(C17)
Moving together: problematizing the makings of togetherness
Location Cavendish Colloquim (Faraday Complex)
Date and Start Time 25 Jul, 2018 at 13:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Sung-Yueh Perng (Tunghai University) email
  • Lisa Wood (Lancaster University) email

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Short abstract

This panel asks how bringing things together produces utopian and dystopian togetherness. We consider both lively and desirable 'togetherness' with darker practices and consequences, such as exclusion prejudice and unwilling disassociation.

Long abstract

This panel asks how the mobilities of people, animals, ideas, technologies, sciences, data or algorithms engender utopian and dystopian togetherness. Togetherness is engineered on an everyday and ongoing basis: sharing spaces and infrastructures of living and travelling; arranging, negotiating or contesting digital presence; self-organisation for crisis response; organising meetings for open data- and technology-making; planning and governance that have more-than-urban and planetary consequences; digitally augmented herding of animals for efficiency and productivity; etc. Further, moving together is relational: the moving together for some might lead to the the disassociation of others. These makings thus can produce lively and desirable togetherness, but are also foreshadowed by exclusionary, prejudicial, neoliberal, algorithmic, anthropocentric, highly controlled and intimately surveilled futures. Makings of togetherness thus presuppose and reconfigure the practices and politics of confluence, collaboration and intersection that the stream seeks to make explicit.

The panel seeks empirical and theoretical explorations that critically examine diverse makings of togetherness in order to answer the questions: What sociotechnical imaginaries are at play in bringing things together? How are enactments of togetherness mediated? Thus we invite papers that respond or add to the following topics:

· technological, material, visual, discursive and affective enactments of togetherness

· spaces, scaling and intersecting spaces/scaling of togetherness

· rhythms, sequences and temporalities of making togetherness

· practices of confluence, collaboration and intersection in diverse settings

· inclusion, exclusion, movements and stillness that make togetherness

· the social, political and economical costs of making togetherness

· re-imagining and re-doing togetherness

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"Feed 'em and flog 'em": socio-technical enactments of togetherness in ambulance work

Author: Lisa Wood (Lancaster University) email
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Short abstract

Drawing on observations of ambulance call centres and paramedic work, I describe how togetherness is enacted in ambulance work. I argue the importance of looking beyond aggregated technological descriptions of togetherness to explore social effects.

Long abstract

In this paper I draw on ethnographic observations of ambulance call centres and paramedic work to describe how togetherness is enacted in ambulance work. I consider how methods of resource coordination, based on the "feed 'em and flog 'em" formula, create technological appearances of organisational togetherness and coherence. Through describing the coordination of resources, I explore how moving vehicles from one territory to another, across fluid and flexible geographical boundaries, enables the organisation to meet response times and provide emergency care in a timely manner, meeting targets. The advantages of such organisational flexibility is often used for political and economic purposes with aggregated technological overviews providing persuasive arguments for alignment, for sharing resources and, increasingly, given current periods of austerity, cost savings.

However, through analysis of ethnographic examples, I reveal the social impacts of togetherness in ambulance work. The "feed 'em and flog 'em" removes interpersonal communication between coordinators and ambulance crews, fracturing togetherness between these two parts of the service. Furthermore, requirements for crews to straddle geographical boundaries engenders serious consequences for individuals and patients. For example, experiences of crews being lost while responding to a call and impacts on individuals' work life balance and professional development due to ever increasing travel time.

The consequences of making togetherness in ambulance services in periods of austerity heighten the imperative to look beyond aggregated descriptions to explore individual and local effects.

Hackathons as space-times of creative togetherness: dystopian and utopian hues of ideals and their realisation

Author: Peter Müller (Munich Center for Technology in Society) email
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Short abstract

Presenting my research on events of creative togetherness like hackathons, I will discuss some of their additional, rather tacit, functions which, concerning asymmetries and selectiveness, render the utopian hackathon ideal an opportunity for a manifold, dystopian parasitism.

Long abstract

Hackathons are commonly promoted as (utopian) space-times of creative togetherness. I studied them by participant, covert observations at seven hackathons within a period of 18 month and subsequent project meetings, focusing on the discursive entanglements of creativity and (software) engineering. I complementarily analysed several blogposts, tweets, publications, etc. on hackathons and creative engineering. On this basis, I present insights into organizers' strategies that affirm this particular event image and illustrate how hackathons thus constitute their dystopian flipside.

