Tag Archives: Workshop

Unraveling the landscape: a 360° workshop

The idea behind this workshop was borne out of a previous collaboration between António Baía Reis and Michelle Kasprzak in 2018. At that time, and within the same natural and research setting of Câmara de Lobos, the two authors where brought together by the desire to explore 360° video storytelling and ended up producing a short documentary about the life, achievements, and misadventures of a Madeiran master boat builder. Inspired by this previous experience, they sought to outline a project where they would teach and guide young people to critically and creatively reflect about the world around them using the same emerging storytelling techniques. With this in mind, the workshop gathered a diverse group of people consisting of four finalist students from the bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts of the University of Madeira, a young man from Câmara de Lobos, and an Italian Ph.D. student based on the island.

Drawing from our field notes and by observing this group’s specific dynamics and interactions, one might clearly split this group into three different mindsets, he first consisting of the four university art students. These four students were very much in harmony with each other throughout the entire workshop, especially during the brainstorming that led to outlining the production of the short video. Their approach was evidently aligned with a certain esthetic complexity and abstract way of thinking and approaching problems, quite distinctive of students that are exposed to art history, theories, and practices. They always seemed to try to find subliminal ways of conveying an idea, through the subtleties that artistic expression might encompass.


Art students experiencing virtual reality. Courtesy of Michelle Kasprzak

On the flipside, the young man from Câmara de Lobos showed a different mindset, conveyed by a pragmatic way of thinking but overall a mindset that proved to be quite effective in terms of accomplishing a smooth group workflow. His insights and ideas were strong and informative. When facing a creative challenge, he showed a consistent ability to go straight to the point. Efficient creativity might be a good category to define this young man’s approach.

Telmo (young man from Câmara de Lobos) and Mela (Italian Ph.D. student)during the braistorming. Courtesy of Michelle Kasprzak

Finally, the Ph.D. student acted as a typical academic, i.e., balancing between free thinking and scientific analyses of everything that was happening around her, a sort of a limbo between herself as a participant and outsider making detached scientific observations. The idea that diversity triggers creative and innovative outcomes in groups is broadly accepted (Bantel & Jackson, 1989; Austin, 1997). Nevertheless, having different backgrounds and perspectives can create some difficulties. It wasn’t the case with this work group. The combination of the diverse abovementioned approaches clearly contributed to accomplish the goal of this workshop, which was the creation of a collaborative short 360° video.

The workshop took place in the Madeiran Press Museum – in the midst of old press machines and with the ghost of Gutenberg – a quite evocative setting to be thinking and reflecting about storytelling. On the first day, and after quite a thorough team building exercise, the participants were introduced to the most relevant concepts, theories, and practices around 360° video storytelling. This theoretical outline was informed mostly by key studies on immersive journalism (Baía Reis et al., 2018; Jones, 2017; Laws, 2017), and it was focused on concepts like immersion, presence, and emotion in relation to virtual reality technologies to set the basis for understanding how to use 360°storytelling to tell stories yet untold. This was followed by a showcase of a selection of 360° videos using a virtual reality headset to expose the participants first-hand to this emergent practice. Then, we proposed that the group come up with a story yet untold that they wanted to tell about their community that would make sense in virtual reality storytelling. The group decided to tell a story about the unexpected influence of Winston Churchill in Madeira. The third and final days were devoted to shooting, editing, and presenting the short video.

Braistorming and defining the storyline for the 360° video production. Courtesy of Michelle Kasprzak

The brainstorming for selecting the story and the video production processes were clearly the most relevant moments for us to examine, e.g., creativity as both a process and an outcome (Miliken et al., 2003) and how that manifested through the diverse perspectives within the group. During the brainstorming, when everyone was asked about what story should be told, an immediate and clear  idea about doing something on Winston Churchill came from the young man from Câmara de Lobos. Throughout the brainstorming and video production, the inputs of this young man were clearly the ones that established the focus to effectively create a successful collective outcome. One might say that he unconsciously guided his fellow participants and their divergent ideas into a convergent structured attitude. In fact, creative processes require both divergent and convergent thinking for the sustained development of creative outcomes by work groups (Miliken et al., 2003).

Shooting the 360° video in the bay of Câmara de Lobos. Courtesy of Michelle Kasprzak

Furthermore, by assuming a relevant role in the shooting and editing processes, he showed an ability to focus on his tasks and to make quick, simple, and practical decisions. This approach was complemented by a certain artistic finesse that arose from the art students, who tried to think of original ways for conveying the story, and a sort of a mediating approach by the Ph.D. student who throughout the entire process seemed to be mediating ideas by deconstructing them to her fellow participants so that everyone could see its advantages and disadvantages, thus making informed and coherent decisions. Overall, one might argue that the combination of these diverse perspectives led to a fluent, flexible and original creative process. Fluency, flexibility, and originality of thought were, therefore, defining qualities of the final creative outcome (Miliken et al., 2003), the short video about Winston Churchill and his relation to Madeira.

The “Winston Churchill” viewpoint in Câmara de Lobos. The sign says “Winston Churchill painted here in 1950” Courtesy of Michelle Kasprzak

Creative processes and analysis apart, some attention should be given to this most unlikely combination: Winston Churchill and Madeira island. At the entrance of Câmara de Lobos there is a viewpoint which owes its name to the British prime minister Winston Churchill, who painted a seascape depicting the bay in this location. The Winston Churchill viewpoint, located at the entrance of the city of Câmara de Lobos, allows you to enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the dry dock, the bay, and the town. Built in 1963, it was known at the time as the “Espírito Santo” (Holy Spirit) viewpoint. Later the name was changed, as a way for the picturesque village of Câmara de Lobos to remember and pay tribute to Winston Churchill, since in this location the British prime minister painted the abovementioned seascape depicting the bay. But this is not the only Churchill reference you find in this fishermen’s town. Churchill is everywhere, in restaurants, in guided tours, souvenirs shops, a true “Churchillmania”. With this mind, the short video produced within this workshop explores this phenomenon and counter reacts to it by telling the “true stories” about this town’s old traditions and culture, so deeply related to the lives of fishermen.

