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How can the notion of organization be used to study and shape current societal transformations? This panel explores how organizations both form and are formed by social change related to science, research and technology. It aims at linking STS and organization studies.
How can the notion of organization be used to study and shape current societal transformations? With its sensitivity for social order in the co-shaping of science and society, STS is committed to organization in a broad sense (cf. Hacket et al. 2016). Organizations are also common field-sites regarded as contexts of scientific work and institutional logics. This panel aims at foregrounding the infrastructural notion of organization and refreshing conversations between STS and organization studies.
Understanding organization as continuous re:organizing of action or communication (cf. Strauss 1985, Weick 1993, Latour 2012), organizations can be regarded as particular practices, or forms of social order, with distinctive roles for science and society: They formalize rules to detach solutions from situations and observe informal enactment of rules again. This is especially relevant in the context of current societal transformations – regarding digitalization, ecological sustainability and social inequalities – which are intimately intertwined with science, technologies and research.
On the one hand, transformation processes complicate organizations by rendering their boundaries more precarious and nested. This changes the very premises of how research and science-based governance are organized. For instance, when in Citizen Science non-professionals participate in research online without organizational membership (Franzoni et al. 2021) or when meta-organizations, like the International Whaling Commission, fail because social orders around scientific evidence clash (Berkowitz & Grothe-Hammer 2022). On the other hand, transformative initiatives and their contestation are largely realized by organizations, e.g., philanthropic foundations establishing a regime of evidence-based giving (Maclean et al. 2021) or courts embedding algorithmic decision-making (Schwarting & Ulbricht 2022). Organizations are thus also key agencies shaping societal transformations.
The panel welcomes contributions on re:organizing within science or drawing on it connected to societal transformations. How do organizations become sites of transformation and act as transformation agencies? What are implications for research, reflectivity and intervention?