Reading Not just neoliberalism...”

Ber­man, E. P. (2014). Not Just Neo­lib­er­al­ism: Eco­nom­iz­a­tion in US Sci­ence and Tech­no­logy Policy. Sci­ence, Tech­no­logy & Human Val­ues, 39(3), 397 – 431.


The title of this paper says it all really. It’s good though to have a cogent argu­ment about the rela­tions between ideo­logy, policy and the changes in how sci­ence is being done. I for one very eas­ily slip into an accus­at­ory refrain when talk­ing about and usu­ally cri­ti­cising what I’ve seen to be the neo­lib­er­al (non)interventionist and policy dir­ec­tion in edu­ca­tion and sci­ence. Eliza­beth Ber­man presents a much more meas­ured pos­i­tion and con­vinces me that it’s bet­ter under­stood as an eco­nom­iz­a­tion, as she calls it, where the broad­er shift is towards pri­or­it­ising sci­entif­ic research and innov­a­tion vis‐a‐vis the eco­nomy and spe­cific­ally see­ing them as eco­nom­ic inputs. This recog­nises the ten­sions and com­plic­a­tions and the com­pet­ing interests that have run through the chan­ging status of the sci­ences (in the US, but sim­il­arly, I think, in the UK).

Some­thing I think Ber­man leaves open is the rela­tion­ship between sci­ence and innov­a­tion. She makes it clear that sci­ence and innov­a­tion become inex­or­ably linked when sci­ence is seen in eco­nom­ic terms. I want, though, to bet­ter under­stand the nex­us. Indeed, but con­flat­ing sci­ence and tech­no­logy (“S&T” as Ber­man refers to it), I think there are fur­ther com­plic­a­tions here that need unrav­el­ing, ones point­ing to the entan­gle­ments of sci­ence and tech­no­logy, and where pro­gress or innov­a­tion sits between (or around) them. Can we talk of tech­no­logy without innov­a­tion? If S&T are two‐parts of a unit, how can we dis­en­tangle innov­a­tion?

on Leakiness and creepiness in app space”

I recently had an email exchange with Irina Shk­lovski in which she kindly sent me the paper she presen­ted at the CHI con­fer­ence this year. It’s a great paper, with some care­fully thought through insights into the data we pro­duce and (often inad­vert­ently) share when using smart phones. 

Irina Shk­lovski, Scott D. Main­war­ing, Halla Hrund Skúladót­tir, and Höskul­dur Bor­gthorsson. 2014. Leak­i­ness and creep­i­ness in app space: per­cep­tions of pri­vacy and mobile app use. In Pro­ceed­ings of the 32nd annu­al ACM con­fer­ence on Human factors in com­put­ing sys­tems (CHI 14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2347 – 2356. 

The paper got me think­ing about some broad­er (and long‐standing) issues I’ve been work­ing through myself related to the researcher’s agen­tial (and often inad­vert­ent) role in empir­ic­al research. What fol­lows are some slightly amended com­ments I’ve shared with Irina. (more…)

Reading The sentient” city and what it may portend

A ram­bling piece in Big Data & Soci­ety by Nigel Thrift: The sen­tient’ city and what it may por­tend.


Wasn’t expect­ing the digres­sion into spir­its and per­form­ance art, but I do like Thrift’s con­tinu­al efforts to write about expans­ive human/agent capa­cit­ies and extend­ing the .

...the claim is being made that, as com­pu­ta­tion­al objects have developed, cit­ies are able to take on new forms of vital­ity (Stern, 2010), forms of vital­ity which can devel­op over time. Per­haps one way in which we might con­sider this ques‐ tion is pre­cisely through look­ing at how vital­ity devel‐ ops when com­pu­ta­tion­al things are expli­citly included in the con­tours of exper­i­ence. Then it becomes clear that it has only gradu­ally aris­en, line by line, algorithm by algorithm, pro­gram by pro­gram.

