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Security unboxed? The inventive potential of tinkering 
Jasper van der Kist (University of Antwerp)
Rocco Bellanova (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
Francesco Ragazzi (Leiden University)
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Combined Format Open Panel

Short Abstract:

This panel explores tinkering as a conceptual tool and methodological practice for immersive exploration of opaque security environments. It invites papers that highlight tinkering in socio-technical security practices and more experimental formats that incorporate it in their own research practice.

Long Abstract:

Research on socio-technical security practices is multiplying within STS and at its intersection with other disciplines. Most of this literature refutes linear and deterministic accounts of technology, which would view technologies as the most obvious solutions to a security problem, or as the natural extension of prevailing ways of doing security.

At the same time, approaching security practices in this manner leaves us with important conceptual and methodological questions, such as: How do we make sense of this situated, material, fluid, and experimental character of security, notably when more classical forms of fieldwork are not possible in the security field?

In this panel we suggest that tinkering may be a way to address the opacity of security practices and technologies. Following up on theoretical and empirical insights coming from STS, critical security studies, and digital humanities, we want to grasp the potential of tinkering – not just as a conceptual tool but also as a methodological practice, paving the way for an immersive exploration of socio-technical security environments.

We can still learn from classical STS studies that have employed tinkering to unveil the everyday and experimental understandings of technoscientific work. But in more recent years, we have seen more inventive research strategies emerge in digital humanities, such as hacking, prototyping, and reverse engineering. The combined format of the panel therefore accepts two types of contributions:

1. Paper presentations, reflecting on how tinkering can provide a conceptual vantage point to study how complex, messy and even conflictual security practices can actually be productive, thus allowing us to unpack how such ‘security tinkering’ transforms power relations;

2. Experimental formats, that would embrace tinkering in our own research practice, that is, develop ways of knowing that bring us closer to the everyday frictions and workable solutions that security actors have identified as crucial.

Accepted contributions: