Wild research: Radical openings in technoscientific practice?
Location 131
Date and Start Time 03 September, 2016 at 14:00
Sessions 1


  • Adolfo Estalella (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) email
  • Tomás Criado (Humboldt University of Berlin) email

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Short Abstract

An exploration into the radical openings of technoscientific research produced in recent years that we call 'wild research': collaborative and material-oriented forms of knowledge production by other means, and how they could foster an STS otherwise.

Long Abstract

A collaborative spectre is haunting science and technology. In the past decades we have witnessed an explosion of radical openings of research practices where increasingly technified citizens and engaged professionals collaborate in the most diverse forms of knowledge production in both online and offline platforms of all kinds. In these efforts they generate and put into circulation documentation on the most diverse range of issues, attempting to materially intervene their everyday worlds with different political aims. Practices that, for lack of a better term, might be described as 'wild research' not only signal collaborative redistributions of the who, how, when and where of knowledge production, circulation and validation, but also more experiential and sociologically-related expansions of the knowledge registers and material interventions there emerging: a whole constellation of practices forging different versions of 'science and technology by other means'. Paying attention to these transformations this track would like to welcome ethnographic and historical works analyzing in depth open, collaborative and experimental 'wild research' projects helping to expand what STS up to date has considered more collaborative or more democratic forms of technoscientific production: participatory engagements of lay people into expert-driven processes such as in citizen science or articulations of counter-expertise and evidence-based activism to engage in conversations with experts. We are particularly interested in analyzing not only the different forms of knowledge and the political, but also the forms of STS otherwise that these radical collaborative openings in technoscientific practice might be bringing to the fore.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Co-producing evidence: ethnographic inquiry of evidence-based activism of patients' organizations

Author: Fanny Duysens (University of Liège)  email

Short Abstract

An ethnographic inquiry of knowledge-related collaborations between some Belgian patients’ organizations engaged in evidence-based activism and scientific and medical experts, in order to address diverse social, political and biomedical claims.

Long Abstract

Informing about pathologies and related issues is a main goal for many patients' organizations (POs). Drawing on ethnographic observations, online and offline documentary analysis, and interviews with informants involved in some Belgian POs concerned with various genetic pathologies (such as neuromuscular, renal, or intellectual disorders), this paper inquiries the modes of production, mobilization and circulation of information in which they are engaged. Actually, information activities encapsulate multiple types of knowledge about health and disease, which are set in motion in order to address diverse social, political and biomedical claims. Yet, while STS scholars have traditionally seen POs as epistemic communities, they point out an increasing engagement in novel forms of knowledge-related collaborations over the last decades, especially with scientific and medical experts. This leads to the emergence of a certain evidence-based activism (EBA) among POs, characterized by a growing articulation of credential and more "experiential" knowledge to define common epistemologies of the conditions they are concerned with. Then, the aim is to flesh out the recent concept of EBA by empirically questioning what it covers. Whereas some tend to underscore some "radical openings in technoscientific practice", observations within diverse POs engaged in EBA rather show a continuous co-production of knowledge taking place from inside. This is especially illustrated in the information activities resulting from a close collaboration between governing boards mainly composed by patients and relatives, and incorporated experts committees. So, this also questions the critical position of STS towards mainstream paradigms they bring to the fore.

Testosterone Enacted: Concerned Groups and Transgender Healthcare Policies

Author: Esther Ortega Arjonilla (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper, I will discuss different scenarios in which testosterone is enacted in relation to different spanish concerned groups and to recent transgender health policies in Spain.

Long Abstract

Between transgender health practices, hormones have been configured as very powerful political and cultural objects along the time. In Spain during the last decade, hormones have been configured as key players for legal recognition of sex change but also for the social sanction of sex and gender. In this sense, Spanish legislation requires two years of medical treatment, which is translated as (at least) hormonal treatment, to apply for legal recognition of sex and name changes in official documents.

Specifically a single hormone, testosterone, has been considered as a powerful technology among trans men, because in many cases testosterone allows them to be recognized as men in public space.

In this paper, I will discuss different scenarios in which testosterone is enacted in relation to different spanish concerned groups and in relation to recent transgender health policies in the Spanish state. These scenarios where testosterone is enacted allows me to analyze two key questions:

Firstly, the kind of involvement of some concerned groups in the decision-making process about transgender health.

Secondly, how the research of some activist groups have influenced present health policies about trans healthcare.

Caring otherwise: Self-experimental politics of independent living

Authors: Tomás Criado (Humboldt University of Berlin)  email
Israel Rodriguez-Giralt (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)  email

Short Abstract

An ethnographic reflection on the independent-living advocates production of self-care devices in Spain as a form of caring otherwise: tentative but real efforts to engage not only in self-experimenting design practices but also in alternative regimes of 'co-production,' inspiring other STS modes.

