, to re-position the Chinese state as an ecological civilization in the global theater of political action.

Kelly Moore’s (not in attendance) work challenges us to say “how does the state get into our bodies?” the answer to which turns out be a neoliberal story of government intervention into bodies through what she calls the promulgation of “pleasured self-discipline.”


Concluding Comments (once presentations end, and before questions):

All of the papers tackle the crucial, which we will crudely frame here as the classical concern over the relation between micro processes and macro entities. For example, the micro processes seen in Michael Rodriguez’s work on the day-to-day, on-the-ground counting of the undercounted, or Patrick Carroll’s work on water infrastructure where many seemingly distinct matters relating to people, land, and water where lashed-together and inverted to become one concern over water for some manner of macro entity usually referred to as the state. The relation between micro processes and macro entities is a debate worth studying.

And these presenters do much justice to this enduring debate by taking much more nuanced interpretations into their analyses, especially of counting practices, and their theoretical approaches to understanding where the state is and is not, and its multiple purported effects.

We observe empirically, and we all have seen this here today, that there are important similarities too between what we “see” on-the-ground and the conceptual tools we have inherited from our respective disciplines in sociology, history, geography, political science, and the like. The perhaps surprising link we speak of is between (a) the historically-embedded, highly-contingent, ongoing-accomplishments that we observe in our empirical investigations and (b) the conceptual apparatus that we invoke, as scholars.

To our minds, and this is our closing remark, which is perhaps c
ontroversial: it is of the utmost importance for scholars to remember that the concepts we make and their appearance and use in our field-sites are linked together. These are not merely opportunities to verify or reject our theories. Instead, they are valuable analytical opportunities to critically and empirically engage them.

Whether or not “the state” exists is a waste of our time; rather, it is precisely these ephemeral moments when, by whom, and how the state is brought into existence or invoked as a partner that we should direct our analytical and empirical attention to …  as we consider this a fertile site for STS’s group contribution to state theory.

2012 Digital Government Society Conference

Preparations for the 2012 Digital Government Society Conference (dg.o 2012) are underway, and we would welcome your participation in the conference. This marks the 13th annual conference, demonstrating a strong and vibrant international community of research and practice. Taking place at the University of Maryland College Park June 4-7, 2012, the conference will bring together e-Government researchers and practitioners to explore cutting edge research and best practices regarding e-Government initiatives.  Accepted papers are published in the ACM Proceedings Digital Library. 

Each year the conference combines:

  • Presentations of effective partnerships and collaborations among government professionals and agencies, university researchers, relevant businesses, and NGOs, as well as grassroots citizen groups, to advance the practice of e-Government.
  • Presentations and discussions on new research on e-Government as an interdisciplinary domain that lies at the intersections of information technology research, social and behavioral science research, and the challenges and missions of government.
  • Practice regarding e-Government projects, implementations, and initiatives that bring together the research and practitioner communities, demonstrate the effectiveness and/or challenges of e-Government, and offer best practices.  

Governments today face unprecedented opportunities and challenges. New technologies provide governments with the opportunity to redefine the relationship between government and the public that they serve, create innovative public services, provide customer-focused services, encourage transparency, promote participatory democracy, facilitate the co-design of services, form new partnerships in service delivery, streamline operations and reduce costs, and build trust in government. But harnessing and implementing technologies effectively raise a number of policy, technology, and governance challenges. This year, the conference program will focus on the ways governments and the e-Government research community can work collaboratively to leverage information and communication technologies as part of innovative and dynamic approaches to creating and implementing high quality, efficient, and effective e-Government.

Research, practice, and collaboration submissions addressing this theme could include but are not limited to: social media and public participation in digital government; effective use of social media by governments; crowd sourcing for government decision making; transformative government; open and transparent government; models of collaboration among government, industry, NGOs, and citizens; data  integration, visualizations, and analytics for government decision making; agile and flexible government; financial/economic/social policy making; government productivity and effectiveness; service quality and customer-centric e-Government; social and health infrastructure; global  government collaboration models and practices; infrastructure for data sharing among government agencies; computing infrastructure models,  cyber-security and project management; IT-enabled government management and operations, and interest in program execution; IT and tools to support government security; and methods to measure and evaluate success in e-Government.

In addition, we welcome submissions from the broader domain of e-Government research. We invite completed research papers, papers describing management and practice, policy, and case studies, student research papers, on-going research posters, and live demonstrations that demonstrate the use of technology to promote innovative e-Government services. We particularly encourage submissions on interdisciplinary and crosscutting topics. We also encourage the submission of suggestions for panels, and pre-conference tutorials and workshops.

More specific conference details are below. 

Kind regards,

John Carlo Bertot, President-Elect and Conference Chair
Hans Jochen Scholl, President

13th Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research (dg.o 2012)
Bridging Research and Practice
University of Maryland, College ParkMD
Monday– Thursday, June 4-7, 2012
General inquiries:
Paper submissions:



Important Dates:

Jan 22, 2012               Papers, doctoral colloquium papers, workshop, tutorial, and panel proposals due 
March 7, 2012            Paper, doctoral colloquium, workshop, tutorial, and panel acceptance notifications
Mar 16, 2012             Poster and demo proposals due 
Mar 30, 2012            Camera-ready manuscripts due
April 6, 2012              Poster and demo acceptance notifications

May 4, 2012               Early registration closes
Jun 4-7, 2012             dg.o 2012 conference



NSF meeting at 4S in a few weeks

STS Events

Interested in funding from the National Science Foundation?

