Category: General

Reflections on the 2021 AusSTS ‘Situated Practices’ Workshop

The 2021 AusSTS interdisciplinary workshop, hosted by the Deakin University Science & Society Network, was a two-day multi-sited event, bringing together STS researchers from across Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand. Based on the theme of ‘Situated Practice’, the workshop combined keynote talks, thematic presentations by postgraduate and early career researchers, and field trips. (read more...)

Harnessing Indeterminacy: The Technopolitics of Hydrocarbon Prospects

Amidst an international crisis sparked by the scandalous confessions of a mafia boss and a pollution and climate change-triggered marine disaster at the Marmara Sea in May and June 2021, Turkey’s Minister of Energy made consecutive announcements of oil and gas discovery (among other valuable minerals such as gold) in Turkey’s offshore waters and onshore lands. Mainstream and state-owned media reported these discoveries as steps in Turkey’s economic wealth and resource independence to come. Critics, however, seemed to think that the announcements were just a ploy to detract attention from Turkey’s real political and economic problems. Following the reactions on social media from Chicago, I was struck by how many people seemed to think that these “discoveries” were actually fake. Many mocked the news about gas discovery in the Black Sea by sarcastically asking if there was an election on the horizon or if a bitcoin mine discovery was next (read more...)

Like, Share, Comment, and Follow: Labor and Capital on Instagram

Social media content creator Ishita Mangal (@ishitamangal) uploaded a post with multiple slides on her Instagram page. The first slide is entitled “an apology letter to my audience.” In the rest of the slides, she highlights a “barter collaboration” gone sour. The collaboration entailed the digital creator featuring four Indian kaftans (a type of clothing) brands on her Instagram page in exchange for keeping the outfits that she would feature. One of the brands was singled out, with their Instagram handle mentioned in the caption for viewers of the post to easily access. The brand was accused of harassing the digital creator; walking back on the terms of the agreement; asking for the garment in question back after “absorbing maximum benefits of all the posts on various platforms.” The digital creator proceeds to tell the tale of harassment and “extortion” she experienced at the hands of the luxury brand owner. (read more...)

Key Insights for Thinking and Doing Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Work: Contributions from Latin America

In April 2021, the First ESOCITE-LALICS Conference took place, albeit virtually. This was the first virtual Conference organized with the collaboration of the Asociación Latinoamericana de Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y Tecnología (ESOCITE) and Red Latinoamericana para el Estudio de los Sistemas de Aprendizaje, Innovación y Construcción de Competencias (LALICS). Importantly, the two organizations have different profiles: if LALICS aims to deepen the links between innovation processes, national/regional development, innovation systems, learning processes, and capacity building in the region, ESOCITE’s goal is to strengthen linkages across members of the community of social studies of science and technology in Latin America. (read more...)

Days of Their Lives: The Limits, Possibilities, and Parallels of Media-Ted Research during a Pandemic

On a regular day, a Hindi soap opera production set in Mumbai is home to upwards of 100 artists and technicians – production associates, actors, make-up artists, costume artists, lighting technicians, assistant directors, creatives, and spot boys.  Their collective efforts ensure that audiences have new episodes to look forward to daily. Come rain, hail, or shine, through collaborations and conflicts, together they build melodramatic worlds that entertain millions of households in India. But what happens when the meaning of “regular” is redefined? What happens when even two become a crowd? When the first wave of COVID-19 hit Mumbai in March 2020, it brought, among other things, the Hindi soap opera industry to a halt. Daily production activities of soap operas across channels were abruptly paused. Sets had to be abandoned in haste when a citywide lockdown was announced. The absence of film work meant that workers would go without payments (read more...)

Swarming Syphilis: On the Reality of Data

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) Syphilis, an infection caused by the bacterium treponema pallidum, is an important disease. It starts as a skin lesion and develops until it deforms bones, compromises the central nervous system, and ultimately causes death. During pregnancy, the disease can also be transmitted from mother to child. It has accompanied our species at least since the Renaissance and generated various innovations in modern science throughout this history. It helped give rise to serology through the Wasserman Reaction (Fleck 2010), the first detection test, and it was crucial for the consolidation of somatological perspectives of mental illnesses in psychiatry (Carrara and Carvalho 2010). Due to sexual transmission of the disease, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it became the evil venereal illness par excellence in restrictive sexual regimes (Fleck 2010; Quetel 1986). Since that time, syphilis has laid the foundations for codes of social conduct and even for ideas of the “self” in western societies, for example in criminalizing prostitution (Carrara 1996; Bastos 2007) and shaping contagion theories and its relations of body-subject (Echeverría 2010). (read more...)

Maps as Cultural Objects

In the Digital Age, maps are closer to us than ever before—a quick tap on a smartphone and you’re off to the nearest Starbucks for a quick coffee stop. Like other popular technologies, maps are critical tools that we use to interact with and understand the world around us. They are simplified depictions of our surroundings, crafted from human experience and made for a purpose. Maps cannot be disconnected from the minds and cultures that decide what to depict, where, and how. Purely factual tools of navigation on the surface, maps transmit and reinforce cultural understandings of our place in the world. (read more...)

Centavitos Against Food Insecurity: Structural Violence, Charity, and Technical Fixes in Guatemala

On March 23rd, 2021, the 2020 yearly results for the “Gran Cruzada Nacional por la Desnutrición” (Great National Crusade for Malnutrition) were presented in a press conference held in the Guatemalan National Palace. For a little over an hour, several ministers made short speeches about the success of their activities related to programs attempting to prevent food insecurity in the country. After, a company highlighted a donation for acquiring a nutritionally improved flour to complement children’s diets. The event ended with some words from the Guatemalan president, Alejandro Giammattei. He explained that lowering malnutrition rates in Guatemala is a communal effort that must be carried out by civil society, business, and the government. He then invited national banks to institute a new campaign in which account holders donate the leftover “little cents” (centavitos) from their bank account balance each month. (read more...)