The bay of Câmara de Lobos. Courtesy of Michelle Kasprzak

In short, we engaged a diverse group of people in understanding the potential of emerging technologies and how to use them in a creative way to tell stories yet untold in a small neighborhood at the edge of Europe; we promoted an open event where the results were discussed, the short 360° video was showcased, and all the participants had the opportunity to share their experience with the wider community; Finally, we had the chance to academically reflect about this experience by analyzing the various dynamics between the participants, the setting, and the creative processes involved. Having the bay of Câmara de Lobos and the Atlantic as our background, this workshop succeeded in achieving its proposed goals by combining three classical features of science and technology studies: scientific knowledge, technology, and society.





Austin, J. R., 1997. A cognitive framework for understanding demographic influences in groups. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 5, pp. 342-359

Baía Reis, A., Coelho, A. F. V. C. C., 2018. Virtual Reality and Journalism, Digital Journalism, 6 (8), pp. 1090-1100

Bantel, C. A., Jackson, S. E., 1989. Top management and innovations in banking: Does the composition of the top team make a difference? Strategic Management Journal, 10, pp. 107-124

Jones, S., 2017. Disrupting the Narrative: Immersive Journalism in Virtual Reality. Journal of Media Practice, 18, pp. 171-185

Laws, A. L. S., 2017. Can Immersive Journalism Enhance Empathy? Digital Journalism. DOI: 10.1080/21670811.2017.1389286

Miliken, F. J., Bartel, C. A., Kurtzberg T. R., 2003. Diversity and Creativity in Work Groups: A Dynamic Perspective on the Affective and Cognitive Processes That Link Diversity and Performance. Group Creativity: Innovation Through Collaboration, Oxford University Press, pp. 34-62


It will be otherwise. Report from inaugural AusSTS Interdisciplinary Workshop, Melbourne 3-5 July, 2019


In a span of three days of AusSTS interdisciplinary workshop in Melbourne researchers at their beginning of academic careers were invited to attend multiple keynote lectures, panel sessions, workshops, film screening and a creative challenge. The conference brought together doctoral candidates and early careers researchers from Australia and New Zealand to create a platform for STS infused debates and thinking. Consequently, the conference provided a space for fostering inter-institutional relations and collaboration ultimately shaping a strong Austrolasian STS community.

Thao Phan opening speech. Photo by Giles Campbell-Wright, Deakin University.



When receiving the call for papers, I remember being rather puzzled by the format of papers proposed by the organizers – five minutes presentations followed by approximately forty minutes of conversation with panellists. I was actually worried what can be delivered in just 5 minutes! However, in practice, I was pleasantly surprised that this quite innovative framework worked out very interestingly indeed. Presenters swiftly rose to the call for short, more provocative and bold papers as an alternative to analytical and descriptive presentations. Hence, all twelve sessions were fuelled by affective, lively debates and brainstorming instead of a mere reporting from the research fields.  Session themes such as narrative, evidence, care, binary, code or elemental also embodied minimalistic yet dynamic flow of the event. There were two vital common threads reiterated throughout all panels: 1) the role and position of STS research in contemporary academia and beyond, 2) the ways and means of working and thinking with STS concepts. Therefore, in contrast to what Steve Fuller claims STS community summoned in Melbourne demonstrated how scientists could walk the walk and be “socially and materially bound to the outcomes of policy decisions taken on the basis of their advice“(Fuller, 2017).

The keynote presentations have also exemplified the input of critical lens of STS into the rigid academic and social concepts. Cordelia’s Fine ‘50 Shades of Grey Matter’ keynote lecture accentuated the themes underlying the workshop: political engagement through one’s own work. Fine demonstrated how social sciencists can engage with lifelong critical debates in STEM: in this case the discussion addressed neuro-sexism. However, Fine has not been holding back on her critical unpacking of neuroscientific research. And even though she would not describe herself as an STS-r, there were many visible overlaps between her approach and STS feminist technoscience work.

The second keynote ‘Transgenerational Politics, Solidarity and Justice-to-Come’ facilitated a discussion between Prof. Jack Halberstam and Dr J.R. Latham. Issues of queer and trans visibility and politics were put in current socio-political practices in the United States and Australia. Particularly the ‘Ockham’s razor’ moment stood out when Latham argued that neither the LGBTQIA+ community nor society in general need sophisticated policies to address trans inclusion in arenas such as sport. In his words, “Trans people don’t need 300 page policy documents, we just need to let people live their gender the way they want to.” Once again, we could witness a direct political intervention afforded by the AusSTS space.



Similarly, all four organized workshops addressed the problems of public, political and ethical engagement of academic research. The first workshop on ‘Podcasting’ brought up questions and experiences about various aspects of podcasting in the academic contexts. We could exchange experiences with this form of cooperation and coproduction. More importantly, a fair amount of time had been given to – what STS appreciates most – invisible work behind the final results. So, a quick training on editing and sound engineering unearthed how much actual time of production is needed for an one hour long podcast; subsequently, we could also see how project management skills are needed in order to run a successful podcast series; last but not least, an accent has been put on self-promotion because – as it turns out – social media engagement is crucial in building up an audience.

Secondly, workshop ‘Studying up, down, slow and fast’ directly linked to the practices of working within various spaces and domains, from energy transition through nanomedicine to opioid crisis. The first part of the workshop was focused on unpacking what actually, in daily practices ‘slow, down and fast’ might entail. Additionally, the discussion on “slow science” and its practical implementation working in energy field (Declan Kuch) and hepatitis C elimination policy (Kari Lancaster) was ignited. Divided up into three groups, each attempted to put this metaphor in use within the institutional context. The second part consisted of working on specific cases where STS framework was to be applied to inform new policies. Especially interesting was discussion on addressing the methamphetamine crisis in Australia. Employing the notion of ‘re-problematisation’ (Bacchi, 2018; Lancaster et al., 2017) participants proposed how shifting the focus from ‘ice’ itself to, for instance, the  redefinition of categories of addiction or drug consumption could potentially help reducing methamphetamine intake. In short, it was clear how an STS lens, when put in practice, can change the optics of locating problems in contemporary ongoing and pressing public debates.

Gut feelings exhibition at Melbourne Museum. Photo by Giles Campbell-Wright, Deakin University.

