Tag Archives: STS Multiple

Bringing (digital) infrastructures (back) to life: an STS Austria workshop report

After a nearly two year hiatus in which few, if any, conferences and workshops could take place in a shared physical space, STS Austria attempted to hold an event that happened primarily “in real life”. We aimed to get together in a relatively small workshop setting towards the end of summer, when the virus had somewhat loosened its grip on our lives. After much fretting and organising under considerable uncertainty, the idea ultimately worked out. Around twenty STS colleagues from within and beyond Austria met in the baroque Meerscheinschlössel at the University of Graz from the 13th to the 15th of September 2021. To be sure, it took some getting used to seeing more of most of our colleagues than their faces on a computer screen. We had to stick to some strict rules – a limited number of places in the room, restrictions on the availability of coffee – and had to make some accommodations, like only speaking with a microphone, for participants who were only virtually present due to travel restrictions. Yet in spite of a few technical hiccups, things mostly worked out, and the workshop was a good reminder of how stimulating it can be to get together in a room with our STS colleagues.

Fittingly, the title of the workshop was ‘Digital living, digital infrastructuring’ and presentations reflected both how our lives had gotten ‘more digital’ over the past two years, and covered a wide range of other areas in which digital technologies take shape together with the previously ‘analog’ world. A first panel addressed the omnipresence of some of the major digital platforms – including e.g. Facebook and Google – in our everyday lives, and the ways they have thus become infrastructural to a host of social activities. The view of online platforms as infrastructures resulted in questions concerning their political entanglements with social activism and political imaginaries of the internet on a global and national scale. Somewhat different imaginaries were at the heart of a panel on digital knowledge infrastructures, which included contributions on the making of a European research infrastructure, on the question if and how artificial intelligence may contribute to curatorial decisions in art exhibits, and on the choreographies involved in organising our own work under the new digital conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Questions of social science research and digital data were also central in one of the two keynotes. Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda (University of Klagenfurt) discussed some of the promises and complexities associated with ‘big data’ and asked the question what these imply for STS research. While acknowledging some of the disadvantages of working with big platform providers, she nevertheless provided a promising outlook for both the ways STS can make use of digital data technologies and for the potential of STS for applying its sensibilities for the workings of knowledge tools to these technologies. In a second keynote, Nina Klimburg-Witjes (University of Vienna) presented examples of a critical engagement with novel data and sensing technologies, drawing from the recently published volume Sensing In/security. Sensors as transnational security infrastructures (co-edited with Geoffrey Bowker and Nikolaus Poechhacker). Her keynote not only covered a wide range of domains in which sensors are employed – from the environment, to health, to migration – but also addressed the intricate entanglements of security infrastructures and social orders, and the diverse methods through which STS may unravel them.

Issues related to security were discussed further in a paper session that connected digital infrastructures to questions of place and space. This panel included – again – contributions on migration and the digital displacement and reproduction of borders, as well as presentations on how rights, responsibilities and privileges in the urban space are reconfigured through digital applications ranging from smart traffic lights to mapping. Finally, various papers considered the experiences with and visions of digital technologies among workers, patients and citizens in relation to care and health data platforms, questioning notions of empowerment. Of course, the ongoing pandemic did not only set the conditions of our meeting, but was also an object of analysis. A few presentations considered the development of digital contact tracing, in particular, both in relation to questions of biological citizenship and expertise and ignorance. 

In all, the workshop illustrated how wide-ranging STS engagements with the digital can be, without losing sight of the very specific and situated forms digital infrastructures and their effects can take across geographies and societal domains. This quality of connecting different sites in what Karin Knorr called the synthetic situation allowed for a hybrid experience, including also colleagues that could not be present in the same space. Digital infrastructures facilitated broader participation than might have been possible otherwise, even when our collective presence on-site was a reminder of the kinds of exchanges and engagements in a more-than-digital world that we missed so dearly and hope to experience again in future events.

Picture of Graz workshop by Max Fochler

Skills, (Career) Trajectories, and Stories: The “Living Books” – Workshop

As STS becomes increasingly institutionalised and popular not only as a research discipline, but also as a study programme, the question naturally arises what kinds of careers it prepares its students for. After all, as multiple as the approaches, themes and concepts constituting contemporary Science and Technology Studies are, so are the areas of their potential application. Following up a discussion at the Klagenfurt conference in 2018, the student representatives on the STS Austria board decided to organise an event where current STS students could learn first-hand where their expertise and skills may be applied. Our solution was a workshop bringing together STS students with STS alumni in the format of a “living books”-discussion. Following an introductory keynote on the international landscape of STS training and the timely relevance of STS researchers’ skills, the core of these workshops were structured group discussions in which invited STS alumni would serve as “living books”. For three rounds of 20 minutes each, workshop participants could join one of the “living books”, who would share stories and insights about their individual careers and experiences since graduating from an STS program.

Two workshops of this kind have taken place so far, the initial installment in December 2019 (featuring a keynote by Jessica Mesman) and an online event in November 2021 (with a keynote by Aristotle Tympas). While ideally happening in person, the “living books”-format also lends itself well to video conferences with breakout rooms, as we learned when yet another lockdown required a last-minute change of plans. In preparing these workshops, we made sure to invite “living books” who represented a diverse range of occupations within academia and beyond. We also sought to invite STS alumni with an international outlook alongside those based in Austria. Our “living books” thus included STS graduates who were pursuing a PhD abroad and had returned to offer their expertise as consultants in urban design and public health; professionals working in science communication and research administration; and researchers in applied social sciences at consulting agencies as well as non-profit organisations. 

Picture of Living Books workshop by Max Fochler

The response to these workshops has been overwhelmingly positive. Students appreciated the informal exchanges with STS alumni, reporting that these discussions had provided new perspectives and deepened their understanding of what working in and with STS could potentially mean. The “living books” themselves enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on and share their experiences. Not least, entering this space of mutual learning also conveyed a sense of being part of a community beyond one’s own cohort of students, an experience many participants made for the first time. We hope that we will be able to organise many more “living books” workshops in the future, ideally including STS alumni who have taken their skills to the private sector. We also hope that this format might inspire other initiatives – if you would like to take part as a living book or organise one of these workshops yourself, we are looking forward to hearing from you!

Building academic living spaces from heterogeneous networks: the story of STS Austria

STS as a (un)discipline has always emphasised the need for reflection and the practices of (infra)structuring scientific communities. Staying true to these ideals, we appreciate the opportunity to reflect our own efforts of institution building, becoming and being as (a part of) STS Austria. In the following, we want to describe some of the processes involved in assembling a heterogeneous network of researchers and institutions into a shared national organisation and common academic living space. But before we can do so, we have to ask ourselves an important question …

What do we mean when we say “STS Austria”? 

Since 2015, “STS Austria” designates a not-for-profit organisation established to represent and integrate the thriving community of STS researchers in Austria. According to its bylaws, the organisation aims to foster the institutional establishment of Science and Technology Studies in Austria, improve scholarly communication and exchange in the field, support and integrate junior STS researchers, link the Austrian STS community to other national and international STS bodies, and increase the visibility of the subject outside the field. Membership is open to all active scholars in the field of Science and Technology Studies who support these objectives. The organisation is run by a president and a board, each elected from among the members for a period of two years. Its first elected president was Ulrike Felt (2015-2017), followed by Max Fochler (2017-2020) and Daniel Barben (since 2020).

The organisation “STS Austria” was launched to represent a research community with a comparatively long and institutionally diverse tradition in Austrian academia. Pioneered by Helga Nowotny, who established and held the first chair for Social Studies of Science at the University of Vienna, the research field has been well institutionalised in Austria since the 1980s (see EASST Review 34(4), December 2015). During the last two decades, research groups at the University of Klagenfurt, the Technical University of Graz, the Institute of Advanced Studies, the Austrian Institute of Technology or the Institute of Technology Assessment were founded or adopted STS as a dedicated approach. Two master’s programmes, one in Vienna (since 2009) at the department chaired by Ulrike Felt and one in Klagenfurt (since 2016), further institutionalised STS in Austrian universities, spawning a growing community of STS graduates and early-career researchers. STS Austria was initiated to connect members of these numerous research groups across institutions and research topics. To emphasise this cross-institutional character, we take care that all participating research groups are represented in the organisation’s board, including master’s and PhD students.

STS Austria provides a meeting and networking place for the Austrian STS community and increases its international visibility mainly by regularly organising academic events. From the beginning, the annual assemblies of STS Austria have been public events that combined the business meeting with public guest lectures and panel discussions. The launch of STS Austria was celebrated with an international conference in autumn 2015 (see EASST Review 35(1) 2016). Following the success of this conference, the first research workshop supported by STS Austria took place in early 2017. Organized chiefly by Karen Kastenhofer and Martina Merz, it brought together an international group of researchers investigating the shifting meanings of ‘Community and Identity in Contemporary Techno-Sciences’. A selection of contributions to this workshop was recently published as the Springer Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook in 2021, edited by Karen Kastenhofer and Susan Molyneux-Hodgson. 

