Book Symposium on “The Materiality of Bureaucracy” in HAU – Journal of Ethnographic Theory

For those of you that are interested in the machinery of governance there is a wonderful book symposium in HAU – Journal of Ethnographic Theory. HAU is:

…an international peer-reviewed, open-access online journal which aims to situate ethnography as the prime heuristic of anthropology, and return it to the forefront of conceptual developments in the discipline.

HAU – focus and scope

I know there are many new peer-reviewed, open access online journals out there and sometimes, lets be honest, their quality is dubious. But HAU is really cool, the research is very empirical, the book symposiums very enlightening, and their recent “classics” series is totally fascinating.

The symposium is on Michael Hull´s “Government of Paper”, in itself an interesting read. Here is the list of contributions, check it out!

Book Symposium – Government of paper: The materiality of bureaucracy in urban Pakistan (Matthew Hull)

Materiality, materialization PDF
Constantine V. Nakassis 399–406
Matthew Hull and ethnographies of the state PDF
Katherine Verdery 407–10
The question of the political: Thinking with Matthew Hull PDF
Naveeda Khan 411–15
Travels among the records: Some thoughts provoked byGovernment of paper PDF
Justin Richland 417–20
Paper as a serious method of concern PDF
Stephen M. Lyon, David Henig 421–25
Reflections on dysfunctional functioning in the political economy of paper PDF
Michael Gilsenan 427–30
On signatures and traces PDF
Béatrice Fraenkel 431–34
Messy bureaucracies PDF
Akhil Gupta 435–40
The materiality of indeterminacy . . . on paper, at least PDF
Matthew S. Hull 441–47

Limn (4) on Food Infrastructures

Limn (“Limn is somewhere between a scholarly journal and an art magazine”), edited by Stephen J. Collier, Christoffer M. Kelty and Andrew Lakoff, just published its fourth issue on food infrastructures. Here is the opener, check it out:

Issue Number Four: Food Infrastructures

edited by Mikko Jauho, David Schleifer, Bart Penders and Xaq Frohlich
This issue of Limn analyzes food infrastructures and addresses scale in food production, provision, and consumption. We go beyond the tendency towards simple producer “push” or consumer “pull” accounts of the food system, focusing instead on the work that connects producers to consumers. By describing and analyzing food infrastructures, our contributors examine the reciprocal relationships among consumer choice, personal use, and the socio-material arrangements that enable, channel, and constrain our everyday food options.

With articles by Christopher Otter, Franck Cochoy, Sophie Dubuissson-Quellier,  Susanne Freidberg, Heather Paxson, Emily Yates-Doerr, Mikko Jauho, Kim Hendrickx, Bart Penders and Steven Flipse, Xaq Frohlich, David Schleifer and Alison Fairbrother, Javier Lezaun, Michael G. Powell, Makalé Faber-Cullen and Anna Lappé!

via Issue Number Four: Food Infrastructures | Limn.

New Journal coming: Big Data & Society

Our friend Evelyn Ruppert at Goldsmiths is editor and founding editor of a new open access peer reviewed journal that is in the making. We have met Evelyn the last time at 4S in San Diego where she contributed to our “State Multiplicity, Performativity and Materiality: Current STS Research on State and Stateness” sessions with a great talk on “Peopling Europe”. She is also known to many for her co-lead on the Social Life of Methods theme at CRESC.

Big Data & Society (BD&S) is an open access peer-reviewed scholarly journal that publishes interdisciplinary work principally in the social sciences, humanities and computing and their intersections with the arts and natural sciences about the implications of Big Data for societies.


The Journal´s key purpose is to provide a space for connecting debates about the emerging field of Big Data practices and how they are reconfiguring academic, social, industry, business and government relations, expertise, methods, concepts and knowledge.


BD&S moves beyond usual notions of Big Data and treats it as an emerging field of practices that is not defined by but generative of (sometimes) novel data qualities such as high volume and granularity and complex analytics such as data linking and mining. It thus attends to digital content generated through online and offline practices in social, commercial, scientific, and government domains. This includes, for instance, content generated on the Internet through social media and search engines but also that which is generated in closed networks (commercial or government transactions) and open networks such as digital archives, open government and crowdsourced data.  Critically, rather than settling on a definition the Journal makes this an object of interdisciplinary inquiries and debates explored through studies of a variety of topics and themes.


BD&S seeks contributions that analyse Big Data practices and/or involve empirical engagements and experiments with innovative methods while also reflecting on the consequences for how societies are represented (epistemologies), realised (ontologies) and governed (politics).

viaBig Data & Society: About the Journal.

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.




