(E06)
The room where it happens: inclusion, exclusion and power in STS research and practice
Location Marcus Merriman Lecture Theatre (Bowland North)
Date and Start Time 27 Jul, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • Katharine Howell (Lancaster University) email
  • Craig Jones (Lancaster University) email

Mail All Convenors

Short abstract

Who gets to be in the room where it happens? We invite proposals for papers exploring the politics of meetings within STS research and practice: intersectional power dynamics within or beyond meeting spaces, inclusion/exclusion, silence/voice, and how meetings are recorded, reported and represented.

Long abstract

No-one really knows how the game is played

The art of the trade

How the sausage gets made

We just assume that it happens

But no-one else is in

The room where it happens

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Interviews, conferences, cabinet meetings, political summits. Meetings, as the physical (and increasingly, virtual) bringing together of people in one room, play a central part both in the practice of doing STS research and in the things we research. Who is in the room where it happens and who is absent? Who speaks, who is silent? Who listens, who and what is heard? What are the power dynamics of meetings, and what are the implications of these for research, policy and practice? How do these relate to intersectional structures of oppression and privilege acting both within and beyond the room? How do the interactions in our research practice disrupt and reinforce these dynamics? Who do we as researchers include and exclude? Are absence and exclusion the same thing? And how is what happens in the room reported outside it? Who is written into and out of journalism, research, history?

In this panel, we invite participants to explore the politics of meetings through asymmetries and structures of power including, but not limited to: coloniality, race, class, gender, (dis)ability, sexuality, and religion. Our aim is to facilitate discussion around how our work is implicitly and explicitly imbued with a multitude of power relations. We welcome submissions both of standard paper presentations and less conventional formats.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Fossil networks and dirty power in the land of Oz

Author: Adam Lucas (University of Wollongong) email
Mail All Authors

Short abstract

This paper outlines the extent to which the fossil fuel industry in Australia has infiltrated government at multiple levels and continues to shape government policy concerning energy and infrastructure development. It argues that major structural reforms are required to turn this situation around.

Long abstract

Drawing on recent work in STS, policy studies and political economy, this paper examines how the fossil fuel industry continues to exercise extraordinary financial and political clout in Australia, despite its demonstrable role in contributing to dangerous climate change and opposing the transition to sustainable forms of energy. The industry continues to shape tax and regulatory regimes in its favour, and to influence in significant ways major government and private sector investments in new infrastructure. Although its role in sowing doubt and confusion over the science of climate change is by now well-known and widely documented, what is less well-known is its preoccupation with infiltrating democratic governments by providing financial, logistical and personnel support to those political parties, governments and individuals most likely to serve its interests. This paper draws attention to literally dozens of individuals over the last decade who have moved seamlessly between positions in the fossil fuel and/or mining industries and senior positions in government, or vice versa, many of whom have taken up industry positions straight after leaving government. These individuals had, or acquired, detailed inside knowledge of public policy on issues which directly affect the future ability of those industries to maintain their market dominance, and which therefore provides a significant political and economic advantage to them. I argue that these activities demonstrate the fossil fuel industry's hostility to democratic governance and oversight, and that the current laws and guidelines which are supposed to regulate its behaviour on multiple fronts are completely inadequate.

The enactment of legitimate stakeholders and issues at the Green Climate Fund board meetings

Author: Jonas Bertilsson (University of Gothenburg) email
Mail All Authors

Short abstract

We show the enactment of legitimate stakeholders and issues at Green Climate Fund board meetings. This enactment is connected to actors' position in power relations and how they make both stakeholders and issues visible or invisible in the GCF.

