Programme

(T036)
Social Studies of Politics: Making Collectives By All Possible Means
Location VIP
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 7

Convenors

  • Nicholas Rowland (Pennsylvania State University) email
  • Jan-Hendrik Passoth (Technische Universität München) email
  • Jan-Peter Voß (Berlin University of Technology) email

Mail All Convenors

Chair Nicholas Rowland (The Pennsylvania State University - 1, 5), Jan-Peter Voß (Berlin University of Technology - 2, 6), Jan-Hendrik Passoth (Technische Universität München - 3), Endre Danyi (Goethe University- 4), Katharina Paul (University of Vienna -7)

Short Abstract

The challenge: to explore new ways of studying "politics as usual" by taking inspiration from the conceptual repertoire developed in STS for scrutinizing "science as usual". We invite proposals for papers which mobilize STS concepts, methodologies, and practices in studying with "politics as usual".

Long Abstract

The adage "technology is politics by other means" emphasizes that technoscientific practices contribute to the making of collective orders which are not given by nature, but made, involving decision, power, and authority. While the 4S/EASST motto "science & technology by other means" is meant to be a conspicuous alternative to laboratory and epistemic authority-based reality-making, it also provides an occasion to come back to "politics by the same means". The challenge: to explore ways of studying "politics as usual" by taking inspiration from the conceptual repertoire developed in STS for scrutinizing "science as usual".

We invite proposals for papers that mobilize STS concepts, methodologies, and practices for studying and engaging with "politics as usual". This includes actors, knowledges, institutions, discourses, practices, infrastructures, etc., that make-up what we "traditionally" call politics and the political process, but also those that are not on that traditional list. Examples include studies of publics, policy, parties, interest groups, social movements, terrorist groups, state and non-state agencies, political representation and communication, democracy and participation, parliaments and lobbyism, nation-states, populations and stateless persons, international relations, diplomacy and conflict, multi-level and global governance, protest and resistance. A general interest is with the tools and machineries of knowing and assembling governance, the epistemic and ontological practices that make these specifically political realities, actors, processes, powers, and modes of authority. Recalling the conference motto: what are we to do about the seemingly intransigent politics of re-assembling "technoscientific practices along routes that do not follow once established divides"?

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Realizing governance: epistemic and political performativity

Author: Jan-Peter Voß (Berlin University of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

What’s specific about epistemic and political means of making collectives? I translate the performativity concept, as developed in STS for practices of epistemic representation, to practices of political representation. Governance can be studied as a co-production of epistemic and political order.

Long Abstract

The paper discusses "practices of representation" as an analytical entry point for social studies of science and politics, and their intertwining in specific modes of governance. A generic concept of power as "performative representation" is inspired by science and technology studies (STS), actor-network theory (ANT) and (neo-)pragmatist sociology. It builds on a translation of the concept of "performativity", as developed in studies of scientific practices, also for political practices: While science produces representations of objective reality and the conditions that it imposes, politics produces representations of collective subjects and their interests. Both practices perform a larger whole that transcends the individual human being and, if felicitous, can prompt allegiance and mobilise collective action. I argue that studying practices of representation provides a fruitful approach to trace "governance in the making". It takes us to the work that is done to achieve authority, both epistemic and political (and perhaps other forms as well), and to make it work for the shaping of collective orders. The paper is mainly conceptual, but main points are illustrated with reference to the representation of "societal needs and interests" and the "Earth system" in global sustainability governance.

Bringing together STS and studies of governmentality: Mapping contemporary apparatuses of government

Author: Thomas Lemke (Goethe Universität)  email

Short Abstract

The talk proposes the concept of “apparatus of government” to bring together STS and an analytics of government following Foucault. The guiding idea is to provide a posthuman and performative understanding of the apparatus that also attends to power relations and political strategies.

Long Abstract

The talk proposes the concept of "apparatus of government" to bring together STS and an analytics of government following Foucault. The guiding idea is to provide a posthuman and performative understanding of the apparatus that also attends to power relations and political strategies. I argue that this theoretical synthesis allows for a "more fully materialist theory of politics" (Braun/Whatmore 2010: x), as it helps to correct the problems many accounts in political sociology and in social and political theory face in addressing transformations and changes in contemporary societies. The conceptual proposal of an "apparatus of government" also seeks to overcome serious shortcomings and problems of studies of governmentality.

I will argue that such a perspective is characterized by three distinctive features. First, the concept of the apparatus of government goes beyond social constructivism and classical realism by endorsing a praxeological account of apparatuses. Secondly, it combines and integrates the material and semiotic elements it consists of. It makes it possible to analyse the intertwined relations between meaning and matter without systematically distinguishing between them. Thirdly, the concept of the apparatus of government makes visible the contingent boundaries and material conditions of politics by exposing the limits of anthropocentric modes of thought. It helps to conceive of the human subject rather as a result of the workings of the apparatuses than someone outside or exterior to them.

Baroque Ontology and its Ambivalence. Political Form of Catholic Church Rizomatic Ontology

Author: Andrzej Wojciech Nowak (Adam Mickiewicz University)  email

Short Abstract

In STS/ANT we observe ‘baroque turn’ within ontological turn (Kwa, Law). Following STS-State analysis and STS approach to governmentality (Guzik) I will show ambivalence of “rhizomatic” opportunistic, baroque un-modern ontology of catholic church as alternative to “container” ontology of State.

