(C23)
STS meet ICT: politics and the collaborative turn in STS
Location Bowland North Seminar Room 20
Date and Start Time 25 Jul, 2018 at 13:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Mariacristina Sciannamblo (Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute) email
  • Maurizio Teli (Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute) email
  • Christopher Csikszentmihalyi (Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute) email
  • Peter Lyle (Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute) email

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Short abstract

This panel wants to focus on the collaborative and committed orientation of STS by exploring its interplay with the broad field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). This relationship entails different forms of meeting: disciplinary, epistemological, institutional, and local alliances.

Long abstract

The increasing prominence of critical approaches - e.g. feminist and postcolonial STS - and the intersections with surrounding fields - e.g. participatory design, information science, and critical technical practice - have stressed the politically engaged character of STS, emphasizing its "activist interest" (Sismondo, 2008). Such growing interest in collaborative modes of practicing STS has suggested the emergence of a "collaborative turn" in STS (Farías, 2017).

This panel wants to focus on such collaborative orientation of STS by exploring its interplay with the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). This relationship entails diverse forms of meeting such as the disciplinary intersection of STS with design studies and information science; the epistemological meeting between STS and critical perspectives; the making of new alliances between researchers, activists and local population; the convergence of institutional interests and research practices to promote alternative sociotechnical infrastructures.

This panel seeks interdisciplinary contributions that explore the politics in and of the relationship between STS and ICT, from experiences of local and community activism to large-scale examples of alternative sociotechnical infrastructures. Topics relevant for this panel may include:

ICT, labor, and precariousness

Hacktivism, community networks, and alternative Internet

Post-colonial and anti-colonial computing

Feminist interventions in ICT

Commons, peer production, and platform cooperativism

Interplay between publics, researchers, and institutions

This panel aims at fostering interdisciplinary encounters, in the light of potential shared publication opportunities, likes journal special issues or edited books, in order to foster the politically engaged STS agenda in the relationship with ICT.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Data cultures from the Global South: decentering data universalism

Authors: Stefania Milan (University of Amsterdam) email
Anita Chan (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) email
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Short abstract

Feminist and decolonial STS has critiqued hyper-celebratory framings of ICTs in the Global South as offering a universal path towards a digital future. Building on critiques of the myth of a salvationary "digital universalism," we explore efforts in the Global South challenging data universalism.

Long abstract

Critical approaches in feminist and decolonial STS have challenged hyper-celebratory framings of ICTs in the Global South as offering a "universal" path towards a digital future modeled on the West. Building on critiques of the myth of a salvationary "digital universalism" (Chan 2014), this paper explores growing efforts in the Global South to contend with emerging forms of "data universalism." Such frames project big data as offering future-ready solutions - that automate population management, social order, and behavioral prediction - in the promise of economic optimization and territorial security. We explore instead emerging practices from the Global South that critique big data's expansion, and challenge dominant approaches to datafication that fail to recognize the range of experimental methods and practices adopted by diverse Global Data Cultures. Moving from datafication to data activism, we examine the varied ways that actors in and of the Global South - including migrant populations in the West and in Latin America - engage in bottom-up data practices for social change. More broadly, we explore how the availability of open data ecologies have fostered critical approaches to data applications among Southern actors; and how networks of interdisciplinary, intersectional practices of resistance draw from technological imaginaries and cultures beyond those typically associated with "big data" experts. From such experimental collaborations, that is, emerge diverse forms of Global Data Cultures that contend with the prediction-oriented, future-fixated chrono-politics of big data centers, to press for a distinct form of accountability to the publics and pasts from the periphery.

Inverting the global internet surveillance infrastructure with IXmaps, the crowd-sourced mapping tool

Author: Andrew Clement (University of Toronto) email
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Short abstract

This talk will reflect on 8 years of experience with IXmaps.ca, an internet mapping platform designed to render state surveillance more transparent and democratically accountable, in light of such STS themes as: infrastructural inversion; enrolling and translating actors; and making things public.

Long abstract

Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers have revealed the global reach and remarkable intensity of the mass surveillance infrastructure the National Security Agency (NSA) and its Five Eyes security alliance partners have embedded within the internet core. An affront to civil liberties, how can such ubiquitous but hidden and potentially threatening surveillance be made more public in ways that foster resistance and democratic reform?