The thematic focus of the second international conference on ‘Innovation and Societal Transformation: Science, Democracy, and Sustainable Futures’, organised in September 2018 at the University of Klagenfurt, resulted in a smaller event, with around thirty participants engaging in concentrated formal and informal exchanges around a single stream of talks. With Luigi Pellizzoni as a keynote speaker arriving from nearby Udine, this event also showed the viability of connecting to neighbouring STS communities, in this case, STS Italia. The workshop format, allowing the discussion of a smaller number of thematically connected contributions in a focused manner, proved to be the preferred type of events for STS Austria ever since. 

The 2018 conference was the first to include a dedicated junior track in the form of a pre-conference workshop, which allowed students and early-career researchers to present their work and receive feedback from senior STS Austria members. This pre-conference workshop marked the beginning of a series of initiatives explicitly dedicated to supporting students and junior researchers in STS. Shortly after, the workshop ‘Ignorance and non-knowledge: what consequences for democratic governance, politics and policy?’ in Vienna, co-sponsored by STS Austria, combined high-profile keynotes and panel discussions with contributions from international early-career researchers. 

A particularly successful initiative intended to support the young STS community have been two workshops dedicated to mapping out career paths in and with STS. These events invited STS master’s students to learn first-hand about potential career paths from STS graduates working in a range of occupations within and beyond academia (see text on the “Living Books”-format below). To also support early-career researchers in a more tangible sense, STS Austria opened a call for outstanding publications (including master’s theses and doctoral dissertations) by junior researchers in 2019. The first STS Austria Prizes for Early Career Publications were awarded to Ruth Falkenberg, Nils Matzner and Andrea Schikowitz at the annual business meeting in February 2020.

Unknown to us at the time, this award ceremony would remain the last physical meeting of STS Austria – both as an organisation and a community – for more than 18 months. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the newly elected board managed to organise two well-received events in the autumn of 2021, with the workshop ‘Digital Living, Digital Infrastructuring’ even taking place in person at the University of Graz (see workshop report below). As this difficult period is coming to an end, some of us are leaving the board while others will stay on for another two years, we hope to continue our mission of providing virtual and physical venues that foster engagement and new alliances among Austrian STS researchers, building an academic living space for a diverse and thriving community.

If you would like to support us on this mission, please consider becoming a member or join us as a candidate for the STS Austria board: http://www.sts-austria.org/join/ If you have an idea for a project or event that could be supported by STS Austria, feel free to send us your proposal: office@sts-austria.org 

Care & Preparedness in the Network Society

Few doubt that we are globally facing a care crisis. A crisis aggravated by the transformation of the Welfare State and the proliferation of climate, environmental and technological risks and disasters. This crisis is challenging the traditional organizations and arrangements through which life is sustained and our worlds are made livable. In this context, the aim of CareNet is to understand the centrality of care in our societies and particularly, how knowledge and technology contribute to creating, transforming and sustaining​ networks of care, support and preparedness. Our approach to care is inspired by feminist technoscience and our way of doing STS is very much informed by care studies and theories (López Gómez, 2019; Latimer and López Gómez, 2019; Rodríguez-Giralt & Tironi, 2020). In this regard, we consider care both as an affective and ethical practice as well as a material doing that is not innocent (Puig de la Bellacasa, 2011). It is rather articulated through power relations and may reproduce forms of domination and different sorts of violence. Thus, rather than romanticizing it, our aim is to “unsettle care” in technoscience (Murphy, 2015) 

So far, our exploration of care in technological societies has revolved around three main areas of inquiry:

Firstly, we have cultivated ethico-political and epistemic interests in the infrastructural aspects of care. We have approached socio-spatial relations of labour, care and the body in urban care infrastructures (Cassián-Yde, 2019) processes of design and use of telecare systems for older people (López Gómez, 2015), off-catalogue and DIY technical aids for accessibility politics (Sánchez Criado & Rodríguez-Giralt, 2016), mutual support systems and online platforms for social connectedness in later life (Beneito-Montagut et al. 2018; López-Gómez, Beneito-Montagut, and García-Santesmases, 2021). We have also focused on independent living initiatives and services for and by disabled people (Moyà, 2018), as well as infrastructures for ageing in the community and alternative social care configurations (López, Estrada, Farré, 2021). We have participated in a number of research projects aiming to understand how these infrastructures are made, how they are designed and arranged in practice (López & Sánchez-Criado, 2015; Sánchez-Criado, López, Roberts, & Domènech, 2014; Sánchez-Criado & Rodríguez-Giralt, 2016). 

In these projects, we pay special attention to what usually remains invisible in the grand technological narratives: the complexities of daily-life material practices. Looking at how care is infrastructured requires studying the boring things of care, as Lampland and Leigh Star (2009) would put it.  But this is a privileged angle to understand the micropolitics of care in contexts where care is increasingly technological: it foregrounds the distribution and organization of care, the different manners in which it is embodied by the actors involved, the values and normativities around what is good or bad care (Pols, 2015), as well as the materialities, temporalities and spatialities of care. 

In recent years, communities, groups and online networks of care have proliferated throughout Europe that aim to construct alternatives to state-, market- and family-based care solutions where the focus is on the community. Our second line of inquiry focuses on how new networks, grassroots and more embodied (Rabeharisoa et al. 2014) forms of activism are redefining care. How they share and generate new ecologies of knowledge and new notions of citizenship around care. In this regard, we have researched a wide range of self-organized caring communities across social sectors: senior co-housing initiatives, independent living initiatives that provide self-managed services for disabled people, disaster-affected communities building up their resilience, and patients’ associations and health-activist groups looking to increase their condition’s visibility, demand better health interventions and provide support. 

At the intersection of STS, social movement studies, critical ageing studies and disability studies, we also aim to understand the contested role of technoscience (Rodríguez-Giralt, Marrero & Milstein, 2018) in the configuration of old age, disability (García-Santesmases and Arenas, 2017) or mental health (Martínez et al. 2020). These are categories that define specific actors as in need of care and that othered them because the differences in their bodies, agency, interests or capacities are marked as not complying with normative standards. Our research aims to foreground how constructs such as old age (Peine, Marshall, Martin & Neven, 2021), disability, mental health or chronicity are constructed, experienced, embodied and challenged (López & Domènech, 2008; López Gómez & Sánchez Criado, 2021). This has also allowed us to expand the aforementioned intersections and progressively incorporate angles and sensibilities coming from feminisms, queer and crip perspectives, decolonial geographies or critical animal studies (Thovar, 2020). 

Thirdly, CareNet also aims to study the role of knowledge and technology in the transformation of our care for/about emergencies, crises and disasters. Drawing on the conceptual and methodological work done by STS and techno-feminist approaches, this line of research critically interrogates the more naturalised, technology-driven and accelerated approaches to disasters, crises and emergencies. We explore how care can work as an epistemic, as well as an ethical-political pillar, to rearticulate disasters, crises and emergencies as much slower (Fortun et al. 2017) and contested processes (Tironi, Rodríguez-Giralt & Guggenheim, 2014; 20). Mundane care practices emerge, in disaster situations, as forms of enduring, healing but also producing knowledge, especially about the most chronic and silenced dimensions, which are often related to inequality, social exclusion and institutional abandonment (Tironi & Rodríguez-Giralt, 2017).

Through participatory, rights-oriented and culture-sensitive approaches to disasters we have been involved in projects like CUIDAR (H2020), devoted to analysing and transforming the exclusion of children and young people from the disaster planning and management (Mort, Rodríguez-Giralt and Delicado, 2019), Pyrolife (ITN, H2020) -a training programme to promote more integrated and inclusive management of wildfires in Europe-, and on creating dialogues with citizens for collaborative management of chemical risk in Catalonia.  More recently, we have also been involved in several projects analyzing the impact of pandemics in several care services, from care homes to the role of digital infrastructures in providing social support, connectivity and community resilience among elderly people.Our group combines expertise from a wide variety of disciplines and fields of study: Science & Technology Studies, which is our most common background, but also Disability Studies, Gender Studies, Urban Studies, Digital Sociology, Social work, Psychology, Anthropology, etc. We are convinced that this multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary approach, strengthens our integrated and comprehensive study of the transformation of care and preparedness.