Long Abstract

Neoliberal regimes erodes bases of State-container ability to reproduce, it is important to look for possible future alternatives - Negri and Hard proposed renovation of concept of Empire, I would like to show another alternative - ontology of catholic church.

In STS/ANT we can observe 'baroque turn' within ontological turn (Kwa, Law). I would like to examine alternative to State forms of installing social order. In my effort I am following STS-State analysis (Passoth, Rowlands) and STS approach to governmentality (Guzik). I would like to show that "rhizomatic" ontology of catholic church forms alternative to "container" ontology of State (Taylor, Nowak). I will focus on specific ontology of Catholic Church and its "political form". Rhizomatic ontology of catholic church and its regimes of governmentality is not based on "modern constitution" (Latour). Following Schmitt I describe it as flexible opportunism of baroque. I will show that this un-modern strategy of stabilisation of power and society shows enormous survivability. I would like to examine what can we learn from it to create our communities and futures. Catholic ontology shows also political ambivalence of such baroque, heterogeneities (Law) forms of governmentality - it can be observe in a way how it adapted to Pinochet and Liberation Theology, to Santa Muerte and Catholic Intellectuals). As a result would like to show that we should learn from Catholic Church how to establish baroque networks (ontology) but we should be "modern again" to fight against opportunism of such ontology.

Modelling the State: The Ontological Politics of "Politics as Usual"

Authors: Nicholas Rowland (Pennsylvania State University)  email
Jan-Hendrik Passoth (Technische Universität München)  email

Short Abstract

How do we understand the ontological politics of “politics as usual”? Of the many possible and plausible answers, we look to literature on modelling from the sociology of science, and reframe the foundational question of state theory (i.e., what is the state) by modelling (not theorizing) the state.

Long Abstract

One usually assumes that those items -- actors, ideas, institutions -- that fall into a somehow well-defined category of "politics" are the building blocks of anything deemed political in nature (at least under modern conditions). However, once the focus is placed on any one of these -- and the material practices that enact them -- one cannot help but to but notice that their existence is, in many ways, political too. Over the past decade, a branch of STS research tried to answer one of the oldest questions of political theory, namely, "What is the state?" Whether examining state reform, infrastructuring, or theory, it becomes apparent that whatever the state is, it is neither a conceptual nor a practical thing: the whens, wheres, and hows of "the state" turn out to be usefully captured by STS insight into modeling, in this case, what we might call "state modelling" -- i.e., the making, merging and dissecting of state models in attempts to, as Latour (2003, 149) notes, transform "the several into one, initially through a process of representation … and subsequently through a process of retransformation of the one into several." Exactly that -- the struggle about installing an arena for arranging our collectives -- is, following Ranciere, the "what" of what politics is. Circling around to "politics as usual," based on STS insight from "science as usual", one can recognize that the complex ontological politics of life in the laboratory neatly parallels the complex ontological politics of life in politics too.

Spatial assemblages and the enactment of politics in local authorities

Author: Bettina Grimmer (University of Siegen)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyses the spatial assemblage of a German Job Centre. Architecture, interior design and staff practices create a hidden and non-negotiable infrastructure that relegates the clients to an inferior and passive position within the organizational order.

Long Abstract

Doing politics is part of the everyday business of local authorities. They decide who is entitled to what, and they categorize, proceed and sometimes even change their clients. This enactment of politics is not only negotiated in direct interaction, but also inscribed into the materiality of local authority offices. Using data from an ethnographic case study, this paper analyses the arrangement of both architecture and spatial practices in a German Job Centre. I argue that the assemblage of architecture, interior design and staff practices keeps the clients at distance. Clients are considered potentially dangerous subjects: they might be unhealthy and spread pollutants and bacteria; they might also endanger the organization by spying, stealing, destroying facilities or acting violently towards staff members. All of these potential dangers are inscribed into the spatial and practical assemblage of the office. Job Centre staff members permanently work on preventing such dangers. They collaborate with architecture and interior design to restrict the client's scope for action: clients are supposed to leave as soon as possible; they are excluded from particular areas such as personal offices and staff facilities; personal, accidental and bodily contact is reduced to a minimum; organizational knowledge is secured through several measures; there is nothing removable in public areas; and an invisible security system protects the staff members. Through these measures a hidden and non-negotiable infrastructure is created that relegates the clients to an inferior and passive position within the organizational order.

The policy domain as a production site: Studying the emergence of policy domains from an STS-perspective

Authors: Julia Pohle (Berlin Social Science Center )  email
Jeanette Hofmann (Berlin Social Science Center (WZB)/Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG)  email

Short Abstract

The paper proposes to study “politics as usual” by analysing emergent policy domains from an STS perspective. Policy domains are viewed as “sites of production” which create collective orders by linking issues, actors, decisions, and inscribing them into policy texts and organisational structures.

Long Abstract

The emergence of new policy domains is attracting growing attention amongst political scientists. Research on policy domains commonly focusses on the interests and authority of policy actors and their influence on policy output. This paper proposes a different approach by emphasising the performative function of policy domains. In doing so, it combines elements of sociological field theory with analytical tools specific to STS.

