What is a problem? What if problems have their own thickness and vitality, constituting a mode of existence of practices and things? How do practices participate in the transformation of problems? This track invites STS scholars to explore the nature of problems in techno-science and beyond.
This track invites scholars to reflect upon and experiment with the question of the nature of problems across fields of thought and practice in relation to science, technology and beyond. While techno-scientific practices are increasingly called upon to develop effective 'solutions' to the problems of our time, the question of what problems are is seldom posed. Often assumed as negative states of uncertainty and methodological imperfection, problems are habitually treated as something bound to disappear in the solutions that techno-science may yield. Research in STS and beyond has challenged this assumption on historical, political and sociological grounds, stressing that solutions to problems are always 'more-than-scientific', coming into existence through the creation of socio-technical arrangements that rearticulate complex human and non-human collectives. If solutions are more-than-scientific, then the question of what a problem points to the possibility that 'the problematic' might be more-than-scientific too. Following the work of thinkers like Dewey, Deleuze and Stengers, we can experiment with the prospect of problems as more than mere states of epistemic uncertainty, and regard them as a mode of existence of practices and things as such. These ontologies of the problematic would suggest that problems possess their own thickness and vitality, constituting intrinsic phases of dynamic, complex, natural-cultural assemblages. The proposed track invites STS scholars to engage with the nature of problems from the point of view of a variety of practices and concerns, at once philosophical and pragmatic, ethical and political.