The group is formed by 2 full-time researchers, whose time is paid by projects and the group’s budget. There are also 5 part-time researchers, who combine teaching responsibilities with research contributions, 3 associate researchers who work in other universities and 6 PhD students, all grant-holders. The group also treasures a network of academic collaborators, both nationally and internationally. And equally important, we look after a wide network of stakeholders: practitioners, activists, public administrations, service providers, etc. This is absolutely central for us, as it allows us to promote more participatory, interdisciplinary and socially relevant research. For us, interdisciplinarity has become an object of study –for instance, we have explored how different epistemic communities collaborate in the development of responsible smart technologies (CANDID, H2020)-, but it has also turned into a goal in our research practice.  We like to engage in collaborative forms of research where we can experiment with our co-experts, and/or counter-experts, and co-elaborate knowledge and opportunities for social change and intervention (Criado & Rodríguez-Giralt, 2019). 

This mode of research usually entails long and careful ethnographical engagements and means to be open to a more radical democratization of the who and how of techno-science. As an ethic of companionship and experimentation, it also means to be open to processes by which scientific truth and credibility, or technical objects, are publicly opened up for debate, scrutiny, control, and co-construction. This explains why the group regularly develops public engagement activities, like open days, open seminars or other forms of open science, where we share and discuss the results of our research with co-experts, stakeholders and concerned groups. As we remarked in the motto of the 2016 EASST/4S Joint Conference celebrated in Barcelona, which we contributed to organizing, we understand STS as an opportunity to perform, share and experiment with Science and Technology “by other means”.



Beneito-Montagut, R.; Cassián-Yde, N.; Begueria, A. (2018). What do we know about the relationship between internet-mediated interaction and social isolation and loneliness in later life? Quality in ageing and older adults, 19 (1): 14-30. 

Cassián-Yde, N. (2019). Descolonizar las epistemologías urbanas: Saber experto y colectivos por el derecho a la ciudad, ¿quién puede decir «la verdad» sobre los problemas de la ciudad? Journal of Latin American Geography 18(3), 54-84. doi:10.1353/lag.2019.0056.

Criado, T. & Rodríguez-Giralt, I. (2019). Can ANT be a form of activism? In: Anders Blok; Ignacio Farias and Celia Roberts, eds. The Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory. London: Routledge. pp. 360-368. ISBN: 9781138084728.

Fortun K, Knowles S, Felipe Murillo L, et al. (2016) Researching disaster from an STS perspective. In: Felt U, Fouche´ R, Miller CA, et al. (eds) Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. pp.1003–1028.

García-Santesmases, A.; Arenas, M. (2017). “Playing crip: the politics of disabled artists’ performances in Spain”. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 22:3, 345-351.

Lampland, M. & Leigh Star, S. (2009). Standards and their stories: How quantifying, classifying, and formalizing practices shape everyday life. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

López-Gómez, D., Beneito-Montagut, R., & García-Santesmases, A. (2021). No future for care without new digital media? Making time(s) for mediated informal care practices in later life. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 24(4), 637–654. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877920951818

López Gómez, D., & Sánchez Criado, T. (2021). Civilising technologies for an ageing society? The performativity of participatory methods in Socio-gerontechnology. In A. Peine, B. L. Marshall, W. Martin, & L. Neven (Eds.), Socio-gerontechnology (pp. 85-98). Routledge.

López Gómez, D., Estrada Canal, M., & Farré Montalà, L. (2020). Havens and Heavens of Ageing-in-Community: Home, Care and Age in Senior Co-housing. In B. Pasveer, O. Synnes, & I. Moser (Eds.), Ways of Home Making in Care for Later Life (pp. 159-181). Singapore: Springer Singapore. doi:10.1007/978-981-15-0406-8

Latimer, J., & López Gómez, D. (2019). Intimate Entanglements: Affects, more-than-human intimacies and the politics of relations in science and technology. The Sociological Review, 67(2), 247-263. doi:10.1177/0038026119831623

López Gómez, D. (2019). What if ANT wouldn’t pursue agnosticism but care? In Ignacio Farías, A. Blok, & C. Roberts (Eds.), Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory (pp. 4-14). London: Routledge.

López Gómez, D. (2015). Little arrangements that matter. Rethinking autonomy-enabling innovations for later life. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 93, 91-101. doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2014.02.015

López, D., & Domènech, M. (2008). Embodying Autonomy in a Home Telecare Service. The Sociological Review, 56(2_suppl), 181-195. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954x.2009.00822.x

Martínez-Hernáez, A.; Pié-Balaguer, A.; Serrano-Miguel, M.; Morales-Sáez, N.; García-Santesmases, A.; Bekele, D.; Alegre-Agís, E. (2020). “The collaborative management of antipsychotic medication and its obstacles: A qualitative study”.  Social Science & Medicine, 247, 1-9. 

Mort, M.; Rodríguez-Giralt, I. & Delicado, A. (2020). Children and Young People’s Participation In Disaster Risk Reduction: Agency and Resilience. Bristol: Policy Press. ISBN: 978-1447354390.

Moyà, J. (2018). Sincronitzant autonomies: estudi d’un servei de vida independent per a persones amb la síndrome de Down. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. PhD thesis available at: https://www.tdx.cat/handle/10803/666756#page=1

Murphy, M. (2015). Unsettling care: Troubling transnational itineraries of care in feminist health practices. Social Studies of Science, 45, 717–737.

Peine, A., Marshall, B. L., Martin, W., & Neven, L. (Eds.). (2021). Socio-gerontechnology: Interdisciplinary Critical Studies of Ageing and Technology. London; NY: Routledge.

Pols, J. (2015). Towards an empirical ethics in care: relations with technologies in health care. Med Health Care Philos, 18(1), 81-90. doi:10.1007/s11019-014-9582-9.

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2011). Matters of care in technoscience: Assembling neglected things. Social Studies of Science, 41, 85–106.

Rabeharisoa, V., Moreira, T., & Akrich, M. (2014). Evidence-based activism: Patients’, users’ and activists’ groups in knowledge society. BioSocieties, 9(2), 111–128. https://doi.org/10.1057/biosoc.2014.2

Rodríguez-Giralt, I. & Tironi, M. (2020). Coreografías del abandono: cuidado y toxicidad en zonas de sacrificio. En X. Guillem-Llobat & A. Nieto-Galán (Eds.). Tóxicos invisibles. La construcción de la ignorancia ambiental. Barcelona: Icaria. Pp. 237-256.

Rodríguez-Giralt, I. Marrero, I. Milstein, D. (2018). “Reassembling activism, activating assemblages: an introduction”. Social Movement Studies Journal, 17 (3) DOI: 10.1080/14742837.2018.1459299.

Sánchez-Criado, T., López, D., Roberts, C., & Domènech, M. (2014). Installing Telecare, Installing Users: Felicity Conditions for the Instauration of Usership. Science, Technology & Human Values, 39(5), 694-719. doi:10.1177/0162243913517011 10.1177/0162243913517011

Sánchez-Criado, T.; Rodríguez-Giralt, I. Mercaroni, A. (2016). Care in the (critical) making? Prototyping as a radicalisation of independent living. ALTER: European Journal of Disability Research, 10: 24-39.

Sánchez-Criado, T.; Rodríguez-Giralt, I. (2016). Caring through design? En torno a la silla and the “joint problem-making” of technical aids. In Bates, C.; Imrie, R.; Kullman, K. Care and Design: Bodies, Buildings, Cities. London: Wiley/Blackwell. pp. 198-218

Thovar, R. (2020). El movimiento animalista y la producción de carne in vitro en A. Álvarez, F. Fernández, A. Sribman y A. E. Castillo (Ed). Acción colectiva, movilización y resistencias en el siglo XXI (1ª ed., Vol 1: Teoría, pp. 131-142). Fundación Betiko. ISBN: 978-84-09-22896-6

Tironi, M.; Rodríguez-Giralt, I.; Guggenheim, M. (2014). Disasters and Politics: materials, experiments and preparedness. London: Wiley/Blackwell. ISBN: 978-1-118-5w3139-6.

Tironi, M. Rodríguez-Giralt, I. (2017). “Healing, knowing, enduring: Care and politics in damaged worlds”. The Sociological Review, 65 (2): 89-109.


Israel Rodríguez-Giralt is senior researcher and associate professor at UOC. PhD in Social Psychology (UAB, 2008). His research is interconnecting STS and the study of new forms of technical democracy, social experimentation and technoscientific activism, particularly in disaster situations.



Daniel López Gómez (UOC) is PhD in Social Psychology (UAB, 2009), Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Education. He is an STS scholar interested in the study of care infrastructures, aging and disability, more-than-human entanglements in care, as well as grassroots innovations such as senior cohousing or mutual-care arrangements in contexts of crisis and austerity.