We concpetualise policy domains as sites of production where heterogeneous actors interact and, jointly but antagonistically, produce meaning, issues, expertise and decisions. Through their inscription into texts and organisational structures, the products of the policy domain are stabilised and gradually institutionalised. Processes of institutionalisation contribute to the creation of a collective order that, in turn, affects the practices and perceptions of all actors involved in the policy domain and, accordingly, its own production process. It is this reciprocal process that creates stable linkages between previously unrelated actors and issues and, thus, contributes to the emergence of policy domains.

The paper adds to the STS body of theory as it introduces the concept of the policy domain, which, just like an actor-network, has a double purpose: first, it is a tool that allows STS researchers to study how "politics as usual" occurs within a confined area defined by the interrelation of actors and issues; second, it is a construct established by the perception of the actors and researchers' observations. The conceptual considerations in the paper are illustrated by examples from the emergent Internet policy domain in Germany.

From Nuclear States to Renewable Democracies?

Author: Andreas Folkers (Goethe-University Frankfurt)  email

Short Abstract

I will analyze the contestations of the democratic or authoritarian character of energy systems in West-German energy policy from the 1970s to the present as an instance of technopolitics understood not simply as „politics by other means“ but as an explicit politicization of these means.

Long Abstract

There is a well-established discussion about the politics of technological artifacts in STS. While this discussion mostly focuses on the question to what extent it is adequate to short circuit political agendas and technological designs, there is considerably less attention on instances where politicians or social movements themselves point out the political qualities of technologies. Here the task for researches is not only to highlight the tacit political character of technology or to emphasize that technology is "always already" politics by other means but to analyze explicit matters of technopolitics. To do so I will analyze the contestations of the democratic or authoritarian character of energy systems in West-German energy policy from the 1970s to the present. The radical ecological movements since the 1970s did not only criticize the risks of nuclear power but also the dangers of the political power structures that they believed would necessarily go along with it: the nuclear state or Atomstaat (Jungk). They apprehended the nuclear state as a dangerous meltdown of big science, big technology, big capital and big government that would only be able to contain and control the critical mass of atoms as well as the increasingly militant protests against them by implementing a permanent nuclear state of emergency. In contrast to the highly centralized nuclear energies, decentralized energy sources were deemed to be inherently democratic. But what is left of these hopes now that the German government officially decided the nuclear phase-out and promotes the transition to renewable energies?

Fact-making in permit markets: document networks as infrastructures of emissions trading

Author: Arno Simons  email

Short Abstract

How did 'capntrade' become re-produced and circulated as a dominant policy blueprint for environmental governance. My focus is on how this was achieved as a result of materially inscribing and stabilising the cap and trade blueprint as authoritative governance knowledge in cross-referencing documents.

Long Abstract

In this paper I look at how 'cap and trade' came to be re-produced and circulated as a dominant policy blueprint for environmental governance. My particular focus is on how this was achieved as a result of materially inscribing and stabilising the cap and trade blueprint as authoritative governance knowledge in cross-referencing documents. The document network under study is identified as a discursive infrastructure that allows for 'governing at a distance', in the sense that it provides a relatively stable reservoir of authoritative governing knowledge, which orients policymaking from outside the traditional boundaries of jurisdictions. Conceptually, this means elaborating the material dimension of governance knowledge and its relevance for a 'society made durable' as part of an understanding of reality-making as a discursive process relying on documentary communication.

Black-boxing sustainable development: Environmental Impact Assessment on the River Uruguay

Author: Nicolas Baya Laffite (Université Paris-Est)  email

Short Abstract

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) scripts collective action through black-boxing the politics of governance. The case of pulp mills on the River Uruguay, allows showing how the EIA authoritative governance script is reinforced rather than undermined by opponents to controversial projects.

Long Abstract

Drawing on STS and sociology of policy instruments, this paper offers an original account of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a technology that scripts collective action through black-boxing the politics of governance. After tracing the global trajectory of the instrument from the US NEPA 1979 to the rest of the world, the paper looks at EIA struggles in the case of pulp mills on the River Uruguay between 2003 and 2013. In examining the this case where the substantiation of the concept of sustainable development was at stake, the paper shows how, as actors seeking to halt projects because of their potential harmful impact follow the choreography of EIA, the authoritative governance script is reinforced rather than undermined. The paper concludes to the existence of a tragic aspect to this, in that those wishing to block a project through the EIA are actually making it stronger. This points to a subtle de-politicization of sustainable development struggles resulting from the evolution of instruments in use, and a need for their re-politicization.

Translating participation across situations and contexts

Author: Linda Soneryd (University of Gothenburg)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses processes of translation when participation instruments travel from one institutional setting and application context to another. It critically discusses the institutional prerequisites for participatory governance.

Long Abstract

This paper discusses processes of translation when participation instruments travel from one institutional setting and application context to another. It is argued that participatory governance is never known in advance, but needs to be made known again and again. The paper draws on cases that ranges from the fields of nuclear waste siting, urban planning, and scientific governance in which efforts are made to put in use relatively standardised participation instruments. In these processes, the involved actors' representations of governance as well as the institutional prerequisites for participatory governance play a role in the active work of refining and stabilizing certain participation instruments but also in radically changing them.