Long Abstract

A very particular mobilization around care and design is underway in Spain: the activist production of self-care devices by independent-living collectives as a response both to the inadequacy of standardized market products and the increasing lack of funds or the 'cracks' in the publicly-regulated dispensary of technical aids: a governmentality scheme usually referred to as 'the catalogue'. Drawing on the ethnographic involvement of one the authors in a Barcelona-based activist design collective En torno a la silla (ETS) we will narrate the context, practices and strategies of these mobilisations as a form of 'wild research:' where independent-living activists and engaged professionals jointly explore ways of 'intervening' or 'exiting' the catalogue, gaining a greater control over the materialization of everyday care arrangements. ETS is, in fact, devoted to (a) prototyping and making low-cost and open-source technical aids through collaborative design processes; and (b) openly documenting these DIY innovations. Building from here, we would like to qualify ETS's practices as a form of 'caring otherwise:' that is, self-experimental design practices where alternative epistemic and material 'regimes of co-production' are experimented and demonstrated. As we will argue, ETS' self-experimentations bring to the fore a 'wilder' technoscientific production grounded on embodied knowledge, collaborative material interventions, and the 'exemplary politics' of open documentation seeking to put forward a 'more radical' version of independent-living. We would also like to reflect how the ethnographic engagement in the open documentation of the collective might bring with it a more materialist and interventionist mode of practicing STS.

When non-scientists do science

Author: Caitlin Wylie (University of Virginia)  email

Short Abstract

Most paleontology laboratories are run by a few technicians and an army of volunteers, with few scientists in sight. These workers’ “wild research” – done without credentials or professional status, yet with workers’ skill and control over their work – may be a model for future scientific practice.

Long Abstract

Science is a relatively exclusive activity, with academic degrees and professional appointments as gatekeepers. Yet most vertebrate paleontology laboratories are run by a few technicians and an army of volunteers. Like many research communities, scientists fund and direct the lab but rarely work there. What then happens in the lab, as the domain of paid and unpaid workers who share no common training and learned their skills on-the-job? Their preparation of fossils for research (by removing rock and repairing breaks) is largely unsupervised and unpublished by scientists. Furthermore, museum labs often have glass walls so the public can watch "science in action". Lab workers are thus portrayed as scientists, despite their absence from publications and their lack of traditional credentials and, for volunteers, professional appointments. These workers thus complicate Steven Shapin's (1989) "invisible technician" category by doing "invisible" work on public display. This "wild research" - without credentials, standard training, or professional status, yet with workers' skill and control over their work - may be a model for future scientific practice. By relaxing the gatekeeping around scientific work, science can become a hobby and community service, and thus open to vastly more people. They would bring a variety of backgrounds and skills, thus enriching science with new perspectives and a larger (and perhaps free) workforce. Based on interviews and participant observation, I investigate how the social and epistemic roles of paid and unpaid lab workers illustrate doing science "by other means", i.e., by "other" workers besides professional, PhD-holding scientists.

The free archive, the architecture of experiment, and the city

Author: Adolfo Estalella (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)  email

Short Abstract

Free archives liberating experimental worlds in the city, they epitomize two distinctive traditions that intersect in the emerging grassroots Madrilenian urbanisms: A material sensibility intervening in the public space with infrastructures and a liberating impulse that draws inspiration from Free Software

Long Abstract

An instrument traditionally in the hands of States and large institutions, archives have massively proliferated in our societies in the last years. This impulse to archive has pervaded grassroots urbanisms, do-it-yourself urban projects and civic initiatives in the political climate of urban uprising that have recently blossomed in Spain. Drawing on a long ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Madrid, this paper explores the intersection of the archive and the city in the professional work of a series of architectural collectives, urban guerrillas focused on collaborative projects of urban intervention.

These collectives have been constructing free archives equipped with free/copyleft licenses that document, narrate and tinker with the city. An example is the Declaration of Urban Rights created by a collective called Zuloark. Initially an open digital repository, it was later reassembled into an 'urban parliament' that refurnished the public space to host debates about the city. Archives like the Universal Declaration epitomize a distinctive aspect of the grassroots Madrilenian urbanisms sitting at the intersection of two traditions: A material sensibility that intervenes in the public space building infrastructures and is imbued by the liberating impulse of the digital culture of Free Software. In this paper I intimate the opportunity to think of the material infrastructures of these free archives as the architecture that liberates experimental worlds in the city, doing so I suggest the experimental condition as a distinctive aspect of these forms of grassroots urbanism.

Researching the co-creation: Co-production of knowledge in local innovation.

Authors: Jose Ismael Pena Reyes (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)  email
Juan Reina (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)  email

Short Abstract

Collaboration is a concept often used in academia and research. From a conceptual review the development of new models of co-production of knowledge is presented. It is proposed to describe Lean Research as a research framework of local innovation in Colombia.

Long Abstract

Scientific research is developing collaborative processes to generate knowledge around the world, particulary in science and technology. Over the last years the concept of collaborative research (Katz & Martin, 1997), has boomed. However, these collaborative networks still do not involve other nonacademic actors, and therefore do not meet their initial objectives. It necesary to rethink co-production systems of knowledge (Hessels & van Lente, 2008), and their implications for the generation of solutions from engineering (Ali, 2015⁠) as well as from public policy (Barandiaran, Araya, & Vila- vines, 2015; Crespo & Vila-vines, 2015).

A starting point to address this phenomenon is the reflection on the collaborative production of knowledge as an emergency response to increasingly complex challenges especially in the area of sustainability. Therefore, a conceptual review of the terms collaborative research and co-production of knowledge will develop. Creating bases for generating and facilitating dialogue of knowledge (Anderson, Monjeau, & Rau, 2015; Leff, 2006; Martinez-Torres & Rosset, 2014; Salinas & Pavelic, 2013) ⁠ where different actors come together to co-create solutions to local challenges.

To this aim, it takes into account Lean Research (Hoffecker, Leith, & Kim, 2015), as a general framework for research in local innovation, based on the concept of "innovation ecosystems" in the Colombian scenario.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.