Asun Pié is PhD in Social Pedagogy (University of Barcelona, 2010), Lecturer in the Department of Psychology and Education, at the UOC. Her lines of research revolve around disabled people’s activism and the impact of public policies on dependency and social inclusion in Spain.



Roser Beneito Montagut (UOC/Cardiff University) holds a PhD in Fine Arts (Universidad Miguel Hernández, 2005). Associate Professor in Computing Science and Telecommunications at UOC and Lecturer in Digital Social Sciences at Cardiff University. Her research interests are digital sociology, relationships online, interpersonal communication and emotions online, social media and social isolation in later life, and social media and disaster management.


Nizaiá Cassián-Yde (UOC) is PhD in Social Psychology (UAB, 2016), lecturer in the Department of Psychology and Education at the UOC. Her field of research is Urban Studies, transformations in the contemporary postfordist city and Feminist Studies on sociospatial relations in labour, care, and the body. 



Miriam Arenas (UOC/UB) is PhD in Sociology (UB) and lecturer in the Department of Psychology and Education at the UOC. As a researcher, she explores the intersection between Feminist Studies and Disability Studies focusing on the analysis of new social movements within disability politics. 



Brigida Maestre (UOC) PhD in Social Psychology, UAB, and lecturer in the Department of Psychology and Education at the UOC. Her research explores low vision and aural disabilities as dense epistemologies. 



Andrea García-Santesmases (UNED/UOC) holds a Degree in Sociology (Carlos III University of Madrid) and in Social and Cultural Anthropology (UCM). PhD in Sociology (UB). Currently, she is Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Work at UNED. Her main lines or research are the intersections between gender studies and disability studies.



Joan Moyà Köhler holds a Degree in Psychology (UAB) and a PhD in Social Psychology (UAB, 2018). His work focuses on the processes and practices that articulate political participation in the field of the learning disabilities. His attention is currently focused on the field of independent living for people with Down syndrome. 



Lluvi Farré Montalà holds a Degree in Psychology (UAB, 2008). He is a PhD Candidate in the ‘Information and Knowledge Society’ Doctoral Programme at the UOC. His research interests are situated in the intersection between Science and Technology Studies (STS), Ageing Studies, Innovation and Design. 



Isabeau Ottolini holds a Degree in Environmental Sciences BSc (UNED) and a MSc in Social Sciences (WUR). She is a PhD Candidate at the UOC and Early-Stage Researcher in the PyroLife Innovative Training Network. Specifically, her research is on Inclusive Risk Communication within the context of wildfires. 



Pelin Çakir is a PhD candidate at the UOC. She has a background in political sciences (B.A, Bogazici University, 2012), sociology (M.A., University of Amsterdam, University of Deusto, University of Osnabrück, 2015), social work (AA, Istanbul University, 2021). She focuses on counter-hegemonic knowledge production, decolonial and feminist theories, narrative and co-creative methods. 



Cristina Barrial holds a Degree in Journalism (UAB, 2017), and a M. A. on Advanced Studies of Social and Cultural Anthropology (UCM, 2019). She is currently a PhD Candidate in Society, Technology and Culture (UOC). Her thesis project approaches the political organization of domestic and care workers, with the aim of investigating how collective action and care are related in their organizational environments. 



Rocío Thovar holds a Degree in Psychology (UOC, 2015). She is currently a PhD Candidate in Citizenship and Human Rights (UB). Her thesis project approaches the problematization of the treatment of animals promoted by the Animal Rights Movement, with the aim of studying the political action of this social movement and how Animal Ethics impacts on the public.

The Barcelona Science and Technology Studies Group (STS-b)

The Barcelona Science and Technology Studies Group (STS-b) was founded in 2013 thanks to the confluence of two research groups from two Catalan universities with long histories of research in STS. These were the Group of Social Studies of Science and Technology (Grupo de Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología – GESCIT), founded in 2002, from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and Social Action and ICT (Acció Social i TIC- ATIC) from Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC).

Later, in 2017, researchers from ATIC detached from the group, which became almost exclusively formed by UAB researchers. Nowadays, the group is composed of eight full members and located in the Department of Social Psychology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. 

Under one acronym or another, researchers who form the STB-b group have been working on STS in Spain for about 25 years. This means that when describing their research trajectory, the time span they cover goes beyond the date of the group’s foundation. In this sense, it would be difficult to set a specific date for the start of the group’s activities. However, we believe that the date of 1998, when Miquel Domènech and Francisco Tirado published the text “Sociología simétrica. Ensayos sobre ciencia, tecnología y Sociedad” [Symmetrical Sociology. Essays on science, technology and society], could serve as a guide to date the beginning of the group members’ research in STS. It is worth noting that doing STS in Spain was no easy task at that time. There was no local community of reference, STS content was not present in any university degree and proposals for research projects with this approach were difficult to place in public funding calls. Even today, it is still an infrequently trodden path, with serious difficulties in finding institutional recognition. Be that as it may, in our group we are proud to have contributed to tracing that path, to have made it a little wider, and to have helped the development of STS in Spain, however modest its institutional presence may be. What follows is a brief outline of our journey

Since its inception, STS-b has made an effort to broaden the spectrum of studies of science and technology according to the evolution this area has had in recent years. Thus, its research objectives have evolved from a past interest (1995-2005) in the study of science and technology focused on issues such as the social impact of techno-scientific innovations or the understanding of science and technology to its current approach (since 2006 onwards) to STS in which the emphasis is on the analysis of the central role of science and technology in different social and cultural processes. In this vein, STS-b is committed to the analysis of science and technology out of the classical and clearly identifiable institutions such as laboratories or research centers and instead studies how science and technology are spread and intertwined in open and varied social practices. Thus, STS-b researchers have paid attention to issues such as aging, public health, care, environmental controversies, social movements, or processes of social and cultural innovation.

The research activity of the group consists of four main areas of interest. The first has to do with the study of public participation in the knowledge society. The changes having led to the increasingly consolidated dominant role of knowledge in our societies have radically transformed the conditions for taking part in public and political life. Among these changes, the increasing importance of scientists or experts in deliberative and decision-making processes stands out. In our research we have tried to discern to what extent this predominant role of expert knowledge may be an obstacle to citizen participation in public controversies or political processes. It has been of particular interest to us to analyze in depth the participatory mechanisms mixing lay people and experts that have proliferated as the 21st century has unfolded. Such hybrid forums can take place as institutional (top-down) initiatives, promoting participatory mechanisms such as public consultation and consensus conferences, or as social mobilization (bottom-up) actions, such as those of concerned groups calling for greater participation in the definition of social care policies in Spain. We have been studying both forms of public participation, with a special interest in identifying the role that expert and non-expert forms of knowledge play in the elaboration of contemporary public policies and the exploration of new ways to pluralize political decision making about science and technology. 

Much of the work of STS-b researchers has to do with the “participatory turn” in STS, always based on a commitment with the development of a critical view towards certain forms of participation that turn public involvement into an empty exercise (Aceros and Domènech, 2020). Representative research from STS-b on public participation in science and technology includes the following projects: “The Transformation of Public Controversies in Knowledge Society. A psychosocial analysis of experts and citizens’ participation in the debate on water resources” (2005-2008); “Consensus Conferences in Knowledge Societies. An Essay of Dialogic Democracy with Older People and Experts” (2012-2014) and “Citizenship in the Knowledge Society: analysis of obstacles to citizen participation in deliberative processes” (2013-2014).

STS-b’s second area of interest is care technologies. The significant long-term care needs of contemporary societies have generated a boom of innovations such as social alarms, telecare, self-tracking technologies and e-health designed to promote independent and healthy living. Their users are responsible for taking care of his/her own health, of monitoring his/her own activity and for making decisions related to his/her lifestyle, bearing in mind its associated risks.  This definition of ‘independent living’ has often played the role of a future-oriented norm, as a promise that would help prevent the collapse of health and social care systems. Drawing mainly on innovation studies, we have been interested in analysing how healthiness, autonomy, care and solidarity, as well as certain social identities, are inscribed in technology design. At the same time, we have sought to show how users interact with these innovations, how they resist them or appropriate them (López & Domènech, 2009). In this area of research, two projects stand out: “Technology and attention to dependence: analysis of the psychosocial effects of telecare implementation” (2009-2011) and “Health and Technoscience. Citizen Participation in Social Appropriation of Knowledge and Technological Design Processes” (2015-2017). In this last project, our interest in citizen participation converged with the analysis of health technologies. In collaboration with a group of engineers, we explored the feasibility of involving children in the design of social robots for children’s hospitals. 

