Politics of Technoscientific Futures
This years EASST is taking place in Madrid from June 6-9 and it goes without say that the programme of the year is drizzled with participants from TiP. TiPsters that take part in trying to answer and expand on some of the important questions mentioned in the description of the event.
Our TiPster are represented in the following panels:
Roos Hopman, Museum für Naturkunde; Tahani Nadim, Museum für Naturkunde; Ingmar Lippert, Museum für Naturkunde
Whereas the “digital” has become a habitual term in STS, to “digitize” remains relatively absent. This discrepancy hints at a disparity in analytical attention for digital (data) forms on the one hand, and their production on the other.
Wednesday, July 6th, 2pm-5pm – Room N111
Vasilis Galis, IT University of Copenhagen; Helene Oppen Ingebrigtsen Gundhus, University of Oslo; Anu Masso, Tallinn University of Technology; Emils Kilis, Baltic Studies Centre; Evie Papada, St Andrews University
“Given the political, social, and economic instability that arose during the latest financial crisis, the negative prognosis for the coming years (World Bank 2019), as well as the issuing of stay-at-home orders/shelter-in-place orders as a response to the COVID19 pandemic, the police have gained increasing attention for their role and militarized tactics to absorb socio-legal turbulences and to maintain order (rua Wall 2018; 2020).”
Wednesday, July 6th, 2pm-3.30pm – Room N112
Paula Bialski, University of St. Gallen; Mace Ojala, IT University of Copenhagen; Andreas Bischof, Technical University of Chemnitz
“Whether it’s geopolitical or security hacking, big-tech’s software workers leaking the injustices of their companies, or cryptocurrency geeks gaming the financial markets – people who work with our software and computers, harvest our data, or hack into our systems, are gaining political and cultural significance. This podcast panel invites all researchers who study what it is to be a hacker, computer engineer, or work with computers, software, or digital platforms, and/or what it means to hack technical, individual, state or corporate powers.”
Thursday, July 7th, 9am-10.30am and 11am-12.30pm – Room N110
Attila Bruni, University of Trento; Brit Ross Winthereik, IT University of Copenhagen
“Issues of work and organization have always been at the core of STS. Concentrating on laboratories, research centers, innovation processes, centers of coordination, medical settings and other organizational contexts characterized by technologically dense practices, STS have put under scrutiny the role played by technologies, physical and virtual architectures, material and information infrastructures.”
Thursday, July 7th, 2pm-3.30pm, 2022 – Room N112
Irina Papazu, IT University of Copenhagen; Andreas Birkbak, Aalborg University in Copenhagen; Laurie Waller, University of Manchester; David Moats, University of Helsinki
“Following on from the forthcoming book Democratic Situations (Mattering Press 2022), this panel invites papers interested in going beyond democracy as an assortment of abstract ideals, an off-the- shelf theoretical construct or taken for granted political reality.”
Friday, July 8th, 9am-10.30am and 11am-12.30pm – Room N105
Roland Bal, Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam; Lieke Oldenhof, Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam; Iris Wallenburg, Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam; Brit Ross Wintereik, IT University of Copenhagen
“Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are portrayed as an emerging promise in our evolving world, forestalling a digital and yet unknown future. Consumer-oriented mobile technologies offer new ways of capturing a digital organizational understanding of how people behave and interact. AI is seen as a promissory solution to urgent societal problems like workforce shortage, unmet social needs, welfare inequality, personalized medicine and precision welfare. However, AI is also viewed as a sincere threat to human well-being.”
Saturday, July 9th, 9am-10.30am – Room N109
Then, off to the TiPsters participating by contributing with exciting papers:
Prediction, Power and Values in Digitalized Policing in Denmark
As Brayne (2021) notes, predictive systems of law enforcement are not value-neutral objects but contain messy, complicated relations of power. To investigate these matters in a northern European context the Critical Understanding of Predictive Policing (CUPP) project was initiated. In the context of the Denmark, we ask ourselves, what values and affordances are embedded in the POL-INTEL program of the Danish police, made and delivered by Palantir Technologies? To attempt to open the black box is particularly fraught with methodological issues as police consistently in Denmark (Holmberg, 2014) and internationally (Ralph, 2017) carefully manage, contain and frame information. Due to this factor there is a range of ideologies (Althusser, 1970)which proliferate concerning technology and policing, both in academia and in civil society.
To counter this, attempts are made from a multi-disciplinary approach to utilize ethnographic fieldwork such as interviews and observations with police officials, Palantir employees and others, along with wide-ranging document analysis. This investigation leads to questions examining potential bias, changing police work practices and state power. It furthermore critically examines the concept of prediction and it’s genealogy and returns to fundamental questions of policing and the liberal state.
How does the energy past weigh on energy futures?