Making labels - How to bring politics in the market by other means

Authors: Aurélie Tricoire (CSTB - Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment)  email
Brice Laurent (Mines ParisTech)  email
Alexandre Mallard (Ecole des Mines ParisTech, PSL Research University)  email

Short Abstract

The contemporary economy increasingly mobilizes labels supported by specific collectives. This paper examines the history of a French label for sustainable building to explore the agencements of labelling and characterize the way it brings politics into the markets.

Long Abstract

In the contemporary economy, labelling processes more and more contribute to the emergence of collectives that bring politics into the markets. Labels are market devices developed to prescribe goods, but they tend to bear a political dimension in transactions and consumption practices in various domains: nutrition based on healthy food (public health certificates), ethical distribution networks (fair trade labels), technologies compatible with sustainable development (eco labels), etc. Existing works have examined the impacts of labels on buyers' behaviour. By contrast, this paper focuses on the process of emergence of collectives developing labels, and analyses them as political actors developing particular modalities of activism, mobilizing original governance procedures and producing specific expertise in order to intervene on the organization of markets. We draw on the history of a particular label that was developed in the mid 2000s in France in the construction sector, namely the "BBC-Effinergie" label (where BBC stands for "Bâtiment basse consummation", meaning low energy building). BBC-Effinergie originates from the work of a collective gathering various actors (local public bodies, private companies, expert groups, NGO's and civil society groups). It contributed to produce reference expertise necessary for the determination of a standard certifying buildings using limited amounts of energy. This paper develops an Actor Network approach in order to investigate the role of labels, in the agencements of markets and politics. It argues that labels such as BBC-Effinergie are empirical lenses to jointly analyse the construction of markets and the transformation of contemporary states.

Landscapes of democracy: cultures, systems, and the politics of movement

Authors: Endre Danyi (Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main)  email
Michaela Spencer (Charles Darwin University)  email

Short Abstract

We examine two parliamentary settings: the plenary hall of the German Bundestag and a ceremony ground of the Yolŋu Nation’s Assembly in northern Australia. These settings bring to life particular landscapes of democracy, which point at differences beyond political cultures and legal systems.

Long Abstract

As monumental buildings throughout the world attest, parliaments are often treated as symbolic sites. Individually they commemorate specific polities and collectively they celebrate the triumph of liberal democracy over other political regimes. Not unlike laboratories in experimental science, parliaments can also be seen as complex socio-technical arrangements that allow some representations to emerge while making others unrealistic or impossible. Accordingly, differences in the workings of parliaments are usually expressed either in terms of political cultures (e.g. the Weimar tradition) or of legal systems (e.g. the Westminster model). While these expressions are not wrong, they assume that parliaments are coherent places that can be easily distinguished from their outsides. In this paper we draw on recent fieldwork in Germany and Australia to examine two parliamentary settings: the plenary chamber of the Bundestag and a ceremony ground of the Yolŋu Nation's Assembly in northern Australia. We inquire about these settings by focusing on the material and discursive practices through which they become sites for the performance of politics. In doing so, we notice that they involve different ways of interrelating the insides and outsides of parliamentary practice, and that these differences cannot be reduced to differences either in political cultures or in legal systems. Rather, we suggest that these parliaments each inhabit and bring to life particular landscapes of democracy. We claim that this shift of attention from places to landscapes allows us to reconceptualise politics as something that resides neither inside nor outside parliaments, but is produced in circulations between them.

Do Parliaments have Artifacts? Shaping French National Assembly since 1789

Author: Delphine Gardey (University of Geneva)  email

Short Abstract

What differences to previous narratives if we perform a « thick description » of one major western contemporary political institution? Based on unknown archives, I will give an account of the embodied dimensions - material, social, legal - by which the French Assembly took its form and did persist.

Long Abstract

Did we substantially consider that politics could have artifacts? What differences if we could plee for, and perform, a « thick description » of one major western contemporary political institution? What is materially required for bringing to life a free, deliberative, representative and sovereign assembly? In the French case a century is necessary for the successful establishment of parliamentarianism, for translating the revolutionary gesture of 1789 - the ideals and principles of representative government and popular sovereignty - into a series of routinized procedures and activities, into a long-lasting and sustainable institution.

Far removed from the disembodied visions of certain philosophical traditions, I will give an account of the embodied dimensions - material, social, legal, technical - by which the French National Assembly took its form and did persist. Based on unknown archives, I will analyse how the material and legal dimensions of the « parliamentary community », and its territory, were defined, delineated, actively constructed. In focusing on the Assembly's machinery, I am suggesting that materiality matters and plays an active role in defining western democratic institutions. It reminds us of the culturality of « our » moral and political edifices. In focusing on the objectives of the French Republican regimes to produce an unmarked and disembodied legislative « body », and on the invention of the « modesty » of the « gentleman deputy », I question the gender arrangements coalesced in the very definition of what counts as « modernity » in western political history.

A parliament of paperwork

Authors: Bård Hobæk (University of Oslo)  email
Kristin Asdal (University of Oslo)  email

Short Abstract

Parliaments are arenas for debates and political struggles, but are at the same time sites that work by way of documents and paperwork. Documents are core to what we label ‘assembling-practices’, as this paper shows in an analysis of a whaling controversy in the Norwegian parliament.