The Melbourne Museum Creative Challenge was set as a creative conclusion of the conference placed in Melbourne Museum where participants were introduced to the current ongoing exhibitions to later face a specific creative task. For me, the most striking in all museum’s exhibitions was the newly open “Gut Feelings” exhibition. In a nutshell, it illustrates the very recent idea that our mind and microbes are intimately related and that our microbiome landscapes may heavily influence our mental health and wellbeing. The perfect timing of the exhibition is even more vivid given that Medical Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark curates “Mind the Gut” exhibition! Both are a perfect ways to disseminate the STS research outside of academia and trigger questions about medical knowledges, guts, bowels, culture, identity, mental well-being and microbes. In Melbourne, however, it is also possible to voluntarily participate by leaving a trace of one’s saliva which would reveal microbiome landscape of it. The results of a creative challenge materialised in a provocations to re-image and re-interpret objects within the museum. Working in teams, we presented innovative and creative ideas about potential future exhibitions that invoked and elucidated thinking across disciplines and standard curator practices.

Team collaboration. Photo by Giles Campbell-Wright, Deakin University.



The conference brought together doctoral candidates and early careers researchers from Australia and New Zealand to create a platform for STS infused debates and thinking. However, along the way (Law, 2009), it very clearly transpired that AusSTS endorses very strong political engagement. Virtually all panel discussions, workshops and group collaboration accentuated the pressing need to switch from thinking, working, researching on to thinking, working, researching with. To make STS informed interventions locally situated and locally sensitive (Zuiderent-Jerak, 2015). Hence, given STS vast and broad interdisciplinary reach, the situatedness could penetrate academia. There was no ‘full stop’ after the well-known slogan: it could be otherwise. The workshops – across all three days – demonstrated how it could and how it will be otherwise.


Thank you to the organising team, led by Thao Phan (Deakin University) that put together this fantastic event:

  • Timothy Neale, Deakin University
  • Gemma Smart, University of Sydney
  • Kari Lancaster, UNSW
  • Michaela Spencer, Charles Darwin University
  • Jacina Leong, RMIT

Event Sponsors:

  • Deakin Science and Society Network (SSN)
  • Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (ANU CPAS)
  • Charles Darwin University Northern Institute (NI)
  • University of Sydney School of History and Philosophy of Science
  • Anthropocene Campus Melbourne
  • The Australian Association of the History, Philosophy and Social Study of Science (AAHPSSS)
  • UNSW Environmental Humanities

You can find the final program of the AusSTS2019 interdisciplinary workshop here.

Full album with high resolution images of the event is available here.





Bacchi C (2018) Drug Problematizations and Politics: Deploying a Poststructural Analytic Strategy. Contemporary Drug Problems 45(1): 3–14. DOI: 10.1177/0091450917748760.

Fuller, S. (2017) Is STS all Talk and no Walk? EASST Review 36(1): 21-22.

Lancaster K, Treloar C and Ritter A (2017) ‘Naloxone works’: The politics of knowledge in ‘evidence-based’ drug policy. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine 21(3): 278–294. DOI: 10.1177/1363459316688520.

Law J (2009) Seeing Like a Survey. Cultural Sociology 3(2): 239–256. DOI: 10.1177/1749975509105533.

Zuiderent-Jerak T (2015) Situated Intervention: Sociological Experiment in Health Care. Inside technology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

STS-informed approaches to biobanking, medical technologies and biotechnology: A workshop review

The two-day Research Workshop on Science, Technology, Society (STS) / History, Technology, Society (HTS): Bioeconomy, Biotechnology, Medical Technologies was held in Athens, Greece, on 19–20 April 2018.1 It took place in the hospitable seminar room of the Historical Archive of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, located in the lively city centre. The organizers designed this workshop in the context of the ongoing research project “The public debate on umbilical cord blood banking in Greece: Approaches from the interdisciplinary field Science, Technology, Society (STS)”, funded by the Onassis Foundation (Special Grant and Support Program for Scholars’ Association Members) and hosted by the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, School of Science, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens).2 An open call, specifying the aims of the workshop, was widely circulated in order to attract contributions by interested scholars. The additional funding secured through the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology – EASST Fund 2018 made travel grants to scholars from abroad possible, in order to facilitate their participation in the workshop and to promote the exchange of ideas. 

The design of the workshop served the purpose of bringing together scholars working on umbilical cord blood (UCB) biobanking and the STS/HTS research community working on broader themes regarding biotechnology and medical technologies. The programme of the workshop was designed so as to provoke critical discussions about the theoretical frameworks and the methodologies employed in current STS research projects, in order to contribute to developing novel research questions in the respective empirical fields. The idea of the workshop was to cultivate dialogue, following the recent STS interest in the development and functioning of biobanking practices, among other developments in the technosciences, in the context of a growing bioeconomy (see, for instance, Pavone and Goven, 2017; Gardner and Webster, 2017; Birch, 2017). Consideration of biobanking practices as well as a range of biomedical technologies in modern society, through perspectives from the humanities and the social sciences, was the focus of the workshop, in order to open up discussions among the participants and the broader Greek STS/HTS research community. The sessions aimed to provoke detailed and wide-ranging discussion on concerted research efforts from diverse geographical sites and varied interdisciplinary foci. Indeed, the diverse thematic and geographic contributions (from Europe, North America, Africa and Asia) matched this scope. Furthermore, the programme of the workshop reflected this ambition. Apart from the four traditional sessions, the workshop included an invited speech and a session with stakeholders from the Greek biobanking sector. The audience and the faculty members chairing the sessions engaged in thought-provoking dialogue and proved the fruition of this initiative in the local research community.

Fig. 1: The Workshop Poster

The first session, Appropriating STS/HTS concepts and perspectives in dissertation research about medical technologies, provided the opportunity to elaborate on the methodological challenges of interdisciplinary research in biomedicine. Marilena Pateraki presented her ongoing research focusing on the ways to interpret the variation in body-technology relations in the case of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) for persons with Parkinson’s disease in the Greek healthcare system. Her ethnographic research directs attention to theorizing the relations brought about by implanted technologies and to appropriating such technologies in a specific sociotechnical setting. Kostas Raptis addressed the historical encounters of digitalization efforts in medical diagnostics in relation to the conceptualization of death. His contribution emphasized the need to deal with the sociality of technologies in biomedicine, tracing the conceptualization of death in specific works. In her presentation, Aspasia Kandaraki focused on research practices, studied through video recordings, in order to analyse the embodied and experiential character of real-time work with digital technology in a medical imaging software development laboratory. 

