Accepted Paper:

Response-able Subjects: Shaping experiment from the inside out  

Authors:

Sarah Klein (University of California, San Diego)
Tyler Marghetis (Indiana University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper describes an experiment in “response-able” experimental design: a collaboration between a cognitive scientist and an ethnographer of cognitive science, which inverted the agential structure of the cognitive psychology experiment, rendering it responsive to the impressions of its subjects.

Paper long abstract:

Alongside a commitment to describing the entanglements by which the world is made, feminist STS scholars have called for "response-ability" in science, that is, toward materializing research entanglements that cultivate mutual responsivity between scientists and their subjects (Haraway 2008, Barad 2007). This paper describes a collaborative experiment in response-able experimental design.

EXPF: Shaping Experiment was a collaboration between a cognitive scientist and an ethnographer of cognitive science. This experiment-performance inverted the agential structure of the cognitive psychology experiment, rendering it responsive to the impressions of its subjects rather than testing a hypothesis of the researchers. After having subjects complete what appeared to be a standard, computer-based cognitive psychology task, we elicited impressions about the experiment's purpose and suggestions for improvement. Our performance score required that we respond to subjects' feedback by revising the experiment before the next subject arrived, whose impressions revised the next version of the experiment, and so on in an iterated chain of performance and revision. In becoming responsive, experiment and experimenters became instruments to capture the invisible routines and formalized power relations that make the experiment possible at the scale of laboratory interaction. This paper will report on the process and results of our collaboration, and reflect on the implications of response-ability for the cognitive sciences. In taking up the challenge of response-ability, this work also contributes to ongoing conversations in STS about the performativity of method, historical and ethnographic studies of experiment, and situated/embodied scientific practice.

Panel T059
Making Worlds: Feminist STS and everyday technoscience