Steps away from the mosaic that marks the Tollboth where Thomas Aikenhead was held before he became the last person executed for blasphemy in the United Kingdom, a plaque displayed in St. Giles Cathedral commemorates Sophia Jex-Blake, Scotland’s first female doctor. In Edinburgh, history is literally paved into the streets and embedded into the walls and as you pass through the city, you are surrounded by stories that have shaped Edinburgh, Scotland, and the world.
Curious Edinburgh, a website and mobile app developed by Niki Vermeulen, Kate Bowell, Matjaz Vidmar, Bill Jenkins and various other members of the University of Edinburgh’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Studies (STIS) group, was first created as a way to make the university’s History of Science course more interactive by grounding the curriculum within the geography of the city. Because of this, it started simply with a known set of stories that we could build a walking tour around. In the past 6 years, the project has grown from one tour to 19, with plans for many more, and has expanded beyond the boundaries of both the university and Edinburgh. Even so, the core principles of how we form partnerships, develop tours, and help students, courses, community groups, and the general public use our platform as a learning and engagement tool has remained the same.
Every tour begins with a local story to tell. In the beginning of Curious Edinburgh, those stories came from courses connected to the STIS department. As the app’s reputation grew, we began cultivating relationships with researchers and lecturers outside the department and community members outside the university. For every tour, we spend considerable time with our partners crafting strong, accessible narratives. This means dedicating time to editing and shaping the stories of each stop to ensure they are clear, concise, and cohesive, with one focused story per stop that complements, but is not dependent upon, any of the others. Key to this process is the tour template we developed with specific guidelines for story structure, image details, location data, and other ancillary information. Using the template helps everyone involved in a tour stay on the same page (literally). Moreover, the development and maintenance of the technical side of the app would not have been possible without close collaboration with the University of Edinburgh’s tech wizards, EDINA and Learning, Teaching and Web Services.
There are multiple ways students engage with Curious Edinburgh’s content. As learners, the app is a complementary tool that encourages independent learning by allowing students to encounter course content outside of the classroom on their own schedule and at their own pace. The app also provides new context for the immediacy of that information, situating historical events within present spaces. Place matters and through Curious Edinburgh historiographic literature on spatial dimensions of science becomes connected to local stories. As creators, students have used the app platform as a way to develop their own science communication and public engagement abilities. Several university courses have incorporated the creation of tour stops into their curricula, inviting students to develop critical thinking and practical skills around producing content for different audiences. A student evaluated the app against another University of Edinburgh app as a final assessment for the University’s Education and Digital Cultures course. His youtube video essay provided us with valuable feedback and he stated “it does give you a different relationship with your surroundings.”
The audience for Curious Edinburgh tours has also grown beyond the classroom. We are the most-used app from the University of Edinburgh and through the development of new walking tours we are able to connect our users to the ways and places current global issues are playing out locally. In our recent Public Health tour, launched in collaboration with Edinburgh Medical School, the story of the Usher Institute public health department connects Edinburgh’s medical past with the current health responses in both Scotland and the UK, providing another perspective on the pandemic. The debates around decolonisation of the University of Edinburgh led by UncoverED and the presence of the global Black Lives Matter movement in the city were the focus of two tours in 2020, and climate change, specifically the challenges for Scottish coastal communities, is the focus of a new series of Curious Coastline walks we hope to develop soon. By working with local community groups, activist networks, and concerned citizens, Curious Edinburgh becomes a tool to help make their stories and causes visible to larger audience.
By telling new stories about known places, Curious Edinburgh is a source of learning – not only for those using our tours, but also for those developing our platform. Maintenance of the app and finding continued financial support has proved one of the project’s biggest challenges, and we are extremely grateful for a diversity of people and funding sources supporting us throughout the past 6 years and for the Tam Dalyell Prize for Excellence in Public Engagement we won in 2017.
It has been incredibly gratifying to watch Curious Edinburgh grow as a tool for students and the public as users and creators and we look forward to continuing to develop share new histories both within Edinburgh and beyond. So visit our website, take a tour, or, if you’re in Edinburgh, open up the app. You never know what stories may have happened right where you’re standing…
The Dynamis journal was founded in 1981 at the University of Granada by five historians of medicine (Luis García Ballester, Teresa Ortiz-Gómez, Rosa María Moreno, Guillermo Olagüe and Esteban Rodríguez Ocaña). The first editorial note acknowledged the influence of Pedro Laín Entralgo, and justified the publication of the new journal by the growing interest in the history of science, in particular the history of medicine, in Spain. From the beginning, the aim of this academic enterprise was to broaden the understanding of the social aspects of medicine from a perspective that included the history of scientific, educational, and medical institutions.
Today, Dynamis has an international and multidisciplinary Advisory Board and an Editorial Board whose members are distinguished historians of medicine and science based at different Spanish academic institutions. The professional rigour and intellectual acuity of the Editorial Board, together with the journal’s engagement in emergent research lines and topics, has enabled Dynamis to remain prominent both locally and internationally. The journal has also continued to enjoy contributions from both European and American experts in the history of science and medicine.
The journal benefits from extensive institutional support. It is co-edited by two Spanish universities with support from the Vice Rector’s Office for Scientific Policy and Research of the University of Granada and the Research Vice-Rectorship of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Moreover, Dynamis has received financial support from the University of Cantabria, and the Miguel Hernández University, as well as the HUM-773 research group on the History of Medicine of the University of Granada.
Dynamis has successfully fulfilled the generally recognized periodicity, uniformity and normalization criteria; it also fulfills the 33 parameters of Latindex quality system. In Spain, it is considered a journal with “good quality content and normalization, which occupies a high position amongst Spanish scientific journals.” Since 2016, Dynamis has been included in Thomson Reuters-ISI database, being the only Spanish journal currently indexed in the category History and Philosophy of Science (SSCI and SCIE). It can be found in the following Thomson Reuters products: Science Citation Index, Social Science Citation Index and Art and Humanities Citation Index. The Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) has recently awarded Dynamis its quality stamp and an excellent evaluation.
Dynamis has consolidated as an attractive vehicle form the scholars in the history of science and medicine. The criteria of the Spanish National Commission for the Evaluation of Research Activity (CENAI) and the National Agency for the Evaluation of Quality and Accreditation (ANECA), are essential for planning and progressing in the academic careers in Spain. One of such criteria is the publication of an article in an ISI-indexed journal before obtaining a doctoral degree, and this has made Dynamis even more attractive to scholars who work or wish to work in Spanish academic institutions. To this end, Dynamis has published high-quality contributions from doctoral candidates and early career scholars, offering an important venue for the dissemination of their work.
Dynamis publishes original, double peer-reviewed research studies (articles, notes or documents) and reviews in most of the languages of the European Union. This includes: Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Catalan. From 1981 to 2010, one single volume of about 500 pages was published every year. Since 2011, two issues are published a year, and each issue consists of about 250 pages.
Although initially focused on the history of medicine in Spain, Dynamis has evolved as a truly multidisciplinary and international enterprise. The journal is open to contributions from other parts of the world, and the Editorial Board has recently expanded to included researchers from different institutions and universities in Spain and beyond.
Dynamis is keen to consider proposals for special issues. Several monographic issues have appeared so far, dealing with a wide range of topics. These include the history of illness (vol. 11, 1991), the national factor in the evolution of science (vol. 12, 1992), systems of health in the work place and professions in a welfare state (vol. 13, 1993), public health in contemporary Spain (vol. 14, 1994), women, gender and health practices (vol. 19, 1999), improving public health in the interwar years in Europe (vol. 28, 2008), isotopes in 20th century technoscience (vol. 29, 2009), the circulation of antibiotics (vol. 31-2, 2011), controlling female cancer in South America (vol. 4-1, 2014), transnational science during the Cold War (vol. 35-2, 2015), the Pasteur Institutes in the Maghreb (vol. 36-2, 2016), health reforms in South European countries (vol. 39-1, 2019), managing giftedness in contemporary society (vol. 40-2, 2020), historical configuration of the hospital system in Spain (vol. 41-1, 2021), among many others.
