What happens when we commit to intervening in the practices we study as a form of STS scholarship? Avoiding the polarized positions of promise and critique of intervention, this panel empricises what happens when STS scholars get involved in experimental, uncontrollable processes of worldmaking.
Intervention as method has long been a contested topic in STS. Some authors claim that constructivism leaves no ground for intervention, since relativism refutes direction for action. Others keep promising a bright future in which STS will have much to contribute to the construction of the worlds we live in. Maximally untroubled by these equally linear positions of critique and promise, others try to empiricise what happens when STS scholars get involved in worldmaking. This panel aims to provide a space for just that.
What happens, if we - as researchers - commit to intervention? How does intervention become method? What knowing does it generate? How does STS knowledge travel to new sites and audiences? How does it challenge our own normative positions? And how are we able to smuggle in what we care about? How are STS debates translated in the process? How and when are interventions considered helpful and collaborative versus disruptive or disloyal to 'shared' goals? And what strategies do we develop when we notice that little of what an intervention or an interventionist STS scholar is, is in our hands?
In this panel we assemble contributions that reflect on empirical instances of intervention as a method for the production new knowledge and novel normative sensibilities. Empirical topics include health care and medical knowledge production, urban planning and architectural design, social youth work and school system, environmental sciences and computational modelling.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Reconfiguring 'sexting': contrasting interventions in contentious debates
The paper considers attempts at intervention following a case of sexting in a Dutch school. It attends to how audiences were compelled by my knowledge practices in response. These contrasting interventions make clear how making knowledge can engage worldmaking normatively in various ways.
During my fieldwork on diversity and sexuality in Dutch secondary schools, a (semi)nude picture of one of the female pupils was spread widely. Like pupils and teachers in the school, I felt compelled to intervene. How to put my STS on the production and scripting of sexting phenomenon to work?
This paper describes and contrasts different ways of intervening that I engaged with. Taking place in different sites, these interventions mostly aimed at rescribing what are taken to be the problems with sexting, highlighting how it is produced as a dangerous phenomenon. In doing so I offered possible ways out of the dominant way of scripting the phenomenon, trying to engage with it otherwise.
Some interventions were situated in the school, and involved diverting attention from psychological interrogation of the girl who was central in the event by asking about the process of spreading.
Worries about sexting were also expressed outside the school, in public debates. Here, I intervened through popular science writing, advisory work for a national curriculum on sexuality, and public speaking.
The analysis addresses how I was invited to take on different roles: expert, advisor, illustrator, intervention developer, and the different ideas about what counts as research result, intervention, or implementation of results that came along. The paper shows what kind of interventions ethnographic stories enable, the extent to which they were accepted, transformed, or rejected. Through contrasting these interventions, it becomes clear how our own knowledge practices can engage normatively in worldmaking in different ways.
Reconfiguring motivation as emerging motives in evolving collectives
Enhancing 'motivation' for a preconceived activity or 'change' is a limited approach to developing subjectivities. Better to individuate agents, actions, desires and knowledges in emerging collectives. We perform such reflexive self-making as a way of developing social youth work and its knowledges.
'Motivation' is currently in vogue. The discourse presents itself in simplistic and banal ways (e.g. as self-efficacy or intrinsic motivation), but it structures forms of guided self-fashioning that present new social technologies. The implications and effects of these technologies are complex and largely unarticulated. They are easily dismissed as inconsequential pragmatics, or debunked as individualizing self-management. Techniques such as 'motivational interviewing', 'self-tracking' or 'nudging' suggest easy pragmatic solutions to power issues that we can either accept, or reveal as manipulative, but to no avail. Part of the problem is the insufficient recognition that desires and motives evolve as part of the ongoing, reflexive individuation of subjects and collectives (cf. Simondon). If we think of subjectivity thus as becoming, we can begin to engage in an affirmative critique that re-articulates such 'motivating' practices.
However, we can also widen the perspective considerably. Instead of 'motivating' (recruiting, aligning) people to existing activities, places, institutions, or ethics, we can engage in a tinkering of care (cf. Mol). This is one way of describing our current project. The project continues a long-term collaboration between researchers and professionals who experiment with new forms of social youth work in Copenhagen. See http://www.stuffsite.org/. We have worked with user-driven standards, spaces and aesthetics. Now we construct a reflexive and interactive model of and for 'outreach' - an emergent design of collectives and activities with new users and new professional collaborators, in which the 'epistemic objects', and the desires they awaken, are undecided at the outset.
Architectural intraventions: pedagogical experiments with 'technical democracy' in design studio projects
A reflection on a series of pedagogical 'intraventions' in architecture training, experimenting with different predicative and experiential modes of putting STS insights, and most particularly technical democracy, to work.