Highlighted as leisure activities, hackathons conceal their other objectives of strategic networking, advertising, and profiting from participants' engagement. While the ideational openness of such events functions as their inventive drive, it results for some cases in moral indifference towards (dystopian) outputs: jolly tinkering participants often find themselves absorbed by technological challenges. They thus overlook their actual assistance in developing critical technologies, e.g. control and surveillance tools. Concerning this, significant innovation thresholds almost fortunately remain. Many inventive ideas are eventually left unattended; if they become a large-scale project they often are adapted to established organizational structures - original ideas and intentions become unrecognizable or even obsolete.

However, hackathons offer, nevertheless, great opportunities for exchange, education, and breaching boundaries of traditional production by offering nouveau configurations of groups, interactions, issues and execution. Concerning these different, dark and bright, hues of hackathons, their issues can give different paintings. Hence, I want to discuss how to deal with this techno-societal ridge walk.

Makings of togetherness in blood

Author: Vera Raivola (University of Eastern Finland) email
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Short abstract

Successful blood banks have the ability to bring volunteers to meet in blood donation. To mobilize donors they perhaps deploy utopian narrative of a community sharing blood and values. The presentation asks, what utopian or dystopian imaginaries might a blood bank biobank evoke in blood donors?

Long abstract

Voluntary blood donation can be seen to epitomize togetherness. Since blood became a therapeutic product, the question was how to engineer meetings of people as 'blood donors' who wish share their blood with others? Societies that organized sharing of blood through welfare state institutions, argued Titmuss (1970) had the advantage they could effectively mobilize people's natural propensity to togetherness. A voluntary blood collection system brings things and people together through moral economy of reciprocal and inclusive community relationships. In this framework, enactments of blood donation, and the norms and practices of institutionalized blood circulation have power to materialize the 'social body' and render togetherness observable for members of an 'imagined community' (Cohn 2016, Busby 2010). However, the reality of blood processing and use has since Titmuss diverged from his 'vein-to-vein' ideal type. Some question is it still right to use such utopian imaginary of shared blood and national solidarity to mobilize donors (Walby and Mitchell 2006)?

Starting from this context, my case study looks at how blood donors for the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service (FRCBS) understand blood donation as material and moral togetherness when their local blood bank also becomes a biobank. Now FRCBS blood donors are given an opportunity to 'extend help' by also giving blood samples and personal information to scientific, mostly genomics, research. This time it is the need to shared n data that drives efforts to bring voluntary donors together, but has this quest the same utopian powers and are there new dystopian features involved?

Risky borders: designing togetherness using information technology for interoperability in disaster response

Author: Katrina Petersen (Trilateral Research, Ltd) email
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Short abstract

What does it mean to use a border as a frame for togetherness? This paper examines how this tension is made to work in information technology for interoperability in disaster response to critically examine the ethics of responsibility, care, and contestation around risk.

Long abstract

This paper asks: what does it mean to use a border as a frame for togetherness? Disasters planning and mitigation in Europe is increasingly becoming a project based in cross-border collaboration. This work is premised on the utopian notion that if these actors in different places and with different practices could work together we would all have more common understandings of shared risks and thus be better prepared and equipped to respond. Solutions frequently are based in information technology and their infrastructures that create algorithmic, ontological, and machine learning frameworks intended to provide a structure to support bringing actors together. But this problem of risk and borders is not just that more natural, technological, or social hazards are increasingly crossing borders so more sharing is needed or that there is an increased risk if this data is not shared over borders. It is that borders - national, jurisdictional, or institutional - are increasingly playing a role in how we organize information and understand risk. Drawing on research from multiple European projects to design technologies for interoperability in disaster response (IN-PREP.eu, SecInCoRe.eu) this paper explores this tension between borders and designed togetherness to critically examine the ethics of responsibility, care, and contestation around risk.

Sound publics: imaginations of the public inscribed in a Japanese public loudspeaker system

Author: Naoki Matsuyama (University of Vienna) email
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Short abstract

The public loudspeaker system in Japanese cities does not only warn of disasters but also plays a role in the mundane formation of togetherness through diverse functions. This paper analyzes the imaginations of the public inscribed in this system through interviews of the actors involved.

