Body, Science and Expertise
Location 122
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 11:00
Sessions 3


  • Daniela Manica (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) email
  • Clarice Rios (State University of Rio de Janeiro) email
  • Rogerio Azize (Institute for Social Medicine - State University of Rio de janeiro) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This track examines the pair body/knowledge from two possible interpretive frameworks: the body as the focus of various forms of knowledge; and the body as a prerequisite for knowledge, making it possible to think critically about the limits and possibilities of scientific knowledge

Long Abstract

The goal of this track is to bring together two interpretive frameworks - knowledges of the body and about the body - in order to think about the pair body/knowledge as a way to amplify reflections on multiple corporeal natures. That means going beyond the naturalized idea of the body as a self-contained and biomechanical entity, and/or beyond notions of experience and subjectivity that do not take into account the materiality of the body and the world. We would like to emphasize the transit and the permeable frontiers between ways of knowledge of/about the body: as much as science is made using non-science, non-scientific knowledges can become types of expertise that use scientific language.

Some possible questions to be explored in the papers for this track are:

- What is the role of experience in the construction and transmission of knowledges about the body? We invite discussions about the relationship between lay and scientific knowledge, experiential and credentialed knowledge, and between experience and knowledge in general.

- The ways in which people build networks of sociability around body and body techniques, incorporating or not knowledges and artifacts from technosciences. How do non-hegemonic conceptions and practices around the body achieve legitimacy?

- In what ways new corporeal natures, which incorporate more and more technoscientific interventions (especially medical), articulate new forms of agency and ways of knowing?


This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Hearing Voices: Audio forensics and expert listening in the legal arena

Author: Michael Mopas (Carleton University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how judges have decided on the admissibility of forensic voice and speech evidence and the impact that these decisions have for experts working in this field.

Long Abstract

Advances in audio technology have turned courtrooms into noisy places. Police wiretaps, taped 911 calls, and messages left on answering machines are just a few examples of the kinds of voice recordings that have made their way into criminal and civil proceedings. This has been fuelled by a growing industry aimed at providing lawyers with the technical resources needed to transform these 'raw' auditory materials into legal evidence that can help win a case. Not only can these audio forensic experts enhance, authenticate, and render intelligible analogue or digital recordings for courtroom presentation, but they can also analyse and, in some instances, identify the person to whom the voice and speech belongs. However, as a relatively new field of forensics, this type of analysis - commonly referred to as 'speaker identification' - has been admitted as a credible technique in some jurisdictions, but not in others. This paper examine how judges have decided on the admissibility of forensic voice and speech evidence and the impact that these decisions have for those working in this field. Rather than seeing law as a separate and distinct field from science and technology, I use the adversarial setting of the courtroom as a site where scientific facts and technological artefacts are 'black boxed' or opened up for scrutiny. Drawing on theoretical tools from Actor-Network Theory (ANT), I document the work that audio forensic experts have done - inside and outside the courtroom - to gain legitimacy and credibility for their field and the tools and techniques they employ.

Reconceiving the Body: Embryo Imaging, Professional and Lay Visions

Author: Manuela Perrotta (Queen Mary University of London)  email

Short Abstract

Exploring the case of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) imaging technologies, the paper investigates how the production of biomedical images, their diffusion and the development of professional and lay visions are involved in changing conceptions of the human body.

Long Abstract

The development and diffusion of Biomedical Imaging Technologies (BITs) allows medical professionals to explore the human body in new ways, as BITs transform the inner body into an array of images. As the literature on the development and stabilization of BITs has illustrated, biomedical images are situated, contingent, mediated, and strategically framed representations of the body. To produce reliable images through visual tools, biomedical staff need to develop a professional vision: a process involving learning, practising, and training eyes through direct experience. These images are used in communication with patients and then travel throughout the social world contributing to a changing understanding of what the body is and how it works.

This contribution stems from a research project that investigates the case of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) imaging technologies, which allows professionals and patients to see embryos at a very early stage. Exploring the case of IVF, this project investigates the production of biomedical images at the interface of scientific, organizational and social practices.

The paper explores how the production of these images, their diffusion and the development of professional and visions are involved in changing conceptions of the human body. The case allows for an examination of how new meanings emerge (for instance, how the visualization of embryos changes the experience of pregnancy, bringing it forward to an earlier point, and transforms the social understanding of the pregnant body) and how these images mediate the creation of knowledge about the body and its understanding.

Materializing the (criminal) body: Science and culture in forensic genetics

Authors: Filipe Santos (Universidade de Coimbra)  email
Helena Machado (University of Minho)  email

Short Abstract

This paper aims to explore a particular instance of entangling the body, technoscience and culture: the materialization of (criminal) bodies through forensic genetic technologies. We focus the production of expert evidence as a hybrid assemblage of experiential and credentialed knowledge.