Between 2015 and 2018 we worked at Technical University of Munich's Department of Architecture. As STS-inspired anthropologists, teaching architecture students offered a unique opportunity to experiment with pedagogic modes of putting STS insights to work: in a dialogue about the politics of urban infrastructures and environments, paying attention to what it means to engage in their design. Such was the case of a series of pedagogic interventions at an MA level around a central conceptual concern: exploring the meaning and prospects of one of STS's central aspirations, 'technical democracy'. Thus, in this presentation we will pay specific attention to the predicaments in and around the conception and undertaking of a series of design studio projects, reflecting on the attempts at having pedagogic effects. In fact, we plan to show a transition from an initially 'predicative' pedagogical mode-where the main works on technical democracy were read and explained, hoping this to have an impact on our students' architectural practice-to a series of more 'experiential' ones, where the challenge of technical democracy was repurposed in three ways: as (1) co-laboration, (2) entrapment, and (3) intravention. The latter-intravention-became particularly relevant in a series of studio projects called 'Design in Crisis': where students learnt to become affected by multi-sensory aspects of the situations in which they design, and the more-than-human actors they should design with. This has entailed the production of architectural toolkits, which in our opinion have functioned a re-learning device of sorts, having an impact on our students' design practice and aims.
Intervening in urban strategy
As an apprentice in a municipal strategy office, I intervene in and co-produce planning objects to make Copenhagen more liveable. I also study the time-work and valuation-work that make the city knowable and actionable to planners. These two efforts both complement and obstruct each other.
Meetings. The ones that other people put in your Outlook calendar. About new procedures, evaluations of projects, communication with management; daily life in a bureaucracy. Sometimes, though, the air thickens and talk is on future infrastructure projects and land reclamation. Great forces are now at play. What is going to happen? What might happen? What just happened?
Strategic urban planning is undoubtedly a world-making practice, conjuring up possible future cities and making the present city knowable and governable. These future cities may be magnificent, and may be castles in the sky. As a participating and intervening sociologist, I am awestruck, disillusioned, and confused.
My project explores how the concept 'liveability' becomes planning objects, the materiality of city governance as texts, spreadsheets, pictures, maps and meetings. In the project, intervening is about shifting the situated meaning of liveability towards being about lives in the city rather than about international rankings. I attempt to leverage my position as in-house researcher to ask whose lives the planners are planning for, and to challenge definitions of liveability modeled on an urban elite (see monocle.com).
For this paper, I want to discuss intervention as an ongoing effort, playing and working along, while commenting and asking questions. I will also describe how I plan that this will play into a more orchestrated effort to 1) identify case studies to be conducted 'for' the municipality (what knowledge to produce for my field) and 2) develop provo-types with planners to make the city tangible in better ways.
Co-production, intervention and experimentation in science governance: STS and Future Earth
This paper explores STS intervention in the governance of global environmental change (GEC) research, considering the author's own co-productive intervention in Future Earth (a major international GEC research initiative) and the forms of STS intervention already taking place in that context.
Co-design and co-production are increasingly advocated as methods or frameworks for involving non-academic actors in research and governance. Proponents argue that when addressing grand challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and sustainability, co-produced research will better engage with societal needs and concerns. However, co-production is also a core STS concept, signifying the tacit co-constitution of science/knowledge and social order (Jasanoff, 2004). To what extent are these different understandings compatible, and what are the implications for intervention?
This paper explores STS intervention in science governance by considering the meanings and practices of co-production in Future Earth, a major international research initiative on global environmental change (GEC) and sustainability, unique in its ambition to co-design/co-produce new GEC research at a global scale. Drawing on a qualitative case study of Future Earth, the author reflects on her own co-productive intervention in Future Earth (for example, through focus groups conducted in the context of committee meetings), and the ways in which STS concepts were (already) shaping what co-production means and what Future Earth is through the involvement of critical social scientists in its governance structures.
While the polysemy and multiplicity of co-production can provoke tensions, it can also be seen as an opportunity if we consider Future Earth, co-production, and intervention as an ongoing (series of) experiment(s). This might require new thinking about how to organise, conduct and value research and its outcomes, with an increased emphasis on fostering, appreciating and productively working with diversity and institutional indeterminacy.
Doing participatory urbanism: traps and tropes for technical democratization
Working with a city on the co-design of smart infrastructures, we ended up trying to intervene in the administration's understanding of participation. We followed two strategies: one rhetorical based on the mobilization of tropes and one situational aimed at setting traps.
STS is coming of age and with that new responsibilities are allocated to it by governments, universities and civic society. Isn't this what we have all long hoped for? The opportunity to eventually unfold our commitment to technical democracy, to the symmetrization of knowing and valuing practices, to the invisible work and care that hold our worlds together? Perhaps. But these powerful interpellations often invoke a particular ontology of the social, one in which STS scholars are expected to intervene in the name of publics, users and communities.
This is the situation we found ourselves in, when working with a city on the co-design of smart infrastructures while working in an STS center of a German technical university. Suddenly we became experts in citizen participation, in public understanding of smart infrastructures, expected to act, give advice, organize participation. The problem became then recursive: how to intervene in the expected mode of intervention?