Long Abstract

What is a national assembly - or political parliament? As one of the key institutions and paradigmatic examples of 'politics as usual', parliaments are traditionally understood as sites for political struggles between parties, arenas for the exchange of ideas and voting over conflicting issues and diverging interests. Instead of contesting these established narratives, this paper aims to approach parliaments from a different perspective by exploring how parliamentary politics takes place through paperwork and the circulation of documents within and outside of parliament itself. In order to do this, the paper draws on the so-called laboratory turn in science studies, which demonstrated the role of inscription devices in the development of the sciences, tracing how the making of scientific knowledge was thoroughly dependent upon writing practices and the translation of nature-objects into inscriptions. Drawing on these insights, the paper argues that documents are more than silent background for the debates and decisions in parliament. Rather, the ways objects and interests are translated into paperwork enable specific forms of what we suggest to label 'assembling-work' that interact with and shape the questions, publics, knowledge or interests in play. This approach is explored through an analysis of a long and heated controversy over whaling within the Norwegian parliament, the Storting, in the late 19th century.

Constitutive Invisibility: Exploring the Invisible Work of MPs staff

Authors: Stefan Laube (Technische Universität Dresden)  email
Jan Schank (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt/M.)  email

Short Abstract

Research on parliaments puts the spotlight on members of parliament (MPs) and neglects the invisible work of their staff. Based on ethnographic research we analyze the invisibilization of the work of MPs staff not only as practically accomplished by participants but also as constitutive for democracy.

Long Abstract

Research on parliaments generally puts the spotlight on its official members (MPs), whereas their staff does not greatly attract attention. Based on ethnographic research in three parliaments, we explore and question this asymmetry. Sensitized by STS and lab studies in particular, we argue that an understanding of politics as driven by MPs is not only due to a general methodological individualism in social science and beyond; it is also practically accomplished by invisibilizing MP's staff work. According to Leigh Star and Strauss (1999), invisible work follows from either rendering the work, the worker, or both invisible. However, Leigh Star and Strauss do not explicate whether and when invisibility is a means of deletion and exploitation of unskilled or secondary work of subalterns or an opportune/necessary quality of work in fields that may require invisibilization. In our paper, we investigate how the work in MPs' offices is made invisible in certain respects and due to certain practical purposes. We do so by comparing our ethnographic cases to versions of in/visibility in science (laboratories) and law (barrister's chamber). Contrasting these different versions of in/visibility enables us to explicate the specificities of "constitutive invisibility". In parliamentary politics, constitutive invisibility of staff's work serves to accomplish a central ideal of democracy: 'representativeness'. Accordingly, MPs ought to represent the electorate, and in doing so, they may be assisted by - but must not depend upon - staff providing knowledge and expertise.

Democracy as usual: scientific capacity building and the epistemic orders of the Ugandan parliament

Author: Kerry Holden (Queen Mary University of London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines scientific capacity building programmes and the drive for evidenced based policymaking in the context of the Ugandan parliament.

Long Abstract

In recent years, political institutions in the global south have been the target of scientific capacity building programmes run by NGOs and donors that are aimed at improving the communication and use of scientific and technical information in policy making and legislative debate. These programmes set out with the well-intentioned aim of conjoining political and knowledge orders as a corrective remedy that will promote democracy. In this way they articulate socio-technical imaginaries in which the role and capabilities of state institutions and the professional roles of policymakers, researchers and politicians are inscribed and acted upon. Focusing on the Ugandan parliament, this paper uses recent empirical research to describe the actual implementation and running of two capacity building programmes, one completed and one currently running. The paper uses this description to explore the conceptual repertoires of programmes through the lens of STS and postcolonial technoscience, querying how capacity is imagined, where it is assumed to exist, who has it and how it travels.

Cutting and calculating political authority

Author: Anne Kathrine Pihl vadgaard (IT University of Copenhagen)  email

Short Abstract

In this presentation, I explore the counting of a Danish election and discuss how heterogeneous and messy bureaucratic practices simultaneously construct an uncontested result and create the imaginary that nothing is being added to the link between voters’ will and political authority.

Long Abstract

When democratic elections run smoothly, the practices, that ensure a direct - free and fair - link from the will of the people to those who govern, are mostly hidden in the bureaucratic machinery of elections. These administrative aspects of elections are seen as a background to the political deliberation on Election Day, as practicalities and technicalities that provide the political spectacle with a transparent and neutral space. The myth of democracy, thus, often hides the reality of democracy making (Coles 2007). In this paper, however, I make visible how this mostly hidden electoral apparatus practically produces an election result at the end of a poll. Drawing on science and technology studies I establish sensitivities towards what could be called 'democracy in action'.

Based on 10 months of ethnographic fieldwork in a Danish municipal election office, I explore the production of a transparent and accountable election result. I argue that the count of ballots is simultaneously a well-oiled bureaucratic machinery and a chaotic mix of bending, twisting, and tinkering necessary to produce an uncontested election result. Through ethnographic stories of counting practices, I highlight how bureaucratic technicalities, together with careful counting and the negotiations of changing democratic concerns, not only make it possible to reach an election result. They also create the imaginary that nothing is being added to the direct link between voters' will and political authority.