Diaspora* as an alternative to google+ and facebook?

Diaspora* is another social networking site (nearly a year old) … just like facebook, with one important exception. Here is an excerpt from a New York Magazine article:

… as the name suggests, their project was intended less as an imitation of Facebook than as an escape route from it—a path to freedom for those who had come to fear the dark side of the social network. In the years since Facebook launched (and long before Aaron Sorkin decided to take a whack at it), the service had begun to feel unsettling, sinister, less a benign link to friends and more a stealth database, open to all takers.

Diaspora*—if it worked—would do everything Facebook did. But users would own their data.

Will google+ close the coffin on Diaspora*?

NSF may be forced to close the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (this includes STS)

Just heard this:

“…the House Commerce, Justice & Science Committee is considering eliminating or severely cutting back the directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF).”

David Brooks wrote this opinion piece on this topic called “The Unexamined Society” which details the need for the social sciences and laments the potential loss. Here is an excerpt and closing remark:

People are complicated. We each have multiple selves, which emerge or don’t depending on context. If we’re going to address problems, we need to understand the contexts and how these tendencies emerge or don’t emerge. We need to design policies around that knowledge. Cutting off financing for this sort of research now is like cutting off navigation financing just as Christopher Columbus hit the shoreline of the New World.

E-mails are spreading quickly now and here is one that I got from STSgrad:

From Laurel Smith-Doerr:

Dear Colleagues,

The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice & Science (CJS) is considering changing the 2012 appropriation to eliminate the Social,
Behavioral & Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate at the NSF, which includes the STS Program.  The Consortium of Social Science
Associations (COSSA), a coalition to which the ASA belongs supporting Federal funding for the social sciences, is encouraging its members to write to their House Representatives and Senators, urging the House to continue to support the human sciences at NSF.  Having had the privilege of serving recently as one of the Program Officers at the NSF in the SBE directorate, I want to endorse COSSA’s request, believing that eliminating SBE would be disastrous for the social sciences in the US and for sociology in particular.

So I encourage you to write to your House Representatives and US Senators, ideally before the CJS Subcommittee meeting on 7 July, or
before the full House Appropriations Committee meeting on  13 July, and at least before the floor discussion scheduled for the week of 25 July.

You may want to copy Subcommittee Chair Frank Wolf R-VA and Ranking Member Chakah Fattah D-PA and perhaps other members of the Subcommittee ( and Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) and Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA) (  You can find contact information for your representative using the ?Write Your Representative? feature at, and you will find a list of Senators, sortable by state, at! a>.

We all lead busy lives and if you prefer to send something more or less ready made I suggest something along the lines of the letter made available by the previous Assistant Director of SBE (a linguist) at  You may copy and paste the text from this letter (make sure the formatting has copied appropriately) and if you have the opportunity, elaborate and tell your representatives something about our field. Furthermore, you might strengthen your argument by pointing to NSF-supported work being conducted at a university in the representative’s area.

Support will be particularly valuable from the Republican party. I wrote to Scott Brown, using the AD’s letter as a starting point. My letter is pasted below (unformatted).

Please feel free to forward this request to colleagues, I have taken parts of it from the linguists but obviously it is important for representatives to hear from all of the social sciences.

Laurel Smith-Doerr

July 1, 2011
Scott Brown
US Senator
2400 JFK Federal Building
15 New Sudbury St.
Boston, MA 02203

Dear Senator Brown,
I am alarmed to hear that the House Commerce, Justice & Science Committee is considering eliminating or severely cutting back the directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

In the US, basic research in the social sciences is funded alongside the natural sciences and engineering, through the same agency. This is unusual from an international perspective and means that the social sciences are done better here, by being more closely integrated with work
in the other sciences. Having the full range of basic science funded within one agency has led to more collaborative, interdisciplinary work, with better results on all sides.

One major example of this integration is our study of scientific innovation itself, one of the most important drivers of a strong economy (as acknowledged in the 2007 America COMPETES Act, which was led by the Bush Administration but supported across parties). Somehow basic
science conducted at lab benches and engineering projects started in garages produce new knowledge products that spark new industries like biotechnology and information technology which give the United States a real competitive edge in the global marketplace. This innovation
process is not yet well understood but is a central concern across social sciences including sociology, economics, psychology, and science policy studies. The importance of better understanding the innovation process (in order to facilitate it) has generated the new interdisciplinary area called the science of science and innovation policy (SciSIP). This program at NSF is funding research to scientifically understand the innovation process and which policies are more effective at producing beneficial outcomes in science and technology.

