Short before this year draws to a close I was invited to present my research on intranet software as part of a workshop on ‘scopic media’ held in Constance. The research group, led by Karin Knorr Cetina, is part of the DFG-funded program “Mediatized Worlds” which involves different people and institutions exploring the increasing mediatisation in contemporary societies. Studies include research on everyday communicating practices and their networking capabilities as well as the making of political positions in parliamentary offices transpiring through digital media. But also so-called “de-mediatisation” strategies already occurring in the business sector are investigated. More information on the overall framework and current projects can be found here.
In my presentation I concentrated on the practice of searching for a colleague on the intranet in which the corporate directory plays a siginificant part. As I illustrated, the directory enhances the physical reality of my informants by making available information they require in order to understand requests send via the internal company network. In doing so, the directory works as a classification system sustaining everyday work processes. The workshop offered insights into the work and concepts of the research group, but also stimulated my own analysis; it encouraged to look at the intranet as a partial scopic medium.
This year’s conference is entitled “Critical Issues in Science and Technology” and takes place on May 5-6. It covers five conference themes – Gendered Careers and Disciplinary Cultures in Science and Technology, Life Sciences/Biotechnology, Low-Carbon Energy Systems, Challenges in Green Public Procurement (GPP) and Sustainable Food Systems – as well as 10 special sessions. I’ll be part of the special session “The politics of ICTs”, organised by Astrid Mager and Doris Allhutter. My paper is entitled “The politics of intranet software: from wholeness to diversity”, it covers research findings from my dissertation.
For more Information see the conference programme. The STS Conference Graz 2014 is the joint annual conference of STS – the Institute of Science, Technology and Society Studies at Alpen-Adria-Universitaet Klagenfurt – Vienna – Graz; IFZ – the Inter-University Research Centre for Technology, Work and Culture and IAS-STS – the Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society.
Copenhagen welcomed us with great weather and a huge conference bringing together a variety of interests, research topics and focuses. Most importantly, it created a space to get in exchange about these and the divergent positions emerging from distinct research areas and concerns. Copenhagen Business School was a great location to concentrate the vast number of people in a city that tempted to be explored.
It was a pleasure to be part of the conference and in particular, to participate in the session on “comparing and connecting concepts of practice”. It gave insight into the variety of understandings relying on distinct notions of practice and, moreover, presented a number of empirical research projects contributing to these different understandings. Above all, it showed theories of practice currently receive great attention within STS.
We enjoyed our talk and were overwhelmed by the feedback we received during the session and afterwards, in several conversations and still via email. Thanks to everyone once again, also for participating at our session. You may download a preliminary version of the talk here, we plan to revise the text for publication in 2013.
Post-conference happiness – with Emily, Alex and Stefan
We hope to stay in touch with everyone who is interested in the discussed topics. A session review on our panel will appear in the EASST Review (March 2013 issue). In addition, we are going to review the book “The dynamics of social practice”, published this year by Elizabeth Shove, Mika Pantzar and Matt Watson. The text is scheduled to appear in the recently re-launched journal Science and Technology Studies in 2013.
From October 17th until 20th the annual conference of the European Association of Science and Technology (EASST) takes place in Copenhagen, Denmark. This year the conference is jointly held with 4S, the American Society for the Social Studies of Science.
I am going to present a paper with my colleague, Stefan Laube (University of Constance/IFK Vienna) as part of the workshop “Connecting and comparing concepts of practice”, hosted by Prof Elizabeth Shove and colleagues from Lancaster University. We discuss the work of two famous scholars in the realm of practice theories, that of Annemarie Mol and Karin Knorr Cetina. Apart from stating differences and similarities between the two concepts, we illuminate methodological implications with reference to our dissertation research. You may download the talk here soon.
Brainstorming EASST/4S – with Stefan
The overall conference topic – Design and Displacement – lays emphasis on the design of new and old objects and their participating and shaping effects. It also asks how objects are appropriated, possibly displaced, in different contexts, globally as well as on a local scale. Thus, artefacts are understood as enabling but also disabling social inclusion and may become objects of political significance. These issues and much more will be discussed during the conference.