A comprehensive list of special issues can be found here:
The Dynamis Editorial Board has received offers to be purchased or included in private editorial enterprises but has rejected these offers to retain academic independence of the journal. The technical side of the editing process falls mostly on the Editorial Board, which makes the cost of publishing two issues a year possible within the limited budget. Another challenge was the recent (2021) shift to Chicago Manual of Style as a referencing system. Since its beginnings Dynamis used footnote references but the new database environment made a change pressing. The decision about which reference system to use and implementing it was difficult as it required harmonising views of the interdisciplinary Editorial Board. The priority was choosing a style which would make cited works visible and easily recognisable for bibliometric purposes, but also allow for flexibility for referencing a wide range of primary sources. A previous challenge was linked with the the journal’s inclusion on Thomson Reuters databases (2006), especially the Journal of Citation Reports, after which the number of manuscripts submitted to Dynamis grew exponentially. The Editorial Board’s reaction was to increase the frequency of publication, from one to two issues and around twenty manuscripts a year.
Another challenge was linked to the journal’s digitalisation process, which included all published volumes since 1981 and was completed between 2005 and 2008. All the volumes are now available through the Barcelona Autonomous University Repository (RACO), which is accessible through the journal’s website. Initially, Dynamis imposed a 6-month embargo, meaning that the journal version of the manuscript became could be freely used after half a year from publication had passed. The embargo rule was lifted in 2014, making the journal fully and immediately open access. Since 2010, Dynamis has also been included on the Scielo platform, which, together with RACO and the institutional repository of the University of Granada, strengthen the journal’s visibility.
From a publication policy standpoint, Dynamis pursues three ideals. First, it has been particularly concerned with gender equality and therefore makes sure to keep a balance in the team of leading editors, as well as in the Editorial Board and in the authorship of articles. There are mechanisms in place to ensure gender balance in the Boards and in the publication outcome.
Second, the journal seeks to promote truly multi- and cross-disciplinary research. The articles cover a range of topics, such as the history of ancient Hippocratic-Galenic medical practices, the humanitarian health of refugees after the Spanish Civil War, parapsychological theories and science exhibitions in the 19th Century, and the debates about abortion in the last decades of the 20th century. This wide array of topics makes the journal difficult to categorize or fit within any fixed label. While the core of the contributions come from professional historians, Dynamis regularly publishes contributions from sociologists, anthropologists and philosophers of science. Dynamis has also homed articles and special issues, such as the 2018 special issue on Contraception, sexuality and gender, which prioritized novel methodologies such as oral history of health.
Finally, the third aim of Dynamis is to promote multilingualism in the history of medicine and science. Instead of only publishing in English or Spanish, the journal is open to several languages.
Have there been any difficulties in creating and sustaining this publication project?
All the articles published in Dynamis are freely and immediately accessible online in three spaces: the RACO database, SCIELO (2010), and the journal’s website. The journal pursues a green open access policy and does not charge any author fees. The journal’s institutional financial support covers the printing costs and the design of the front page.
Offering support in the process of publication without any fees makes Dynamis a very attractive journal for both senior and junior scholars in and outside of the Hispanic world. Needless to say, finding experts willing to collaborate with the editorship is not always easy.
Despite such problems, the journal has managed to maintain a high scholarly standard and its policy of true open access. The key challenge, linked to the previous point, is maintaining the journal as an independent and gold standard open access journal, which does not charge authors any processing, publication or open access fees.
What readership do you address?
The core readership are historians of medicine and health, although the journal appeals also to historians of science, general historians, and health professionals. Dynamis also attracts academic lecturers, who use the articles in their teaching preparation. The introductions to special issues play an important role in this process, and the open access availability ensures that articles are immediately accessible to anyone interested.
What contributions are you looking for?
The journal publishes original articles, book reviews, essay reviews and relevant primary sources with commentary. The editors are interested in receiving articles based on original historical research dealing with any topic related to the history of science. Dynamis only publishes articles in which the authors engaged in a critical assessment of primary and secondary sources and are able to offer new insights. Furthermore, the journal publishes literature reviews offering a thorough and interesting overview and discussion of recent publications made in a specific area of research. A third category of publications is short book reviews, which are written upon invitation and previous agreement with an editor.
Arbor is a journal on thought, science and culture from the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spanish National Research Council). Its name comes from the Arbor Scientiae, or tree of science, used by Ramón Llull to represent the various branches of knowledge.
Thought, science and culture, conceived at Arbor as hybrid and interconnected areas, are the three large fields that define its content. Thus, Arbor is a transdisciplinary journal that publishes original research and reviews that help to think about and understand the world in its complexity, in close connection with issues that drive current main controversies.
Arbor publishes four quarterly issues per year (March, June, September, and December) in open access on the CSIC electronic journal platform. Three of them are Special issues which consist of a series of articles on a particular topic and a varia section in which reviews, and bibliographical notes are presented. The fourth will be a miscellanea. Since 2007, Arbor has been available online, and a print edition was published until 2013. That year Arbor became an electronic journal published in PDF, HTML and XML-JATS. Contents of previous issues are also available in PDF files.
This journal, founded in 1944 and still publishing today, is the Spanish cultural scientific journal with the longest history of uninterrupted publication. Through its long history, Arbor has different roles in the construction of scientific thought and culture in Spain. In its foundational stage (1944-1953), marked by the autarchic discourses of the post-Spanish Civil War period, the journal was more interested in the human sciences than in the experimental sciences. The intellectual trajectories of its editors, together with the then-strongly-established difference between the two cultures – the humanist and the scientific – influenced its editorial line. The second period (1953-1984) coincided with the end of Spain’s international isolation, meaning Spain was kept out of the UN and other international organizations until 1951, caused by Franco’s rapprochement with Hitler and Mussolini. During this period, the journal was stabilized as a project and began to publish a greater number of papers in the experimental sciences, in an attempt to exhibit institutional scientific production. In addition, the journal began to pay attention to hitherto unpublished topics, such as contemporary art, and to publish articles on economics. The third stage (1984-2011), which coincided with the consolidation of democracy in Spain, was a period of renewal for Arbor in which it sought, through multidisciplinary reflection, to make this journal a channel of communication between the scientific community and the rest of society. In 2013, the magazine began a new period by shifting to publishing solely online which has allowed its adaptation to the new forms and technologies of publishing.
Since July 2019, Arbor’s editorial line has been in a process of redefinition. The Journal’s format and target audience were revised, alongside the methods used to evaluate submissions and the language of publication. The journal’s new editorial board is interested in content that asks questions and shows the concerns of today’s society. Thus, the new structure of the journal seeks to establish dialogues between disciplines and to offer different views on the same topic.
In addition, novel features were introduced by this editorial team in order to respond to the new forms of hybrid and interconnected knowledge generation: the sections “Materials”, “Essay-Reviews”, and “Debate”. “Materials” publishes essays on knowledge produced in non-written formats that help to deepen the monographic theme: this is a place to think about audiovisual, sound, and graphic resources. Contributions in this section include links to such resources, taking advantage of the possibilities of the digital format. These possibilities are further considered in the “Essay- Reviews” section, where classic bibliographical reviews can share space with reflections on other objects like exhibitions, films and sound documents. Finally, the “Debate” section opens up a space for discussion around the main controversies raised by the subject matter of the monograph. This space serves to show, not only ways of working in the construction of knowledge but also the discussion as object and subject (actor-actant) that participate in them.
Nowadays, Arbor faces new challenges because the social, economic, and gender inequalities of the past twentieth century have been compounded by the climate crisis, problems in energy transition, and a major global pandemic. Thus, it is even more increasingly necessary to have spaces to learn, educate, and be informed about scientific and technical issues. Arbor aims to offer this space not only to the research community, but also to society in general. The possibilities of the digital format like the use of audio-visual materials and links to the journal knowledge, as well as the choice of current topics of general interest make Arbor closer to the public.
Since the very earliest social studies of scientific communities, we have known that words and worlds are bound together; that intellectual projects – this was an original insight of Steve Woolgar and Bruno Latour of course – are materialised in sentences, images, figures, texts. It remains the case that one of the most important ways to stabilise, organise and grow a laboratory, a group of scholars, even an entire intellectual community, is to write things down.