NSF is unique in combining experts from the social sciences with experts in natural sciences and engineering. For example, social scientists and chemists in Massachusetts (and other states) have received grants in a collaborative initiative at NSF between SciSIP (in Social/Behavioral/ Economic Sciences directorate) and Chemistry (in Math/Physical Sciences directorate). An article in this week?s Chemical
and Engineering News (‘Measuring Chemistry’s Impact’) announces the initiative and its importance to understanding the chemical sciences. This initiative ‘Pathways to Innovation in the Chemical Sciences’ would not have been possible if social sciences were not part of NSF. More
information about this initiative and others in the study of innovation and science policy can be found at the following website: (

The integration of all the basic sciences at the NSF represents one of the national treasures of the US, which has yielded much competitive advantage. Massachusetts has been at the forefront of this kind of interdisciplinary research, as it has led innovation and science in general.
I urge you to oppose any efforts to weaken that integration, which will be detrimental to our state
and our nation.

Laurel Smith-Doerr
Associate Professor of Sociology
Boston University

"Computational Culture", a new journal. Feels like home…

As I have just read on Lev Manovich´s Blog on Software Studies there is a new journal ready to launch. On its editorial board are such great scholars as Mathew FullerAdrian MacKenzie and Olga Goriunova. Seems that the sociology of infrastructure could get a home. The website is still under construction, but the initial statement sounds like it will be a perfect place to look for the topics we discuss here (and elsewhere). Here is the blurb:

Computational Culture, a journal of software studies is an online open-access peer-reviewed journal of inter-disciplinary enquiry into the nature of computational cultural objects, practices, processes and structures.

The journal’s primary aim is to examine the ways in which software undergirds and formulates contemporary life. Computational processes and systems not only enable contemporary forms of work and play and the management of emotional life but also drive the unfolding of new events that constitute political, social and ontological domains. In order to understand digital objects such as corporate software, search engines, medical databases or to enquire into the use of mobile phones, social networks, dating, games, financial systems or political crises, a detailed analysis of software cannot be avoided.

A developing form of literacy is required that matches an understanding of computational processes with those traditionally bound within the arts, humanities, and social sciences but also in more informal or practical modes of knowledge such as hacking and art.

The journal welcomes contributions that address such topics and many others that may derive and mix methodologies from cultural studies, science and technology studies, philosophy of computing, metamathematics, computer science, critical theory, media art, human computer interaction, media theory, design, philosophy.

Computational Culture publishes peer-reviewed articles, special projects, interviews, and reviews of books, projects, events and software. The journal is also involved in developing a series of events and projects to generate special issues.

The Editorial Group

Matthew Fuller, Goldsmiths
Andrew Goffey, Middlesex
Olga Goriunova, London Metropolitan
Graham Harwood, Goldsmith
Adrian Mackenzie, Lancaster

For initial enquiries, please contact:

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?

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


Robotic Humanities?

Inspired by Jérôme Denis‘s comments/posts on Latour’s play honoring Michel Callon, I tried to think back to an idea I recently read about out of Australia about robots and art, which might be of interests to STSers and those of us (like me) who have a background and/or interest in art and museums.

So, ever heard of “robotic humanities”? Me neither, at least, not until reading this blog entry on the term’s potential origins with Chris Chesher (Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney).

He writes:

The motivation for mobilising the term ‘Robotic Humanities’ was an invitation to speak at an event ‘Digital Editing, Digital Humanities’, organised by Mark Byron, a colleague in the English Department. Digital Humanities is a relatively new name for an expanded version of quite an old tradition of using digital technologies in literary scholarship. Such work includes literary scholars analysing stylistic patterns algorithmically to discover patterns in the words in a certain author’s work. Others scan in notebooks of great writers, marking up the author’s corrections and annotations to create digital editions. The best of this work finds biographical and creative insights through this process. For example, Margaret Webby presented an analysis of Patrick White’s notebooks to show a direct link between White’s criticisms on seeing Ray Lawler’s play Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (which he describes as banal) and new confronting scenes he wrote for his own play The Ham Funeral.

His slide show also has a few provocative slides, perhaps none more so than the (11th) slide on the “fish-bird” exhibit wherein two robot-wheelchairs “communicate” or “interact” with one another and visitors through controlled movements and the presentation of written materials.


Read about it here in a paper by David Rye, Mari Velonaki, Stefan Williams, and Steven Scheding (all at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Autonomous Systems, Australian Centre for Field Robotics, The University of Sydney). Although the interplay between art and robotics is by no means new, this exhibit struck me.

Anybody know when/where the first art/robotics show took place/showcased? Or, for that matter, good materials on the interplay between art and technology OR art and STS?

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