November 05 2011 | Social Studies of Science annual meeting

Hear about important changes to the Science, Technology and Society Program solicitation coming on or about November 1, 2011, new STS-related funding opportunities at NSF, and requirements for data management plans. Saturday, November 5, 12:15-1:15, Crowne Plaza, Owens. To schedule an individual meeting or phone call, contact me at .

Call for Papers: Performing ANT ??? Socio-Material Practices of Organizing, 17-18 February 2012, St. Gallen

Just got that a few days ago and forgot to post it here – now as I am preparing for three weeks of “off-time” (meaning: a bit of traveling and weeks of being online only once every few days) I had to post it.

Reading that I thought: what does it mean that workshops that specifically use “ANT” in their title are mostly workshops for younger scholars? Just wonder…

Personal Health Records and patient- oriented infrastructures

International workshop on Personal Health Record 

Personal Health Records and patient- oriented infrastructures 

Empowering, involving, and enrolling patients through information systems: 

Trento, Faculty of Sociology 

via Verdi, 26 

12-13 December 2011

Deadline for abstracts submission: September 30th 2011

Notification to authors: October 15th 2011

Personal Health Record (PHR) has become a popular label to refer to a wide range of patient-controlled information systems aimed at allowing laypeople to access, manage, share and supplement their medical information. Launched in the US at the beginning of the new millennium, PHRs are spreading in Europe (especially in the UK and Scandinavia), where one witnesses an increasing number of experimental systems that vary to suit the local healthcare context. Nevertheless, these technologies appear to be in their infancy, as clearly demonstrated by the low rate of PHR actually implemented in real-life settings compared with the (relatively) high numbers of trials.

Whilst there is still little evidence that PHRs may affect healthcare, they are regarded by different actors (policymakers, healthcare managers, patients’ association, doctors) as “holding out great promise” to revolutionize it by reducing medical errors, cutting costs, increasing patient awareness and control over their health, and providing physicians with information in emergency situations – to mention only some of the potential benefits. This new ‘patient role’, proactive and characterized by greater control and responsibility over one’s health, is reinforced by the very existence of an electronic tool, suggesting that these new activities require an information system somehow similar to those used by doctors. The name itself, PHR, recalls the acronyms for the standard healthcare systems – EHR (Electronic Health Record) and EPR (Electronic Patient Record) – and thus affirms that it belongs within the semantic space of professional tools.

PHR systems are becoming the point of convergence among different visions concerning the future of healthcare systems characterized by the (desired) emergence of ‘new patients’ willing to share the burden of care and to reshape their relationships with doctors and institutions. Accordingly, PHR can

be considered an interesting lens through which social informatics researchers can examine the tentative transformation of different dimensions of the healthcare sector.

We believe that the time has come to engage in debate on these technologies, which are increasingly presented by policymakers and healthcare systems managers as the “next big thing” in healthcare. It is necessary to move away from a mere technocentric perspective (like the one sometimes provided by medical informatics) in order to bring the actors, their work/daily practices, and the meanings attached to them, back into play.

The purpose of this workshop is to gather together scholars, practitioners and professionals who reflect and work on PHR from different perspectives in different countries. Whilst some interesting socially-informed studies have been already presented and published, to our knowledge no attempt has yet been made to create an opportunity for dialogue among them.

We welcome contributions about, but not limited to, the following themes:

·         the design of patient-centered IS and their integration with professional ones;

·         new forms of computer-mediated doctor-patient or patient-to-patient communication;

·         the evolution of healthcare infrastructures and organizations, and the creation of new representations of health/illness;

·         new forms of alignments and conflicts between self-care practices and institutional treatment;

·         the redefinition of responsibilities and roles within the network of patient-doctors-institution-caregivers.

·         the extent to which patients use PHRs to generate data for use in patient-doctor and patient-patient communication

·         the extent to which health professionals make use of patient-generated data from PHRs

Abstracts (max. 1500 words) should be sent to

More information is available at http://events.unitn
or can be obtained by contacting the organizers at

We plan to select the best abstracts and presentations and invite their development into full papers to be submitted for a special issue on the topic. Further information will be given during the workshop or before it on the website.


Silvia Gherardi, Faculty of Sociology

Enrico Maria Piras, Fondazione Bruno Kessler

Alberto Zanutto, Faculty of Sociology


Science and Technology Studies: Opening the Black Box

Somatosphere just posted a link to a set of video recordings from the STS – The Next Twenty Years conference in Harvard last April. I would have loved to go there, but unfortunately poor european scholars only have money to travel abroad when they are participating actively. But, luckily, the whole conference was on live-stream back then. I was not able to watch all of it so I am so very happy to be able to watch them now. Trevor Pinch´s “provocations” are STS at its rhetorical best – so watch, laugh and think.

ASA blogger party and other ways to meet Nicholas Rowland and Jan Passoth

I want to note the announcement of the annual ASA ScatterPlot Blogger Party! Details here. Short story: Sunday, August 21, 4:30pm at the Seahorse Lounge at Caesar’s Palace. I hope to see many of you there!