Caroline Anna Salling:
From Industrial Excess to Infrastructural Convergence: District heating and Facebook Data Storage in Odense, Denmark
“This paper’s focus is on industrial excess as engineered bridge between decaying infrastructures and future energy relationships in which Big Tech are involved not only as consumer but also as producer.
In Odense, Denmark, a hyperscale Facebook datacenter and a local district heating system are connected. The heat produced as a form of excess within servers in the datacenter is utilized as fuel to substitute coal in the city’s heating infrastructure. This convergence I have researched through ethnographically participating in the everyday work of the engineers that have planned and constructed the convergence. In 2019-2020 the pipes, heat pumps and computers that facilitate the convergence were tested, and soon after the datacenter was scheduled to scale up. Thereby also increasing its production of the so-called excess heat from servers.
The integration of Big Tech as energy producer within the Danish energy grid is part of general efforts to electrify more energy intensive infrastructures and phase out solid fuels. However, the production of energy from coal in Odense is phased out for dependency of electricity produced elsewhere in the Nordic grid. District heating infrastructures have been constructed in Denmark for many decades but particularly became prevalent as solution to the oil crises of the 70’s. These vary in size, but the largest infrastructures are still being extended, of which some are made up of gigantic pipe networks that similarly require gigantic energy sources to power them, through which datacenters in Danish regulation are imagined to be one solution.
In this I attend to the infrastructural politics of the convergence through industrial excess with particular attention to both the regulation and the everyday engineering work at the energy plant.”
Wednesday, July 6th, 3.30pm-5pm, Room N105
Ingmar Lippert and Julie Sascia Mewes:
Enacting Care through Methodography
“In this paper, we explore the potential of enacting care through methodography, an emerging genre of writing about reflexive methods, specifically within and about STS ethnography. We think of methodography as a genre shaped by scholars who reflexively attend to their own or other social scientists’ research practices (Ashmore 1989; Greiffenhagen et al. 2011). Our question is how methodography might extend STS notions of care and intimate entanglements towards more care-ful ethnographic methodologies and practice (Lippert & Mewes, 2021; Mewes & Lippert, in preparation; Law & Lin, 2020; Latimer & López Gómez, 2019; Mol, Moser & Pols, 2010). In this paper we draw on our own ethnographic research practice on occupational therapy (change to timings of sleep in Arctic Norway) and heritage infrastructure in Germany. We conduct a methodographic analysis of this material and then show how this methodographic approach enacts specific realities of care. We conclude in terms of how methodographic analysis can enact “care-ful research” (Law & Lin, 2020). We argue that being care-ful methodographically extends the “sensitivity to the performativity of research” (2020:1)
from method’s reality effects to the infrastructure of performing method practice, and to caring for our ethnographic data, and its analytics and textual representations. The paper contributes to the panel’s and broader STS’ aim to turn reflexivity into method(ographic) practice by offering a metaanalysis of how we have enacted care through and for their research infrastructure, including researchers themselves, research agendas, questions, data and methods. Through this, enacting care through methodography is meant to set the ground to enhance future analytic and collaborative relation-making.”
Thursday, July 7th, 3.30pm-5pm – Room N110
Anne-Sofie Lautrup Sørensen:
Negotiations of goodness in Norway’s oil capital – generational dynamics of living well in post-petroleum futures
“Across disciplines concerned scholars and activists alike call for new modes of living well in a warming world. Taking such calls seriously require new understandings of what it means to be and do good. In this paper I explore negotiations of goodness in Norway’s oil capital Stavanger, where oil plays a significant role in the narrative of Norwegian progress and demands to phase out the production challenges deep-seated cultural ideas about Norwegian goodness (Tvedt 2006; Witoszek 2011; Anker 2020).
I draw on ethnographic fieldwork among young climate activists and their local community in Stavanger and present selected ethnographic observations about changes in and contestations about what goodness means relationally, temporally, and affectively in the oil capital of one of the world’s richest countries whose wealth is gained from fossil fuels. Stavanger is an interesting case: inhabitants are acutely aware of the destructive consequences of the oil and gas industry for the global climate, while oil and gas make up the foundation of the local labor market and the finances of the national welfare state. Furthermore, in the relatively small city of Stavanger, activists and industry people often share social ties of friendship and family.
What generational negotiations over the meaning of goodness are at play, when young people and adults imagine post-petroleum worlds and the transitions necessary to realize them? What visions of the future crystalizes when registers of goodness shift? And what happens to the narratives of the past when goodness is reframed? By unpacking these questions, the paper offers novel understandings of the social complexity of living well in a warming world by illuminating the generational dynamics at play in negotiations over what goodness means empirically.”