More than 1700 papers have been submitted, an ‘unprecedented number’, as the organiser says. Registration is already closed. Approximately 1352 papers are going to be presented in 320 sessions. Please check the website for more information or have a look at the conference programme.
I’d like to highlight a recent article – Want to be on top? Algorithmic power and the threat of invisibility on Facebook – by Taina Bucher which uses the notion of invisibility for an analysis and description of Facebook’s ‘News Feed’. The author convincingly shows how the algorithmic logic of the ‘Edge Rank’, operating the News Feed, imposes certain forms of interaction. In particular, the algorithm enables as well as constrains people’s presentation on the News Feed and in doing so induces a ‘regime of invisibility’ on its users. The notion of invisibility is taken from Foucault and the description of Bentham’s panopticon as a metaphor for disciplinary mechanisms in modern societies. But whereas Foucault’s panopticon imposes a threat of visibility on its inhabitants, Bucher shows that the News Feed operates rather on the contrary mechanism; user experience the danger of becoming obsolete and invisible once they refrain from interacting on the platform.
For my Master thesis (entitled In-between online and offline moments, and the order of visibility) I have in a similar fashion turned to Foucault’s notion of disciplinary visibility for an analysis of the social network platform ‘StudiVZ’, a German version of Facebook. As my study illustrates, the interaction on the platform is dominated by an ‘order of visibility’, a desire to be visible and present, which is in fact built in the algorithmic logic of the platform. It thereby shapes the interactions taking place, i.e. people’s constant, deliberate self-presentation on the platform. However, in contrast to Bentham’s panopticon, within Facebook there is not one overall observer but users watch over one another in this sense.
The work also questions the up to that point prevailing analytic separation within media studies and internet research between offline and online contexts, treating them as disconnected spheres. You may read intro and conclusion of my thesis here.
The notion of invisibility describing the algorithmic logic of social software has not yet been sufficiently taken up within media studies. I still think this concept is a promising entry to study and analyse the structure and setup of social networking sites. More research can be done in order to show how and to what extent these sites interfere with and shape (sociomaterial) practices.
The work has been part of a recent initiative by scholars in media studies and adjacent disciplines (cultural theory, sociology, computing) entitled ‘software studies’ which involves not only scientists but designers, engineers and artists. Check the website for more information.
I am going to attend this year’s PhD Sociology Summer Conference at the University of Lancaster, 2-4 July 2012. The conference gathers PhD students to present and discuss their work as well as to participate in a variety of workshops. It is organised by the Department of Sociology which assembles leading scholars working in the area of science and technology studies (STS), drawing in particular on actor-network theory (ANT) and practice-theoretic approaches.
I present my work in one of the so-called ‘Salons’ on Digital intra/interactions. The sociality of virtual mobilities. Politics. Work. Cherishable media. Agile publics, hosted by Monika Büscher. Please check out our blog on tumblr. You may also read my abstract here; more information on the programme soon.
In February, Elizabeth Shove from the Sociology Department at Lancaster University visited us as a Guest Professor. Apart from discussing her forthcoming book ‘The Dynamics of Social Practice’, we made a one-day ‘crash course’ on how to think and work through a dissertation: from developing conceptual thoughts and carrying out empirical field work to the final writing up. The current practice of bag-carrying served as a starting point for this endeavour imagining the future of the plastic bag. Altogether, we developed four distinct futures in which different elements – infrastructure, competences, meaning, materiality – altered. Below you see future no. 4 where only one bag survives and may be found in the (IHS-) museum:
Last bag preserved
The seminar has been part of our post-graduate programme ‘Sociology of Social Practices’ at the IHS. Previous Guest Professors have been Dvora Yanow from the University of Amsterdam, Adele Clarke from the University of California SF, Marianne de Laet from Claremont, Andreas Reckwitz from Viadrina University and Ted Schatzki from the University of Kentucky.