Otherwise, I present a paper with Jan-Hendrik Passoth on state theory and another roundtable about state power (power being a dirty little word). Come say “hi” — I’ll be wearing the functionalism t-shirt and have even made one for Jan!


NOTE: *This message was playfully plaigarized from my mentor and friend, Fabio.*

Belgian STS network kick-off event * Sept 30th, 2011

For those of you in Europe this might be an interesting opportunity to travel, meet great people and strengthen the international network of STS: Scholars in Belgium are gathering to have a first meeting of the Belgian Science, Technology and Society (BSTS) – a network that started

“… in 2008 as an ad-hoc academic platform, the BSTS network enables STS researchers in Belgium to share with one another their research interests and disciplinary perspectives and to foster collaboration across different fields and locales. The network now extends its hand beyond academia and beyond Belgium to engage an international community consisting of people from research centres, industry, policy making and other professionals with an interest in cross-disciplinary learning and knowledge sharing.”

Here is some more information on the Belgian STS Network.




Special Issue in Science Studies accepting papers on "Patient 2.0"

As an outcome of Track 026 of the last EASST meeting (in Trento, IT), the organizers have:

been working to edit a special issue on “patient 2.0”. We are pleased to announce we’ve been hosted by Science Studies ( as guest editors of a forthcoming publication on the theme.

The journal has a long-standing reputation for publishing high quality articles in the field of Science and Technology Studies since the end of eighties. Science Studies is an Open Access journal and we invite you to have a look at their last issue to better grasp the kind of submissions they welcome.

The call for paper is in attach and, as you will notice, it is an evolution of the track’s cfp. (the call is also available online at If you have not already published your work elsewhere we encourage you to submit your paper for evaluation before 31 January 2012. Of course you are free to submit a completely new work as far as it is consistent with the call. All the papers will be anonymously reviewed and evaluated jointly with the editorial board of the journal.

The Third International Conference on Social Informatics (SocInfo’11)

W’ere reviewing papers now for the Third International Conference on Social Informatics (SocInfo’11).

The organizers, Singapore Management University, host on 6 – 8 October, 2011.

The Third International Conference on Social Informatics (SocInfo’11) 6 – 8 October, 2011, Singapore

Social Informatics is an emerging area of informatics that studies how information systems can realize social goals, apply social concepts, and become sources of information relevant for social sciences and for analysis of social phenomena.

The third international Social Informatics conference will attempt to create an interdisciplinary community of researchers interested in the interactions between the information system and society. Information scientists working on ways to analyze and improve information systems from the point of view of realizing social goals are invited to participate.


The International Conference on Social Informatics was first held in Warsaw, Poland in 2009, followed by Laxenburg Austria in 2010. SocInfo2011 will be held in Singapore, a major hub in the Asia Pacific region well known for its multi-racial and multi-cultural society. Both SocInfo2009 and SocInfo2010 were small meetings that covered mainly the computing perspective of social informatics. This will change at SocInfo2011, which aims to broaden the scope of social informatics while reaching out to diverse researchers worldwide.

The mission of SocInfo2011 is to make the conference a premier venue for both social and computer scientists to exchange the latest research ideas that better intergrate scholars from the two disciplines. The conference program will reflect this in the keynote talks, tutorials, workshops and paper sessions addressing emerging topics which attract interdisciplinary research attention.

For the first time, the conference has a strong representation of social science researchers. Both the organizing committee and program committee have diverse discoplinary representation. The committees are actively seeking papers covering a wide spread of topics and approaches. SocInfo2011 is supported by the International Communication Association (ICA) and Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF). SocInfo2011 also welcomes industry particpation by giving demos and poster presentations.

Other than serious research exchanges, SocInfo2011 will offer a social program for participants to know one another better, to visit some places of interest and to appreciate the local delicacies. With a good combination of work and fun, SocInfo2011 hopes to foster collaboration among the social informatics researchers as well as to demonstrate the relevance of their research to a wider community.

4S 2011: Seeing States and State Theory in STS, Double Session

Cleveland, we are coming! Nicholas and I submitted a proposal for a double session on “Seeing States and State Theory in STS” for the next annual meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) in Cleveland, OH. The conference will be held from the 2-5 November, co-located with the History of Science Society and the Society for the History of Technology. The committee just approved our proposal: this is going to be great! 

Here is the preliminary program, we keep you updated!


Seeing States and State Theory in STS

Proposal for a Double Session at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), Cleveland, Ohio, November 2-5, 2011

The relationship between science, technology, and governance is a relationship that shapes and is shaped by contemporary states. While this relationship has been influential in STS research on how contemporary modes of governance influence scientific practice and technological innovations, the converse question of the influence of both on governance is relatively underrepresented. This session, therefore, takes-up the task and explores the inter-play between this relationship and its depiction in history and social/political theory. 

With one eye on “seeing like a state” and the other eye on “state performativity,” we engage and question well-trodden artifacts of historical and social theory such as state entitivity, state materiality, and the much distributed Foucauldian model of stateness. Looking for insights in both directions, what does STS have to offer and learn from these important traditions that have shaped so much previous research? We are also curious about seeing state performances in some historical relief, for example, in establishing reciprocity under neo-liberal circumstances, in shifting ontologies of health care, in massive state projects such as California’s delta, and even in times of ungoverned anarchy set in Southeast Asia. We, therefore, invite papers that explore empirically and conceptually the possibilities of research based on an STS approach to politics, states and stateness, governance and governmentality. 

