Accepted Paper:

Defending Research by Doing Masculinities: Is Autonomous Driving the 'emasculation of the German car-driver'?  

Author:

Goede Both (University of Cologne)

Paper short abstract:

In my paper, I analyze two disparate strategies of a group of scientists in legitimizing their commitment to fully automated driving.

Paper long abstract:

Journalists, scientists and engineers claim that the 'revolution' of autonomous/ fully automated driving is just around the corner. In Germany, a controversy has started over the implications of self-driving cars. Last year, Winfried Hermann, Minister of Transport of Baden- W├╝rttemberg, publicly questioned the benefits of fully automated driving by framing it as the "emasculation of the German car-driver". Hermann's statement adds up to Berscheid's analysis (2014) of German media coverage of research in autonomous driving. Her research indicates that self-driving cars are viewed as a challenge to 'masculine' pleasures and practices, such as mastering a car and feeling the speed. Faced with criticism, German scientists and engineers in self-driving car research develop strategies in defending their research projects.

In my paper, I analyze two disparate strategies of a group of scientists in legitimizing their commitment to fully automated driving. The first strategy uses video demonstrations to tell heroic stories of robots and their masters. The second strategy draws on the fantasies of the service economy by rehabilitating passengering as a privileged practice. I argue that both strategies are gendered in different ways.

This paper seeks to contribute to current discussions in STS-inspired analyses of science communication (e.g. Davies/Horst 2015) and feminist studies of gender-technology relations (e.g. Mellstr├Âm 2012). My analysis is grounded in empirical material generated by original ethnographic research among members of a research group based at a German university. My research is guided by Suchman's notion of human-machine (re-)configurations (2007) and Czarniawska's narrative approach (2004).

Panel T032
Science Communication