In the second session, Trends in biotechnology policy and bioeconomy, Yulie Foka-Kavalieraki presented the initial results from her research on the attitudes of Greek citizens toward biotechnology. Then, Blessing Silaigwana directed attention to biobanking governance. Given the diverse regulatory options in European countries, Silaigwana he argued for the need to support ethical biobank research in the context of developing recommendations for biobanking practice in Africa. 

Fig. 2: Blessing Silaigwana presentation in Session 2

In the third session, Rethinking biovalues and the political economy of biobanking, the presenters drew on case studies to highlight the relation of transnational developments and local characteristics in configurations related to novel biomedical technologies. Polina Vlasenko talked about the political economy of transnational ova provision, by analysing the processes of the generation and appropriation of the economic cycle of ova produced in Ukraine for exchange in the global reproductive market. She argued that the persistent non-recognition of egg donors as fully fledged workers (as well as mothers, persons, bodies) reinforces the invisibility of their labour and disposability of their bodies. Amishi Panwar discussed the market of cord blood stem cells in India. She juxtaposed traditional methods of storing the umbilical cord with the recent growth in biobanking practices, and stressed the importance of anthropological research to better capture the cultural and historical significance of storing cord blood. Constantinos Morfakis and Katerina Vlantoni examined the factors that accommodated the growth of private/family UCB banking in Greece, making Greece the “El Dorado of private UCB banks’, by paying attention to the processes of transforming UCB as a form of biological insurance and to the wider economics of the Greek health sector.

Fig. 3: Panel discussion in Session 3

In the fourth session, STS and Biobanks: Opening the “Black Box” of UCB biobanks, Jennie Haw presented her research on the enrolment into allogeneic circulation of cord blood in the case of Canada’s National Public Cord Blood Bank. Examining cord blood banking as manufacturing biologics, Haw suggested that it foregrounds the production of biovalue and biocapital in biological materials, and illustrates the tensions between manufacturing and clinical logics. In the following presentation, Lorenzo Beltrame discussed the biopolitics of UCB banking in Italy and the UK, by focusing on the way that the collection of cord blood units is organized and on the strategies to involve donors. He argued for paying attention to the participation of citizens/donors as it relates to the target of covering the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) variability in possible recipients. Astha Jaiswal shifted the focus on the dominant discourse (choice, control and reassurance) constructed by commercial UCB banks for banking UCB. Her findings suggested that the need for private/family banking has been created on the grounds of the responsibility of expectant parents to do the “best” for the child (choice), of not missing this “once in a life time opportunity”(control), and of avoiding the distress of a future illness (reassurance). Concluding this session, Pablo Santoro reflected on the changes undergone by UCB banking sectors during the last decade and on how recent STS-informed approaches to biobanking, encompassing a renewed attention to materiality, to processes of commodification, and to hybridity, can shed light on some of the current features of UCB banking in Spain. 

The fifth, and last, session of the workshop had a different scope: to engage with stakeholders in the Greek UCB banking sectors. The rationale of the session Engaging with stakeholders: Institutional arrangements and bioethical challenges in UCB biobanking, was that given the research focus of the workshop participants, most of whom have conducted primary research on the topic in other national settings, the opportunity to interact with stakeholders from Greece would be stimulating. Each of the invited speakers (Takis Vidalis, scientific officer on the National Bioethics Commission, and Vassiliki Gkioka and Aggeliki Xagorari, both representing public UCB banks) made a short presentation about the institutional challenges that have arisen with the operation of UCB banks, their view in relation to the opposition between public and private/family biobanks for the future of the bioeconomy sector, and their opinion with regard to the emergence of this opposition in the case of Greece. The presentations were followed by a lively and stimulating discussion with the workshop participants, providing a basis for cross-national comparisons. Representatives from the private UCB banking sector were also invited (through contact with the Greek UCB Banks Association – EETOA), but, unfortunately, did not participate in the session despite their initial acceptance.

Fig. 4: Lorenzo Beltrame delivering the Invited Speech

On the evening of the first day of the workshop, Lorenzo Beltrame delivered a speech entitled “Cord Blood and the City: On the hybrid economies of international exchange of cord blood for transplantation”. A broad audience of about 60 people, including undergraduate students, attended the invited speech. Beltrame presented the ways the institutional boundaries between public and private UCB banking and the distinction between redistribution and market exchanges are blurred and decoupled. He convincingly argued that heterogeneous pressures co-shape private and public UCB banking; nonetheless, public banking, while not being a paradigm of redistributive economy, is neither one of market economy. He paid attention to the international exchange of a cord blood unit as a transplant and argued that it is “a particular form of market exchange coherent with the moral economy”. Beltrame further elaborated on his argument that public banks engage in cord blood exchange, a practice that “resembles the economy of the medieval city, based on redistribution supported by regulated market exchanges at set prices”.

The speech, in tandem with all the contributions to the workshop, shed light on a range of issues worth exploring regarding the shaping of and the complex practices involved in medical technologies and biotechnological innovations, on both the local and global scale. With regard to biobanking practices, the participants showed that case studies dealing with current practices in different national settings could offer more nuanced understanding of the processes of commercialization, commodification and biovalue production, together with a renewed attention to the materialities involved. Further perspectives could bring together the dynamics of cord blood bioeconomies with those of the political economy of healthcare.

Fig. 5: Workshop participants during lunch break

 Discussions flourished during the two days of the workshop, and continued during the social events, including lunch and dinner. During dinner, in a terrace under the shade of the Acropolis hill, the participants animatedly exchanged their ideas and discussed future opportunities to meet up again. As can be seen, EASST, through the allocation of travel grants, made possible an important forum for bringing together STS scholars, and gave impetus to the future publication of the workshop contributions.


 This workshop was co-funded by the EASST Fund 2018.

1 For the full programme, see: http://www.phs.uoa.gr/hst/Projects/Project_Biobanks_Workshop.html

2 The duration of the project has been from October 2016 up to September 2018. For more, see http://www.phs.uoa.gr/hst/Projects/Project_Biobanks.html.



Birch, K. (2017). Rethinking Value in the Bio-economy: Finance, Assetization, and the Management of Value. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 42(3), 460–490.