Over the last decade, social studies of science, including studies of biomedicine, have become some of the most exciting and cutting-edge areas in the social sciences.From human geographers working on animal models of human disease; to anthropologists writing about new ways of governing chronic disease in low-income countries; to sociologists charting the rise of new forms of cyborg embodiment – scholars across disciplines are researching at the frontiers of science and biomedicine, and using insights from these areas to innovate the field of science and technology studies (STS). Yet, in Europe, the monograph form in STS remains perhaps less developed to peer-reviewed journal articles and other kinds of publishing forms. And where book series focused on (or friendly to) STS do exist, especially in the American context of US academic presses, these typically gather under the sign of more well-established disciplines (history or anthropology, in many cases) or else around specific theoretical or empirical interests (experiments, technologies, bodies, and so on).
In 2019 with the help of Tom Dark, a senior commissioning editor at Manchester University Press, we initiated a new STS book series, ‘Inscriptions: Writing the Social Studies of Science’.The point of this series is to create new space for the monograph form in STS. As the books we have already published demonstrate the series foregrounds theoretically innovative and empirically rich interdisciplinary work that is emerging in Europe and beyond. Our series is self-consciously hospitable in terms of its approach to discipline (all areas of social sciences are considered), topic (we are interested in all scientific objects, including biomedical objects) scale (books will include both fine-grained case studies and broad accounts of scientific cultures) and authorship (it looks to first-time authors as well as to established scholars; to disciplinary newcomers to STS as well as to widely-known insiders).
For readers and writers, we hope the series signals a new generation of scholarship captured in monograph form – tracking and analysing how science moves through our societies, cultures and lives. Three observations make the urgent need for such a series apparent. First, it is clear that scientific and political transformations in the clinical and life sciences, and in other allied scientific areas, are bringing new technologies and practices, along with the everyday forms of embodiment they constitute, to the forefront of political and social attention. For example, genomics, the study of genes, has made it possible to predict, diagnose, and treat diseases more personally than ever before, leading to what scholars have called the molecularization of life. Similar observations can be made about recent transformations in the digital and informational sciences, in the psychological and brain sciences, and many other areas.
Second, the social studies of science have developed key resources with which to make sense of new advances in science and technology. Part of this comes from changes in scientific and medical practice itself, where social, ethical and political implications of new technologies are recognized as vital to creating productive relationships between scientific knowledge, technological systems, and society. While the social sciences might have been previously bracketed off as a separate ‘ethical’ concern to science, increasingly scientists and social scientists have been working in collaboration to get to grips with how science and technology come to shape law, politics, public policy, society and culture.
Third, there have been a series of wider shifts in the research funding landscape: an embedded agenda of ‘ethical, legal and social impacts’ has brought significant new funding-streams to social studies of science and biomedicine, while also pressing social science researchers against the face of cutting-edge developments in the natural and clinical sciences; at the same time, many European funders have dedicated new funding streams to critical social study of the natural sciences in general, and studies of the biomedical and life sciences (including clinical practice) in particular.
These transformations signal that it is a crucial time to bring together work that showcases these remarkable shifts. They also call for a renewed urgency in serious, long-form, interdisciplinary thinking and writing in STS – as well as to spaces that can hold such thinking and writing. The first volumes of the series are appearing now (by Anne Kerr and her colleagues, as well as Adam Hedgecoe, and Gill Haddow) with further volumes in the works; we continue to review proposals, and will be glad to hear from EASST members and affiliates.
This is an attempt at an account on the emergence and ongoing bringing into existence of something as abstract as a journal. The account is anthropological in the sense that it attempts to describe the journal as relation and relational. The intention is to give an adequate account of the journals partial, multifaceted existence. It is an account in which the journal is both cause and effect of relations. It realizes and is realized. It is parent and orphan. Its genealogy consists of ambitions, persons, platforms – digital and other –, financial means (or lack thereof) and layers of work.
STS Encounters is the journal of the Danish Association of STS (www.dasts.dk). It is a digital journal only. It does not come out in print and hard copy and this is a central aspect of its existence. The journal is not a body without organs in the deleuzian sense as an unorganized assemblage of multiple parts. It is an organ of a partially or vaguely existing body. But still, its body consists of the digital and contrary to some writers, that suggests that the digital is pure essence and light as air (see for instance Brynjolfsson and McAfee 2014), we, as students of STS, have, if not a full understanding, then at least a well-developed sense of the fact that the digital indeed has a weight. We have a sense of the enormous amounts of energy, buildings, material and work required for the digital to be ‘light as air’. But it is this layered and seemingly lightness of the digital that realizes STS Encounters.
The work and effort required for a paper journal to come into existence, the bundling of articles into issues, the many deadlines entailed in production, the work required in having enough, but not too many articles in the ‘pipeline’, and of course in the end, the paper and the ink, has been either ‘cut away’ or been redistributed to the digital in relation to STS Encounters. As a ‘real’ hard copy paper journal STS Encounters would not have lasted the first quarter. It would probably not even have made it into the printing press.
STS Encounters was not coined in a spirit of high ambitions and expectations. Rather it was conceived as a journal that should be inclusive and broad and be an accessible outlet for upcoming as well as established researchers. It was conceived in the spirit of the field of STS, namely as multifaceted and inclusive and where differences are welcomed and generative. Differences are invitations to think with and to be explored, instead of something to be policed. On the webpage of STS Encounters it is stated (and here reproduced in the same font):
“The aim of the journal is to stimulate quality and collaboration in Danish STS research as well as to make Danish STS more visible nationally and internationally. In this context STS is understood as a broad and interdisciplinary field. Encounters encourages submissions from all relevant fields and subfields of social and cultural inquiry dealing with scientific and technological matters. The editorial board emphasizes that the journal is to offer a broad and nuanced view of the Danish STS environment. This applies to theoretical and analytical frameworks, choice of method and substantive empirical areas.”
But STS Encounters is also an appendix. It is the journal of the Danish Association for STS (DASTS) which was founded in 2002. STS Encounters and DASTS are mutually parasitic and co-constitutive. As Bruno Latour argues, ontology is not binary and a matter of existence vs. non-existence, instead objects/subjects/actors/ come into existence and they may be partially existing or have fluctuating levels of existence (Latour, Bruno 2000). DASTS and STS Encounters gain existence through their mutual association. DASTS achieves existence as a national association by also having a journal and STS Encounters is not ‘only’ a journal, but the journal of the Danish Association for STS. The point being that different elements: an association with a board, a yearly conference, and a journal, are mutually co-constitutive community producing actors.
Going deeper into the genealogy of the journal thus implicates DASTS. DASTS was established as a platform for Danish STS research in the beginning of the 2000, at a point in time where STS was well established internationally, but still also a young and growing field. In Denmark at this point, STS research and teaching were scattered and took place only in corners of some of the universities in Denmark. There were no educational programs dedicated to STS. STS lived its life as subparts of programs taught and promoted by a few teachers and researchers around the country. But then these few people started talking to each other and they convened and decided to make an association, DASTS. This was taking place in an academic and political climate in which alliances, visibility and research strategies was becoming increasingly important given that basic research founding was being replaced by neoliberal principles for delegating research funding. But it was also simply a consequence of an experience of being associated with a field that was forming and being articulated. In the 00’ of the new millennium, people began to say and refer to STS in a somewhat monolithic sense and thus performatively articulate the field as well established and felt interpellated by others saying and doing “STS”.
The founding people, according to this author, was a few tenured researchers from Aarhus University, University of Copenhagen and the Technical University of Denmark. Among others, these were: Randi Markussen, Finn Olesen, Peter Lauritsen, Lene Kock, Christian Clausen and Ulrik Jørgensen. These established researchers were flanked by a group of upcoming scholars: Torben Elgaard Jensen, Julie Sommerlund, Signe Vikkelsø, Maja Horst, Casper Bruun Jensen, Henriette Langstrup, Klaus Høyer, Brit Ross Winthereik, Kristian Hvidtfeldt Nielsen. And further on there was a group of students and aspiring scholars, which among others included the author of this account and the members of the board of DASTS today. Many others could be mentioned and the general experience to this day – for better and for worse – is that the Danish STS community may be best described as “a party of cousins”.