The third area of interest for STS-b is biomedicine and biosafety. In this area, we analyze contemporary practices (especially referring to science and technology) that form and shape a new conception of life at the turn of the 21st century. From this line, we scrutinize epidemics, bioterrorist threats, biomedical advances, bio-neoliberal developments, biosafety standards and bio-surveillance protocols or agreements. We have paid special attention to how risk has become a bio-risk and how new mechanisms for managing bio-risks have been formed. This has allowed us to highlight different contemporary phenomena in relation with life management such as the construction of future and virtual scenarios as an alternative to classical risk calculation systems. We have also paid attention to the production of expert knowledge on the basis of visual and illustrative perceptions in order to facilitate its public reception. And, finally, we have described the emergence of a new public health intelligence focused on epidemics and massively using social networks to predict future outbreaks or the rise of global surveillance networks that involve ordinary people in biosurveillance practices (Tirado & Torrejón-Cano, 2020).

Finally, the group has been involved in the development of ethical frameworks for care technologies. The reflection on the ethical implications of technological innovations runs through most of our projects, but on certain occasions, it has been the main focus of our research. One example of this is our participation in the European Union funded project entitled “EFFORT – Ethical Frameworks for Telecare Technologies for older people at home” (2008-2011). In the last few years, we have been focusing on the implementation of social robots for care, as in the current project “Ethics for Robots caring for us” (2018-2021). Our aim in this project has been to depart from the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) approach, common in social robotics. We have observed that this approach tends to bifurcate reality as if science and society were two different systems. It focuses on very general aspects of social issues such as legal frameworks of research or very specific ones such as the use of informed consent in interactions with users. In other words, this is a perspective that tends to address “social” aspects as if they have little or nothing to do with scientific activity, and pays little attention to the practices and perspectives of research/innovation practitioners and the meaning they give to ethical and social issues. However, as we have shown in different works, addressing issues that go beyond the ELSI paradigm, such as the imaginaries of designers and engineers (Vallès-Peris & Domènech, 2020), can shed new light on the understanding of innovation processes and contribute to a design and implementation of new technologies that is more harmonious with social needs. In this sense, we have used the notion of imaginary – in a way close to Castoriadis’s radical imaginary – as a tool to unravel ethical, political and social concerns that care robots entail, and, at the same time, elaborate alternative images of good care.

As mentioned above, the institutionalization of STS in Spain is quite limited, which means that STS-b’s activity in this field is mainly concentrated on research, with little impact on teaching. However, it is worth mentioning that the Barcelona Science and Technology Studies Group carries out training activities through its doctoral program entitled “Person and Society in the Contemporary World”. One of its lines of research is devoted to STS and dozens of PhD students have passed through it since its creation in 2013, which makes it a rather unique case in the Spanish context. 

One indicator that all these years of work seem to be bearing fruit is that two of the most recent degrees at our university – Artificial Intelligence and Science, Technology and Humanities – include STS-related subjects in their content. For our group, this has been the best reward we could have imagined. Undoubtedly, there is still a long way to go, but these small achievements show us that we are on the right track.




Aceros, J.C., Domènech, M. (2021) Private Issues in Public Spaces: Regimes of Engagement at a Citizen Conference. Minerva, 59: 195–215.

Domènech, M., & Tirado, F. J. (Eds.) (1998) Sociología simétrica. Ensayos sobre ciencia, tecnología y sociedad. Gedisa.

López D. & Domènech, M. (2009) Embodying autonomy in a Home Telecare Service. Sociological Review, 56 (Special Issue. Monograph 2: Un/knowing Bodies): 181-195. 

Tirado, F. and Torrejón Cano, P. (2020) Drones and epidemiology: A new anatomy for surveillance. BioSocieties 15: 115–133.

Vallès-Peris N and Domènech M (2020) Roboticists’ Imaginaries of Robots for Care: The Radical Imaginary as a Tool for an Ethical Discussion. Engineering Studies, 12 (3): 157-176.

Data sprints and coding retreats

One of the ways in which we work with participatory data design is in so called data sprints (Munk et al. 2019a). A data sprint is a one-week occasion to prototype a digital methods project together with those who have a stake in it, a.k.a. the issue experts. This could be actors in a controversy that the project is attempting to map, the intended users of the results, or groups for whom the results could have adverse consequences. The week begins with the issue experts presenting their matters of concern followed by a Q&A session. In the afternoon of that first day, initial ideas are transformed into protocols for digital methods projects that could be feasibly carried out in a week. There is always this intensity that results have to materialize by the end of the week and so participants tend to engage. Within the first few days we begin to build tentative and exploratory visualizations capable of eliciting feedback from the issue experts. The process makes it clear what can and what cannot be done, of course, but more importantly, it tends to prompt reflection and what we actually came to do. Like in an ethnographic interview, in a sprint, participants tend to discover questions rather than answers (Munk et al. 2019b). Spurred by these reflections, projects are recalibrated or completely redesigned during the course of the week. 

Preliminary visualization used to elicit feedback from issue experts during a data sprint with the Royal Danish Theater and their analytics department.

Another way in which we have engaged with critical technical practice is by inviting tool developers to join us for a coding retreat at the lab. These are also workshop-style events that unfold over several days, but there are no issue experts. Rather, the object in focus is a digital methods tool in need of development. Our visitors would have to take on this task anyway but typically appreciate the opportunity to have some days where they can focus on it without distractions. By providing that occasion we get an opportunity to sit in on their discussions and, if relevant, have a say on key choices that will affect our use of the tool. In several cases we have organized these retreats around specific issues where our concerns as digital methods researchers converged with those of the tool developers, for example on how to visualize ambiguity or define a web entity in a crawl. Taken together, coding retreats and data sprints provide some of the occasions for spending time in critical proximity with the technical, that is necessary for the lab to be lab-like and for us to get our fingers properly into the digital minced meat.

Sketches, coding and mock-up visualization at a coding retreat on tools for visualizing ambiguity with Density Design from Milan.




Munk, A. K., Meunier, A., & Venturini, T. (2019a). Data sprints: A collaborative format in digital controversy mapping. digital-STS: A Field Guide for Science & Technology Studies, 472.

Munk, A. K., Madsen, A. K., & Jacomy, M. (2019b). Thinking through the Databody. Designs for experimentation and inquiry: Approaching learning and knowing in digital transformation, 110.

The digital minced meat

A professor emeritus at the University of Copenhagen once used to explain to new students why the Department of Material Folk Culture was located at an open-air museum north of the city by saying that you need to get your fingers stuck in the minced meat if you want to make meatballs. It has become something of a slogan in our lab. Digital STS is in the business of making a somewhat different kind of meatballs, of course, but like those ethnologists who thought it necessary to learn how to wield a turn plough, card wool, or build half-timbered houses in order to study material folk culture, we try to remind ourselves that to study the digital (or, indeed, to study anything on or with the digital) hinges on our willingness and ability to also make and do the digital as we go along.

The Techno-Anthropology Lab (or TANTLab for short) was established six years ago as a digital methods research laboratory under the Techno-Anthropology Research Group at the University of Aalborg in Copenhagen. Techno-anthropology had begun some years prior as a transdisciplinary study program between the faculties of engineering and humanities. Our research group, led by professor Torben Elgaard Jensen, was covering the humanities angle and consisted of scholars with a broad foundation in STS and the anthropology of technology. Common to many of us was an interest in digital methods and digital STS. In the years leading up to the establishment of the lab we had done research visits and longer academic exchanges with some of the pioneering European institutions in the field: the SciencesPo médialab, the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI) in Amsterdam, Noortje Marres’ group at Goldsmiths in London, or the Oxford Internet Institute. We all felt that we had witnessed first-hand and in different contexts how working alongside tool developers and information designers made new forms of digital STS possible. Following Latour, we framed it as an ambition to do digital STS in “critical proximity” (Birkbak et al. 2015) with its objects of study. 

Our research infrastructure, however, did not really support that kind of working-alongside tool developers and information designers that we had experienced abroad. Our university had an efficient IT support organization equipped with resources for research computing, but it remained a support function which required you to have well-defined problems in order to receive help. For us, the main attraction of making and doing the digital together with technical experts was the ability to reframe and reimagine our matters of concern together. As an example, one of the ongoing challenges in digital methods is how to repurpose online media platforms for research. Understanding what can be done within the technical affordances of platforms that are constantly changing and in general not very transparent or well documented requires a significant amount of practical experimentation and reverse engineering. It rarely (if ever) makes sense to formulate questions and device research designs prior to seeking technical support. What institutions like the DMI or the médialab understood early on was that the technical aspects of tool development had to happen as an integral part of digital STS. Lacking the funding to copy that model and bring a team of research engineers into our digital STS group, however, we decided to try and bridge the gap from the other side: those of us with an SSH background and an interest in digital methods would try to become more technically proficient. Thus, the TANTLab was founded as a mutual pledge to get our fingers stuck in the digital minced meat.