Gardner, J., & Webster, A. (2017). Accelerating Innovation in the Creation of Biovalue: The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 42(5), 925–946.

Pavone, V., & Goven, J. (eds) (2017). Bioeconomies: Life, Technology, and Capital in the 21st Century. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Call for Application: Pre-conference Doctoral Workshop “Invent Your Job”


EASST Conference “Meetings” at Lancaster University

We invite early stage researchers graduate, postgraduate, and early-career scholars to apply to our workshop immediately prior to the EASST conference in Lancaster.

How can we translate STS knowledge, sensibilities and practices to the job market, or how could we create jobs to make place for these capacities? For many students this seems to be a real concern. The question is a hard one to answer, however, because fast-paced changes in society push the definition of work to new frontiers, and STS is a very diverse field. This is why in this workshop for early stage researchers we turn the question upside down and ask how STS knowledge, sensibilities and practices can help us invent/imagine/design jobs for the future! We will explore this proposition in three different settings, starting with:

  • A walk shop “Wild Ideas”. During an hour long walk in the beautiful surroundings of Lancaster, we will brainstorm in groups about what our capacities as STS scholars are and how they can be articulated into roles/careers/jobs.
  • A work shop “Prototyping Society”. With the help and guidance of two STS scholars who have developed their own, ‘unconventional’ careers, participants will develop speculative job descriptions and discuss ways of bringing these into reality.
  • A social dinner “STS Careers of the Future”. We will end the day with a dinner, where a group of students will be chosen as ‘Future-makers’ for having developed very unconvenitonal and inventive speculative jobs. As a reward, this group’s job desriptions will be published in the EASST Review.

What: A pre-conference workshop for Master students, PhD candidates and other early-career researchers to meet and share ideas, experiences, and enthusiasm.

When: July, 24th, 11:30 am – 20:30 pm

Why: Brainstorm about the jobs of the future and our place as STS scholars in that future. Network with an international mix of colleagues. Share refreshments and get to know Lancaster.

Cost: Free.

How: You will need to provide us with a short statement of motivation (max. 500 words) and upload your  CV (PDF or Word files only).
Apply online here

Application deadline: May 1st, 2018

We hope to accommodate all completed applications; however, due to venue limitations we are limited to about 25 participants. Applicants are expected to attend the EASST conference in Lancaster and be or become EASST members.

Remember you can also apply for an EASST conference fee waiver!

Please contact  Dara Ivanova (students@easst.net) with questions or suggestions.

Preliminary program 

11.30 – 12.00 Welcome and registration
12.00 – 13.30 Wild Ideas
13.30 – 14.30 Lunch
14.30 – 15.30 Prototyping Society I
15.30 – 16.00 Coffee/Tea Break
16.00 – 17.00 Prototyping Society II
17.00 – 17.30 Free time/leisure walk to restaurant
17.30 – 18.30 STS Employees of the Future Ceremony
18.30 – End    Dinner

Prototyping Intervention! – A Workshop and Two Letters

‘Prototyping Intervention!’ was a two-day workshop devoted to a collective exploration of intervention as a form of research. The workshop was organized by Judith Igelsboeck and Laura Zoelzer as part of the post/doc lab engineering responsibility of the Munich Center for Technology in Society (MCTS) at the Technical University of Munich. Researchers, designers, and artists met to probe and discuss different takes on intervention, and interrogate potential relations between intervention and investigation. Become witness of an exchange of letters between the organizers of the workshop two months after it took place!

Dear J.

_yesterday I went back to October 24th  – mentally … for now – to when we met with 30 other people who were curious to explore what exactly Prototyping Intervention! could mean. All just because I found this residue of our workshop at „Import Export“ the venue of the first workshop day.

Fig. 1: Prototyping Intervention! Two months later

Today, 2 months later, I am still thinking about those intense two days, realizing, how much they influenced the way I ponder on various kinds of research methods. Well, probably I am most definitely late to the party, considering I only started my ‘academic career’ in my early 30s.

But you know how, after ten years of working in theatre and performing arts, I have been thinking and wondering about how those performative skills, once combined with social sciences practices, could become a methodological superpower and therefore something that I would call an Intervention!

How lucky, we invited Friedrich Kirschner, a theatre director and software developer from HfS Ernst Busch, who re-purposes video-game structures and technology to create participatory performances. I still remember how highly discussed his intervention was, when he played rock_paper_scissors with one of the attendees and let everyone bet on the outcome. What happened between all present, was an immediate evaluation process of the degree of discomfort.The urge to not look silly was just as perceptible as the drive to be ahead of the situation. It was so incredibly interesting to observe, not quite as covertly, how the Designers and STS researchers’ reacted to his explanations, as he spoke of ‘situated drama’ as an alternative setting for theatrical storytelling through which people actively negotiate the complexity of contemporary societies and deal with the fabrication of civil agency. For me it was rather special because, there he was, someone from this old habitat I once knew so well, suggesting and proposing practices that left the people from the academic world, I was hoping to become a part of, quite flabbergasted.

It only then occurred to me that my ambitious plan of creating an arts and science hybrid would firstly have to allow the very distinct and different incorporated logics of both of these systems, to tenderly approach each other, respectively observe each other just well enough, to maybe find a way of decoding the opposite operations.

During Friedrich’s Keynote, there were several questions concerning the ethicality of methods and various worries about the responsibilities that come with the irritations of artistic interventions. In response he asked: „What would these responsibilities be and do we really have to deal with them?“ – Isn’t it the participants own responsibility to lose or halt themselves in the artist’s created space of make-believe? And could this, in parts, be applicable to a scientist’s laboratory in which she tries to create (virtual) realities through ways of intervening? What could this mean for the researchers identities, referring to them as the main survey instrument. Maybe the scripts of actions could be rewritten, methods could be recombined and traces reassociated. Could we allow ourselves the audacity to lose ourselves in the anarchy of irritations and withstand the urge to stay safe and distant in methods and structures?

