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?

Talk at INCITE-ing Transformation in Social Research


On Sat­urday (12 Oct) I presen­ted a short paper reflect­ing on INCITE’s achieve­ments over the last 10 or so years at INCITE-ing Trans­form­a­tion in Social Research


Ref­er­en­cing her New Media’s Inter­me­di­ar­ies art­icle, I want to glimpse back to reflect on how Nina Wake­ford posi­tioned INCITE and made sense of it against a back drop of cul­tur­al the­ory, sci­ence and tech­no­logy stud­ies, CSCW and soci­ology

.. And, in doing this, I also want to peer for­ward, to con­sider what troubles there might be ahead, and what pro­duct­ive pos­sib­il­it­ies we might ima­gine for ourselves. (more…)

Announcing Tenison Road launch

Finally pos­ted some fly­ers to announce the launch of the big data pro­ject we’ll run for a year. We hope to work with the res­id­ents and pro­pri­et­ors on Ten­ison Road in Cam­bridge to bet­ter under­stand how big data mat­ters and what people on the street want it to be. This is a pro­ject that is aim­ing to get at the inter­ming­lings of data and loc­al­ity, and to inter­vene in the entan­gle­ments in pro­duct­ive ways. That’s the hope! ... Fin­gers crossed.

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.

On always already


The phrase always already” is, in the main, attrib­uted to the post­struc­tur­al­ist philo­soph­er Jaques Der­rida. It has, how­ever, come to be a trope for the new mater­i­al­ists and it is in this usage that I mod­estly take it on. Spe­cific­ally, my guid­ing sources are from the fem­in­ist tech­nos­cience schol­ars Donna Har­away and Kar­en Barad, both of whom make heavy use of the phrase to trouble the bin­ar­ies abound in sci­ence and tech­no­logy (subject-object, mind-matter, inside-outside, past-present, etc.).

For some back ground read­ing see The New Mater­i­al­ist Always Already”: On an A-Human Human­it­ies.