Long abstract

Global climate finance has become one of the most conflictual aspects of climate politics, which makes the stakeholder arrangement of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) a crucial case of stakeholder engagement in climate governance. We understand the GCF board meetings as important sites for the enactment of legitimate global climate governance. We analyse how both stakeholders and issues are made legitimate or invisible at the GCF board meetings. This enactment must be understood not only in relation to the proximity of the meetings but also in relation to socio-material conditions that goes beyond these immediate settings. These socio-material conditions consist of infrastructures and different combinations of dependencies and commitments which makes for actors' position in power relations, and their ability to take part in shaping climate governance. The GCF is dedicated to support developing countries but rather consolidate power relations between the Global North and the Global South. E.g. the limited constituencies for observers in the GCF forces especially civil society organizations to talk with 'one voice' at meetings, at the same time as they try to represent the plurality of excluded constituents like 'indigenous people'. Actors from the South often lack the economic resources to attend the meetings, and the introduction of web casted meetings to solve this problem, gave attending actors more time for informal pre-board meetings, as a way for the GCF to control issues discussed at web casted meetings, excluding non-present actors in issue formation.

PDF Download PDF of paper

Intersectionality, power dynamics and visibility of women in science

Author: Chandni Vadhavana (Central University of Gujarat) email
Mail All Authors

Short abstract

The paper explores the culture of science studies within technological institutes, through a sociological lens focusing on the relations between gender, race, caste and class prevalent in laboratories from an STS perspective to understand the in/visibility and marginalization of women in science.

Long abstract

The paper sought to demonstrate, through an intersectional framework, that unlike much of the dominant public portrayals, science is not a "value neutral entity" but its performance is inevitably influenced by many socio-political and cultural factors, and further, tries to understand how the organizational structure of scientific institutions and culture of laboratory is multifaceted and complex embedded in the larger socio-cultural contexts. Observing the close interactions between human and non-human elements the study tried to explore the micro-level intricacies of power relations, networking and collaborations that reinforce ingrained hierarchical structures and hegemony operating in the science research laboratories. The paper attempts to critically analyze the mainstream argument, the "theory of merit" and reflects on the privileges and accumulated socio-cultural capital that plays a prominent role in visibility and invisibility of marginalized community in research institutions. Moreover, the paper elaborates on the laboratory as a site of ethnographic analysis to gain a deeper understanding of the multitude of power relations that operates through diverse categories of gender, race, caste, class and perpetuates inequality in technological spaces. In addition, the study is also an effort to understand how deeply contextual social pressures and the gendered nature of the laboratory spaces act as hindrances for women researchers in establishing their career in science.

Peer review and networks in STEM disciplines - a question of gendered Inclusion, exclusion and power?

Author: Felizitas Sagebiel (University of Wuppertal) email
Mail All Authors

Short abstract

Based on research the paper will discuss, how exclusion processes (in STEM) excellence construction are included in peer reviews and assessment procedures, focusing on the individual qualification and merit, while neglecting those factors as masculine power in gatekeeping, mentoring and networks.

Long abstract

Peer reviews or assessments are very important in science and institutions of higher education. Formal and informal networks influence definition of good science as well as successful scientists and engineers. Cooperation in research projects and publication need integration in relevant networks. For definition of excellence, the relevant quantity of high output in academia has neglected those factors as power in masculine biased gatekeeping, mentoring and networks, by focusing only on the individual qualification and merit. Therefore, the construction of excellence as high performance with numerous publications, successfully securing research grants and (particularly for engineers) patents is not gender neutral. Quantity of publications in journals with peer review play a central role for definition of scientific excellence of a scientist. There is a general belief in academia that publication in a peer-reviewed journal shows a higher qualification than a publication in a journal without peer review or in books. What is nearly never considered is the integration of scientists and reviewers in relevant networks with inclusion and exclusion processes, questioning the principle of objectivity and meritocracy. Even though mostly male gatekeepers and men's networks play an important, powerful but hidden role in the evaluation system of science they are not considered as biasing objectivity of the results of knowledge production. In networks of so-called gender-neutral journals, women participate still less in comparison to men and seem to be less qualified. The paper will discuss examples of biases (in STEM), based on qualitative empirical experiences from European and German projects in academia.