Long Abstract

Forensic genetics focuses on fractions of the body - biological samples - in order to render visual and numerical representations that can be manipulated, transported, compared, and interpreted. Based on an ethnographic study, this paper examines the particular corporeal constellations produced by forensic experts and genetic technologies. Considering criminal cases where biological samples are too small or too complex for conventional DNA analysis, we explore how the (criminal) body/bodies is/are made legible. By taking the technoscientific manipulation of artefacts and the interrelations between experience, credentialed knowledge and controversial methodologies, we analyse how knowledge and social order are co-produced and performed through the connections between parts of the body and the crime scene.

The process of turning the (criminal) body readable and knowable is a relational activity that can be approached through two bodies of inquiry: the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) and sociological theories of the micro⁄macro and agency/structure links. The materialization of the body in forensic genetics involves a network of technical-scientific artefacts (e.g. protocols; guidelines; visual representations of DNA sequences; and software tools), through which humans actors and non-humans actors play a role in how error/uncertainty is conceived, circulated and made (in)visible. At the same time, these micro social relations relate to macro level structures connected to legitimation of science and dominant conceptions of reliable evidence in the criminal justice context. The ways forensic genetic technoscience makes the body embedded with multiple authorities, hybrid epistemologies and fractured ontologies pose a particularly vivid analytical challenge.

Bodies, structure of feeling and experience: opportunities for new assemblages at the Spanish intersex clinic

Authors: Rosa Medina-Doménech (University of Granada)  email
Sandra Fernández Garrido (University of Granada)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explore the possibilities of new assemblages in the intersex clinic. We analyze how structures of feeling, corporal experiences, bodies and knowledges are mutually shaped. The analysis focuses on current spanish context, where subaltern knowledges are finding new spaces for legitimacy.

Long Abstract

The intersex clinic can be understood as an assemblage (Deleuze y Guattari, 1988 ; Verran, 2009) in which knowledge, experiences and bodies are mutually shaped in precarious and open ways. In this assemblage, feelings, body experiences --more o less mediated by languages--, understandings and decisions take place inside the intersecting fields of scientific theories, everyday clinical practices --shaped by diverse knowledges--, divergent voices and embodied technologies of the self..

In this paper we analyze how the intersex clinics in Spain operate as a medical dispositif located inside the National Health Service to treat people diagnosed as "Disorders of Sexual Development". Using ethnography, we explore how the emotional and body experiences (of professionals, patients, and caregivers) shape the definition of these patients' embodied sex and determine the consequent therapeutic itineraries. We will explore what Williams called "structures of feeling or experience", that is, spaces, dynamics or non-formalized experiences from which new ways of thinking can emerge. We argue that in the intersex clinic these structures are bound to unarticulated fragments of personal experiences -even those of professionals-- and that they contribute to shaping clinical decisions. These "structures of feeling" could help to re-articulate the elements encompassed in the assemblage of clinic.

Currently, Spain provides a key case-study to explore. The social shift propitiated by the election of so-called "governments of change" in the May 2015 elections could bring legitimation to subaltern knowledges developed outside medical hegemony. What new assemblages around intersexuality could emerge from these changes?

Seeing Eye to Eye: Multiple Embodiments of Vision in Ophthalmology

Author: Adam Baim (University of Chicago)  email

Short Abstract

In ophthalmology, the vision of both doctors and patients is essential for everyday clinical work. Elaborating on studies of sensation and bodily practice, this paper explores how ophthalmologic expertise is constituted through defining and modifying the embodied experience of seeing.

Long Abstract

The role of vision in expert communities has been fertile terrain for social studies of science and medicine, with great attention paid to the disciplining of visual perception and embodied practices of seeing. These issues are centrally important in studying ophthalmology, a medical specialty that not only treats eye disorders, but also demands skillful vision on the part of its practitioners. Drawing upon ethnographic field work, this paper argues that ophthalmologists constitute their expertise through managing several different embodiments of vision - both their own, and those of the patients they treat. I first explore how ophthalmologic techniques standardize and quantify patients' lived experience of vision, as well as the ways pharmaceutical and surgical therapies modulate vision by changing its literal embodiment in the tissues of the eye; in particular, I consider scenarios where patients' descriptions of their vision differ from "objective" accounts of visual function provided by ophthalmologists. I then discuss how ophthalmologists harness their own bodies and attentions to examine the subtle features of eye disease; to visualize the retina, for instance, an examiner must position her gaze in precise arrangement with both handheld instruments and the patient's eye. I further describe how these embodied skills are taught to ophthalmology trainees, and how ophthalmologists narrate their firsthand experience of seeing when communicating with peers. Ultimately, this paper proposes that ophthalmology is a field where "knowledge about the body" and "knowledge of the body" intersect to create unique configurations of sensory experience, embodied knowledge, and biomedical expertise.