In sum, DASTS and STS Encounters has grown out of an intellectual milieu and climate that can perhaps be described as a combination of the principle of the least effort, a strong sense of community and the will to – with no to little funding – build platforms that support a broad and inclusive, publicly engaging and intellectually stimulating research community of practice. As a consequence, the rate and amount of publications has always been uneven, with quiet periods. STS Encounters is indeed a percolating outlet and not a steady stream of publications. But of course, this has over the years also entailed a continuous concern with submission activity
Examples of articles published in STS Encounters
Anna Tsing: Alien vs. Predator
“…Let me begin right away with my point. Researchers must love their material to produce good research. Science studies researchers must get inside the science, learning to appreciate it with the passion of an insider. This is the mainly unrealized gift of anthropology to science studies. Immersion produces insight. Reifying theory as a higher life form gets in the way of love. Theory is a tool kit. We need to love our tools as they help us make things, not for themselves.” (Excerpt from the introduction).
Winthereik, Lutz, Suchman & Verran: Special issue on Attending to Screens and Screenness
“..In the call for participation the ubiquity of screens was described as one of the reasons cultural/media studies, design studies, science and technology studies, information studies and anthropology ought to be interested in this topic empirically and analytically. It was suggested that screens play an increasingly central role in a wide range of human practices relating to work, play, travel, care, learning, planning, monitoring, designing, coordinating and much else.” (Excerpt from the introduction).
Svendsen, Mette N.: The “ME” in the “WE”: Anthropological Engagements with the Personalized Medicine
“…What has spurred discussion is the government’s suggested organizational and ethical framework for collecting, banking, and using genomes from the Danish people as part of its realization of personalized medicine in Danish health care. The framing of “stealing” and the articulation of this project as “high risk” points to the discussion’s central issue of how to treat and administer genomes as concomitantly part of the “me” of the person and the “we” of the welfare state.” (Excerpt from the introduction).
Blok, Anders: Scoping Endangered Futures: Rethinking the Political Aesthetics in of Climate Change in World Risk Society
“… In this article, I engage a key claim of Ulrich Beck’s theorizing of global risks, to the effect that socio-political collectivities are currently being re-imagined through the anticipation of endangered long-term futures. Such dynamics of temporal reordering are visible, the article shows, in the imaginative politics of climatic projections.” (Excerpt from the abstract)
Irina Papazu & Christian Elling Scheele: (De-)Localising the Climate – The production of uncertain agencies through climate websites
”…This article introduces a devicecentred approach to the concept of climate engagement through a qualitative analysis of two websites: www.klimabevidst.dk and www.mapmyclimate.dk. While klimabevidst.dk represents a down-to-earth take on individual engagement with the climate, providing users with hands-on guides to green home improvements, www.mapmyclimate.dk seeks to increase the user’s awareness of the phenomenon of global climate change by demonstrating how the user’s actions impact the earth’s future.” (Excerpt from the abstract)
Brynjolfsson, Erik, and Andrew McAfee. 2014. The Second Machine
Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Techno-
logies. First Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Latour, Bruno. 2000. “On the Partial Existence of Existing and Non-
existing Objects.” In Biographies of Scientific Objects, edited by Lor-raine Daston, 247–69. University of Chicago Press.
STS has a relatively short history in East Asia—it was not until the 2000s that societies and programs that bore the initials “STS” in their titles were established in China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Yet in just fifteen years or so East Asia has come to play an active role in the academic world and in the transformation of a flourishing East Asia via journals such as EASTS.
Historically, it should be noted that as an intellectual trend STS was introduced to this region far before its institutionalization. Compared to the intellectual orientation of its Western counterpart, STS in East Asia is more locally rooted and problem-based. While in Japan STS was impregnated with socialist criticisms of Cold War science and it directs increasing attention to alternative forms of social organization grounded in ideological pluralism, STS in China has inherited ideology driven, politico-intellectual traditions of “natural dialectics” (Zi Ran Bian Zheng Fa) and is backed up by state ideology. While the assessment of science and technology is a predominant component of China’s STS, Japanese STS scholars tend to oppose the government by promoting science for the citizen.
STS in Taiwan and Korea takes yet a different disciplinary orientation: both influenced by Joseph Needham’s account of science and technology in Asian civilizations (such as those in Science and Civilisation in China by Needham and his collaborators), in particular before the Western scientific revolution, and both developing their research agendas from the discipline of the history and philosophy of science, Taiwan and Korea have structured their criticism of scientific development as a necessary step toward democratization. The introduction of mainstream STS theories such as the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge, Actor-Network Theory, Social Worlds Theory, and the Anthropology of Science and Technology did not erase these traditions; instead, introduced by East Asian scholars returning from Europe and the US, such theories have blended into existing traditions, stimulating the growth of new STS communities in East Asia.
EASTS’ inception can be understood in this light. Founded in 2007, EASTS started out as an intellectual network of scholars in the history and philosophy of science, mainly from Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and what we used to call “outside of East Asia” branch, or “OEA” for short. With the support of Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology, EASTS aimed to be the first English-language journal dedicated to East Asian STS. The founding editorial board included Daiwie Fu as editor-in-chief, Chia-Ling Wu, Togo Tsukahara, Sungook Hong, and Warwick Anderson as associate editors, and more than forty editorial board members from communities covering not only traditional East Asia but also Australia and Southeast Asia, and covering various disciplines from the history and philosophy of science and history of medicine to public understanding of science and science policy. The journal itself came into being as the realization of this collective voice that was seeking the meaning of doing STS in and on East Asia.
As a quarterly, EASTS, like other academic journals, publishes research articles, research notes, review essays, commentaries, and forums. Even so, in order to make itself distinct, a large amount of editorial effort has been put into book reviews and the covers, which are perhaps marginal for an academic journal (see the assemblage of some covers in Figure 1). Since our inception, covers have been a colorful and artistic feature of EASTS. For each issue, editors carefully choose material that will be intellectually compelling for readers and transform it into a piece of visual art that faithfully conveys its nuances. With a team that consists of more than ten editors covering major Asian languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) as well as French and German, in our Book Review section EASTS aims to be the gateway to East Asian STS, with reviews of books published in Asian languages as well as in English.
For those who want to understand the intellectual characteristics of EASTS in balancing the different origins of and ideas on STS, the quickest way is to read Daiwie Fu’s positioning paper “How Far Can East Asian STS go?” published in its first issue (1.1. It can be read or downloaded at https://read.dukeupress.edu/ easts/article/1/1/1/25936/How-Far-Can-East-Asian-STS-Go-A-position-paper?searchresult=1). By proposing EASTS to be a venue for “a distinctive EASTS study”, Fu called for a reassessment of existing interpretive frames (such as “center-periphery” models or post-colonial connections) and claimed an intellectual network that is made to set new parameters for studying East Asian STS. He also called for research agendas, such as focusing on socially embedded, situated technologies, in order to substantiate interdisciplinary and cross-cultural practices of STS. As Fu enthusiastically concludes, “East Asian STS will offer fresh STS perspectives because of its special local experiences, shared cultural and colonial histories, similar geological and meteorological makeup, and similar global positions… No doubt, East Asia has a lot to offer STS communities worldwide”.
During his six years of editorship (2007-2012) Fu’s efforts can be appreciated in thematic issues on gender and technology (such as 2.2) and traditional technology and knowledge (such as 4.2 and 5.2), as well as in forums on the 50th anniversary of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolution (6.4), “Engaging Asia: A Forum on the History of Science and Technology” (6.2), and a panel discussion on the 2011 tsunami and subsequent Fukushima crisis in Japan (5.3). Further, EASTS has been open for different perspectives, and ways envisioning how EASTS could achieve a scholarship that engages not only people living in and working on this region but the global STS community. The issue “What Is Distinctive East Asian STS: Method, Assemblages, or Theories?” (6.4) was fully dedicated to reflecting on these perspectives.