How to practically do it proved to be an altogether different and more challenging question. In the daily competition between preparing your teaching, writing grant applications and trying to get published, prioritizing the necessary time and resources to write a python script, set up a server, master a new technique, or learn a new method can seem like a long shot. There has to be concrete occasions for it and the pay-off must be clearly in view. If it makes sense to frame the various activities we have undertaken over the past six years as ‘lab-like’, it is precisely because they constitute an ongoing effort to make such occasions available through experimentation. The lab routinely organizes workshops and other events based on a concept we call participatory data design (Jensen et al. 2021) where the core idea is to get those who have a stake in the way datasets are harvested, curated, or visualized tinkering with that process. For example, in a project about the way in which the field of obesity research has been the subject of shifting political pressures, we asked ourselves if it would be possible to involve both obesity researchers and STS researchers in designing a semantic mapping of the scientific literature in the field and thereby collectively mapping one of the central objects of study into knowledge (Jensen et al. 2019)? Doing so required skills in natural language processing, but instead of hiring outside support to fix our issues as they arose (the support solution) we took it as an occasion learn some of those techniques ourselves. The motivation was clear enough: if we were to have the flexibility to actually tinker with the more technical part of the methodological setup as part of the workshop with our colleagues from obesity research, we had to know what we were doing and especially what we could be doing.

Fig. 1: A typical tool lunch at the TANTlab.

The obesity project was one of the first we undertook together in the new established TANTLab. It quickly cemented the challenge involved in getting your fingers stuck in the digital minced meat. At the time, only one of us, a student assistant, knew how to code. On top of that a couple of us had managed to learn how to master a piece of software called Cortext for semantic analysis. It was bluntly evident that this was a bottleneck in terms of participatory data design – the limit on how much of the data design our participants could actually participate in was defined chiefly by the time of that student assistant with python skills and secondarily by the time of those of us who knew Cortext. The experience validated to us that these things are worth prioritizing and we have since instituted monthly tool lunches where students and researchers in and around the TANTlab bring their food and exchange technical tips and tricks. The ability to both engage and draw on the skills and resources of our students in this way also turns out to be essential for the ongoing sense of community around the lab. Indeed, the community is not really confined to the lab. On an international level we have been part of establishing the Public Data Lab (www.publicdatalab.org) which brings together a network of similar groups across Europe and we constantly discover sister labs in digital STS, such as the RUST Lab in Bochum, for whom the minced meat is not something you buy prepacked but aim to get your hands dirty doing. 




Birkbak, A., Petersen, M. K., & Elgaard Jensen, T. (2015). Critical proximity as a methodological move in techno-anthropology. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology, 19(2), 266-290.

Elgaard Jensen, T., Birkbak, A., Madsen, A.K., Munk, A.K. (2021). ”Participatory Data Design: Acting in a Digital World”, in G. Downey & T. Zuiderent-Jerak (eds.) Making and Doing STS, MIT Press

Elgaard Jensen, T., Kleberg Hansen, A. K., Ulijaszek, S., Munk, A. K., Madsen, A. K., Hillersdal, L., & Jespersen, A. P. (2019). Identifying notions of environment in obesity research using a mixed‐methods approach. Obesity Reviews, 20(4), 621-630.

STS Helsinki – Our current Activities

Over the years, STS Helsinki has drawn together researchers with a longer background in the field, as well as early career researchers. STS research is distributed between several universities and departments. STS Helsinki has provided the possibility to build collaborations over institutional borders and allows a shared sense of coming and working together out of intellectual interest. In an academic world of constant changes in terms of funding, affiliations, collaborations and research projects, STS Helsinki has proven to be a community that helps researchers stay connected even during discontinuities in terms of funding or contracts.

The TOTEMI doctoral seminar in its meeting of December 2019.

Currently, STS Helsinki is a lively collective that meets regularly at the STS Helsinki Seminar Series, where we have had visiting talks from scholars from both Finland and abroad. During 2019, for example, Sheila Jasanoff, Stephen Turner and Nik Brown presented their research at the seminar. Moreover, the Knowledge, Technology and Environment PhD Seminar (TOTEMI) at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, with its 6-8 annual seminar days, is a venue where many of us meet to discuss STS by commenting on manuscripts of the current PhD students. In addition to research seminars at the University of Helsinki Faculty of Social Sciences, STS related teaching and supervision is an important activity that contributes to the development of the community. Courses ranging from AI and society to environment and sociology of health, illness and medicine, not to mention STS focussed introductory courses, offer students a range of courses and topics to choose from.

Additionally, the PhD Data Lab allows junior members of the STS Helsinki community to present short excerpts from their data and data analysis and receive help in developing their work further to the writing stage. The community also regularly goes away on writing retreats where members get a chance to focus on intensive writing and commenting of work in progress. We regularly publish blog texts, conference and workshop calls, and job advertisements on our STS Helsinki blog (https://blogs.helsinki.fi/sts-helsinki/fi/), and disseminate information about our activities through our social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. The blog has been a venue for STS researchers to publish their texts for a popular audience.

Members of the collective have their own research focuses and institutional settings, and deploy and develop a wide range of STS approaches in terms of theories, concepts and empirical focus. Even though STS Helsinki is not devoted to a strictly defined theoretical or methodological program, there are numerous shared projects and interests many of us are involved with. The following examples offer a glimpse on some of the research activities taking place within the STS Helsinki community.

The Cultures of Cultures research group studies microbes from various perspectives across five different research projects. The projects take a comprehensive look at human-microbe connections focusing on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in global contexts; how lay and scientific communities are constructing a post-antibiotic world; and develops experimental methods for studying microbes via fermentation. This work develops a theoretical opening in the field of STS as regards to social study of microbes. Moreover, these projects come tied with a strong focus on tackling AMR in collaboration with environmental and clinical microbiologists.

Research is also conducted around topics related to biomedicine, genomics, artificial intelligence, critical data studies, as well as reproduction and health data. For example, in the project VALDA: Valuating Lives through Infertility and Dementia, value creation and governance related to reproduction and ageing are studied. In the coming years, theories and conceptualisations for example about the role of affect and emotions in the processes of biotechnological change will follow based on the empirical study on vaccines. There are also scholars working on the intensification of data sourcing from the viewpoint of health data. This work has contextualized the recent development of intertwinement of health and innovation policies and continues by elaborating on national strategies on leveraging health data and using it for AI based applications. Biobanking and health data sourcing in Finland has also been addressed from viewpoints such as health data ecosystems, consent practices, populations as brands and blood donors as biobank participants.

Societal knowledge-making practices are approached from multiple perspectives. Expectations and policies regarding carbon neutrality are examined, for example, in debates on energy transitions in Finland. Another approach to knowledge can be found on studies of expertise. There is research concentrating on how actors can make reasoned judgments about (or based on) expertise in which these actors are non-experts. This issue is studied in the context of law-science interaction. Similarly, a recently published dissertation highlighted the constructedness and expansion of expertise in the contemporary public sphere through the case of healthy eating.

Higher education studies and interest in social impact evaluation, as well as interdisciplinary research funding are areas where we will see several publications in the coming years as there are a number of PhD projects being carried out in this field. Additionally, research is carried out for example in relation to boundary making between organic farming and conventional agriculture, public health and the concept of risk, as well as cognitive sociology and machine learning (see our blog for more information and links to individual researchers).

Members of the STS Helsinki collective are also active in relation to academic organizations such as the Finnish Society for Science and Technology Studies, The European Sociological Association’s Research Network 24(Sociology of Science and Technology Network), and the Science and Democracy Network(http://stsprogram.org/sdn/). The EASST journal Science & Technology Studies is also managed by members of the STS Helsinki community. The journal has been a long-running publication that was originally published by the Finnish Society for Science and Technology Studies, but has since become a joint effort with EASST, making it an important open access resource for STS scholars globally. While the S&TS does not represent STS Helsinki alone, it strengthens the STS community and adds to the vibrant conversations going on in Helsinki.

In addition, the collective hosts a working group on Science, technology and society at the annual sociological conference organized by the Westermarck Society. This stemmed from the idea to create an annual meeting point for both Finnish and international scholars to share and discuss their work with others doing STS. In 2020 the conference will be held at Rovaniemi, and we will be hosting the working group for the 4th time.

During the upcoming decade, we will continue with our STS Helsinki Seminar Series. New courses, research projects and writing retreats are being developed and planned. Most importantly, we will continue to work in strengthening the visibility of STS and building the STS Helsinki community.