We propose a double session: the first session is focusing on conceptualization and theoretical approaches, dealing mostly with the mechanisms and techniques of creating, maintaining and shifting the multiple ontologies of stateness. The second session is presenting a series of five case studies on the role of conflict, measurement and performativity for the enactment of stateness, drawing from rich empirical projects. 

Session 1: Seeing States and State Theory in STS: Conceptualization and Theoretical Approaches

  1. Ontologies of the Technoscientific State: Heterogeneous Assembly, Obligatory Passage Point, and Discursive Punctualization, Patrick Carroll, University of California, Davis, CA USA
  2. Governing by Social Capital: From the Stabilization of Facts to the Regulation of Performances, Hendrik Vollmer, Bielefeld University, Germany                          
  3. Planning political macro-actors: standardising opposing Electronic Health Record scenarios, Wouter Mensink, Center for Technology and Innovation Management, Netherlands
  4. Ecocities in Contemporary China: a Case Study in the Design of Ecological Governance, Erich W. Schienke, Penn State STS, PA USA
  5. Embodied States: Consuming With Pleasure Under Neoliberalism, Kelly Moore, Loyola University, IL USA

Session 2: Seeing States and State Theory in STS: Case Studies in Conflict, Measurement, and Performativity

  1. The science of population in a state of exception, Anat Leibler, Bar-Ilan University, Israel
  2. Measuring like a state: Sovereign power and the monopoly on the legitimate Means of Measurement, Hector Vera, New School for Social Research, NY USA
  3. Innovation processes in governance: The making of instruments, Jan-Peter Voss, TU Berlin, Germany   
  4. Una Cosa Segura? The Role of Security Technologies in Mexico’s War on Crime, Keith Guzik, Bloomfield College, NJ USA
  5. Energy and Economics at the US Department of the Interior, 1943-1949, Daniel Barber, Harvard University, MA USA


Better conferences follow-up: How to schedule conferences

Unfortunatly there is not much to report form the world of STS right now: all email-lists are silent, 4S proposals are send out, EASST is missing this year. But time is a scarce resource these days, so I don´t mind. 

Since I run from workshop to workshop, from conference to conference these weeks, I wonder how conferences get scheduled. Nicholas comment to the Stengers workshop (“Why not in the summe?”) made me aware that also in here in old Europe most academic gatherings are all taking place exactly when our schedules are already full. Take these weeks: it is the beginning of the summer term here in Germany, and I travel to two different places to meet people each week.

I wonder why? How does the practice of scheduling academic gatherings work? Are there mechanisms, strategies and tactics I don´t get?


Why never to write a paper for a conference theme

Jan-Hendrik and I recently wrote a paper to align with a conference theme and a proposed papers session — what a mistake. Thankfully, we also submitted a sort of “back-up” paper should the first fall on hard times.

The conference is always rather large so perhaps we should have known better than to fall prey to the theme and/or take the theme seriously. Still, when we got the call for papers and read the theme, it is hard to ignore (at least in a way) because it has an feeling of legitimacy, it feels (when you’re actually taking it seriously) as if it just might be meaningful, and if it is, then you just might land a better session spot if you bend your work to the theme.

Again, we were wrong, falling prey to the (awkward) siren song of conference calls.

So, themes: this is a fairly straight forward empirical question — under what circumstances do themes shape conferences?

The answer to a question like this we probabaly all have a “good hunch” but I’d be curious to see data.

Symposium with Isabelle Stengers, CUNY, April 9, 2011

Just came back from a week of travelling – we definitly need to have more people contributing, so feel free to get in contact with us – and found this in my mailbox. Again I wish I would be able to be in NY, now it is CUNY that hosts a great event. I am just reading Stengers Cosmopolitics (a review will follow), I am sure this will be a great event.


April 9, 2011, 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue, New York City

Isabelle Stengers will be visiting the CUNY Graduate Center on a rare visit to the United States for an International Symposium. Cosmopolitics, a book series by Stengers, explores possible nonhierarchical modes of coexistence. Stengers examines our entanglements—the diverging values and obligations that shape our practices. Cary Wolfe (Rice University), Natasha Myers (York University), Eben Kirksey (The CUNY Graduate Center), Matei Candea (University of Durham), Steven Meyer (Wash. University St. Louis), Lina Dib (Rice University), Joan Richardson (The CUNY Graduate Center), and Dorion Sagan (Sciencewriters) will also give lectures at this Symposium.

Charting the waters between the Scylla of established materialism and the Charybdis of romantic supernaturalism, Cosmopolitics gives us a frame for grappling with what has been created by science while foregrounding the fragile conditions of knowledge production, giving resonance to the unknown and the mysterious beyond. The University of Minnesota Press published Cosmopolitics I, the first book in this series, in 2010. Stengers has given the speakers at this CUNY Graduate Center conference exclusive access to the forthcoming English translation of Cosmopolitics II.

This event is sponsored by the Mellon Committee for Science Studies.

Details about the Cosmopolitics Symposium are on-line:

To schedule a personal meeting with Isabelle Stengers, contact: Eben Kirksey, 212-817-7094


What is the point of large conferences having organizing "themes"?