Bot for President: The Role of Social Bots in the 2016 US Presidential Elections

Author: Samuel Woolley (University of Washington )  email

Short Abstract

This paper mobilizes STS theories of autonomy, affordance, and the actor in order to build understandings of the role of social bots in the 2016 US presidential elections.

Long Abstract

Bots are collections of code written to undertake automated online tasks that would otherwise be done by a human user. Social bots are bots that have frontline communication with human users online, often on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Recently, a variety of political actors worldwide have begun using bots in attempts to manipulate public opinion. How might political bots be used to affect communication and behavior associated with elections, political crises and legislation? Three US based actor groups make up the heart of this multi-site, networked, research: political parties/campaigns, public commentators, and civil society groups. I am in the process of working with these groups to develop understandings of their use and interactions with political bots during the 2016 elections—grounded in conversations around events from the early candidate debates all the way to the final election. Data gathering mechanisms are multi-faceted in that they include field research methods of interview and participant observation with bot makers and tracks as well as analysis of large social media data sets. The developing method known as 'ethnography of information', here analyses of bots and algorithms as semi-autonomous entities, is presented as an arena for theoretical and methodological contribution and growth to STS. In this proposal, I demonstrate that political bots are among the exciting, and problematic, products of advances in both computation, automation, and political strategy. This paper analyzes this phenomenon and places political bots as a crucial element in conversations between several fields tied to STS.

Build it and they will (not) come: ICTs and democratic innovation in Serbia

Author: Ivana Damnjanović (University of Belgrade )  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores the relationship between technological and democratic innovation by comparing three projects from Serbia which focus on the use of ICTs to improve communication between the government and the citizens and increase citizens’ participation.

Long Abstract

In the past decades study of politics and study of innovation came closer together than they were probably ever before. Concepts were moving from one field to another: not only that there was a renewed interest in democratic innovations within political science, with focus on use of new, usually information and communication technologies (ICTs), but concepts such as participatory engineering (Zittel and Fuchs, 2006), democratization of innovation (Hippel, 2005), participatory design (Schuler and Namioka, 1993) seem to flourish. However, the very concept of innovation remains to some extent elusive, and the relationship between technological and democratic innovation is still insufficiently explored.

In my paper I intend to address this issue by comparing three projects from Serbia, all of which could be framed as democratic innovations. The first is e-participation section of official national e-government portal; the second an effort to improve communication between citizens and their representatives on national and local level through "Ask your MP" initiative; and the third is a networking e-governance project done by local government. All three projects share the assumption that the power of ICTs can be harnessed to improve communication between the government and the citizens and increase citizens' participation. However, actors and their practices are different, as well as the results.

My preliminary findings show that without abandoning the general preconceptions about how ICTs are supposed to work and what changes they can bring about, and without taking local context and local knowledge into account, such projects have very limited impact.

Since 15M: the (contentious) technopolitical reassembling of democracy in Spain

Author: Antonio Calleja-López (Internet Interdisciplinary Institute/Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)  email

Short Abstract

The talk analyzes and critically assesses the experimentation with technopolitics and alternative forms of democracy in key projects of the 2011-2016 cycle of contention in Spain (the most relevant one in the country since its re-democratization in the 1970s), opened by the 15M social movement.

Long Abstract

On May 15th 2011, a long cycle of contention (Tarrow, 1994) opened up in Spain. The 15M movement reclaimed "real democracy" and social justice in a time marked by an acute economic and political crisis, and austerity policies. Within this cycle, a variety of connected projects and processes have challenged the established model of (neo)liberal representative democracy, and some of its key social forms. Core challenges and alternatives to that model have been usually tied to experiments with "technopolitics", otherwise, they have involved politicized and innovative technological mediations of politics. In this talk I present and critically assess key cases within the 2011-2016 cycle; they are innovative forms of "politics as usual", which are specially suited for applying STS analytical devices and approaches. The cases include social movement organizations (Real Democracy, Now! in 2011), networked urban assemblages (the square encampments of 2011), new political parties (Podemos in 2014), and institutions (the participatory councils of cities such as Madrid and Barcelona in the period 2015-16). I recur to analytical devices and approaches coming from STS (Haraway, 1997; Latour 1987, 2005; Winner, 1986, 1992) to critically assess the meanings, possibilities, and limits of the intertwining of technologies and politics in processes aiming at--what we may label as--"technopolitical alter-democratization". With this we try to contribute to discussions on technopolitics (Hetch & Callon, 2009; Nahuis & Van Lente, 2008; Winner, 1986, 1992), and on the relations between materiality, politics, and democracy (Brown, 2015; Marres, 2012; Papadopoulos, 2011).

Social studies of publicity media? An issue-oriented perspective.

Author: Andreas Birkbak (University of Aalborg, Copenhagen)  email

Short Abstract

The media are today considered a key part of politics “as usual”. But so far, STS has not engaged in a substantial way with publicity media. The paper proposes that such an engagement can build on issue-oriented perspectives on politics and takes steps towards exploring this potential.

