Re-configuring Knowledge Practices: Folding Margins and Norms into Dynamic Hybridity
Location 112b
Date and Start Time 03 September, 2016 at 14:00
Sessions 1


  • Ellen Foster (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) email
  • Karin Patzke (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) email

Mail All Convenors

Chair Ellen Foster ((Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Karin Patzke (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Tania Pérez Bustos (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)
Discussant Tania Pérez Bustos (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)

Short Abstract

The papers and material enactments included in this session examine the practices of creating and implementing alternative knowledge practices. Participants speak to and perform craftwork and methods of science and engineering to uncover fractured histories and present alternative futures.

Long Abstract

This closed session enlivens knowledges of science, engineering, and craftwork histories rooted in feminist politics of fracture (Barad 2008; Haraway 1988) through examinations of dynamic and hybrid alternative practices. Existing STS scholarship examines how material practices characterize the construction of knowledge about the world (Coopmans et al 2014, Carusi et al 2015), as well as how the praxis of imagining the future influences epistemic communities to produce knowledge (Fujimura 2003, Fortun and Fortun 2005, and Jasanoff and Kim 2009). However, from the early punchcards of the Jacquard loom to the female Navajo weavers working in semiconductor plants a century later (Nakamura 2014), histories of craft disrupt and underlie modern cultures of expert practice. Despite their crucial influence, these histories have been under-recognized within ontologies of hacking, design and collective future making. In these papers, participants critically think and practice together through craft, weaving, video and narrative history the alternative politics fractured from normative constructs of expertise. Drawing on feminist science studies (Suchman 2006; Nakamura & Haraway 2003), critical craft studies (Adamson 2010; Lippard 2010 [1978]) and studies of feminist knowledge practices (Gibson-Graham 1996, Bardzell 2010), participants examine omitted, erased and hybrid practices of craft in science and engineering to imagine a future through shared and cultivated praxis. In this experimental panel, we invite interactive participation as we traverse histories of alternative knowledge practices by actually engaging in those practices to collectively imagine the future.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Science in Context: Queering with feminist science studies

Author: Sam Smiley (AstroDime Transit Authority)  email

Short Abstract

A clumsy citizen scientist and erstwhile lab technician experiments with a National Geographic DNA and genetics kit for kids. In this science project, the results are secondary to the process.

Long Abstract

"What is behind a scientific text? Inscriptions. How are these inscriptions obtained? By setting up instruments" -From Science in Action.

In Latour's "Science in Action", the context of the lab is more important than the results being obtained. Through his own performance of his writing, he brings elements of play into his analysis of the social and messy work of scientists. Play is essential into opening up new inquiry, and this presentation and video uses the concept of play to inquire about how science experiments are done and by whom.

In this scenario, a clumsy citizen scientist and erstwhile lab technician experiments with a National Geographic DNA and genetics kit for kids. Instructions are followed, although it is clear that the instructions belie the messiness of the experiment. Her citizen science project involves a slurry of tomato, dish soap and salt, and she manages to isolate tomato DNA in between feeding her dog, going out to happy hour, and washing the dishes. The materiality of daily life and the messiness and contingent nature of the lab reveal the inner workings of the black box which in this case is certainly not empty. In this science project, the results are secondary to the process.

Hidden Hybridity: Making Cryptography Legible

Author: Niranjan Sivakumar  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how cryptography is not relegated to the military but that actors including academics, cypherpunks, corporations, activists, and new groups like "CryptoMoms" have brought a variety of hybridized material and knowledge practices to a discipline historically ensconced in rigidity.

Long Abstract

This paper analyzes "modern cryptography" through the lens of recursive, hybrid re-interpretations and re-inscriptions. Cryptographic technologies have historically been confined to military pursuits (Abelson et al, 2015). However, the development of information-theoretic cryptography coupled with the proliferation of easily accessible information technology has exposed these technologies to new publics, uses and interpretations (Narayanan, 2014).