It might be helpful to briefly review these visions. First is the relationship between science and the state. While EASTS is concerned with science policy, in particular deliberative democracy in science and technology, a more engaged
scholarship is needed on national policy toward science and technology in terms of R&D. For this, EASTS has achieved discussions in both a national and international context, such as China’s biopolitics (5.3.), Singapore’s Biopolis (7.1), and a comparison between Japan and New Zealand (5.4). Second, as the only journal in English on this area, EASTS has been expected to establish a scholarship that moves beyond “area studies” of STS. In addition to theoretical reflections, in its first decade the papers published in EASTS have brought up situations that challenge the meaning of East Asia and reframe the STS specificity. Reflecting the multiple origins of STS in East Asia, its papers belong to various disciplines, such as the history of science, sociology, technology studies, and anthropology. Nonetheless, together they exemplify efforts to expand the networks of STS beyond mainstream narratives in the Anglo-American context. A case for this can be seen in the issues on traditional medicines in East Asia (notably 2.4, 7.3, and 8.1). The theme is distinctively East Asian, yet capturing how these therapies travel around the world and changing ways of thinking about these living traditions is definitely a global question.
Chia-Ling Wu, editor-in-chief from 2013 to 2015, inherited the spirit of making EASTS an intellectual platform that thrives on harmony in diversity, yet without becoming some kind of STS “fox”—to use EASTS current associate editor Fa-ti Fan’s term—roaming through disciplinary, geographical, and intellectual territories (in his response to Fu’s position paper mentioned previously). While focused on East (and Southeast) Asia, EASTS is gradually expanding its geographical reach, publishing articles on South Asia (such as the issue on Indonesian STS, 11.1). We are also actively searching for articles in various disciplines to best present East Asia as both an intellectual subject and a meaningful method for doing global STS.
Though EASTS is still a young journal, we as editors are delighted that it has already become a permanent fixture in the networking infrastructure of global STS. A collaborative undertaking with the internationally renowned publishers Springer (from 2007 to 2011) and Duke University Press (from 2012), EASTS, like the landscape of East Asia, is always in transition. When the late Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) president Susan Leigh Star made mention of EASTS in 2007, it was as one of those initiatives not based in the traditional STS regions of America and Europe. With 4S inviting more non-Western involvement, and with EASTS advisory editors Kim Fortun and Ulrike Felt elected presidents of 4S and of EASST respectively in 2017, this seems to be the right time to renew EASTS’ road map. While looking back at the multiple histories of STS in East Asia, it must reinvent itself by introducing research agendas that push EASTS beyond existing framings, such as simplified dichotomies of West and East as “center-periphery” or “theory-subject”. We believe that this is why EASTS won the 4S Infrastructure Award in 2018, and we are grateful that our work with the journal has been recognized this way.
Ours is a fast-changing technoscientific world, and one in which East Asia isn’t an outsider but has a permanent seat at the table. EASTS doesn’t aim to provide the ultimate answers to all of STS’s questions; but we do believe that these answers—if they exist—can only be approached and set down on paper by making use of the expanding networks and evolving infrastructures of an STS community that can shape social agendas and create responsive scholarship. To borrow Confucius’ words, we strive for harmony in diversity.
Though we are indexed by Web of Science (SSCI and A&HCI) since 2016, EASTS equally treasures networks created via scholarly collaboration. We believe that any scholarly piece published in EASTS does not stand alone and will not fade away. So we invite you to join us in contributing your own work to the living archive that is EASTS!
The platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, is a strange critter. An egg-laying, duck-billed, semi-aquatic mammal with venomous ankle spurs and electroreceptors in its beak, the platypus is the sole member of its family and genus. Its physiology so challenged existing taxonomies that when European naturalists first encountered a specimen, they insisted that it had to be a hoax: a taxidermied amalgam of spare parts from various other species (Moyal 2004). Similarly, the Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC) plays host to a deeply heterogeneous collection of anthropologists, media theorists, designers, and other scholars of sociotechnical systems. Their diverse theoretical commitments, methodological strategies, and empirical objects resist neat categorizations; their social networks and professional trajectories are no less singular.
When Jenny Cool, Patricia Lange, and Jordan Kraemer founded the CASTAC blog in 2012, their goal was not to prune these various weedy strands of inquiry, but rather to provide a platform for their cross-pollination and hybridization. When the team behind the CASTAC Blog decided to give the site a name, they chose Platypus in part to represent the variegated character of this assemblage. Beyond a mere symbol of our own professional eclecticism, however, the platypus is also a provocation: an occasion to think through the hybridity and complexity at the heart of scientific practice itself. At the same time, it is important to remember that it is precisely this hodgepodge of seemingly disparate features that allows the platypus, and hopefully Platypus, to succeed within its specific ecological niche.
As the current Editor of Platypus, I have attempted to live up to the morphological and behavioral creativity of our furry namesake. Practically speaking, this has meant that I have continued to treat Platypus as an experimental, messy space: a test-bed for anthropologists and designers to share work in progress, try out risky new concepts, or chew over current events. However, the blog is also home to more directly curated thematic series, intervening into areas of contemporary concern ranging from posthumanism, to designing for disability, to law in computation. These series are purposefully designed as intermittent and punctuated, carrying the conversation across months or years as their empirical objects and theoretical con-texts shift and develop.
Rather than any specific conceptual agenda, the blog has always prioritized its communal function: densifying the human-to-human connections that make up any vibrant scholarly community. Our blog has thrived in large part due to the unflagging support of CASTAC and its parent organization, the General Anthropology Division of the American Anthropological Association. Many of our readers still approach the blog through the gateway of the CASTAC mailing list. Over the past three years, however, our readership has exploded beyond both anthropology and the United States, mostly driven by our social media presence: today, the majority of our readers come from outside the United States, with substantial engagement from Latin America and Europe. We have recently started publishing bilingual posts, and welcome submissions in any language alongside the blog’s primary language of English.
Given the diversity of theoretical investments, professional backgrounds, and methodological repertoires of our readers and authors, the editors of Platypus have neither wished nor tried to enforce any sort of intellectual orthodoxy. We view our platform not as a pulpit but as a trading ground, where folks from across the globe and disciplines can meet to generate productive insights into our technological contemporary. However, despite the lack of centripetal efforts, the blog has seen the emergence and continual refinement of a surprisingly consistent approach to the study of science, technology, and computing. Rather than conceptual or methodological unity, however, our project’s coherence — such as it is — seems to lie in the specific way that our community blends the practical and conceptual repertoires of anthropological and design thinking.
As a corollary of this laissez-faire approach to intellectual curation, Platypus has also quite consciously resisted elaborating any specific, prescriptive political stance, beyond supporting our individual contributors when they choose to advance their own commitments. Beyond our reluctance to risk misrepresenting the complex and various political investments of our community, there are quite simply other platforms that do political work more effectively and more precisely than our assemblage could. That said, the blog does have a specific and coherent approach to using academic research to intervene into political discourse. Rather than targeting interventions at the level of either public discourse or policy solutions, our authors have tended towards focusing on finding new, orthogonal approaches to long-standing social problems. Whether through revealing new methodological strategies, furnishing conceptual tools, or building concrete alliances, these approaches have mirrored the intellectual approach of Platypus in their focus on engaging the design process behind both technologies and policies. Rather than trying to argue over what should be built, we try to open conversations about how we might build sociotechnical systems in more democratic and egalitarian ways.
This focus on process and design extends to our own sociotechnical infrastructure. The founding editorial collective was explicitly dedicated to building an editorial process and publishing infrastructure that would maximize community involvement and democratic decision-making about the direction of the blog. Over the past six years, this commitment has guided the evolution of our somewhat idiosyncratic editorial ecosystem: the Editor of the blog is responsible for recruiting and supervising ten Contributing Editors (CEs), who are in turn responsible for soliciting or writing all of our regularly-scheduled weekly posts. (When we receive proposals for posts, the Editor generally works with authors directly, or directs them to the CE whose research and publishing interests most closely fits with the proposed topic.) CEs perform first-line edits on posts they are curating, before passing it on to another CE who acts as a “first reader” for argumentation and organization. The Editor supervises this process, providing a final style and format edit, as well as directly handling the editorial duties for the thematic series.
