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Environmental Expertise as Group Belonging

Environmental Sociology Meets Science and Technology Studies

Rolf Lidskog and Göran Sundqvist

What is environmental expertise? The background to this question is that many scholars consider environmental expertise crucial for discovering, diagnosing, and solving environmental problems but do not discuss in any depth what constitutes expertise. By investigating the meaning and use of the concept of expertise in three general theories within environmental sociology—the treadmill of production, risk society, and ecological modernization— and findings from science and technology studies (STS), this article develops a sociological understanding of environmental expertise: what it is and how it is acquired. Environmental expertise is namely about group belonging and professional socialization around specialized skills; that is, it concerns both substantial competence and social recognition. The implications of this general view on expertise are then used to enrich theories in environmental sociology.

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Tending to Suspension

Abstraction and Apparatuses of Atmospheric Attunement in Matsutake Worlds

Timothy Choy

Scenes from mushroom technosciences illuminate forms, practices, and temporalities of atmospheric attunement. This article reanimates moments from scientific literature where chemists and mycologists chase elusive smells and spores, explicating how scientists’ experimental apparatuses of attunement arrange conditions for matsutake to be reduced and concentrated toward the goal of sensibility. Reduction and concentration do more than translate atmospheric elusiveness into specification; achieved through grinding, evaporating, and remixing, they condition a ‘tending to suspension’. Tending to suspension amplifies qualities and throws subjects and sensorial attention into the middle of volumes and durations. ‘Tending’ implies care as well as a ‘tending toward’—the sense that something may develop a tendency. Experimental apparatuses of atmospheric attunement, tending to such tendings, model a method for anthropological study of diffuse objects.

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Marianne Ryghaug and Marit Toftaker

This article focuses on the introduction of electric vehicles in Norway and how electrical cars are understood culturally in relation to conventional car use. Theoretically, elements of social practice theory and the analysis of processes of domestication are combined to frame practical, cognitive, and symbolic dimensions of electric car use. The empirical data consists of individual and focus group interviews with electric car users. The analysis unpacks the implications of user-designated meaning in driving practices, competencies considered necessary when driving electric cars, and the material aspects regarded as critical features of electric car driving. Preliminary findings suggest that the practice of electric car driving alters user habits by making transportation needs more salient and raises both the technological and energy consumption awareness of users.

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Mobilizing Transport

Media, Actor-worlds, and Infrastructures

Gabriele Schabacher

The article deals with the relationship between media and transportation infrastructures and analyzes their links to the concept of mobility. It examines the assumption that infrastructure systems themselves are mobile, in the sense that they develop and have to be maintained constantly. According to such a perspective, they are to be considered not primarily as “structures,“ but as specific processes of mobilization (infrastructuring) that constitute the basis for mobility in the sense of transport and movement. Drawing on historical knowledge of transportation, it will be shown that a broad understanding of traffic as exchange, communication, and transportation has narrowed in the twentieth century, whereby the originally implied idea of transport as transformation became suppressed. Recent approaches in mobility studies, Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) can be combined in a fruitful way to unfold the specific dynamics of infrastructure as a process of mobilization (Callon) and technical mediation (Latour).

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Raw Data

Making Relations Matter

Antonia Walford

This article takes scientific ‘raw data’ as its ethnographic object in order to investigate the co-implication of nature and culture in scientific knowledge practices. The article traces out some of the activities that are involved in producing numerical climate data from the Brazilian Amazon. Although science and technology studies (STS) makes a strong case for associating relationality with certainty, the article argues that a particular form of data, ‘raw data’, complicates this association. It further argues that scientific data is not simply composed out of relations, but is a relation itself. The article ends with a brief reflection on the possible repercussions of shifting from thinking of science as producing multiple natures and cultures to thinking of it as producing the potential for relations.

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The Ontological Turn

Taking Different Worlds Seriously

Andrew Pickering

In this article I discuss different scientific and non-modern worlds as they appear in a performative (rather than representational) idiom, situating my analysis in relation to the recent ontological turns in science and technology studies (STS) and anthropology. I propose an ontology of decentered becoming that can help us take seriously the multiplicity of ‘found’ ontologies. A key concept is that of ‘islands of stability’, which enables a comparative transition between the worlds of science and shamanism. This offers an opportunity to reflect back critically and politically on modernity, while highlighting the problems of anthropological translation that surface in a performative apprehension of non-modern worlds. In conclusion, I touch on scientific and nonscientific worlds (complexity theory, cybernetics, Taoism, Zen) that do not center themselves on islands of stability.

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Rebecca Lave

In order for nature/society scholars to understand the dynamics of environmental appropriation, commercialization, and privatization, we must attend to the production of the environmental science that enables them. Case studies from anthropology, geography, history of science, science and technology studies, and sociology demonstrate that the neoliberal forces whose application we study and contest are also changing the production of environmental knowledge claims both inside and outside the university. Neoliberalism's core epistemological claim about the market's superiority as information processor has made restructuring the university a surprisingly central project. Further, because knowledge has become a key site of capital accumulation, the transformative reach of neoliberal science regimes extends outside the university into the various forms of extramural science, such as citizen science, crowdsourcing, indigenous knowledge, and local knowledge. Neoliberal science regimes' impacts on these forms of extramural science are strikingly similar, and quite different from the most common consequences within academia.

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Maryon McDonald

In Social Anthropology, we are perhaps wearily aware now of certain dualities – nature and culture and subject and object amongst them - that ought long since to have been taken out of our analytical tool kits and treated ethnographically instead. Unsurprisingly perhaps, important elements of this were first effected by anthropologists studying Europe and then later refined and elaborated, albeit sometimes in a less ethnographic vein, by that largely ANT-fed beast known as STS (Science and Technology Studies) or more recently by AST (Anthropology of Science and Technology). At the same time, space has been made within both the social and natural sciences for the mutual articulations by which each might not simply incorporate the other but both can imagine themselves to be composing, together, some new middle ground.

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Introduction

Museums, Power, Knowledge

Tony Bennett

Michel Foucault argues that truth is not to be emancipated from power. Given that museums have played a central role in these “regimes of truth,” Foucault’s work was a reference point for the debates around “the new museology” in the 1980s and remains so for contemporary debates in the field. In this introduction to a new volume of selected essays, the use of Foucault’s work in my previous research is considered in terms of the relations between museums, heritage, anthropology, and government. In addition, concepts from Pierre Bourdieu, science and technology studies, Actor Network Theory, assemblage theory, and the post-Foucaultian literature on governmentality are employed to examine various topics, including the complex situation of Indigenous people in contemporary Australia.

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Unbuilt and Unfinished

The Temporalities of Infrastructure

Ashley Carse and David Kneas

Infrastructures have proven to be useful focal points for understanding social phenomena. The projects of concern in this literature are often considered complete or, if not, their materialization is assumed to be imminent. However, many—if not most—of the engineered artifacts and systems classified as infrastructure exist in states aptly characterized as unbuilt or unfinished. Bringing together scholarship on unbuilt and unfinished infrastructures from anthropology, architecture, geography, history, and science and technology studies, this article examines the ways in which temporalities articulate as planners, builders, politicians, potential users, and opponents negotiate with a project and each another. We develop a typology of heuristics for analyzing the temporalities of the unbuilt and unfinished: shadow histories, present absences, suspended presents, nostalgic futures, and zombies. Each heuristic makes different temporal configurations visible, suggesting novel research questions and methodological approaches.