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Accepted Paper:

Towards an Anthropology of Everyday Technoscience  


Gonçalo Santos (University of Coimbra)

Paper short abstract:

Everyday lives around the world are increasingly shaped by global articulations of technocience. This paper draws on case studies from East Asia to call for a new anthropology of everyday technocience capable of moving beyond simplistic modernist ideologies of progress and freedom.

Paper long abstract:

In Beijing, a mother just started to use a smartwatch to track the movements of her young child in the context of an increasingly hectic regime of intensive education. In Tokyo, a filial son visits his 90-year old mother and watches her interact with a humanoid robot called Pepper on trial in many nursing homes in Japan. These are some of the ways in which TECHNOSCIENCE is shaping everyday lives in the 21st century, and as these various examples imply, this dynamics of technoscientific world-making is not taking place in a vacuum but is mediated by complex social and political negotiations.

Anthropology and STS have developed strong synergies since the 1980s when it was argued that science labs, hospitals, and engineering companies could be studied ethnographically like "exotic societies." Twenty years later, in the age of digital capitalism and globalization, it is time to come out of the lab, the hospital, and the engineering company to reflect on the increasing centrality of global articulations of technoscience in the governance of everyday life practices. Instead of thinking of technoscience as something that will shape the future (for good or for bad), we need to ask critical questions about how technoscience is actually shaping everyday lives in the present. Here I draw on examples from my work and the work of my graduate students in East Asian contexts to show how technocience is aligning with larger political forces to participate in the construction of new forms of automated inequality.

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Shifting Horizons: Anthropology and STS in the 21st Century