This editorial approach places CEs, usually junior scholars, in relatively unsupervised curatorial positions that allow them to pursue their own intellectual agendas and build relationships with authors, who are as often senior scholars as they are peers. Hopefully, this structure both contributes to and reflects the primary commitments of the blog: providing a platform for coherent conversations to emerge among the multiplex strands of research and the heterogeneous social networks that make up the anthropology of technology, design, and computing. If you are interested in joining the conversation, whether as an author or a contributing editor, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Unlike our namesake, we are neither venomous nor predatory.
Limn is a scholarly magazine that focuses on contemporary problems arising at the intersection of politics, expertise and collective life. It is also an experiment in scholarly production in the interpretive human sciences that explores new kinds of collective work and publication. Limn is available both in an open access web format and in print. Each issue of the print magazine has a custom graphic design, with a range of imagery and graphic material related to the contributions.
We created Limn in response to a set of concerns that arose from our shared background in the rapidly changing field of American cultural anthropology during the 1990s and 2000s. At the time, the discipline encouraged individualized work on particular sites or multi-sites, and valorized virtuosic interpretation and writing, while leaving little space for collaborative inquiry or concept work beyond abstract discussions of “theory.” However appropriate these orientations were for anthropology as traditionally conceived, a different approach seemed to be required for studying some of the topics that were moving to the center of the discipline at the time, such as science, technology, bureaucratic rationality, and planning. Given this background—and against it—we were all interested in exploring how research on specific sites or multi-sites might be brought into communication, and what alternative models of inquiry, writing, and publication might foster collaboration.
Initially, we pursued these questions, both together and separately, through well-established vehicles of collective work, such as conference panels, workshops, collected volumes, and joint projects. Our first experiment with novel directions in collective work was the Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory (ARC), a collaboration with Paul Rabinow. ARC was a setting in which we began to think about models of inquiry that would allow researchers working on disparate sites to explore common problems that had contemporary significance. In launching Limn as separate initiative, we were particularly concerned question such as: How to expand the network of collaborators? How to establish a distinctive approach to the anthropology of the contemporary while remaining open to cross-fertilization with other approaches? How to re-imagine what scholarly work and publication can be after the Internet and open access? And how might collaboration provide a fresh way to respond in a timely manner to contemporary problems?
The 2009 Deepwater Horizon disaster provided a push in thinking about these issues. In various problem-domains—from computer security, to pandemic preparedness, emergency management, and critical infrastructure protection—we had all been thinking about the renewed contemporary concern among experts and policymakers with the vulnerability of critical systems and had been in communication with colleagues working along parallel lines. We initially entertained the idea of asking some of these colleagues to comment directly on the Deepwater Horizon event. Eventually, however, we settled on a different approach: to shed light on the event by placing it in the context of other events, sites, and problem-areas that raised similar questions, and that pointed to genealogical framings that might help understand why it was being taken up, and responded to, in a particular way. This, initially, was what we meant by “Limn”: to illuminate the space around the event, to understand how it became intelligible, thinkable, and governable. Limn 1, the issue that eventually emerged out of these discussions, was centered on the problem of “systemic risk,” as well as the norms, such as resilience and preparedness, that are invoked in response.
In the course of work on Limn 1 we took note of a productive dynamic. Although we had started with a sense of a core problem that would shape the issue, the process of identifying a group of contributors, discussing possible contributions, and ultimately reading and commenting on those contributions broadened our frame of reference. In this case, it allowed us to think about how a concept from a particular domain—systemic risk was specifically a term of art in financial regulation—might illuminate a broader problematization of contemporary life. Many of our subsequent issues have settled on a term from a particular field that seems to illuminate a broader set of problems: disease ecology, public infrastructure, chokepoints, and hacks, for example. In other cases, we have adapted such “first order” terms to designate something pervasive but as yet unnamed: such as “little development devices,” the “total archive,” or “sentinel devices.”
This orientation to shaping shared problems has given rise to a distinctive work process. In considering proposals for issues, we undertake an intensive and sometimes laborious process—involving both the general editors and the “issue editors” who have made the proposal—of identifying the core concept or problems that should be at the center of the issue, and the historical framing that will bring it to life. A great deal of this work takes place in the crafting, revising, and narrowing of prompts which we use to identify and then invite particular people to participate in an issue. These prompts are not published, and the work that goes into them is not directly visible in the journal itself, though they often provide a first outline for the introduction or preface to each issue.
Limn has also been an experiment in scholarly publishing in a time of rapid and significant change in that world. Limn has built on various experiences: Kelty’s experience with the success of the blog Savage Minds, the collaboration around ARC, the rise and spread of open access, and the rapid change in the availability and suitability of technical tools suitable for both online publication and DIY print publication. Limn is also a reaction to the standardization and normalization of journals and article forms, to the disciplinary gate-keeping that often governs academic publishing, and the slow publication process and public inaccessibility of most disciplinary journals. Despite what might have been an obvious (and labor-saving) choice to go all-digital, we also recognized early on that the print magazine still commands a large degree of respect and authority among academics, and confers a sense that the endeavor is more than a blog or a kind of online confab. Our commitment to producing a bespoke design for each issue is both a tribute to the history of the small magazine (and a desire to preserve that form and practice in the face of digital dissolution), and an attempt to think about design, juxtaposition, layout, format as elements of a collaborative enterprise.
All the work on Limn is done by the three general editors (Collier, Kelty, and Lakoff), the graphic designer (Høyem), copyeditors and research assistants, and, crucially, the co-editors who work on, and have generally proposed, a particular issue. Thus far we have been lucky to have such input from Lilly Irani, Nick Seaver, Frederic Keck, Mikko Jauho, David Schleifer, Bart Penders, Xaq Frohlich, Boris Jardine, Antina von Schnitzler, James Christopher Mizes, Biella Coleman, Peter Redfield, Jason Cons, Townsend Middleton, Ashley Carse, and Alice Street. The bulk of the money we spend goes to the design of the print version. Thus far, there has been no marketing or promotion, and no involvement from any professional press or journal, and no managing editor; all production and distribution for the journal relies on other infrastructures (tools like Amazon’s CreateSpace or MailChimp), which are both liberating and at the same time, unstable.
Since the first issue of Limn in 2011, this labor-of-love, small-scale, outsider experiment has exceeded our expectations. As of this writing, we are about to release our tenth issue. We have published over fifteen hundred pages of writing by more than one hundred twenty contributors. Over one thousand subscribers are on our mailing list and our twitter account has more than one thousand followers. Anecdotally, our colleagues appreciate Limn as a welcome alternative to existing venues of scholarly publishing. Despite the fact that Limn offers none of the professional rewards of publication in standard academic journals, nearly all of the authors we invite to write for Limn agree to do so.
We reflect frequently on the kind of future we imagine for Limn—and whether, indeed, it should have a future, or should be concluded as a limited experiment that has run its course. What remains at the heart of the endeavor and keeps us engaged is the desire to find a form for collaborative inquiry that escapes the more stultifying aspects of normal university and disciplinary life, and that sustains and valorizes intellectual engagement. We continue to discuss Limn as if it were more than a magazine—as an umbrella, network, or platform—and frequently ask ourselves how the model might evolve. Are there ways in which a “Limn 2.0” might better realize those ambitions by opening up the editorial collective, or loosening our own sense of what this platform is good for? Might there be opportunities to explore collaboration with an established press? Or would the compromises (to accessibility, to format, to the genre of contribution) outweigh the benefits of greater support in editing, production, and distribution?
Our culture is a scientific one, defining what is natural and what is rational. Its values can be seen in what are sought out as facts and made as artefacts, what are designed as processes and products, and what are forged as weapons and filmed as wonders. In our daily experience, power is exercised through expertise, e.g. in science, technology and medicine. Science as Culture explores how all these shape the values which contend for influence over the wider society. The journal encompasses people’s experiences at various sites – the workplace, the cinema, the computer, the hospital, the home and the academy. The articles are readable, attractive, lively, often humorous, and always jargon-free. SaC aims to be read at leisure, and to be a pleasure.