Making a research collective – STS Helsinki


STS Helsinki arose from a sensation shared by junior and senior scholars at the University of Helsinki that we lacked sufficient forums and spaces for STS at the University. Many of us gathered monthly at the TOTEMI seminar for doctoral students working under the broad banner of “Knowledge, technology, and environment”. Despite being a doctoral seminar, TOTEMI attracted both junior and senior scholars alike since it was at the time the only space to discuss STS regularly. Like many places where STS scholars gather, the seminar was an important site to encounter others employing similar concepts and reading the same texts. Some of us who were doing our doctoral studies came from disciplines where only a few others shared an interest in STS or had even heard of it. At the same time, many of us doctoral students realized the extent of the intellectual field and how little training we actually had received in STS. This stems from Finnish universities lacking a Master’s programme in STS and STS being taught rather sporadically in Finland. These realizations quickly spurred reading groups and informal gatherings to support one another during our doctoral studies and dissertation processes. These encounters were always supported by more senior and experienced STS researchers working in Helsinki, who offered informal guidance and relevant STS content to the discussions.

It did not take long before many of us who gathered around STS felt that something more open to the wider academic community was also required. The desire to have a more public presence face for STS in Helsinki originated from our personal experiences of how much luck was actually required to stumble upon other STS scholars. The typical story consisted of “you should meet researcher A” narratives. However, while such chains of recommendations lead to finding others working on STS, they hardly contribute to a sustained and consistent development of STS in Helsinki.  We wanted to correct this with a clear online presence, public seminars and increased collaboration, allowing anyone interested in STS to easily find like-minded scholars and STS activities.


Writing retreats

While part of the origin story of STS Helsinki arises from the typical frustration of lacking a viable research environment, another part tells the story of building that collective ourselves. One of the key sites where STS Helsinki was formed are the biological research stations of the University of Helsinki. Located in beautiful seaside or lakeside locations a couple of hours from Helsinki, the research stations have functioned as sites for long-term fieldwork in biology and forestry. They also offer the chance for other scholars to enjoy a peaceful environment and work-oriented routines to productively focus on tasks that benefit from that isolation, such as writing or analysis.

Early morning fog at Lammi biological station, October 2018. Photo: Kamilla Karhunmaa

Breakfast, lunch, coffee, dinner, sauna… And some writing in between. Writing retreats at Tvärminne and Lammi have always benefitted from clearly structured days. When all your basic needs are covered for by the research station facilities and you are surrounded by beautiful scenes, it’s much easier to delve into academic work. Our writing retreats have tended to combine the peace to write with social lunches, walks and sauna, fulfilling a rather idealized view of academic work – at least for a couple of days each year.

It is in these spaces in between that STS Helsinki slowly began to take its shape and form. While many of the founders of STS Helsinki are sociologists by training or academic label, it was quickly clear that our research interests cannot be fastened to a single discipline. Nor would this development had been possible at the University of Helsinki, where disciplines and teaching were being merged under the broader banner of social sciences. At the same time, like many STS efforts in Europe, we struggle with carving out a space for STS in situations where disciplinary expertise is valued, as two of our members, Jose A. Cañada and Jaakko Taipale (2020), outline in their recent text on institutionalizing STS in the Nordic Countries.


Going public

As we know from STS, things often happen and practices evolve before we know or name what is going on. Likewise with STS Helsinki, we started a blog in 2016 with the idea of showcasing our research and that of others working on STS. Together with the blog, we opened a Twitter account to publicize our work and share STS-related news and events. Around the same time, we decided to hold an annual STS panel at the national Sociology days, a popular yearly conference hosted in Finland.

A couple of years on, we can reflect on what has been achieved. Hosting a blog is hard and unfortunately often ungrateful work: finding authors, pleading for texts, editing texts… At the same time, the online space in Finland is filling up with other initiatives working to bring academic perspectives to new audiences (such as Ilmiö and Versus), in which many of our members have been writing. With these collaborative efforts reaching wider audiences, hosting our own blog does not seem as valuable large anymore. Meanwhile, the importance of Twitter for networking, sharing research, events and news has increased. Twitter has enabled quick communication of what our members are doing and a great way of interacting and continuing our relationship with other STS units and researchers around the world.


Looking forward

STS Helsinki was named a “research collective” only in the last year or so. Before that, while we had discussed at length what types of things we want to do and what forms of collaboration we want to promote, we had not really found a purpose for specifically naming “what” we are. As discussed by Heta Tarkkala et al on our current activities, our members are conducting STS research on a wide range of topics. As a collective, we do not share a thematic orientation to particular topics. Likewise, STS Helsinki researchers each have their own theoretical and epistemological inclinations within the broad field of STS. Growing from the bottom up, we are not conducting research under the auspices of a research director, but rather encouraging one another along in both distinct and collaborative efforts. As a research collective, STS Helsinki exemplifies how doing things together leads to doing more things together and creating new forms of collaboration.

As a result, many recent efforts have gone into increasing STS activities at the University of Helsinki with the objective of consolidating the group itself and welcoming scholars not directly engaged with STS to our discussions. The STS Helsinki Seminar Series has been a way to invite both Finnish and international scholars to present their work to the Helsinki community. STS teaching at the faculty has increased recently with both an STS classics reading seminar for Master and PhD students and new courses on environment & STS. The aim is to engage younger generations and spark their interest, ensuring the continuity of STS. At the doctoral level, a course consisting mostly of STS perspectives on science in society has been running for a few years, also providing visibility to STS. Finally, seminars, workshops and data labs are used as ways to share our work in the collective, to improve it and to find common ways of thinking and talking STS.

Despite all these activities, challenges for the collective’s viability remain a key concern. Our will to organise a session on the institutionalization of STS in the last Nordic STS conference in Tampere, grew out of a concern for that viability. Does STS Helsinki require more traditional institutional structures to survive? Or can it depend on its rather rhizomatic modes of organization that rely upon the shared efforts made by its members in the nooks and crannies of busy academic schedules? While these questions remain (and probably will stay) unanswered, we have found in the diversification of activities – i.e. teaching, public seminars, collaborations with other STS groups or departments – a way to somewhat to consolidate the public image of STS Helsinki, and to secure the continuous involvement of its members and the addition of new ones.





Cañada & Taipale (2020). Reflections on the Local Institutionalization of STS. EASST Review.



Current work in the Laboratory: Anthropology of Environment | Human Relations: Doing research in a more-than-thought collective

Having shown how the lab has evolved over the course of 15 years since its foundation, it is now time to reflect on where we are and where we are going. 

Our members’ research falls, broadly speaking, into two fields: life sciences, medicine, medical technologies and psychiatry on the one hand – and on the other sustainability, global land use, the role of modelling in human-environment systems and political ecology. Despite the broad range of topics we tackle in around 20 individual Master, PhD and Postdoc projects – ranging from the interconnections between (shifting knowledge about) medical care and urban environments, digitalization and memory politics1 and the subsequent changes in work systems/ecologies & governance2 to transformations of food and energy systems3 as well as resource socialities more broadly4 and finally, knowledge produced about such phenomena for example by socio-ecological modelling groups5 – and the geographical distribution of field-sites across Europe, the US, South America and West Africa we are committed to the idea of research as a collective endeavor. This is then our first point to make: 

The Laboratory: Anthropology of Environment | Human Relations is more-than-project. Our self-understanding is more akin to what Ludwik Fleck has termed a thought collective:  

“Although the thought collective consists of individuals, it is not simply the aggregate sum of them. […] A thought collective exists wherever two or more people are actually exchanging thoughts. He is a poor observer who does not notice that a stimulating conversation between two persons soon creates a condition in which each utters thoughts he would not have been able to produce either by himself or in different company. A special mood arises, which would not otherwise affect either partner of the conversation but almost always returns whenever these persons meet again.” (Fleck 1979 [1935], 41-44) 

We are dedicated to providing and generating space in which ideas that are not quite finished yet, as well as research-in-the-making, can be openly discussed. Yet, our thought collective exceeds Fleck’s in that it is explicitly open for and actively seeking disconcertment. We seek to constantly oppose our own problematizations, approaches and findings, thereby seeking to expose their underlying assumptions and understandings to critique from within our collective as well as from the outside by welcoming guest researchers and discussing their works and comments to avoid becoming too comfortable. The lab is not a filter bubble. 

Our commitment to work that is ‘more-than-project’ comes in different modes. Through constant reporting from our individual projects around our weekly meetings we establish contact points between projects, thereby fostering ideas, which exceed the individual members’ projects and can then be taken to broader discussions in STS, anthropology and the respective disciplines that define the fields we study, e. g. discussing the concept of niching through different fields in a joint paper (Bieler and Klausner 2019, see also below), working on the idea of situated modelling in a series of meetings together with the modelling6 community (Klein, Niewöhner, Unverzagt) or discussing the effects of situated politics of context for rice production systems in Uruguay and Burkina Faso for a workshop presentation (Hauer, Liburkina) to name just a few examples. 