Friday, July 8th, 9am-10.30am – Room N106
Anne-Sofie is also participating in the sub-plenary ”Speculative ecologies for a vulnerable world”
Thursday, July 7th
Simy Kaur Gahoonia and Christopher Gad:
Prototyping Democratic Futures in Education
“This paper explores how the Danish school sector performs and reworks engagement with digitalizing society and the future of democracy through prototyping. Public schooling is routinely mobilized by the state to frame societal problems and their solutions. By law, Danish schooling should prepare students for participation, co-responsibility, rights, and duties in a democratic society. Recently, this has come to include preparing students for life in an increasingly digitalized democracy. We investigate the Ministry of Educations Trial of Technology Comprehension (2018-2021). This was an experimental effort to determine how best to introduce understanding of technology into compulsory schooling as a generally formative, creative-constructive, and critical, subject matter combining computer science and design approaches to impart a holistic comprehension of technology on students. The curriculum suggested that design approaches, especially, were conducive to agency and empowerment in digital democratic life, making it imperative that students learn to materialise digital artefacts through prototyping. This takes prototyping beyond its traditional use in design and systems development, making experimentalism central to the conduct of citizenship and social life. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and document analysis, we examine prototyping across scale in the trial programme. 1) as a curricular concern in the curriculum materials and proposed learning outcomes; 2) as object of teaching and learning in classroom practice; 3) as organisational practice in the trials own project design and execution. We argue that prototyping functions as a device for intervention in the complexity and uncertainty of a democratic future proliferated by digital technologies. In this situation, the capacity of prototyping is to keep matters of concerns both open and closed. We critically examine the role of the prototype in a democracy in perpetual beta and the response: to educate students to become designers.”
Friday, July 8th, 9am-10.30am – Room
Chronopolitics within the maintenance of corporate environments
“Environmental discourses shift over time. Corporations are interested in maintaining efficient systems that can translate their operation’s environmental impacts easily into a given environmental logic (such as energy consumption, carbon emissions, water footprints, ecosystem services). For this purpose, an infrastructure commonly used by the maintainers of corporate environments, is accounting. For the accounting apparatus, material environmental relations are represented digitally. I attend to maintainers of such digital materials and analyse how they enact the corporation’s environmental relations as sufficiently stable. I show that achieving such stability over time is indeed a critical project because the socio-technical relations of the infrastructure routinely threaten such stability. To substantiate this argument, I draw on ethnographic research into carbon accounting across a period of 20 months. Analytically, this problematisation draws on Annelise Riles’ notion of the placeholder and Lucy Suchman’s concept of configuration. In the paper, I set out from an artefact of the stabilisation of carbon within the project of reducing emissions in relation to a baseline. Then I analyse three brief vignettes. I tell of (1) too swift emission reduction; (2) the synchronisation of emissions; and (3) the versioning of environments. Across these analyses, I problematise how the maintenance of these corporate carbon emissions require continuous (re)configuration into an appropriately flexible environmental reality. In sum, with this empirical material I argue that a complex temporal politics is at work within maintaining emissions in the corporation to produce different versions of environmental realities.”
Friday, July 8th, 11am-12.30pm – Room N106
Mace Ojala with Pedro Ferreira and Merethe Riggelsen Gjørding:
Feminist ethos under data production pressures
“ETHOS Lab located within the IT University of Copenhagen is committed to feminist values in researching and teaching STS. Offering the lab as a site for supervision, workshops and consulting in Digital Methods , we receive frequent requests to harvest and provide data from social media platforms. While being engaged in knowledge production is a given for the lab, we occasionally feel a sense of ambivalence, unease and even resistance towards handing over datasets and data files we’ve collected and leaving it in the hands of others. What kind of data ethics do we find ourselves involved in?We will present a comparison of two models developed at the lab: ”read-and-agree-to-comply” and ”read-and-assess”. We draw from interviews with colleagues to whom we provided data, focusing on the lives of these data post-handout. This constitutes part a broader effort to reconcile the lab’s commitment to feminist values with production imperative and materialities of potentially creepy data (Shklovski et al. 2014). Our aim is to generate accountable practices, guidelines and conversations between ourselves, our students, our colleagues and users of social media that are both responsible, reasonable as well as practical. We seek to avoid “ethics washing” and what Sarah Ahmed has identified as production of irrelevant compliance documents (2007). For guidance we draw on Nissenbaum’s framework of contextual integrity (2010) and d’Ignazio and Klein’s data feminism (2020). Our aim is not to build critical distance to data work, and marginalize and disengage the lab from the ethico-onto-epistem-ologics of knowledge production (Barad 2007) by rejecting data collection requests – at least not yet – but rather to gradually, collectively, relationally and carefully strengthen and deepen both qualitative and quantitative research conducted in a data-heavy social sciences research environment.”
Last but not least, Brit is a part of a book launch for Handbook for the Anthropology of Technology during lunch break on Friday, July 8th in room N117.
“Sally Wyatt, Anders Munk, Anne Beaulieu, Klaus Hoyer and Brit Winthereik will speak about the books position in the STS landscape.”
Be there or be without lunch and a new book.
NOS VEMOS IN MADRID!