At the end of day 2, when we all got together to recollect the past two days, we concluded on some new characters we met along the way of Prototyping Intervention! We crossed paths with the “well-trained ape“, the “insider“, maybe remained “outsiders“, offered ourselves as “smugglers”, performed like “parasites”, and most likely sounded like “paradoxists”. My little performative heart raced during Angus Cameron’s talk on ‘imaginary economics’ – the decade-long project ‘Headless’ created by Swedish artists goldin + senneby. He performed from two perspectives: as an international spokesperson of the project and as an academic commentator who sees  all economics as imaginary. In his Talk, he demonstrated how much the academic world relies on and only accepts realities that have already been validated and are linearly and causally in the right course of action.

Next time instead of booklets let us sew patches that carry some of his catchphrases. Because I agree: “Paradoxy is power“ and “Chaos is desired“. Just remember the quote from “Principia Discordia”, the little pamphlet I sent you the other day :).

“Seek the Sacred Chao – therein you will find the foolishness of all ORDER/DISORDER. They are the same!” (Wilson 1994)

When shall we meet again?

__love L.


Dear L.

_thank you for your letter and for sharing this picture. It instantly sparked nostalgic feelings in me. Just this very week another workshop participant wrote a mail too. Xaroula Kerasidou says that she was still thinking about what she identifies as a sort of “STS awakening“ revolving along the lines of an “interventionist turn“ or “action-oriented STS“. How is this related to an anxiety to be demonstrably useful and impactful, she asks. And how might it be related to a desire to just “do something practical“?

Funnily, this somehow seems to feed into Peggy Phelan’s suggestion that “a new social, psychic, and political relationship of making itself“ (Phelan,1997:4) can be observed. Going back to the sexual revolution, she suggests that “the making in „making love“ marks an allegiance to nothing more and nothing less than the force of the desire to make something in the present tense.“ (ibid.) Is it this? Do we wish to make something in the present tense? Does the way we have come to perform STS research not feel alive enough to us?

Back then in the workshop we certainly avoided to start with a tightly pre-defined concept of “intervention“ because we wanted to see who actually would feel attached to the call for “prototyping intervention!“ As you know, it made me happy to see social scientists, designers, engineers, and artists (and not only ‘STS people’) responding to the call, and to see a great diversity of methods and approaches being represented. It was a pleasure to have Teun Zuiderent at the workshop and learn how he takes up some of Kurt Lewin’s spirit to set aside potential boundaries between knowing and acting, and showing that intervening in practices and developing a scholarly understanding of them are not mutually exclusive. His idea of “prototyping intervention“ varies considerably from Denisa Kera’s – a “science artisan“ who uses the design method of prototyping to perform material media archeology into the origins of our concept of innovation and future. This diversity makes it hard for me to pin down “intervention“ as a specific method, as one mode of knowing. Many workshop participants seem to share the idea that an “interventionist turn“ means cutting across the dichotomies of representing and intervening, theory and practice, thinking and acting, fact and fiction, basic and applied research, or knowing and experiencing. But I catch myself falling back to these categories. Sometimes I feel that I have to (e.g. when applying for funding). Sometimes it just happens, accidentally on the way.

Fig.2 : Workshop Prototyping Intervention @Import Export in Munich

In the meantime, there is some interesting boundary work underway. In the latest EASST Review, Ignacio Farías proposes to make a differentiation between “invention“ and “intervention“. As examples for “inventive engagements in STS“, he names the composition of songs, the programming of bots, the writing of scripts, or the curating of exhibitions. He stresses that these engagements were often misunderstood as science communication exercises or alternative ways of making things public – as ways of intervening in public controversies. I fully agree that this implies “underestimating both, the capacities of the public to engage with standardized forms of knowledge and, most problematically, the role of inventive engagements as a research method.“ (Farías 2017) So, Ignacio Farías points out that intervention and invention are not necessarily sharing the same aims. What do you think about this, Laura? Do you think we should have called the workshop “prototyping invention“ instead? Certainly, many of the “interventions“ presented at the workshop qualify as “inventive engagements“ – attempted to bring forth new realities by challenging the boundaries of facts and fiction in speculative and experimental ways rather than aiming to perform political interventions in public affairs in the first place.

What I like about both inventive and/or interventive engagements I have learned to know by now, is their modesty in regard to epistemic authority and control. Be it the intention not to impose normative goals onto a field (Zuiderent-Jerak), or the reminder that we cannot “consider ourselves authorized to believe we possess the meaning of what we know“, as Wilkie and coauthors (2017) import from Stengers (2005) in their guide to “speculative research“.

But such modesties are hard to live, aren’t they? During the workshop there was more than one occasion in which we tried to smuggle ‘STS-truths’ into other worlds. At the same time, designers and artists reminded us that STS researchers were often performing rather poorly when curating exhibitions, writing codes or scripts etc. “They could ask for help, we’ve also made some progress during the last 20 years,“ they would say.

For me, “prototyping intervention!“ was more than a collection of new methods or ways of performing research anyways. For me it is a way of reclaiming “scientific freedom“ in the midst of all the pressures to fulfill career scripts and trying to be a “good researcher“; a way of reconsidering what we are doing when we are performing research, and what we are doing research for. I caught myself looking up my h-index on google scholar during work lately. For no reason. Can you believe this?

So, I am really grateful for Friedrich Kirschner’s reminder that researchers are actors who are acting. To a considerable extent, we make the academic world in which we live. In this spirit, the best personal workshop moment was in the wrap-up session. Listening to the feedback and comments suggesting that this workshop might not have been “inventive“ enough, I suddenly found myself speculating about a future meeting in which fictional STS researchers from fictional places with fictional positions and fictional affiliations apply to discuss their fictional work or work together on a fictional project – a congress of social science fiction. Would you like to participate in such a congress? In any case, we should meet at the next EASST conference! Check out these panels 😉



_love  J.










Sensor Publics: Report from a workshop on the politics of sensing and data infrastructures

Invested with ideals ranging from ‘the smart city’, ‘evidence-based policy’, ‘algorithmic governance’, ‘citizen science’, or ‘hack-tivism’, sensors have been widely foregrounded in contemporary debates about the role of digital technologies in addressing the big political challenges of our time. The idea of a workshop on the politics of sensing developed in discussions with our colleagues at the Munich Centre for Technology in Society (MCTS) about the need to take on the political and ethical challenges emerging in data-driven approaches to dealing with public issues and to challenge narrowly reductive and positivist accounts of ‘big data’ and informational politics.

