Dear EASST and STS global community,
When around one year ago we begun thinking about the 2020 conference theme together with colleagues from the 4S council, we hardly imagined how topical the theme would have turned out to be. “Locating and Timing Matters” have recently become challenging tasks, as SARS-CoV-2 is raging across multiple locations and time zones.
In the last weeks we have been catapulted into a different world. A world in which teaching takes place through the mediation of videoconferencing software, meetings are dislocated, research has to put fieldwork on hold, conferences are either canceled, postponed or moved online. States of exception have become the rule, and narratives of war are taking over civil liberties. At the same time, there are calls for social solidarity, for people to put the collective good above self-interest, and work that has been undervalued and underpaid is now regarded as key to keeping some semblance of normality in this emergency.
All this because of a new ribonucleic acid. Or maybe not. As STS scholars, we know that when new actors enter technoscientific configurations, health, political, socioeconomic factors are reshuffled. Myriad actors participate in the concrete and tragic materialization of SARS-CoV-2. What a more evident demonstration that today more than ever we need social studies of science and technology? We need them to rethink what pedagogy becomes when platforms mediate learning exchange. We need them to understand how blame games about a biological hazard configure new forms of technoscientific nationalism. We need them to replace a narrative of war with one of care and solidarity. And many more.
While we at the EASST Council have agreed with our 4S colleagues to reconfigure our planned 2020 EASST/4S Conference this summer into a virtual meeting, we also think that this is a time for the EASST community to make their views and expertise even more visible. This is a time of heightened public scrutiny of how political, economic and other values shape science, technology and innovation. It is a time in which the infrastructural (economic, technological, cultural, scientific) effects of the pandemic foreground tensions inherited from Modernity. STS has a role to play in shaping more sustainable sociotechnical presents and futures.
We invite the community to share their thoughts about the current pandemic and its implications by using the hashtag #STScovid19 on Twitter. Messages are collected at https://www.easst.net/covid19, thus weaving together scholarly reflections and personal and collective concerns. In this moment of biological and moral pandemic, the EASST community has a lot to say: let’s make it visible.
EASST Council, Europe, April 2020