Interfacing Bodies - Interface and Interaction Design in Remote Controlled Medical Interventions

Author: Kathrin Friedrich (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores visual and haptic interfaces in remotely controlled medical interventions. With the transformation from surgical handicraft to distant operations, the design as well as epistemic role of interfaces plays a crucial role in respect to changing expertise both of the body and by the body.

Long Abstract

The paper explores the conditions and functions of visual and haptic interfaces in remotely controlled interventions. In particular in medical practices, such as robot-based surgery, it is literally vital to bridge the spatial and phenomenal gap between surgeons at operating consoles and patients on a remote table. Because of the transformation from surgical handicraft in close contact to another body to distant and mainly visually guided operations, the pragmatic as well as epistemic role of interfaces becomes crucial. Visual and haptic interfaces function as the central sensual and epistemic access for the surgeon's embodied actions and they simultaneously need to convey significant bodily features of the distant patient. Therefore, interaction design plays a significant role in rendering bodies sensible on at least two counts. First by enabling sensible actions via visual and haptic features and secondly by mediating the sensibility of the object. The design of interfaces sets the realms of possibility for knowledge and action that eminently affect bodies themselves in an almost literal sense. By critically reviewing theoretical concepts introduced by Michael Polanyi, the analysis will further refer to empirical studies in surgical training by STS-scholars Ericka Johnson and Rachel Prentice as well as to case studies by information and design researcher Helena Mentis. With a focus on exemplary design concepts as well as the application of certain interfaces the paper will address politics of knowledge of the body and by the body via visual and haptic interfaces.

Scrubbing In: The Role of Industry in Robotic Surgery

Author: William Drust (Loyola University Chicago)  email

Short Abstract

Robotic surgery is advertised as one of the most beneficial and cutting-edge surgical techniques currently available. This ethnographic study examines the increasing presence of industry actors and logics in robotic surgical decision-making.

Long Abstract

The drive to develop marketable technological processes has become a perennial feature of the medical industry in the United States. One of the latest products on offer is robotically-assisted minimally-invasive surgery. The cultural cachet of the "robot," as well as endorsements by both surgeons and hospitals, make robotic surgery fit comfortably into tropes regarding technological progress and the heroic, scientific doctor. However, far from a straightforward march of innovation, efforts to elicit the uptake of robotic surgery indicate the increased inclusion of industry actors into the network of surgical decision-making.

This study focuses specifically on Intuitive Surgical, Inc., producers of the da Vinci® Surgical System. Data were gathered through content analysis of the company's marketing materials, interviews with surgical professionals, and participant-observation at a "dinner-lecture" held for the recruitment of prospective da Vinci® surgeons. The resulting analysis of the framing of the technology's benefits and the sustained on-the-ground activities of Intuitive Surgical's sales representatives is in conversation with scholarship regarding the marketing logics carried out in biomedicalized and pharmaceuticalized healthcare and the embodied experiences of healthcare professionals.

The ever-present drive for profit and the increased complexity of techniques that may yield only modest benefits have created new activity in the surgical suite. By positioning themselves as gatekeepers of successful technological deployment while co-opting the cultural authority of surgeons in marketing efforts, industrial actors are blurring traditional notions of medical expertise and achieving acceptance of their product "by other means."

Designing bodies in action

Authors: Stephen Neely (Carnegie Mellon University)  email
Katherine Scott (Carnegie Mellon University)  email

Short Abstract

By exploring practices of manipulating bodies in action, the authors work toward an expanded notion of design as a ubiquitous, dispersed practice— a topic of inquiry that has potential to foster connection between STS and design research.

Long Abstract

How are human bodies-in-action designed? Our paper explores practices of manipulating bodies-in-action as an effort to broaden conceptions of design.

Design-led research on human bodies has largely been concerned with the forms and purposes of mainstream professionalized design practice— bodily interactions with the products of design- artifacts, spaces, communications and services. Conceptions of design have also largely been grounded in professionalized versions of design practice, across degrees of expertise and 'amateur' design practices resembling professionalized design.

We work with a conception of design as a ubiquitous, "dispersed practice" applicable to all practices (Schatzki, 1996). This builds from Simon's (1969) "everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones", and theories of practice informing design (Kuijer, 2014). STS researchers have helped to show that designed systems are mere vehicles, "devices" configured in and used for the performance of practices (Suchman, 2007). Devices can include a wider range than convention holds, such as bio-chemical processes, concepts, stories, methods and models (Singleton and Law, 2012).

We consider bodies-in-action as devices by examining a range of practices— somatic and stage-acting methods, free-running, runway model walking— as well as professional design practices incorporating bodily performance. Working from interviews, a case inventory, and workshops with designers and body-based practitioners, we will present archetypes to suggest forms of embodiment design. This is not to establish a typology, but to generate discussion and invite interest in connecting STS and design researchers in considering design as a ubiquitous practice.