As part of my part-time life-mission to figure out how to make better conferences, I pose this question:

*What is the point of large conferences having organizing “themes”?*

As a case to consider, this year’s annual meeting of the American Sociological Association has the organizing theme “Social Conflict: Multiple Dimensions and Arenas” (meeting, without a shred of irony, at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, NV). The theme goes like this:

Social conflict is constantly in the headlines, in the breaking news, but also under the surface of social life. Wherever there is change, struggle, or domination, there is conflict. Social conflict involves many dimensions, including not only economic and power struggles, movement dynamics, and violence, but also forms of inequality and domination latent with conflict, and practices which resolve conflict or which divert attention from it. Sociology is the only social science that takes conflict as a major topic, and the only field that throughout its existence has been crucially centered on class, race, and ethnicity. New fields focused on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality are also concerned with conflict, but the intellectual driving force in most of these fields is a sociological perspective. There is a reason why sociologists were heavily involved in the rebellious movements of the 1960s and 70s—sociologists are experts at understanding both power and group mobilization. This has continued to be sociology’s special strength.

Apart from the theme being the clear “pet” of whomever happens to organize such a massive conference, and apart from shaping the plenary talk(s), these themes, in my experience,

(1) fail to shape the broader conference, and

(2) tend to be fairly dated (i.e., so mainstream that they fail to generate much innovation).

So, what is the point of large conferences having organizing “themes”?

Harvard University: Science and Technology Studies: The Next 20, April 7-9, 2011

Just stumbled upon this: why do announcements of such event always reach me when it is far too late? To be able to travel overseas – we in Germany at least – need more than four months to apply for funding. Two weeks is definitely not enough. But: there is a Twitter-feed to follow! And the conference will be video-streamed!

This meeting is the product of a year of conversations across several continents and dozens of institutions. It weaves together the hopes, aspirations, and—yes—frustrations of STS scholars from around the world who have committed their careers to studying the central role of science and technology in our social, political, and moral lives.

The meeting is in part a stock-taking. After two decades of increased public funding for STS, what can we say about our achievements as a “thought collective”? What have we learned from speaking the truths of our field to the power of established disciplines? Which areas of work do we recognize as displaying the greatest theoretical depth and creativity? What do we impart to STS scholars-in-the-making, and what can we do to ensure that their ideas are heard more widely and that they find appropriate academic homes? The three-day program addresses these questions: first, STS and the disciplines; second, STS and its theories; third, STS’s institutional challenges and opportunities.

In part, too, the meeting is a provocation: an invitation to reflect on the conditions needed for this field to thrive and grow—in keeping with the importance of its mission. As with any provocation, the questions we hope to explore may have conflicting answers. Ideas will be generated throughout the meeting from both our physical and virtual audiences. This website, managed by a local team of scholars, is part of an effort to make the meeting as inclusive and participatory as possible, both during the event and after it.

Overall, this is a meeting to rethink questions that all STS scholars have grappled with at some point in their intellectual lives. Why do STS? What makes it interesting, distinctive, coherent, relevant, and deserving of stronger institutionalization?

This meeting—diverse enough to be representative, yet small enough to foster conversation—offers a rare opportunity to think together about these issues, in the company of others who share our concerns and our convictions.

By the way: do you think that the lack of involvement of european scholars has a deeper reason that just missing funding for travel?

Making better conferences

After proposing my first session at a conference with Jan-Hendrik, and, in particular, after his recent post about a forthcoming conference at LSE and Hendrik’s reflections about this year’s ISA annual meeting, I started to wonder if anyone writes on how to make conferences better?

I wrote in my comment to Jan:

This reminds me of something I have always wanted to know more people’s opinions on: WHAT MAKE A GOOD CONFERENCE GOOD AND WHAT MAKES A BAD CONFERENCE BAD??? Seriously, I have been to so many conferences and sometimes they are outstanding (networking opportunities, good papers, etc.) and sometimes they are terrible (poor attendance, bad food, etc.).

Perhaps you have unlocked one of the first possible answers. You write above: “how can a forum that adopts the “social studies of —” title gather people to talk about finance, crisis and IT without any recognizable input from another “social studies of —” field, namely the “social studies of finance”? “

Perhaps this is one of the characteristics: too many off-topic scholars as a ratio to on-topic scholars (in your case, all social studies of X with out any sociology of financial market folks).


I wonder: What makes a good conference good? What makes a bad conference bad?

*BUT MORE THAN THAT, can you control these characteristics as to improve a conference or conferences as a whole?*

You have to imagine the major funding agencies such as the US-based National Science Foundation or the DEU-based DFG would be interested in knowing whether or not conferences can be improved, and if so, how. Conferences make-up a massive proportion of all scientific communication. Therefore, improving them systematically over time would be an obviously good thing. Perhaps there is something about the size of the conference that matter or perhaps the setting…

So, if I think of conferences over the last year or two that have been really good, here is what I have:

Best conference of the last year, hands down, was EASST (European Association for the Study of Science and Technology) set in Trento, IT, summer 2010. Why?