So reads the mission statement of the journal since its foundation in 1987. The focus has been publicly important topics, especially ongoing controversies or potential ones. Such topics become the rationale for engaging with concepts from STS, cultural studies and wider political debates. These linkages have made the journal attractive to a broad readership across and beyond academic disciplines.
From Critical Theory to cultural studies and STS
SaC was the successor of the Radical Science Journal (RSJ), which had emerged from 1970s critical science movements. This flourished under the broad umbrella of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science, which published the magazine Science for People. As its activists argued, technical fixes were defining societal problems in ways that strengthen elite agendas for class exploitation, gender oppression and environmental degradation, while technicising and thus depoliticising such issues (Bell, 2013; Werskey, 2007; see http://www.bssrs.org/home).
Contributing theoretical perspectives to those strategic debates, the Radical Science Journal drew on concepts from counter-cultural, feminist, environmentalist and alternative health movements. From Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School tradition, the key concepts reification and fetishism were extended to technique and expert knowledge. As already noted by historians, basic scientific concepts have always depended on old or new metaphors; RSJ analysed how these naturalise specific values as properties of facts or artefacts. The critique drew on Marx’ insight, ‘This fetishism of commodities has its origin in the peculiar social character of the labour that produced them…’ By analogy, scientific facts likewise were shaped by social relations of scientific labour yet were fetishized as products of Nature (Young, 1977).
Members participated in the Labour Process Group within the Conference of Socialist Economists, informing analyses of science and technology as a labour process. ‘Capitalist science’ resulted from a labour process constituted by capitalist social relations, e.g. a division of labour, professional hierarchy, proprietary knowledge, etc. (RSJ Collective, 1981; Werskey, 2007: 439). Together these concepts highlighted the implicit politics in elite agendas, while linking diverse cases around a common framework. Labour process perspectives were further elaborated in a two-volume collection (Levidow and Young, 1981 and 1985).
The Editorial Collective had close links with social movements and political campaigns, which generated topics for RSJ’s monthly series of public events. Members included academics (in the Sociology, Philosophy and History of Science), medics, science teachers, psychotherapists and various political activists. The Radical Publications Group provided a wider platform for regular discussions amongst critical journals on science, statistics, history, philosophy, social work, political economy, etc.
RSJEditorial Collective members also attended an annual international meeting of critical journals. These included Naturkampen(Denmark), Cahiers Galilee(Belgium), Science for the People (US), Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parshad (India) and Contrainformazione (Italy), as well as mass-circulation magazines such as Wechselwirkung(Germany)and Sapere(Italy). These annual discussions helped to sharpen critical perspectives on issues such as chemical disasters, automation, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, techno-torture, new reproductive technologies, etc. (Levidow and Vitale, 1981).
RSJ drew on perspectives from early STS, cultural studies and feminist studies. For example, a 1985 special issue analysed ICTs as Compulsive Technology, a title which has even greater relevance today (guest editors: Tony Solomonides and Les Levidow). A 1987 special issue explored how power is gendered and mediated through notions of science, technology and nature (Gender and Expertise, guest editor: Maureen McNeil). Meanwhile cultural studies were analysing how technoscientific developments set agendas for expert authority, social identity and social order. These interdisciplinary synergies provided a basis for the successor journal.
New journal: Science as Culture
For most of the UK’s critical journals in the 1970s, an Editorial Collective handled the entire production process including subscriptions and bookshop distribution. From the early 1980s onwards, however, Thatcher’s neoliberal Britain was closing down the spaces for such political alternatives and work modes. Critical journals depended heavily on substantial voluntary labour, which was becoming more difficult to sustain. For their public exposure and sales, they depended on bookshop distribution, but fewer journals were being stocked. For these reasons, most of the UK’s critical journals turned to commercial publishers, even whilst recognising that these might limit readers’ access through copyright restrictions and commercial pricing.
Given those general constraints on critical journals, alongside new opportunities for interdisciplinary exchanges, the Editors decided to replace RSJwith a new journal, Science as Culture (henceforth SaC). In the mid-1980s the Editors had founded a new press, Free Association Books, which now became the SaC publisher, but depended on at least five journal distributors across several continents. These arrangements were soon simplified by switching publisher to Guilford Publications (NY) and then Carfax (UK), which in turn was acquired by Taylor & Francis; its STS journals list helped to raise the profile of SaC.
Why science as culture? As noted in the first issue, our everyday mundane and aesthetic experiences are already mediated by technologies, becoming ‘so much part of household furniture that we no longer experience them as technologies’. Although technological applications were sometimes debated as issues of values and power, their design priorities rarely underwent such scrutiny. And scientific knowledge remained largely invulnerable to critique, especially in the wake of science popularisation.
The mass media eagerly cater for a growing market which looks to scientific knowledge for enlightenment, entertainment, diversion…. Thus we have an abundance of science-as-culture, but it is primarily for consumption, much less often for debate about choices of values and priorities. The alternative to science-as-consumption is cultural critique (SaC Editors, 1987).
Hence SaC has analysed ‘the production of meanings in scientific culture and in the broader culture as influenced by science’ (ibid).
Although now positioning itself as an academic journal, SaC articles always went beyond academic disciplines and issues. Articles analysed power relations, labour processes, cultural meanings, their naturalisation and societal conflicts in diverse forms and sites. SaC presented itself as an STS journal critically analysing technoscience in its many manifestations. Open to diverse disciplinary perspectives, SaC became a crucible for the interdisciplinary exchanges characterising STS.
Going further, the journal has had a transdisciplinary orientation to societal conflicts:
Transdisciplinarity explicitly orients its knowledge production not only around disciplinary problem-definitions but also around other definitions, derived from pressures, ‘applications’ or from societal stakeholders…. [Yet] different stakeholders may have different views about what the problem at stake actually is… (Maasen et al, 2006: 396).
Starting from such societal conflicts, SaC articles have analysed agendas for reordering society, their stabilisation through expertise, and their destabilisation through resistances including counter-expertise (e.g. Fortun and Cherkasky, 1998). This transdisciplinary perspective has many resonances with critical STS (e.g. Jasanoff, 2004; Jasanoff and Kim, 2015; Kleinman and Moore, 2014; Pellizzoni and Ylönen, 2012).
Beyond research articles and book reviews, SaC has analysed tensions within STS. According to one critic, STS epistemological debates about truth or objectivity obscure contests over power and alternative futures (Hamlin, 2007). Johan Söderberg (2017) contrasts a ‘political economy’ tendency with a post-structuralist one, while tracing their differences to legacies from 1970s Marxism. SaC welcomes more articles on such tensions, especially why these matter for practice.
For the journal’s remit on the wider culture, a recurrent focus has been popular media and exhibitions, particularly how they celebrate technoscience. A 1995 special issue analysed Science on Display (guest editor: Sharon Macdonald). Other essays on exhibitions include Angela Last (2017), ‘Making nature, making energy, making humans’. More such contributions are sought.
SaC special issues and Forums
Special issues have generated and juxtaposed diverse perspectives on a topic. Through early discussion with the SaC Editors, the guest editors have sharpened the conceptual approach, drawing on more critical perspectives from STS and beyond. Reviewers of the papers include fellow contributors, whose own papers have benefited as a result.
Amongst the most popular special issues has been ‘Energy Transitions’ (guest Editors:Clark Miller, Alastair Iles & Christopher Jones, 2013). As the guest Introduction argues, ‘the key choices involved in energy transitions are not so much between different fuels but between different forms of social, economic, and political arrangements built in combination with new energy technologies’. Across the various articles, socio-technological systems perspectives linked three questions:
“What does it mean that energy systems are at once relatively hidden from public scrutiny and yet deeply structuring of social and economic arrangements that can stifle alternatives without our realizing it? Who knows about energy systems, what and how do they know, and whose knowledge counts in governing and reshaping energy futures? And what does it mean to implement a just energy transformation that will neither perpetuate the existing negative impacts of energy production and use nor create new ones?” (Miller et al., 2013).