The IXmaps.ca interactive mapping project has taken up this challenge since 2009 by developing a web platform for displaying the routes individuals' internet communication follow and where they pass through sites of suspected Five Eyes surveillance. Through crowd-sourcing, over 1,000 individuals from around the world have contributed five hundred thousand traceroutes, with over half passing through US cities where the NSA is suspected of conducting surveillance operations.

On the policy front, IXmaps has collaborated with a national internet registration authority (CIRA) to promote network sovereignty as well as a media democracy campaigning organization (Openmedia) to advance awareness of on-line privacy and surveillance issues. IXmaps data has also provided evidence in two court cases that challenge NSA surveillance programs.

This talk will reflect on the IXmaps experience from an STS perspective, discussing successes and shortcomings in light of such themes as: infrastructural inversion; enrolling and translating actors, human and otherwise; and making things public.

Broadening ideas of interoperability in citizen science

Author: Claudia Göbel (European Citizen Science Association / Museum für Naturkunde) email
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Short abstract

A practical example of engaged STS: a case study presenting stakeholder analysis as exploratory tool for identifying and highlighting actors and knowledge practices neglected in ICT standardisation in the field of citizen science.

Long abstract

I'll to present a case study on engaged STS research related to ICT standardisation in citizen science (CS): a research project to identify stakeholders and ideas of interoperability lacking in current negotations of standards.

In the field of CS various initiatives have recently emerged with the aim of developing data standards and infrastructures. Examples include an ontology for CS data and metadata, the development of linkages between existing projects and data repositories, and a reference model for sharing CS IT tools. Data repositories from around the globe are involved.

In this context we conducted an exploratory stakeholder analysis with the aim of identifying individuals, groups, and organisations involved in and affected by CS activities, their knowledge sharing practices and perspectives on interoperability in the US, Australia and Europe. This was particularly relevant for two reasons: (1) CS is a very diverse field of practice and standardisations based on the model of data-gathering projects risks narrowing definitions; (2) standard development was carried out without participation of important stakeholders, such as project managers and citizen scientists.

My case study contributes a practical example to the "interplay between publics, researchers, and institutions" dimension of the session by presenting stakeholder analysis as simple exploratory tool for identifying and highlighting actors and knowledge practices to be taken into account for ICT standardisation. It also contributes reflections on engaged STS from a practitioner perspective.

STS meet Participatory Design for social good: the case of Commonfare

Author: Mariacristina Sciannamblo (Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute) email
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Short abstract

This paper discusses the interdisciplinary intersection between STS and design practice and the politics of the encounter between researchers, activists and local populations in the light of a European ICT and action-research project called Commonfare.

Long abstract

By drawing on the overarching theme of the conference, with this paper I would like to focus on two forms of meeting: the interdisciplinary intersection between STS and design practice and the politics of the encounter between researchers, activists and local populations. I will discuss these acts of coming together in the light of a European ICT project called Commonfare, which aims to confront the precarization of individual lives and social relations that a growing number of European citizens are experiencing, by leveraging the potential of digital technologies. The goal of the project is in fact the development of a digital platform which allows people and social groups to inform and be informed about local welfare policies, and to connect and support grassroots initiatives based on social cooperation and mutual-aid practices.

In illustrating the critical social theories informing the articulation of the project, I will discuss how design practices - and especially Participatory Design - can benefit from the understanding of theories and methods as performative - as advanced by some strands of STS (Law and Urry, 2004; Mol, 1999) - in its attempt to develop technological infrastructure as a site of political potential; on the other hand, I will focus on the production of situated knowledge derived from the encounter between researchers, activists and local populations and the ways whereby such encounter can support people to express desires, to share knowledge and counter-narratives, and to co-construct opportunities for change.

Articulating assemblages of playbour to question participation in ICT-based collaborative platforms

Author: Giacomo Poderi (IT University of Copenhagen) email
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Short abstract

This work aims at articulating playbour to open the space for a critique of participation in ICT-based collaborative platforms. The work focuses on the material and symbolic conditions that characterize playbour and provides the basis to frame issues such as alienation, detachment, and burnouts.