The workshop was developed with three broad motivations: first, to address theoretical questions about how concepts of sensing might be used to freshly problematize recent political debates about the shape of public space and ‘data power’ in digital societies? Second, to bring together researchers in security studies together with participatory and environmental researchers to explore opportunities for collaboration between these fields. And, lastly, and somewhat opportunist on our part, to invite a diverse range of researchers and engineers who themselves are experimenting with sensors to Munich to explore with them whether and how the ‘proliferation of sensors’ might open up inventive approaches to social research.

Through invited keynotes given by Geoffrey Bowker and Jennifer Gabrys, we aimed to put into dialogue two leading figures in the social study of digital devices and data infrastructures. Both speakers engaged with the ways in which sensors not only produce ‘raw data’ but also often problematise the relation between epistemic practices and their environments. Addressing the politics and ontology of data infrastructures, Geoffrey Bowker turned to a provocation from a Business Week article claiming that “the earth will don an electronic skin”, mobilizing this fantastic-sounding proposition as a critical resource for attending to controversies around the uses and abuses of personal data. Rather than reducing the politics of personal data to issues about the rights of private individuals, Bowker proposed that researchers engage with how such controversies can also provoke reorderings between politics and its environments. Attacking the ‘misplaced concretism’ of epistemologies of ‘big data’, Bowker argued against falling into the trap of naturalising relations between digital infrastructures and particular forms of social and political order. In her keynote on environment data and data citizenships, Jennifer Gabrys discussed her work in the “CitizenSense” project by prototyping two devices, the dustbox and frackbox, and working with groups of activists to deploy them in particular environmental controversies. Highlighting problems around the calibration of many ‘off-the-shelf’ sensors, she drew attention to the complex data landscapes in which professional and amateur sensing practices take shape and intervene. Outlining a Whitehead-inspired conception of “environmental data”, Gabrys argued that the instrumenting of the planet with sensors not only brings environmental issues into politics but can also repose citizenship as an environmental problem.

Over two days, presenters engaged with a range of issues implicating sensing technologies and politics. The city as a setting where sensing projects are publicly tested, was explored by Nona Schulte-Roemer, Sara Degli Esposti, Claudio Colletta, Alexander Pólvora, Leslie Mabon and Gerard Jan Ritsema van Eck. A range of these papers addressed the role of sensing technologies in processes of public experimentation, in which urban infrastructure become sites for demonstrating the “eco-city” or “smart city”. Many highlighted that experiments with sensors can, in different ways, provide occasions that problematize the urban environment as a setting of political engagement; often indirectly resonating with Gabry’s proposal to understand citizenship as an environmental problem. Schulte-Roemer, for instance, highlighted the ways in which urban sensing projects can perform infrastructure such as street lights as multivalent in their relation to public space and not only mere instruments for governing it. Indeed, a similar point was made by Coletta who discussed an experiment with a sensor-network deployed in Dublin, highlighting – in contrast to reductive accounts of urban experiments as mere ‘scalable’ procedures – that the such experiments rarely domesticate infrastructure in the ‘low-cost’ way city authorities envisage and can effect the “accidental” emergence of unforeseen urban problems and publics. The provocation of urban publics was proposed as an active participatory design strategy by Claudia Mendes and Hannah Varga in their workshop on ‘prototyping publics’, in which they tested a workshop method to engage groups of citizens with the implementation of a ‘smart city’ sensor installation project in Munich. Pólvora too highlighted that ‘bottom up’ citizen science projects can not only be used to construct an ‘evidence-base’ for policy, but can stimulate broader engagements between art, design and technology in addressing issues such as urban air quality.

In contrast to such post-instrumental understandings of public experiment, a range of papers highlighted that urban sensing trials can in other cases perform more familiar modes of government and privatisation that have long been associated with the technocratic approaches of city management. Many of the presentations understood data produced in urban sensing projects as often highly biased and asymmetric in its political uses, highlighting how ‘data-driven’ initiatives can displace and marginalise issues such as urban poverty, community development or public ownership. Mobile apps encouraging users to report where and when they feel they are in an insecure or threatening environment, offer a powerful example for the manifold and contingent entanglements of sensors, publics and urban security. As Gerard van Eck has shown, this crowdsourced open-sourced content not only stigmatizes streets or neighborhoods (with all the socio-economic implications) but can be valuable for law enforcement agencies in deciding where to target resources. Raising questions on how to overcome what van Eck called an “evidence-based stigma”, Nikolaus Pöchacker also outlined how sensing in the field of predictive policing already assumes attributes connected to imaginations of (in)security where the data is given a specific voice through a complex apparatus of sensing and sense-making.

Questions about relations between ‘local’ sensing experiments and ‘global’ data apparatuses were addressed by several presenters. Christopher Wood´s work, situated at the intersection of artistic and scientific practices, focused on making geospatial infrastructures visible through experimenting with breakdown and infrastructural inversion in the built environment. Wood’s trails of satellite tracking apps with different collectives played with the personal relations of individuals to satellites orbiting above and the disruption of these relations as they individuals navigate through densely constructed urban settings. Moving from art to engineering, the following presentation by Godert-Jan van Mannen on “How to Hack a Satellite” step-by-step showed how it is possible to intrude a communication satellite and get access to radio or television streams using cheap and commercially available technology. This demonstration pointed to some of the often-overlooked vulnerabilities of techno-political infrastructures and the need for a much broader consideration of risk in discourses on sensing technologies. At the same time, it pointed to the manifold forms of resistance against forms of neoliberal sensory governance, e.g. when hackers used their capabilities to claim free access to television for all. Indeed, the ways in which security expertise are claimed and technical competences distributed was addressed by Becky Kazansky whose paper examined how activist groups are dealing with risks and threats of sensory surveillance. Adopting an engaged methodology in working with human rights activists, Kanzansky highlighted some of the different ways in which distinctions between technical and ethical responsibility get translated between what she termed ‘communities of security practice’.