While the academy is now a regular contributor and custodian of cryptography, the first forays of academic engineers, mathematicians and scientists into publishing about cryptography in the 1970's were themselves seen as a significant threat to a state monopoly on cryptography. However, academic intervention also served as an explicit politicization and re-inscription of the technologies by arguing for "New Directions in Cryptography" (Diffie and Hellman, 1976) at a conference for information theorists. Drawing on this moment of hybridity, this paper traces how actors from different social spheres, including cypherpunks, corporations, activists, and nascent entities like the "CryptoMoms" have in turn informed new knowledge practices around cryptography. The paper focuses on moments of gathering, including at academic conferences, hacker cons, political rallies, key signing parties and cryptoparties as catalysts for hybridity. This analysis focuses not only on human actors, but extends to other actants that come into contact with cryptography including the materiality of computing platforms (Blanchette, 2012) and intangible technologies like regulations that influence hybrid interpretations of cryptography (Riles, 2006).

Embroidering Engineering: Careful destruction and mending practices in knowledge dialogues

Author: Tania Pérez-Bustos (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)  email

Short Abstract

This project reflects ethnographically upon the commonalities between knowledge making practices in the material and embodied encounter of handcraft embroiderers and engineers in Colombia. My aim is to highlight the role of careful destruction and mending in the sewing of this encounter.

Long Abstract

My research pivots around what engineering and textile handcraft practices can learn from each other; in particular in terms of knowledge making practices. For this I have been interested in setting up knowledge dialogues as spaces of encounter between groups of electronic, mechanical and computer systems engineers and communities of handcraft embroiderers, weavers and patchworkers in Colombia. Throughout these encounters, the collective is expected to work together and learn from each other with common materialities, such as conductive and non-conductive threads, textiles, pens, as well as objects which might seem unfamiliar or useless: beads, needles, LEDs, embroidery frames, boards, to name some. These encounters operate in similar ways to sewing circles (a costurero in Spanish): ways of gathering, of generating individual and collective creative process, of bonding emotionally with each other throughout materialities. My role as an ethnographer in these spaces of encounter has been to understand the happenings, and to identify the mutual learning. In this session I would trace, through a direct involvement with materialities, ways of textile crafting, and one particular experience of making and doing that I have identified is common both to engineering and to handcraft embroidery/weaving/patchworking, and that is the practice of careful destruction and mending. Thus, this project contributes to the embodied understanding of craftwork and women's labour as knowledge, and it does so highlighting the specificities of a particular craft and its potentialities as tropes to think with engineering practices.

Donna Haraway is our "friend": Reconfiguring friendship bracelets and bibliography

Authors: Bonnie Mak (University of Illinois)  email
Julia Pollack (Bronx Community College)  email

Short Abstract

In an act of radical bibliography, this performance uses the friendship bracelet to "re-weave" the academic canon. Julia Pollack and Bonnie Mak will invite onlookers to weave, wear, and share bracelets that are emblazoned with references to the work of women in the field of knowledge-production.

Long Abstract

This project uses the friendship bracelet as a way to "re-weave" the academic canon, foregrounding the work of women librarians and scholars. Friendship bracelets are handmade macramé bracelets of embroidery thread, intended to be worn as a sign of lasting friendship. Julia Pollack and Bonnie Mak will offer such bracelets, emblazoned with bibliographical references to the work of important women in the field of knowledge-production.

The citations on the bracelets will be in the author-date format of the Chicago Manual of Style; a full list of references will also be provided. The bracelets and the accompanying bibliography index landmark scholarship by women, as well as the invisible work of librarianship, often undertaken by women. As the Librarian performs the weaving of citations on the bracelets before the audience, so too is she hand-crafting a bibliographical canon. The performance thus offers a consideration of the labour of generating an infrastructure for the creation and transmission of knowledge.

Onlookers are invited to help make visible the contribution of women librarians and scholars by wearing these "citation bracelets." Not only does the wearing of the bracelets acknowledge the work of women, but it also serves to help publicize and naturalize such work in unconventional venues outside the academy, such as the restaurant, beach, or airport. In this act of radical bibliography, academic work by women can be brought into contact with other audiences in other spaces, thus broadening and amplifying its reach.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.