Long abstract

Contemporary society is strongly marked by rhetoric of a participatory culture. While such rhetoric and the concept of participation itself are always connoted by positive ethical and moral values (e.g. empowerment, fulfillment, and socialization), participation in practice and the implications of participation in specific contexts, for specific objectives do reveal often the challenges and problems of contemporary society (e.g. cultural and gender bias, power structures and marginalization). This contribution aims at articulating the concept of playbour to open the space for a critique of participation in ICT-based collaborative platforms. Playbour is loosely defined as "a condition where play is work and work is play". It recently emerged in game studies as a concept to frame the political economy of modding in game industry and the tensions between modders and game producers. This contribution reflects the developments of an early stage research and expands the application domain of playbour from games to ICT-based collaborative platforms. By levering on the assemblage construct this work will focus on the material and symbolic conditions that characterize playbour and put them near to those that can be found in framing such as peer production, platform cooperativism and platform capitalism. Contribution of this theoretical work is the framing of a concept that allows for participants' subjectivities to be at the center of the discourses on collective and collaborative phenomena. Thus providing the basis to talk about issues such as alienation, detachment, and burnouts from participation.

From the virtual communities of digital commons to the phygital practices of makerspaces: an intersectional feminist study

Author: Natalia- Rozalia Avlona (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) email
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Short abstract

This paper will come into grips with the issues of inclusion and exclusion on the base of gender, class and race in the communities of digital common ,through their transition from the virtual to the phygital realm.

Long abstract

During the last three decades, digital commons have sketched virtual terrains of free, participatory and distributed production of immaterial goods. The invention of World Wide Web, the FOSS movement and the Commons Based Peer Production (CBPP) have formed new landscapes of virtual communities which were characterised by the "hacker ethos" and introduced disruptive values to the global capitalist system. However, these "commoning practices" incorporated a very interesting contradiction. Whilst they pioneered an transformation into the self-organisation culture by introducing values such as horizontality, sharing, learning by doing, and disapproval to any authority, at the same time these communities were characterised by extreme gender imbalance.

The last years, the emergence of makerspaces as open, community-led spaces, where open source software and hardware are utilised collaboratively by individuals, (Kostakis, Niaros & Drechsler 2017) is re-setting the above mentioned contradictions into an altered framework: hybrid communities are redirecting the production of common goods into the "phygital" realm.

In this paper, I will argue that the contemporary "phygital' practices of commons offer a novel ground of both political potentialities and controversies, which can enact the diversity and plurality of their communities. This argument will particularly address the issues of inclusion and exclusion in these hybrid communities by the prism of intersectional feminist theory.

Out here and in there: intervening in HCI's outwardly moves from the comfort of the ubicomp home

Author: Xaroula Kerasidou (Lancaster University) email
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Short abstract

Prompted by HCI's outwardly moves towards people and disciplines "out there", this paper uses the case of the ubicomp home to make visible how the boundaries of "in here" and "out there" are drawn in such ways as to create insiders and outsiders, natives and detached observers

Long abstract

Over the last years there has been a shift in computer science and HCI away from a technology-centred approach to computational design, and towards a more human-centred one. Such broad explorations meant that the field of HCI has been expanding its foci by looking, as Alex Taylor put it, "Out there" (2011), towards worlds and people further afield than 'its own kind', only (and somewhat unsurprisingly) to discover a world of 'sizeable yet marginalised' groups of people. Such outwardly moves facilitated interdisciplinary collaborations with fields such as STS as HCI researchers and practitioners are "reaching out" with a renewed interest to the social sciences and humanities for guidance on tackling the world "out there".

In this paper, and using the ubicomp home as a case, I want to walk alongside Taylor in thinking deeply about what exactly HCI is doing in casting an eye "out there"' while seeking to do what our kind of people do best. Namely denaturalising and making visible how the boundaries of "in here" and "out there" are drawn and how they are drawn in such ways as to create insiders and outsiders, natives and detached observers. This way this paper seeks to be an intervention; one that does not offer solutions on how to build feminist/ ethical/ better technologies, but an intervention all the same on how to tell, challenge and ultimate change technological stories in the hope that by narrating the past differently, we can open new possibilities for the future.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.