‘Agro-Food Crises’ (guest Editors:Anne Loeber, Maarten Hajer and Les Levidow, 2011) examined the late 20th century agro-food disasters that were experienced as societal crises. Key actors made sense of these crises through specific risk framings that linked social and natural (dis)order in new ways. Contributors took a discourse-analytic approach to those societal conflicts and incipient agendas for institutional change.
To sharpen debate, SaC Editors have introduced topical Special Forums. These bring together articles of under 6k words, many written by non-academics, with a fast review procedure. This format provides a flexible means to scope new topics, to gather multiple critical approaches and to highlight their political relevance.
Public unease or antagonism towards some technoscientific developments has been a recurrent topic in SaC. Readers showed great interest in an article by Ian Welsh and Brian Wynne (2013), ‘Science, scientism and imaginaries of publics in the UK: passive objects, incipient threats’. They argued that elite strategy has shifted away from incorporating public unease, instead treating it as politicised threats requiring state control or even suppression. This article became the focus for a Forum on ‘Publics as Threats to Technoscientific Progress’ (2015).
Forums have taken up several other topics. ‘Embedding Social Sciences?’ (2014) critically analysed policy roles of the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH). This started from an article questioning whether SSH were being appropriated for dominant policy agendas: ‘the call for “embedding SSH”, within lines of reasoning already predefined by sciences and engineering, translates a hierarchy and potentially limits SSH in developing its full potential’ (Felt, 2014). The Forum on ‘Contested Technology from the 1970s to the Present’ (2016) reflected on the 1970-80s radical science movements, drawing lessons for today’s analogous agendas. ‘Techno-Economic Assumptions’ (2017) analysed economic assumptions that pervade expert judgements about knowledge, technology design and government policy.
Future special issues will include the following topics: ‘Alter-Standardising Clinical Trial’s (guest editor: Achim Rosemann), ‘Techno-security Cultures’ (guest editors: Jutta Weber and Katrin M. Kämpf), ‘Urban Techno‐Politics’ (guest editors: Thaddeus Miller and Rider Foley) and ‘Justice and Counter-Expertise’ (guest editors: Sharlissa Moore and Logan Williams). This builds on a 1988 special issue, ‘Strategising Counter-Expertise’ (guest editors: Kim Fortun & Todd Cherkasky).
SaC is widely available through e-journal systems. Most publishers have shifted their business models from individual subscriptions to thematic ‘bundles’, e.g. STS and cultural studies, several of which include SaC. Its downloads have been rising every year; some papers of broad interest are available as free downloads.
The journal has two levels of organisation. Everyday operations have been run by four people: the Editor Les Levidow, two Associate Editors in Kean Birch and Uli Beisel, and Book Reviews Editor Martin Savransky (previously David Tyfield). Advisory Panel members play important roles in advising on strategy, publicising the journal and reviewing submissions. Advisory Panel meetings are held regularly at EASST and 4S conferences.
Both the special issue and Forum formats offer opportunities for early-career academics to serve as guest editors. They gain experience in editorial judgements and responsibility, working with the SaC Editors. Several guest editors have joined the SaC Advisory Panel.
The journal invites submissions and proposals for special issues or Forums. These usually begin with a set of potential papers from an academic event, as the basis to formulate an open call for contributions. Proposals should be sent to the Editor, L.Levidow@open.ac.uk
Levidow, L. and Vitale, B. 1981. International meeting of radical science journals, Radical Science Journal 11: 101-110.
Levidow, L. and Young, R.M., eds (1981) Science, Technology and the Labour Process, vol.1, London: CSE Books.
Levidow, L. and Young, R.M., eds (1985) Science, Technology and the Labour Process, vol.2, London: Free Association Books.
Maasen, S., Lengwiler, M., Guggenheim, M. 2006. Practices of transdisciplinary research: close(r) encounters of science and society, Science and Public Policy 33(6): 394–398, https://doi.org/10.3152/147154306781778830
The Russian-based journal “Sociology of Science and Technology” (SST) aims at international visibility and welcomes contributions in social and interdisciplinary studies of science and technology worldwide. SST develops a network of authors and reviewers and often experiments with special issues and guest editors in order to facilitate international discussion accessible to both Russian and non-Russian readers. The journal follows current turns in Russian social studies to science and technology studies (STS) and represents both conventional and new research agendas.
The SST journal is a quarterly professional journal, published both in Russian and in English. It was established in 2009 by the St. Petersburg branch of the S.I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Natural Science and Technology at the Russian Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with the “Nestor-Istoriya” publishing house. SST was designed as a platform for social scientists and researchers and to experiment with formats in addition to more classical types of publications. Despite its Russian-based origins, the journal strives for global recognition: the editorial advisory board includes scholars not only from Russia but also from European, Asian, and American countries. The journal collaborates closely, and develops partnerships, with related institutions and organizations, including international professional associations such as the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee 23 for the Sociology of Science and Technology. SST is now on its way to becoming an international publication platform following recognition in Russian journal rankings. It is experiencing a ‘rebirth’, in terms of technological changes and transfer to a new platform, in order to become more visible and appropriate for English-speaking audiences.
SST was intended as a platform for social scientists and researchers dealing with the issues of sociology, history, philosophy, and the anthropology of science and technology in general, and STS in particular. In order to serve the purposes and demands of the professional community and to remain on the cutting edge of STS trends, it is relatively flexible with formats and thematic issues. Traditionally, it collects theoretical and research articles, assembles topical issues and special editions, publishes conference papers, book reviews, conference reports, roundtables conversations, and interviews with scientists and researchers, as well as other open-ended contributions.
The major focus of SST is the social and interdisciplinary study of science and technology across a huge range of approaches, methodologies, and empirical results. The scope of topics includes problems of science and technology located in various areas, including: science, technology and society; science policy and science communication; science and education; technology and innovations; scientometrics and science governance; technological development and technology transfer; professional communities of scientists and academic mobility; gender issues in science and technology; social effects of technologies; the social role and status of scientists; and the sociology of knowledge and studies of expertise. The relatively recent (in Russia) turn to STS has facilitated the spread of interest in non-conventional and experimental writings, though the most frequent sections are still devoted to the history of science, science policy in Russia and abroad, scientific knowledge production, empirical studies, interviews with scientists, scientific life notes, and the first steps for young researchers.
The last special issue (No 4, 2015) gathered papers from the first St. Petersburg seminar which was organized by the Section for Sociology of Science and Technology at the St. Petersburg Association for Sociologists. The idea of the seminar was to bring together researchers from various institutions to represent the scope of studies and to facilitate future collaborations. There were eight articles devoted to information technologies, networks and flows, state and innovations, material objects in everyday interactions, comparative analysis of Latour and Lyotard, trust in science, and scientific boundaries. Other special issues have been devoted to “25 Years of Sociological Education in Russia” (No 2, 2014), “Russian-Chinese Seminar on the History of Science” (No 1, 2013), “Science, Technology and Social Processes in India: Sociological Discourses” (No 4, 2012), or the 100th anniversary of Robert Merton’s birth (No 4, 2010).
Our readers are students and scholars in STS, sociology, anthropology, history, and the philosophy of science and technologies; researchers dealing with various aspects of science functioning and technological development, governing of science and technology, and academic life and relationships with industry and government. Practitioners and policy-makers might also be interested in the journal articles, as they often represent the analytical and critical perspective of the current state of affairs in terms of science policy.
As the SST journal is on its way towards increased international visibility, it invites participation from a larger professional community of scholars working in the area of science and technology studies. The journal welcomes research in the areas of social and interdisciplinary studies of science and technology. Papers analyzing national aspects of science and technology development might be especially interesting in the framework of comparative studies. The SST journal seeks submissions that engage with traditional and shaping matters and welcomes participation in an ambitious plan – to construct a bridge between the global agenda in STS and its locally driven contributions with a Russian flavor.
Original manuscripts (either in English or in Russian) can be submitted via e-mail directly to the editor (firstname.lastname@example.org). Author guidelines are available on the official web-site.