Accepted paper:

Troubling the ordering in cybersecurity research


Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda (University of Klagenfurt)
Laura Kocksch (Ruhr-University Bochum)
Estrid Sørensen (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)

Paper short abstract:

With increasing funding for interdisciplinary projects in cybersecurity computer scientists are recruiting collaborators from various fields. Some collaborations perform interdisciplinarity particularly convincing, based on compatible epistemic cultures. We highlight potentials for STS.

Paper long abstract:

When computer scientists acknowledge the limits of their technocentric approach and aim to design technologies closer to human needs or to engender more security-conscious behaviour, they tend to reach out to psychologists. Psychologists' concepts of evidence (e.g. mathematical prove) and their experimental methods resonate well with those of computer science, and techno-psychological accounts of cybersecurity (e.g. HCI) have become acknowledged in industry and academia for analysing individuals' actions and mental models of the technological system.

With the current call for more interdisciplinarity in cybersecurity STS scholars enter into this field of study troubling concepts, methods and ontologies of techno-psychological interdisciplinarity. For example, STS views security as volatile, flexible and a matter of sociomaterial collaboration, i.e. collective, distributed and contested, which often leads to a questioning of pre-defined definitions of security and fixed relations between humans and technologies. Under these conditions, what does interdisciplinarity between computer science and STS look like? How is the topic of cybersecurity specifically suitable for psychological inquiries? Is it because it focuses on individuals' behavior?

The paper takes its point of departure in our previous and current interdisciplinary collaborations with computer scientists aimed at cybersecurity. We discuss the challenges STS encounters when attempting to re-sorte computer science based cybersecurity while still collaborating in a symmetric manner with computer scientists. We ask about the specificity of cybersecurity that makes STS engagement challenging and inquire into the possibilities of interdisciplinary collaboration. What would a socio-materially centred cybersecurity research look like?

panel C24
Caring, negotiating and tinkering for IT in/security