All posts by Josefine Raasch

Editorial – Generative Collaboration

There are many things to like about attending conferences, such as the thrilling excitement that accompanies good presentations and thought-provoking discussions. I also like seeing old friends, making new ones and meeting people whose texts I have read meticulously. It is easy to find a way to approach other attendees, start a conversation about different topics and approaches, discussing questions resulting from presented papers and sharing a fascination towards shifts, dynamics and emergences. What I certainly appreciate most of all is the sense that we are all collaborating on the development of Science and Technology Studies.

This issue is about collaboration – not just any collaboration, but generative collaboration. Not all collaborations in the field of STS are necessarily generative. This issue, however, provides different narratives of how we can approach the various dynamics, developments and novel phenomena that result from generative collaborations. The authors write the impermanence of thoughts, discourses, phenomena and definitions into their texts. Ideas presented in conference papers are discussed or contested, elaborated or reframed in novel ways in these contributions. In their reflection of conferences and workshops, some of the authors emphasize the process of collaborating while others focus on new concepts, shifts, or other emergences as outcomes of collaboration.

Emphasizing the importance of the process of generative collaboration, a collective of authors questions current forms and definitions, as well as the conditions and practices of authorship. Rethinking authorship in novel ways, they raise the question of which authorship practices can emerge newly and relate this question to the one of how they will do so. With a similar focus on the process rather than on the outcomes of generative collaborations, Alison Marlin considers how participants of different professions and nationalities managed to collaborate at a workshop on videogames and reflects on how comparisons generated an effective collaboration. Referring to some of his experiences at the EASST conference ‘Situating Solidarities’ in 2015 in Torun, Poland, Michael Penker examines the effect of STS engaging in buzzwords by reflecting on the ontological politics involved.

The EASST conference sparked a variety of reflections on outcomes of generative collaborations. Karen Dam Nielsen examines the role of STS in ‘caring for participation’ and urges for openness towards (generative) forms of participation that we might not recognize immediately as ‘real participation’. Luis Junqueira considers whether discourses in STS as presented at the conference might have a double generative moment: On the one hand, they combine different theories providing ‘interesting synergies’ for public debates on energy consumption and efficiency, and on the other hand, these synergy effects could serve to challenge the dominant societal understanding of energy and contribute to a more inclusive design of technology and public policy. Lloyd Akrong relates different presentations of responsible research and innovation to each other, describing recurring themes and implicit framings. This vivid account of generative collaboration is given by looking at the co-operation and contributions of presenters and discussants. Simone Belli addresses the question of how novel forms of trust emerge in social institutions. In his article, inspired by presentations at the EASST 2015 conferences, Belli argues for an analysis of new forms of trust in social institutions, which he suggests are co-emerging with protests against social institutions.

A strong proponent of collaboration during his lifetime was Stefan Beck. Tanja Bogusz and Estrid Sørensen remind us in their obituary of the many ways in which he was influential in establishing STS in Germany. Many who knew him remember him to be an outstanding person, which is reflected in the small selection of condolences featured here. As one of his former students I am most grateful that I had the chance to work with and to learn from him.

I invite you now to join the authors in their exploration of a range of generative collaborations.


Recognize the picture on the cover? Our conference in Toruń. A beautiful medieval old town in Northern Poland. Catching up with good old friends. Making new friends. A timely conference theme: Situating Solidarities: social challenges for science and technology studies. Long lunch breaks in a sunny inner yard. Running into each other in between sessions. Good buildings for community building. Serious discussions about the coffee. Conference dinner in a fortress. Archery lessons. Desperado, a bizarre heavy metal pub. Astonishment about the number of routes and flight-train combination taken to get to Toruń. Rumours about a broken flight information display at Gatwick impeding friends and colleagues from coming. Ovation for the three collectives winners of EASST awards. Hat off to Krzysztof Abriszewski from the Nicholas Copernicus University and the organization. And, of course, the fireworks. An image that is also good when thinking about the kind of object we are enacting every two or four years (depending on how you define the ‘we’): the conference as a fire object.

Fire objects invite us to think about ontological multiplicity, about the conference as a multiplicity, not simply differently experienced by the individual participants, but involving differing sets of practices, concerns, infrastructures, topologies. The issue, of course, is not simply ascertaining difference, but understanding the politics of coordinating differing, sometimes even mutually exclusive enactments. The notion of fire objects thus invites critical thinking, as it underscores the impossibility of making everything present and the inevitable production of otherness and absences. It is provocative to think about our conferences along those lines: How to coordinate the multiple enactments of a conference, how to hold it together, while taking into account the inevitable production of absence?

One strategy, I think, is producing overtly incomplete archives. Archives are interesting knowledge devices, as they attempt to produce neither synthesis nor coherence, but to collect multiplicities and let them overlap, interact, intra-act. Normally, however, archives do have the pretension of completeness. But what about an archive that presents itself as being incomplete, that forces us to think about absences, to long for ‘other voices, other rooms’. I hope the pieces collected in this and the coming issues of the EASST Review about the Toruń conference will produce an incomplete archive of this kind, one that is capable of bringing together multiple ways of practicing our conference, while making us aware of not just of absent presences, but also of present absences.

A second strategy involves engaging with the politics of conference organization, which involves among many other things a politics of size and numbers, as well as of atmospheres and interiorities. What happens to EASST when we move from a conference with 600 participants to conferences with almost 2000? When does an academic community become a population to be governed? How do conference fees take into account not just North and South, East and West, but also the precarization of academic labour or the inclusion of non-academic researchers in science and technology? Or, more generally, which conference atmospheres do we aspire to? Which type of scholarship do they inspire? As with atmospheres more generally, the question here is about the type of interiority enacted by our conferences. Is it an issue-oriented one, based on heterogeneous and multi-disciplinary problematizations of science, technology and traditional social science accounts thereof? Or is a discipline-oriented interiority emerging as a consequence of an increasing institutionalization of the field? Are we seeing the contours of a post-STS landscape, as recently discussed at Or is the other way around? STS as a generative multiplicity being currently risking disciplinarization?

Generative questions, I hope, which could guide us when shaping the future of the EASST Review as an incomplete archive and engaging with the ontological politics of conference organization.