It was set in Trento amid the Dolomite Mountains. I was “forced” to visit Verona and the greater Veneto (in particular,  Valpolicella wine country, home to Bertani, perhaps my favorite winery) after the conference and Milano before the conference. Still, what made this conference so wonderful was the carefully put together sessions — the dual session on health technologies that Jan and I participated in was just great and also where I first met Wouter Mensink and learned about his exciting work on eHealth. The building too was fantastic — the views out the window were great, but not distracting because the infrastructure was fantastic; great projectors, large clear images, good spaces, good seating, etc. Likewise, the sessions on IT put together by my the bright and friendly Gian Marco Compagnola, which featured papers from among others Neil Pollock and Antonios Kaniakakis. Dare I also say that the food, which can be doubly attributed, both to EASST administrators and the the great University of Trento, was unlike anything I have ever seen at a conference — and better than any food I will likely see at any future conference.

What can be learend from this?

A. Good setting — something about how embedding the conference in a particular location or setting influences attendance and expectations.

B. Careful planners — getting good people to organize sessions is no easy task, although there are few incentives to do this really well, unless I am missing something.

C. Excellent food — this is, frankly, something more conferences should think about. I remember saying to Jan, jokingly, the food was so good it actually helped us to think more clearly (although that might have been counteracted by the wine available with lunch).  Also, there was day-long excellent Italian coffee available.


So, what else makes a good conference good? And, dare we discuss: what makes a bad one bad?


ISA conference notes repost (sigh)

I am now reposting this after an unknown error occurred earlier today with the posterous template. So here we go again…

I am taking a day off at International Studies Association Annual Convention in Montr??al today, looking forward to visit the Museum of Fine Arts and see the Terracotta Army (the by now global presence of which might inspire a separate post in the future). To start the day, here are a couple of quick notes and early impressions from the conference.

To begin with, this conference is huge. The total sum of events and panels is 1,094, cramped into four days. This means that panels start as early as 8.15 in the morning, and up to 99 panels are on at the same time – at least that’s the high-score I was getting when browsing throught the conference program which, needless to say, looks somewhat like a phone book. I also got the impression that the organizers assigned panels which they thought would be crowd-pullers preferably to the early slots. Here’s a sample of panel themes which also gives you an idea about the variety of topics discussed here:

– Confronting the Transnational State

– Why Did the U.S. Invade Iraq?

– Intelligence Analysis and Decision

– Religion, Values, and Common Faith as Facilitators of Governance Mechanisms

– Making Offers You Can’t Refuse: The Art of Coercion in International Politics

– Natural Disasters and Political Unrest

– The Chinese Puzzle: Democracy vs. Autocracy

– Using Movies as Teaching Tools

– The Body in International Relation

– Choosing Terrorist Strategies: Outbidders, Specialists, and Two-Level Games

– Human Rights: The Hard Feminist Questions

– Piracy Studies: The Legalization of Contemporary Responses to Piracy

By the way, the general theme of the conference is “Global Governance: Political Authority in Transition”. The variety of panels also reflects the variety of sections within the ISA which range, as I found out just now, from Diplomatic Studies, International Ethics, Peace Studies and Political Demography to Feminist Theory and Gender Studies, Intelligence Studies, and to the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, & Allies Caucus”.

According to my little theory about the placement of panels within the schedule, the organizers must have considered the panel I was on mildly interesting, since it took place at 10.30 in the morning. As posted here earlier, the panel was on “Numbers in Global Governance”, and I think it went quite well. The papers from which I personally benefitted the most were written by the two organizers, Hans Krause Hansen and Tony Porter who reflected generally on the role of numbers in global governance, and by Lars Th??ger Christensen and George Cheney on the notion of transparency, and on the problems and paradoxes it entails. Overall, the panel was, I think, one of the few not dominated by political scientists who as a profession appear to be very much in control of the ISA. The discussion was generally sympathetic to the understanding shared by the speakers that tracking the circulation and use of numbers, ranking, ratings, performance measurements, and so on, is a critical element in understanding contemporary forms of global governance.

Our panel chair was Mikkel Flyverbom from Copenhangen Business School. I saw him present his paper on internet politics yesterday on another panel, and he might be an interesting colleague to watch with respect to the general interest of this blog. Actually, I asked him whether he would like to contribute to this blog occasionally. Mikkel is applying ANT to analyzing emergent forms of authority in governing the internet, and though he had a hard time to present his case effectively as one paper among six during the 105 minutes of the panel, and to an audience largely innocent of both ANT ire and ANT interest, he surely did leave a mark. He has a book coming out about his understanding of entangled authority that will definitely be worth a look.

Which brings me to pick up on our earlier discussion about good and bad conferences. It is hard but manageable to get four papers discussed in 105 minutes if the discussant is really well prepared and effective in addressing the papers, as Brad Epperly surely was in the case of our panel. Increasing the number of papers further however, as was the case in the “Getting to Grips with Internet Governance” panel that hosted six papers, must leave the audience somewhat disoriented even if the discussant somehow manages to address all of the papers in, say, 15 minutes. If any author on the panel additionally chooses to present an approach that is somewhat incongruous to the other papers (as Mikkel did with arguing along ANT lines rather than presenting another customized IR approach), this is very likely to be somewhat drowned out. So, I was asking myself, if you already have 1,094 panels to deal with in organizing a big convention, would it really hurt to have a couple of double panels to accommodate an effective discussion of all the papers which panel organizers have deemed interesting enough to have included???