Bodily performance of scientific authority in how-to manuals on presenting

Author: Alexandra Supper (Maastricht University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyses how notions of scientific authority are constructed in how-to manuals for giving presentations, by tracing how these manuals (1970s-today) in different scientific disciplines instruct scientists on how to use their voices, body language and audio-visual representations.

Long Abstract

Existing studies of the role of bodily engagement in scientific practice primarily focus on tacit skills. Although scientists use their bodies and senses in myriad ways, they - partially due to a scientific rhetoric that builds upon the notion of disembodied knowledge - rarely receive explicit, written instructions for doing so.

In this paper, I want to analyse a genre of writing which does give guidance to scientists on how they should use their bodies: the how-to guide on giving presentations. Through these texts, (especially young) scientists are instructed in how to use their voices, body language and various audio-visual representations in order to create an impression of scientific authority. The specific form that these instructions take, however, are historically grown and can vary considerably: while some texts recommend lively bodily performances to draw in the audience, others instead suggest suppressing one's body language to a large extent in order to not distract from, and thus potentially discredit, the scientific content of the presentation. Based on an analysis of how-to manuals on giving presentations, spanning from the 1970s to today and encompassing a variety of scientific fields (extending towards medicine, the humanities and social sciences), I will trace how notions of scientific authority and expertise are constructed through these instructions.

"Detox" therapies, a thought style developing on the internet

Authors: Kenneth Rochel de Camargo, Jr (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro)  email
Elaine Rabello (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro)  email
André Mendonça (UERJ)  email
Claudia Medina Coeli (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)  email

Short Abstract

The idea of achieving health through "detox" has developed recently, having the social media as its main surface of emergence. We propose that such conceptions can be understood in Fleckian terms (thought styles and collectives), and as such observed as they unfold over the Internet.

Long Abstract

Alternative therapeutic systems have proliferated in the last decades, thriving in an enviroment in which distrust of medicine and science, consumerism, a certain fascination with the "exotic" and a longing for the "natural" go hand in hand. Such systems vary from cultural imports of established therapeutic systems originating outside the "West" to complex constructs made of fragments of scientific discourse and "new age" ideology. Recently such views, especially the latter, have found in the Internet the perfect niche for propagation. In the case in point, the universe of "detox" interventions provide a fascinating example of such complex constructs, with the development of folk versions of patophysiology, diagnostics and therapeutics, centered on the vague category of "toxins". Ranging from the innocuous to the potentially harmful, "detox" systems have become a major business and source of Internet traffic. We propose that this universe can be understood in the terms originally proposed by Fleck; as a mirror reflection of biomedical science, "detox" has a specific thought style and its correspondent thought collective, with core and general experts, educated lay people and a porous interface with the general public. Whereas the privileged means of scientific interaction in the scientific arena is still the scientific article, in this case the Internet, especially the social media, provide the premier medium for the propagation of such ideas. Blogs, Facebook groups and pages, and Pinterest groups are the surfaces of emergence for this kind of discourse, and thus the adequate locus for examining its development and dissemination.

Orphaned Patients: Living between Cure and Sickness in a Post-leprosy World

Author: Yiling Hung (Chiao Tung University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the interplay between medical knowledge and illness experiences by focusing on a group of Hansen’s disease (HD) patients who became “orphaned patients”—patients whose illness experiences became irrelevant to the current HD medical knowledge and practices redefined by modern medication.

Long Abstract

Drawing on two years of fieldwork in the Losheng Hospital in Taiwan, this paper explores how a group of Hansen's disease (HD) patients develop an alternative sick role through reinforcing projects of re-embodiment and sociality around HD. HD became treatable and eradicated in Taiwan due to the introduction of diaminodiphenyl sulphone (DDS) treatment in the mid-20th century. As the medicine that existed when they first became sick became irrelevant, the HD patients I studied found themselves living with lingering symptoms that used to be seen as part of the disease but they had lost their sick role. I use the concept "orphaned patients" to highlight the patients' illness experiences that became irrelevant to the current HD medical knowledge and practices redefined by the modern medication. Through this analysis, I show that it was the same medicine that redefined HD as a curable disease that disassociated the definition of disease from patients' lived experiences. However, by developing a specific set of body techniques by collaborating with medical workers and fellow patients, patients are able both to legitimate each other's feelings of sickness and to use those feelings to manage their illness and, as such, to collectively acquire an alternative sick role. Adding to existing literature on bodies in practice, I reveal nuanced effects of the interplay between medical knowledge/practices and patients' lived experiences by demonstrating how medicine and the body with illness are constantly in transformation, along with the practices they become a part of.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.