Long Abstract

In a democracy, the public is supposed to be self-governing, which means the public is an indispensable part of legitimate political action. This makes the public a central component in democratic "politics as usual". Yet, the public remains strikingly elusive in contemporary society. It is a complicated and often valuable feat to be able to determine the contours of the public or settle the opinion of the public, even if only for a moment (Lezaun 2007). Recent work in STS has studied methods for constructing the public, including focus groups, surveys, interviews and citizen hearings (Laurent 2011, Law 2009, Lezaun and Soneryd 2007). These techniques all draw on social science methods. However, the media also play an important role for the construction of publics today, which raises the question of what a social studies of media might look like. In this paper, I review work that has already been done to connect STS and media (Gillespie et al. 2014), suggesting that any sustained effort has yet to emerge. I propose that such an effort could start from the argument that controversial, sociotechnical issues are central to democratic politics (Marres 2007, Latour 2007). In addition to broadening the conception of politics, an issue-oriented perspective can be used to raise new questions about the publicity media that are already considered an important part of conventional politics. More specifically, an issue-oriented perspective prompts us to study media, whether news media or social media, as a set of techniques for temporarily assembling issue publics.

Mapping Publics: Production of Public Interest Spatial Knowledge

Author: Paul Manson (Portland State University)  email

Short Abstract

Public engagement has been explored in STS research to understand public values and science. This paper examines the role of public engagement as a 'science of the public' and its role in the production of state authority. A marine spatial planning process provides a case study in these dynamics.

Long Abstract

Public engagement is a commonplace expectation in environmental governance. STS research has explored and problematized the normative, substantive and instrumental claims around public engagement. This paper expands these models to explore the knowledge claims made about the public and its interest through public engagement. This paper incorporates theorization of state rationality and boundary objects to argue public engagement is a technologically mediated tool for producing knowledge about the public interest - a science of the public. This knowledge in turn provides the basis for legitimacy claims. The state's task is to provide the dominant claim on what the public is and what it needs. Further, the proliferation of public engagement technologies creates new boundary objects that seek to build consensus on defining the public and its interest. This paper explores a contemporary marine spatial planning effort in the Western United States based on participant observation of a public engagement process. The case documents efforts to expand state authority over the ocean where new actors sought to deploy ocean renewable energy devices. Use of a public participatory geographical information system (PPGIS) structured the political discourse around assigning ocean areas to conservation and development. This provides an example of a series of boundary objects that failed to achieve closure. PPGIS data allowed for a proliferation of meaning and representations which unsettled claims to know the public. This reveals the tentative nature of claiming to know the public and thus challenging state authority over new territory at sea.

Making publics with digital artifacts? The case of the Los Angeles Times' "Homicide Report"

Authors: Sylvain Parasie (University of Paris Est)  email
Jean-Philippe Cointet  email

Short Abstract

This paper tackles the political dimension of the collectives that emerge from digital artifacts. Using dedicated lexicometric tools, it investigates the collectives produced by an American news project that consists in a database of every homicide committed in Los Angeles county since 2010.

Long Abstract

Traditional news media play a major part in the constitution of publics as political actors. In the last decades, the rise of Internet has changed the sociotechnical conditions in which publics are formed. Digital artifacts, especially algorithms, databases and platforms, strongly affect the constitution of publics (Gillespie, 2012; Annany and Crawford, 2014). To what extent collectives emerging from such artifacts can still be described as publics? Critics and scholars notably fear that internet may encourage the fragmentation of collectives into narrow-minded groups in opposition to the original political definition of "publics" (Sunstein, 2001). Yet, only a few researches have explored this question empirically (Bakshy et al., 2015).

In line with the track objectives, our paper contributes to the understanding of the tools and machineries that turn publics into political realities. We studied an online news project that consists in a database of every homicide committed in Los Angeles county since 2010. Each homicide is documented through a series of variables (victim's ethnicity, gender, age, cause of death, etc.) and displayed on a map. Since each homicide page is open to comments, we performed a systematic analysis of a corpus of 30,000 comments. Using dedicated lexicometric tools, we characterize how emerging collectives share common interpretations about homicides. First, we show that the platform extends the public sharing interpretations around crime news, giving voice to people that are excluded from public discussion. Second, we show that genuine communities of interpretation actually emerge beyond the singularity of each homicide.

Connected crowds: networks and politics of anybody

Author: Guiomar Rovira-Sancho (Metropolitan Autonomous University)  email

Short Abstract

Connected crowds build common spaces both on line and in situ. The centrality of communication and networks in collective action has lead to distributed ways of participation, open to anybody.

Long Abstract

Over the last two decades, social movements have developed experiences in linking up networks as well as in common reflections about the very impact of their collective action. Thinking about considering the Internet not only as a means of communication, but a space for subversion ignited among artists and hackers right at the moment of the upsurge of Zapatismo in 1994. From the nineties until now, the centrality of communication and activism around technology has become an emerging paradigm in social struggles. In communication networks, a series of common notions were created to link up a global justice movement against neoliberalism. During the last years, connected crowds took the streets of many cities from the Arab Spring to the Indignados in Spain, the Occupy Movement in the USA or the Mexican #Yosoy132. These insurgencies emerge unexpectedly and their arrival on the scene reveals a will to be prefigurative, building spaces for common experimentation both on line and in situ.