Long abstract

The public loudspeaker system installed in Japanese municipalities is a significant part of the experience of daily life in Japan. This is because the system is used not only to alert the public of oncoming threats, but also for more mundane tasks such as signaling a time of the day with a melody, announcing a local event, or sharing the death of a local resident. Thus the system does not only contribute in the formation of publics awaiting disasters, but it also connects the residents through selected messages and modes of signification, while inducing a semiotic consistency with the country's cultural history, for example with the choice of music from the era in which Japan underwent rapid Westernization.

This paper borrows from two burgeoning but rarely overlapping fields of study, which identify infrastructure on one hand, and sound on the other, as political sites where togetherness is tacitly formed, while problematizing the notion of the public or publicness in relation to them. By focusing on the sonic infrastructure of the loud speaker system, this study aims to identify the imaginations of the public inscribed in it through interviews with the involved actors, including municipality officers and developers of the equipment. Adopting the conceptual lens of Actor Network Theory to discern the intricate web of associations that involve the local and the national, the mundane and the extraordinary, and the natural and the social, the loudspeakers emerge as an important site of public formation in a country that lives with disasters.

Taking responsibility together: unpacking promises and problems in civic hacking

Author: Sung-Yueh Perng (Tunghai University) email
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Short abstract

Civic hacking as a practice of taking responsibility together produces promises a collaborative future and also problems concerning forms of expertise, knowledge and responsible sociotechnical relations that become prioritised. The paper explores these issues with case studies in Dublin and Boston.

Long abstract

Civic hacking promises the possibilities where participants with different knowledge, skills, experiences and perspectives can work collaboratively to produce ideas and prototypes that address societal problems. By way of prototyping, civic hacking thus provides its participants the opportunity to take responsibility for one another. The participants seek to understand the difficulties of other society members, propose possible technologies to address them, and negotiate with oncoming problems as the participants work with other social organisations to develop prototypes. Taking responsibility in this way thus brings hopes for a more collaborative making of technology, an appreciation of diverse forms of knowledge and expertise, and a widened perception of what counts as valuable.

However, taking responsibility in civc hacking also produces uncertainties and problems. The temporality of civic hacking can affect how responsibility is exercised. Short, intense events (e.g. hackathons) and initiatives taking a longer-term approach, e.g. Code for Ireland, equally face the question concerning the production of lasting sociotechnical arrangements to sustain responsible relations. Also, these events and initiatives need looking after where human, financial and technological resources have to be in place for civic hacking to continue. The sources of these resources can shape the commitments to be fulfilled and subsequently affect how responsible relations are exercised; for whom they are arranged; and whose expertise, knowledge, vision and agenda are prioritised.

Drawing on case studies on Dublin and Boston, this paper explores these issues and also further asks how might civic hacking tell about alternative arrangements for responsible innovation.

Traveling together: bioships in science fiction

Author: Ingvil Hellstrand (University of Stavanger) email
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Short abstract

This paper interrogates the science fictional idea of bioships as an imagined mode of transport that brings together (human/humanoid) pilots and biotechnological ships in ways that demand a reworking of subject-object relations, collaboration and conventional power structures.

Long abstract

In light of contemporary debates on driverless cars and increasing use of human/non-human interface in everyday travel, this paper explores the science fictional idea of bioships as a re-imagining of modes of transport as more-than-technology and more-than-commodity. In science fiction, the mobility of the bioship often requires an intimate and material interaction between pilot, crew and vessel, thereby challenging traditional subject-object relations and power structures. With examples from Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis- trilogy (1987-1989) and TV-series Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009), I apply science fiction as an analytical lens in order to suggest that imaginaries of the bioship are both producer and product of imaginable relations with, and affects towards, "smart" vessels. I argue that the inclusion of organic material or components in spaceships, so - called bioships, open up for a re-conceptualisation of bodies, power relations and infrastructure. With Donna Haraway's figure of the cyborg (1985) as a conceptual backdrop, I discuss how the bioship can be understood as a posthuman collaboration (Barad 2007; Neimanis 2012; Haraway 2016) between species, things and values in a way that potentially allows for a re-working and a re-doing of togetherness in productive ways.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.