There is also something to be said about hosting an event like this in a big corporate style hotel (or, as in this case, in three of them), with panels taking place in “hospitality suites” and conference rooms named after local heroes, politicians, business men, artists, or, most conspicuously, militarists, in an environment littered with all sort of “luxury” fabrics from deep carpets to table cloths which look more like curtains (not to mention that in the corridors of one of the hotels, you suffer from continuous exposure to “easy listening” elevator style music), and with, most annoyingly, having to wear your name badge all the time (since otherwise you are very likely to be asked by one of the very friendly hotel clerks to present them). The premises of McGill and a couple of other local universities are within a short walk of the conference sites, so why lock us away like this? Like he who shall not be named at this point, I would prefer to have outsiders in, and insiders out, at least to some extent. The latter I now happily implement immediately.

Summer School on Infrastructure in lovely Sardinia, STS Italia

Just got this, and it is both an event and a place to watch: STS Italia, just founded a year or so ago, organizes a Summer School on Infrastructure. Most might know Attila Bruni from last years EASST and Alessandro Mongili from Sassari is a very friendly and clever scholar who I had the pleasure to go to lunch with at the 2009 4S meeting. Anyway: here is the call

STS Italia Summer School, 1st edition: “Cities, Infrastructures, Networks”

Alghero, Sardinia (Italy), 28th June – 1st July 2011

STS Italia, the Italian Society for the Study of Science and Technology – in collaboration with the University of Sassari, Faculty of Political Sciences and Faculty of Architecture – invites you to join the Summer School “Cities, Infrastructures, Networks”, to be heldin Alghero, Sardinia (Italy), from 28th of June to 1st of July 2011.



Applications deadline: 15th of April 2011.

Thank you for your attention.

Best regards,

The STS Italia Summer School Organizing Committee


Places to watch: LSE Information Systems and Innovation Group

Probably for most outside the UK this might be a bit late, but I just stumbled upon the SSIT Open Research Forum 7. Seven – I mean: they did that now for six times and I had no idea that a “Social Studies of IT” (with that name) even existed. Wonder why – because I found this announcement via the ANTHEM Blog of which I am a regular reader for more that 3 years now. So I should have seen this or this. The SSIT Forums are hosted by the LSE Information Systems and Innovation Group, definitly a place to watch. But looking at the abstracts of their 7th Forum on IT and the financial crisis I wondered: how can a forum that adopts the “social studies of —” title gather people to talk about finance, crisis and IT without any recognizable input from another “social studies of —” field, namely the “social studies of finance”

The seventh SSIT Open Research Forum

LSE 29 and 30 March 2011

We are pleased to announce details of the Social Study of IT Open Research Forum (SSIT-ORF7), 29/30 March 2011. This will follow the eleventh SSIT Workshop of the LSE ISI Group. The Open Research Forum will be an opportunity for IS researchers to present their work and discuss a broad range of themes relating to the SSIT in an informal, constructive setting.

Primarily, the Forum provides an ideal opportunity for PhD and junior IS researchers to present their work and raise questions on issues of their concern-substantive, theoretical, methodological or practical. It is also a useful experience for other researchers wishing to understand what SSIT is like, though their research approach may be different – e.g. from an engineering or business perspective.

In previous years the Forum attracted also experienced SSIT researchers, supervisors and PhD programme directors and we had stimulating discussions about the merits and challenges of SSIT research. We expect that this year the Forum will have a similar mix of PhD, experienced and non-SSIT researchers and that it will accommodate challenging discussions on the nature of SSIT.

Another significant feature of the SSIT-ORF is its informality. So, we suggest that presenters avoid PowerPoint presentations or the use of transparencies. There will be a number of short presentations (about 10 minutes) and panel discussions with plenty of time to focus on emerging questions and issues.

Registrations for the SSIT-ORF are currently taking place. Those who are interested in presenting should send a summary (up to 600 words) of their work to Those who are interested in participating without a presentation should apply for attendance at the same email address. As space is limited, places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

The closing date for applications is 21 March 2011

Looking forward to meeting you at LSE in March.

SSIT-ORF Committee.

SSIT11 home page

page last updated 19 January, 2011


More Governing by Numbers, and more Montr??al

Speaking of governing by numbers, and speaking of Montréal (and speaking of Bettina Heintz), there is the ISA meeting next week, including a panel hosted by Hans Krause Hansen (Copenhagen Business School) and Tony Porter (Hamilton) on “Numbers in Global Governance”. The main convention theme is “Global Governance: Political Authority in Transition”.

Bettina Heintz and myself just finished our conference paper which I will be presenting there next week. The “Numbers in Global Governance” panel is going to take place on Wednesday (March 16, 10.30 a.m., Ramezay), and if anybody reading this can make it to the meeting on such short notice, give it a try.

Hans and Tony will be contributing a paper titled “What Do Numbers Do?”, and there are two other papers on “Numbers of Transparency ??? Transparency of Numbers” by Lars Thøger Christensen (University of Southern Denmark) and George Cheney (Utah), and by Michael H. Allen (Bryn Mawr) on “Incoherent Convergence: Crisis, Power and Normative Discourse in Global Constitutionalism” to be discussed during the session. The paper by Bettina Heintz and myself is titled “Globalizing Comparisons: Performance Measurement and the ‘Numerical Difference’ in Global Governance”.

For those of you unable to make it to Montréal, I’ll write something up afterwards and post it here once I got rid off the jetlag.
In the meantime go here to check out the conference.