Thirft, N. (2014). The sen­tient” city and what it may por­tend. Big Data & Soci­ety, 1(1).

Reading Data matter(s)

Wilson, M. W. (2011). Data matter(s): legit­im­acy, cod­ing, and qualifications‐of‐life. Envir­on­ment and Plan­ning D: Soci­ety and Space, 29(5), 857 – 872.

Really help­ful paper from Mat­thew Wilson on the inter­ming­lings of data and geo­graphy. Although more con­cen­trated on a par­tic­u­lar aspect of com­munity life (namely report­ing prob­lems or dam­age to loc­al facil­it­ies etc.), the paper has some strong rel­ev­ances for the Ten­ison Road pro­ject. Espe­cially use­ful are Wilson’s thoughts on mat­ter­ing in rela­tion to fem­in­ist tech­nos­cience and of course
Wilson cites:
Har­away D J, 1991 Simi­ans, Cyborgs, and Women: The Rein­ven­tion of Nature (Rout­ledge, New York)

Har­away D J, 1997 Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium. FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™: Fem­in­ism and Tech­nos­cience (Rout­ledge, New York)

Har­away D J, 1999, Know­ledges and the ques­tion of alli­ances”, in Know­ledges and the Ques­tion of Alli­ances: A Con­ver­sa­tion with Nancy Hartsock, Donna Har­away, and Dav­id Har­vey (Kane Hall, Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton, Seattle, WA)

On Simone’s people as infrastructure’

People as Infrastructure


A few of us work­ing at the inter­sec­tion of data, civic­me­dia and cit­izen­ship are tak­ing a look at this art­icle by Abdou­Maliq Simone. Some ram­bling com­ments fol­low:

First, just a short point about style: I’m delighted to see Simone’s unapo­lo­get­ic use of rich descrip­tions of Jo’berg’s streets. They are in strik­ing con­trast to what I see to be the stand­ard eth­no­graph­ic account in HCI papers. What I find tedi­ous is the usu­al pre­amble in HCI works — explain­ing meth­od — and then the use of par­ti­cipants’ quotes as a kind of proof’ of par­tic­u­lar points. Also, both point to a curi­ous idea of what it means to demon­strate evid­ence or proof. Simone both­ers with none of this. He gets straight to the stor­ies, to the rich descrip­tions of inner city Jo’berg and its under­belly. (more…)

Short note on Objects, Infrastructure and Vocation’


Infra­struc­ture and Voca­tion: Field, Call­ing and Com­pu­ta­tion in Eco­logy

A bril­liant CHI paper by Steven Jack­son and Sarah Bar­brow. How many papers presen­ted at CHI cite St. Augustine of Hippo and, to boot, suc­ceed in draw­ing out rel­ev­ant reflec­tions on sci­entif­ic mod­el­ling tools in eco­logy. See­ing eco­logy through the lens of both infra­struc­ture and the voca­tion­al call­ing’ provides a pro­duct­ive view onto what eco­lo­gists do and how their prac­tices are chan­ging. Jack­son and Bar­brow illus­trate this nicely by writ­ing of the chan­ging notion of the field’ for eco­lo­gists. I see a strong par­al­lel here between eco­logy and bio­logy. Bio­logy is a field very much in trans­ition and the changes have much to do with the mater­i­al encoun­ters in bio­lo­gic­al work — with for example the chan­ging nature of bio­lo­gists’ work at the bench’ and with exper­i­ment­al appar­at­us. The turn to machines, com­pu­ta­tion and algorithms is not only reshap­ing the prac­tices but also refig­ur­ing what bio­lo­gists know and how they see their phe­nom­ena (some­thing we also tried to get across in At the inter­face of bio­logy and com­pu­ta­tion at CHI). A sim­il­ar con­clu­sion is being drawn out in this papers as it cap­tures the entangled rela­tions between the tools, prac­tices and ways of know­ing in eco­logy.