Questions about how the construction of threats – digital or not – come to matter with sensors, their governance and in different forms expert practice figured prominently during the workshop. Ubiquitous sensor networks raised challenges for many participants about how we envision privacy, data protection and configurations of risks. Indeed, one of our central aims for this workshop was to connect the different engagements with sensors in STS, urban- or data studies, that are mainly focused on the level of ‘localized’ collectives to the foreign entanglements of sensors and their embeddedness in the global political economy and international relations. In an attempt to facilitate such a conversation between international security studies and STS, Philipp Olbrich discussed the politics of satellite observation of North Korea as the technologization of security governance. Here, the seemingly objective satellite´s view from above translates and black-boxes it into a socio-material mobile assemblage of satellite data, eyewitness accounts and other sources. In this way, satellite imagery closes off important controversies and political alternatives as it locks in a hierarchy of evidence that reifies an adversarial posture and discredits North Korea as a future dialogue partner in the context of international relations.

The relation between international sensing apparatuses and the politics of the ‘view from above’ was also addressed by Vera Ehrenstein in her presentation on the scientific and political challenges of producing epidemiological data about ‘African pneumococcus diseases’ caused by pneumococcus bacteria. Following the bacteria from international conferences to their collection by lab researchers and street recruiters in Burkina Faso to the offices of the European vaccine distributor that contract the lab workers, Ehrenstein described the challenges involved in translating bacteria from nasal swabs into data that can robustly represent a city population and its bacteria. Where epistemological treatments of epidemiology have long been described the role of this scientific field in making populations known and governing them, Ehrenstein argued that epidemiological measurement was much more a “patchy sensing” process than one of comprehensive surveillance. Ehrenstein’s appropriation of the concept of sensing to think politically about epidemiological measurement was a powerful example of what could be said to be at stake theoretically in choosing to foreground sensing technologies/practices and displace the priority of epistemology to sort out relations between data and politics.

Sensors are, of course, not new objects in STS research. Whether in the design of experimental apparatuses, the implementation of ‘large technical systems’ or the production of novel measuring instruments, sensors have been widely studied as ‘lively’ devices that detect, inscribe, capture and record; if not always as “sensors”. As workshop participants often reaffirmed, there are many good reasons we might want to be skeptical towards hyperbolic and positivist-sounding claims that sensors are now “everywhere” and that we live in an era in which almost anything can be turned into “data”. But the presenters at this workshop also highlighted sensors also offer opportunities for STS research to problematize and extend debates about data-driven politics and power in digital societies. As our MCTS colleague Tomas Sanchez-Criado (Tironi and Criado, 2015) has highlighted in his work on urban politics: even if we recoil at the corporate jargon of the sensor-equipped ‘smart city’, there may nonetheless be many reasons we might value the modes of “sensitivity” that can be occasioned in experiments to instrument cities with sensors. At the same time, the sense remoteness of the satellites that are orbiting above us, appearing as (re-)presenting facts from an allegedly neutral perspective, requires an enhanced sensibility towards the global socio-political, economic and cultural processes (as Witjes and Olbrich 2017) – or the foreign entanglements in Dewey´s sense – in which sensory networks and forms of their governance are embedded.

Call for Applications for the Annual EASST Fund (2017)

EASST Council is pleased to announce that we have redesigned our EASST Fund scheme in response to a steady increase of interest. We now launch an annual call for applications with a €1000 per successful application (in contrast to our previous biennial – non-conference year – scheme).

The scheme aims to promote national and cross-national community building within EASST, advance new questions, topics and perspectives in science and technology studies, as well as enable collaboration with non-academic actors publicly engaged in science and technology. EASST wishes to support a range of activities such as the organisation of conferences, network meetings, seminars, workshops, etc.

We welcome Network and Community-building activities organised by, or leading to, the creation of national and regional academic associations or other academic and non-academic initiatives committed to the promotion of scholarly and public engagements with science and technology in the European region. Examples of activities supported in previous rounds: STS Austria launch event in Vienna, Spanish STS network (esCTS) annual meetings, Technosciences of Post/Socialism conference in Budapest, Mattering Press open-access STS publishing initiative.

We similarly encourage the organisation of Workshops and Small conferences within Europe with the potential of making significant theoretical and/or empirical contributions to the field. Examples of supported activities from previous rounds: STS Perspectives on Energy conference in Lisbon, Does History Matter? Techno-sciences and their historically informed policies conference in Athens, STS and Development workshop in Amsterdam

Activities should start between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2017.

EASST especially invites applications from parts of Europe where EASST activities and membership are under-represented (Southern and Eastern Europe). There is a total budget of €5000 for this call. By default we offer €1000 for successful applicants, but we also accept applications for smaller sums. The proposed activities can be fully or partially funded by EASST. There are no quotas for the announced support categories.


How to apply?

  • Applications can be submitted only by EASST members.
  • Applications should specify the category they apply for and include a description of the proposed activity, addressing the criteria below. They should also include the proposed venue, date, organisers and expected number and profile of participants (when applicable) along with a budget specifying how the funds requested will be allocated.
  • Applications should be on our application form which can be downloaded here: https://www.easst.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Application-Form-for-EASST-Fund-2017.doc and submitted to easst(at)univie.ac.at no later than 31 October 2016.


Assessment of applications

  • The key considerations in assessing the applications are the following:
  • Community building on the national and cross-national level, and reaching to a European audience. Particular emphasis is given to novel network initiatives, especially in countries under-represented in EASST (Southern and Eastern Europe).
  • Novel academic questions, new collaborations, and reaching beyond academia.
  • Innovative initiatives in academia (e.g., open access publishing) and public engagement in science and technology.
  • Open activities accessible for a wide array of participants and reaching a broad audience.

Feasibility and value-for-money. We particularly welcome initiatives with limited access to other potential sources of funding.

Communication of award is expected by 30 November 2016. Recipients should notify the Council their acceptance of award within 15 days after the awards communication.


Funding requirements

  • Since only a small number of EASST members will benefit directly from the activities supported, an approx. 2,000 words report will be required from those receiving awards which will be considered for publication in EASST Review. Beyond this, EASST also encourages applicants to pursue further strategies to address or involve the EASST membership more widely (such as a video from the activity which can appear on the EASST web-site or an online discussion or a web-exhibition, Twitter hashtag #EASST).
  • EASST support should be recognised in the public dissemination of the funded activity. This could involve the use of the EASST logo or a short statement on publicity or event materials.
  • The awarded amount will be transferred against invoices after the event. In exceptional cases, full or partial pre-funding can be provided.


For further information please contact Marton Fabok at marton.fabok@liverpool.ac.uk or EASST administrator Sonia Liff at easst(at)univie.ac.at.