In this presentation, I will reflect on the double strategy we developed to intervene in the public administrations we were collaborating with. The first strategy was rhetorical. Moving from a deficit in the public understanding of science to a deficit in the expert understanding of publics, we mobilize existing tropes to try to 'educate' our partners into an STS inspired version of participation. The second strategy was situational. It imagined intervention as the setting of traps for our partners, in which their knowledges and agendas might be made public and contested, while risking of course becoming entrapped ourselves.
Smuggling everyday Quality of Life into conventional oncological treatment.
The assessment-tool compose enacts a novel way of reflecting, tracking and communicating a specific version of Quality of Life during oncological treatment in germany. This contribution seeks to reflect on how an intervention like this affects clinical practice and the role we play in staging this
So-called patient-reported outcomes (PROs) like Quality of Life (QoL) are increasingly used in clinical trials and for hospital benchmarking. But this metric version of QoL is rarely used in individual therapy decisions and treatment.
Doing research about oncological treatment we tried to imagine, explore and enact a version of QoL which will enable patients to highlight a specific form of everyday QoL in clinical and non-clinical settings. Within the interdisciplinary research team em•pa•thy we designed a novel way of reflecting, tracking and communicating this specific version of QoL during oncological treatment in an outpatient clinic in germany.
Our practice of worldmaking begins by engaging patients not only as experts of their daily routines, but also by providing them a way to materialize this expertise in our analog tracking device compose. With this intervention we expect to affect therapy management and decision-making practices in clinical realities, while using the tool as a mode of knowledge production of these realities. The making of one QoL by designing a new way to track and communicate it, will not only uncover how this QoL is enacted but how it interacts with different versions of QoL in the clinical and non-clinical realities. Our engagement with QoL is part of the ongoing study Patient Assessment in Cancer Care (PACC) that tests novel ways of knowing, gathering and communicating patient-reported outcomes (distress, pain experience) in clinical routines.
From idiotic questions to the co-production of knowledge - reflections on in-tervention as method in research with/ on a highly specialized field
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in a research group of model developers I argue for in-tervention as method in highly specialized fields not only to produce data but also to find common ground for conceptual work and knowledge production.
This paper draws on explorative ethnographic fieldwork on knowledge practices in an inter-disciplinary research group developing computational models of socio-ecological coevolu-tion. Conducting my research I realized that I could not rely mainly on participant observa-tion but had to resort to methods which elicit explicit reactions and responses. Therefore I argue that intervention as method is a necessity for data production in highly specialized fields where most knowledge is implicit and embodied.
At first, interventions happened "on the go" and for pragmatic reasons. The kids of data pro-duced require further scrutiny and reflection. Already my presence as an academic peer in that specific research group entailed a somewhat uncontrollable form of involvement. This was underlined by the fact that I shared a strong interest in the field's research objective: understanding socio-ecological processes. However, what was controllable was the manner of intervention. These interventions happened on different scales, from asking "idiotic" questions in everyday conversations, via actively participating in discussions on work in progress, and conducting semi-structured interviews to, ultimately, a feedback workshop with the involved researcher.
To grasp this workshop as intervention will be the focus of my paper. Its aim was twofold: to discuss my hypotheses as well as shared concepts and contents of common interest with the field. Here, intervention served three purposes: generating ethnographic data, problematiz-ing epistemic assumptions in modelling, and finding a common ground for knowledge pro-duction, co-laboration and conceptual work on shared matters of concern in both their field and mine.
Integrating different knowledges in clinical practice guidelines: exploring the third space between epidemiology and science and technology studies
How is co-founding a working group of the Guidelines International Network on Appraising and Including Different Knowledge (AID Knowledge) in guidelines neither 'not' STS nor a 'hybrid' of STS and epidemiology? By considering it a training ground for putting oneself into perpetual translation.
Michel Serres (1991) proposes that we should not seek instruction from any singular form of understanding but should occupy the spaces of transformation which lie between - neither one nor the other but the 'third space' (Brown 2002). This paper explores the third space of a working group of the Guidelines International Network (G-I-N) on Appraising and Including Different Knowledge (AID Knowledge) in guidelines. This working group, that I co-founded, aims at learning from and contributing to guideline practices that challenge the boundaries between 'evidence' and 'judgement'. It problematizes ideas like the 'hierarchy of evidence' that privileges evidence from randomized controlled trials and meta-reviews on frequentist methodological grounds alone. The working group is a third space in the sense that it is neither STS nor epidemiology. This 'neither' could easily be misread as 'not' or as 'hybrid'. I explore how my involvement in the group is not 'not' STS. And how it is also not a 'hybrid' of STS and epidemiology. Drawing on a more spiritual vocabulary, the third space is 'neither same nor different'. It is a training ground for becoming 'third-instructed' (tiers-instruit), which is the name Serres (1991) gives "to him or her who is able to give up the comforts of disciplinary specialism and risk putting themselves into perpetual translation" (Brown 2002).
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.