Our current research topics. Picture and Collage: Janine Hauer

The framework of situated modelling stems from longer-standing discussions at the IRI THESys and will be elaborated on the basis of fieldwork currently under way in the field of participatory modelling (Unverzagt) and social-ecological modelling (Klein). Rather than striving for the single most accurate simplification of complex events, situated modelling acknowledges the contingency of simplifications and tries to turn this insight productive. As a research framework, situated modeling relates positive, predictive and quantitative approaches to reflexive, contextualising and qualitative approaches. It does so in ways that move beyond integration and critique.

Thinking across two initially unrelated PhD projects – on land-use and livelihood dynamics in the course of the introduction of large-scale rice production through a development project in Burkina Faso (Hauer) and the role of grand notions such as responsibility, economic growth and sustainable transformation in two distinct food supply chains (Liburkina) – allowed us to experiment with analytical prisms ranging from system to assemblage thinking and asking how de/stabilization is achieved and challenged in practice, while simultaneously raising questions about the construction and comparability of cases. The latter concern is taken up by the group as a whole in a couple of reading sessions on the case as well as on comparison.   

Moreover, we cherish concept work on a more daily basis, making it less ‘quantifiable’ but not less productive. In our weekly sessions, we attempt to link conceptual discussions that emerge in one field to other fields as well as to overarching questions in STS and anthropology: comparison, juxtaposition, diffraction. For example, we’ve traced the parallels in the uses of the concepts of hope and experience in the anthropological records in order to circumvent the fallacy of adding another definition of the concepts instead of focusing on the work these concepts do in the world and their effects. Although, these discussions did not result in joint outputs, they enriched the research they accompanied (Hauer, Nielsen, and Niewöhner 2018, Schmid 2019). Paralleling our attempts to think through rather than within projects, we have ongoing discussions about how to empirically trace and conceptually frame relatedness, a question that connects many of our ongoing projects, whether they deal with supply chains, mental health care in urban space or the emerging rice market in Burkina Faso. Exchanging concepts from different fields, switching lenses and thought traditions and exploring what they might add to our own thinking is an inspiring exercise that helps us to strengthen our arguments and positions.       

This brings us to our second point: what holds the lab together is more-than-discipline. STS has been, right from the start, an inter-disciplinary endeavor. Bringing it into an established discipline such as Social and Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology, the challenge has been to make an argument for what our approach has to offer to that discipline. Today, lab members are no longer an exclusive group of anthropologists with an interest in STS thinking, rather the lab has assembled as well as produced researchers that transcend disciplinary boundaries coming from or working in anthropology, geography, sociology, medicine etc. We all share an interest in discussions beyond disciplinary boundaries. Yet we are all also eager to take these discussions back to the centers of their respective disciplinary discourses in order to foster friction rather than new comfort zones. By doing so, we are committed to upholding the critical potential we believe STS has so productively developed.

Accordingly, the Lab strongly believes in the importance of long-term co-laborative ethnographic projects carried out in research teams, taking initiatives such as the Matsutake Worlds Research Group or The Asthma Files as examples. So far, this has proved especially productive in the field of social psychiatry. Steady exchange between the projects has led us to a detailed exploration of the ecologies of psychiatric expertise. Starting with fieldwork on different psychiatric wards, our inquiry into the classification and phenomenon of chronicity reached out to the everyday of public community mental health care services, their public administration, and the lives people lived once released from inpatient care. Examining the links between mental distress and (the transformation of) urban environments beyond the psy complex, resulted in recent research on and with administrative agencies, political institutions and lobbying groups. Ongoing discussions with anthropologists, sociologists, psychiatrists, and geographers from Germany, the UK, and Switzerland, reinforced our approach of investigating the situated experiences of people with psychiatric diagnosis as socio-material practices co-constituted by and co-constitutive of knowledges, bodies/minds and (urban) environments. (Klausner 2015, Bister, Klausner, and Niewöhner 2016, Bister 2018, Bieler and Klausner 2019)

The lab pushes ethnographic inquiry and theorizing to be more-than-deconstruction. All lab researchers share the belief that our research needs to amount to more than critically deconstructing any sort of phenomenon or prevalent problematizations on and of the fields we research. We, therefore, aim at co-laborative and response-able research designs and at keeping the possibility open for situated interventions, feedback loops and generative critique. In two medical technology development projects, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, for instance, we contrasted individualized approaches of compliance and technology use with our empirical analyses of daily health care practices and modes of living and working with medical devices. By doing so in regular project meetings together with partners from engineering and through a continuous ethnographic presence, we created space for irritating basic assumptions that were to be black-boxed in the technology under development (Klausner 2018). We do not wish to overemphasize our impact on the way in which the projects developed nor on the general technical set-up of the technologies. Nevertheless, we insist that ethnographic co-laboration and intervention adds a dimension to established research on the ethical, legal and social aspects of technology development as well as user-centered design and design thinking (Seitz 2017). 

Although our fields as well as modes of research differ considerably in how they allow for different degrees of co-laboration, we share a commitment to ethnographic research and theorizing not only of but also in, with and for the world as the ultimate vantage point. 

So, as you can tell from this text, we are not only more-than-human, but super-human, really: critical and generative, engaged and reflexive, versed in disciplines but also transcending them. Above all, of course, we are more-than-serious, so get in touch and join our sessions if you are ever in Berlin or would like to visit us.


1 Current research projects in this area deal transgenerational trauma in the context of medical practice and memory politics, professional peer support in psychiatric care, anti-discrimination law, dis/ability in the context of mental healthcare and palliative care, relations of mental distress, urban environments, healthcare infrastructures, and public administration, and non-invasive prenatal genetic diagnostics. 

2  These projects are about the valorization of comparing by online platforms, emerging high-technologically driven economics and socialities, solidarity and sociality in a technological world, the human microbiome, and experimental practices in behavioural governance.

3  Examples are projects on renewable energy policies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, low-carbon energy transitions, rice ecologies in Burkina Faso, and food supply chains of bulk consumers.

4 Such as projects on the political ecology of mining conflicts and mining extractivism.

5 See the projects on modelling complex systems in the environmental sciences and the co-production of socio-ecological modelling and social order.

6 The models we are concerned with are numerical models, computer simulations based on mathematical models. For now we are interested in models that take socio-ecological phenomena as their object (on various scales and with different symmetries).




Bieler, Patrick, and Martina Klausner. 2019. “Niching in cities under pressure. Tracing the reconfiguration of community psychiatric care and the housing market in Berlin.”  Geoforum. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.01.018.

Bister, Milena D. 2018. “The Concept of Chronicity in Action: Everyday Classification Practices and the Shaping of Mental Health Care.”  Sociology of Health and Illness 40 (1):38-52. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.12623.

Bister, Milena D., Martina Klausner, and Jörg Niewöhner. 2016. “The Cosmopolitics of ‘Niching’. Rendering the City Habitable along Infrastructures of Mental Health Care.” In Urban Cosmopolitics. Agencements, Assemblies, Atmospheres, edited by Anders Blok and Ignacio Farias, 187-205. London, New York: Routledge.

Fleck, Ludwik. 1979 [1935]. Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. (First published in German, 1935) ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hauer, Janine, Jonas Østergaard Nielsen, and Jörg  Niewöhner. 2018. “Landscapes of Hoping – Urban Expansion and Emerging Futures in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.”  Anthropological Theory 18 (1):59-80. doi: 10.1177/1463499617747176.

Klausner, Martina. 2015. Choreografien Psychiatrischer Praxis: Eine Ethnografische Studie zum Alltag in der Psychiatrie. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.

Niewöhner, Jörg. 2016. “Co-laborative Anthropology. Crafting Reflexivities Experimentally.” In Etnologinen tulkinta ja analyysi. Kohti avoimempaa tutkimusprosessia, edited by Jukka Joukhi and Tytti Steel, 81-125. Tallinn: Ethnos.

Niewöhner, Jörg, and Margaret Lock. 2018. “Situating local biologies: Anthropological perspectives on environment/human entanglements.”  BioSocieties. doi: 10.1057/s41292-017-0089-5.

Schmid, Christine. 2019. „Ver-rückte Expertisen: Eine Ethnografie über Genesungsbegleitung. Über Erfahrung, Expertise und Praktiken des Reflektierens im (teil )stationären psychiatrischen Kontext. Doctoral Thesis, handed to the Institute of European Ethnology at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin on February 19th, 2019.”

Seitz, Tim (2017): Design Thinking und der neue Geist des Kapitalismus. Soziologische Betrachtungen einer Innovationskultur. Bielefeld: Transcipt Verlag.