Giving voice to unheard older adults. Participation technologies for knowledge-making-practices

Authors: Susan van Hees (Tilburg University) email
Katrien Luijkx (Tilburg University) email
Mail All Authors

Short abstract

To enable frail older adults' participation in knowledge-making-practices in applied ageing studies, we experiment with qualitative methodologies as participation technologies, including the development of a research tool. This paper examines how different methodologies include different publics.

Long abstract

In applied ageing studies, research agendas are often inspired by prior research insights combined with experiences in care practice of professional and managerial staff. Within our Academic Collaborative Center for Older Adults we presuppose, that, to improve the applicability of research for the daily life of older adults, older adults themselves need to participate at a strategic level of knowledge-making-practices.

To enable frail older adults living in nursing homes to participate in research decisions (agenda setting for instance), we are currently engaging in their daily practices. We introduce ethnographic methodologies as participation technologies. Based on different individual contexts and preferences a variety of participation technologies is needed to enable participation of many people. In addition to traditional methodologies such as interviews, observations and focus groups, we have asked social designers to design an innovative participation tool. This tool aims to (also) enable participation of people who are unable/unwilling to share their stories verbally. By using these methodologies as a mediating technologies for participation, we aim to give voice to as many older adults as possible.

In this paper we reflect on how these technologies give people a voice in knowledge-making-practices, how they include new, yet unheard voices, while excluding others. We analyse how different methodologies enable and constrain participation and what this means for non-participants. By demonstrating how different participation technologies do (or do not) mediate older adults' role in knowledge-making-practices, we simultaneously unravel implicit and explicit power relations.

Building interdisciplinary capacity for responsible research and innovation: the Interdisciplinary Translation initiative

Author: Andi Hess (Arizona State University) email
Mail All Authors

Short abstract

Interdisciplinarity is often proposed as a method for bringing more voices into “The Room Where it Happens.” This paper compares existing approaches for interdisciplinary team science and proposes a new method, Interdisciplinary Translation, for increasing the effectiveness of interdisciplinary teams.

Long abstract

Through the inclusion and integration of multiple diverse perspectives, interdisciplinarity is often thought to address some issues related to responsible research and innovation (RRI), specifically the complexity of grand social challenges and the production of science in the service of society, by bringing more voices into “The Room Where it Happens.”

However, team science is a high-risk, high reward endeavor, and achieving effective integration can be challenging. Long-entrenched disciplinary and institutional power structures limit the ability of research teams to successfully produce integrative outcomes. External forces and pressures constrain which ideas, methods, and objectives are open for discussion and debate at any point in the team research process. Interdisciplinary facilitation and translation methodologies, explicitly built in to all areas of a project, can mediate the influences of existing power structures and allow research teams to collaborate more successfully. The literature suggests a need for approaches to enhance the effectiveness of such interdisciplinary meetings and endeavors.

Fisher (2015) identified four categories of socio-technical integration approaches according to the method used for addressing the values and capacities of the team. Drawing on the typology proposed by Fisher, this paper first examines the strengths and weaknesses of two existing approaches for enhancing socio-technical integration and interdisciplinary team science. Finally, I propose a new method, interdisciplinary translation, aimed at increasing the effectiveness of interdisciplinary teams by actively facilitating the translation of disciplinary languages in research settings.

Isolated yet profoundly networked: a mobile and multi-sited ethnography of control rooms

Author: Asher Boersma (Siegen University) email
Mail All Authors

Short abstract

Through a mobile and multi-sited ethnography the contradictions of a network of control rooms are studied. Control rooms are physically isolated - organisational struggles are shaped by it. Yet even the smallest sequence of action highlights how operators' work is part of a transnational assemblage.

Long abstract

Control rooms are build to have an uninterrupted overview. The isolation 1) protects the physical integrity of the operators, 2) prevents distraction, and 3) guards the prestige of the control room. State agencies that run the control rooms, in this case port and inland navigation control rooms in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, gain legitimacy through the representation of high-tech competence. Not the agencies' offices, but the control rooms are eagerly made public.