Govern by Numbers (AAA), November 16-20. 2011

Back in January when Nicholas and I started thinking about the 4S Session proposal, we also thought about a way to keep the debatte running after 4S. One Idea we came up with was a small series of workshops that could facilitate the discussion on “STS and the State” One of these should focus on how data and data infrastructure is used to shape governance decisions. When searching for a name for this to start applying for a small grant to finance these workshops, we though about “Governing by Data”. We were so happy to have such a nice name for it that we did not notice that we were not the only ones to use a title like that. Bettina Heintz (2008) used “Governance by Numbers” as a title for a paper on science regulation.

And Alison Cool and Jennifer Mack use “Govern by Numbers” for a proposed session for this year´s AAA. We noticed that too late, so now the deadline already passed, but it is good to see likeminded scholars working on similar problems. So if you are planning to go to AAA in Montreal this year, this might interest you

CALL FOR PAPERS: Govern by Numbers: Models, Plans, and the Quantitative in the Welfare State

American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting
Montreal, Canada, November 16-20. 2011

Co-organizers: Alison Cool, PhD Candidate, New York University and Jennifer Mack, PhD Candidate, Harvard University
Please send titles and 250 word paper abstracts to and by March 7, 2011

Statistical and other quantitative techniques form an important means of planning and rationalizing large-scale policy measures in many welfare states. Such “hard facts” are gathered by state-sanctioned actors, such as scientists, urban planners, bureaucrats, and other interested parties, using the data-collecting systems and tools of their trades. Numbers and models produced by such techniques are enlivened through forms of representation and circulated. This panel looks for ethnographic approaches that address questions like: How is the exquisite complexity of everyday life translated into exact figures and “rational” planning methods? What happens when data is represented in graphs, charts, and drawings or embedded within scientific articles, policy reports, and future-oriented blueprints for action? As contexts change and scales shift, what do the numbers mean, and to whom?

While quantitative data is used in tandem with many forms of government, it has been particularly important in the context of welfare states, where the social well being of the citizenry at large may be in tension with concepts of liberty for the autonomous individual. In the welfare state, in other words, the ability to “point to the numbers” has allowed those who govern to provide their publics with empirically-supported reasons for both mundane and radical interventions into everyday life. Yet scientific methods and standardized urban plans work within moral systems of both care and control. Through practices of counting, classifying, and measuring citizens and their spaces, planners, scientists, and bureaucrats act as intermediaries between the welfare state and its citizens in relations that are abstract and intimate at the same time. Actors can also choose not to quantify and call the numbers into question on ethical or methodological grounds. Drawing in part on notions of governmentality, we ask how welfare states make their ideal citizens through measures that are supported by and circulated through such numbers and systems, and how a cult of the quantitative has often become a national project and a topic of everyday discussion for welfare state citizens themselves.

This panel intends to produce an anthropological conversation between built environment and science studies approaches to research in contemporary welfare states. Broadly, we seek ethnographic work focusing on how the planner, scientist, or bureaucrat inhabits his or her official role in practice and how statistics, standardized planning models, and other logics of the state have come to function as truth-making tools, or their foils, in various forms of (welfare) state-making. How do these actors think about (and embody) the relationship between quantitative data and the qualitative opinions and actions of citizens? How do citizens respond to, help to create, and transform the numerical justifications of policy and complicate the mechanisms of the bureaucratic toolbox? We seek papers approaching these topics within the context of any welfare state and focusing on actors working within a number of different fields, including biomedical sciences, demography, urban planning, finance and economics, architecture and housing, engineering, landscape architecture and environmental design, auditing, law and law enforcement, national security, public health, education, and criminal justice.

4S Annual Meeting: Society Social Studies of Science, Cleveland, OH November 2-5, 2011

Join Jan-Hendrik Passoth and I (Nicholas J. Rowland) at this year’s annual meeting for Society Social Studies of Science (4S) meeting in Cleveland, OH (USA) from November 2nd until the 5th, 2011.

Submissions and proposals are being accepted.

Likewise, we encourage scholars in STS and outside to submit an abstract to a session that Jan and I are proposing. See below:

Seeing States and State Theory in STS
(Session Proposal for the Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), Cleveland, Ohio, November 2-5, 2011)

Jan-Hendrik Passoth (, Bielefeld University, Germany, and Nicholas J. Rowland (, Pennsylvania State University, Altoona, PA, USA

Deadline for Abstracts: March 10, 2011

The relationship between science, technology, and governance is a relationship that shapes and is shaped by contemporary states. While this relationship has been influential in STS research on how contemporary modes of governance influence scientific practice and technological innovations, the converse question of the influence of both on governance is relatively underrepresented. This session, therefore, takes-up the task and explores the inter-play between this relationship and its depiction in history and social/political theory.

With one eye on “seeing like a state” and the other eye on “state performativity,” we engage and question well-trodden artifacts of historical and social theory such as state entitivity, state materiality, and the much distributed Foucauldian model of stateness. Looking for insights in both directions, what does STS have to offer and learn from these important traditions that have shaped so much previous research? We are also curious about seeing state performances in some historical relief, for example, in establishing reciprocity under neo-liberal circumstances, in shifting ontologies of health care, in massive state projects such as California’s delta, and even in times of ungoverned anarchy set in Southeast Asia. We, therefore, invite papers that explore empirically and conceptually the possibilities of research based on an STS approach to politics, states and stateness, governance and governmentality.