As networks, connected crowds cannot be defined as a finite count of numerous parts, but multiplicities organized around the principle of inclusion. It is the unity and heterogeneity flow of a networked structure what allows individual participation in building the commons without mediation.

In this paper I explore the networked "politics of anybody". The demand for non-delegation, appears with unprecedented radicalism. Politics stops being a restricted sphere, inhabited by political parties and opinion leaders. Politics also stops being a question of counterpublics, or of organized groups of activists with highly elaborate ideas about emancipation.

Collective Intelligence: Politics and Citizenship in the 'More-than-Human' City

Author: Casey Lynch (University of Arizona)  email

Short Abstract

How does the implementation of smart city technologies and their related discourses and policies reshape the practice of politics and citizenship in urban space? This paper considers how expanding technological infrastructure leads to the emergence of new publics in Barcelona.

Long Abstract

New computer and robotic technologies and the collection and analysis of so-called "big data" promise to revolutionize the way cities are imagined, planned, (re)developed, governed, and experienced (Kitchin, 2014). The rise of the smart city paradigm in urban planning and governance has been accompanied by an emerging interdisciplinary literature that examines the various plans and practices that constitute these projects and visions (Picon, 2015; Gabrys, 2014; Del Casino, 2015; Sheppard, ed., 2011). Yet, as March and Ribera-Fumaz (2014) point out, much of this literature has focused on the characteristics of particular technologies or on the political economic models that allow such technologies to be implemented, largely failing to address the role and the status of the human in the purportedly 'smart' city. This literature has thus also failed to adequately address the many vital political and ethical questions these smart city projects raise, such as: who counts as a citizen in the smart city and under what conditions? What is the content of this citizenship and how is it exercised? How are human relationships increasingly mediated by new technology? Critically engaging and combining literature from urban, cultural, and political geography, architecture and planning, and science and technology studies, my research asks the question: How does the implementation of smart city technologies and their related discourses and policies reshape the practice of politics and citizenship in urban space? To answer this question, this study is formulated as a critical urban ethnography on the implementation of smart city technology in Barcelona, Spain.

International Policy Orthodoxy and the Coordination of Multiplicity: Translating Reform Agendas at the World Bank

Author: Patrick Coupar (Birkbeck, University of London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper proposes an Actor-Network Theory-inspired understanding of a shift in international development policy orthodoxy. It argues for the need to reinvent received notions of political rationalism by looking to STS.

Long Abstract

This paper proposes a new approach to understanding a shift in international development policy orthodoxy concerning the management of canalised agricultural irrigation systems in poor countries - namely, the move since the 1990s from a hierarchical, state-led approach to a partially devolved model in which certain responsibilities are passed to local-level farmer groups.

Deploying tools and sensitivities drawn from the repertoire of Actor-Network Theory, the paper describes the path to the World Bank's eventual advocacy of this novel irrigation management policy as a distributed, socio-material process in which heterogeneous actors gather around a multi-valent proposition. Drawing on interviews with key development professionals, it describes the ways in which actors including paper documents, organisational protocols, and staff from a range of international development organisations, NGOs, academia, and domestic bureaucracies worked to coordinate multiple interpretations of the value of the new policy, translating and re-translating sometimes mutually exclusive understandings into an ostensibly common agenda.

The paper argues that this ANT-inspired approach facilitates more realistic and less idealised descriptions of policy reasoning which better capture the relationship between such reasoning and its intersecting political contexts, and, as such, represents a marked improvement over dominant Kuhnian-Lakatosian theorisations of ideational change in the study of politics.

Binding Responsibility in DRR - "Documenting" the Sendai Framework

Authors: Christie Oh (University of Toronto)  email
Gabby Resch (University of Toronto)  email
Gabby Resch (University of Toronto)  email
Gabby Resch (University of Toronto)  email

Short Abstract

Disaster risk reduction has emerged as a systematic bridge between sustainable development, civic resilience, and disaster preparedness. We present a “document biography” of the Sendai Framework to consider multiple meanings of “binding” with regard to questions of responsibility and authority.

Long Abstract

Disaster risk reduction (DRR) has emerged as a systematic bridge between sustainable development, civic resilience, and disaster preparedness. While promoting accumulative economic growth in developing countries, organizations like the UN encourage a DRR orientation that takes sustainable development and the reduction of disaster risk to be inherently bound phenomena. An aim of this orientation is to bind resilience to infrastructure development, such that mitigating disaster-associated economic, social, and cultural impacts becomes an ongoing civic responsibility.

Following Kopytoff ("things") and Gosden & Marshall ("objects"), and inspired by Buckland's (2007) call to trace the life-cycle of individual documents to show their formation, their relationships with other documents, and their influences, we present a "document biography" of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. Underpinning Sendai is a recognition of the primary role of the State in reducing disaster risk, coupled with an acknowledgement that responsibility should be distributed among various stakeholders (including local government and the private sector). In opposition to this, authors like Rebecca Solnit have argued that new publics emerge in disasters despite government management, positioning the document as a site of contestation. We trace Sendai (and its precursors) to consider how its materiality conditions future responses to disaster risk, and to examine how such frameworks are constituted as hybrid material-digital documents. In doing this, we account for multiple meanings of "binding" - legal binding; binding of risk and responsibility - that are brought to bear on the question of document authority in the face of disaster risk.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.