Although the operators control the reinforced doors, it is management that decide who gets in. The isolation of the control rooms is physical and organisational - situated at major waterway intersections, hidden behind industrial zones, or in riparian land, not typical places to locate an office. Whereas managers regularly switch jobs within agencies, operators tend to stay put for decades.

It is this context that intensifies operators' resentment after years of financial cut backs. The conflict between operators and management - at times spilling over into public spheres - makes the presence of an ethnographer problematic for management, yet welcomed by operators. The strategy of operators has been twofold: exposing dangerous conditions through broadcasting media, while using Twitter to show the grind of night shifts or complex interfaces - no slick panoramas.

A stationary ethnography would reinforce control room isolation. Instead, this ethnography is extended to include the ships that navigate these waters. Together, these highlight the mobility operators try to enable, and that the skippers live. Both appear isolated, but are primarily concerned with forging assemblies.

Conducting fieldwork at the crossroads: a case study of hybrid meetings in the workplace

Author: Banu Saatci (Aarhus University) email
Mail All Authors

Short abstract

This paper discusses the experiences of conducting fieldwork at the crossroads of STS and ICT. Through the object of my study, hybrid meetings in companies, I reflect on problems of doing research, where accessibility, transparency and cooperation are central to research in private companies.

Long abstract

Hybrid meetings are video-based meetings among co-located and remote participants with access to personal devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. The rise of new video conferencing tools and applications and blended interaction spaces has allowed companies to make hybrid meetings part of their work routine. However, despite the technical improvements, many people, regardless of the business sector, workplace or daily life, complain about their problems with hybrid meetings, considering hybrid meetings not only an indispensable activity, but also a constant source of problem. Especially for businesses with more time-constraints, even starting the meeting with proper technical tools and arrangements on time, and having a fluid meeting are still difficult. Analysing the intricacies of the problems faced in hybrid meetings and how they are constructed necessitates looking into the users' perspective in the business setting.

While understanding such complex socio-technical phenomena requires on-site observations and ethnographic research, most of the companies are not accessible and reject cooperation for research due to non-disclosure agreements. Furthermore, it is mostly the IT companies, which do not let researchers conduct on-site observations for the sake of confidentiality. When we discuss inclusion, exclusion and power in STS research and practice, companies' rejection of cooperation is a fundamental issue to be raised in terms of transparency and ethical responsibilities of companies in fostering STS research and collaboration with researchers. In this paper, I share my observations and thoughts about this "uneven" meeting of these two fields and open up discussions regarding conducting research at the crossroads.

The state as facilitator and knowledge broker in the agora

Author: Haris (Charalambos) Shekeris (Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3) email
Mail All Authors

Short abstract

Ignorance plays a structural and political role in modern society. Proposals of division of cognitive labour and of Science certifying knowledge are to be criticised as excluding and disempowering lay-people. I propose citizen deliberation as a decision procedure for wicked problems situations.

Long abstract

The proposed paper addresses the relationship between STS and democratic theory; a topical subject as science and technology transform the understanding of and the possibilities for a democratic polity.

My starting point is the observation of the significant structural and political role of ignorance within modern society. Stuctural because of a) the sheer amount of specialised knowledge and its fragmentation and b) the certification requirements for acceptance as an expert; political because all citizens, from a State leader down, operate with a necessarily limited amount of information of which a subset may be deemed as knowledge.

Judging this situation as problematic, I will address two elements of a response: the division of cognitive labour and the designation of the certification of knowledge claims to the institution of Science. I will argue that these two proposals, as articulated in the work of Philip Kitcher (2011) are flawed as they a) disempower and exclude the citizen from important decisions b) need additional political resources to compel citizens to action c) unduly restrict the pool of available resources in the face of wicked problems.

My proposal is to designate the State as the certifier of public knowledge via processes of large-scale binding deliberation, at least on topics concerning all citizens. Supplying citizens with the cognitive means to meaningfully participate in such processes/meetings ought to be the responsibility of the State, and the aim should be for the use of the emergent civic epistemologies (Jasanoff 2011) in guiding State action.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.