Monitoring Circulation
Location 117a
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 14:00
Sessions 1


  • Jess Bier (Erasmus University Rotterdam) email
  • Willem Schinkel (Erasmus University Rotterdam) email

Mail All Convenors

Chair Jess Bier
Discussant Sally Wyatt (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences - KNAW)

Short Abstract

The papers in this track analyze the politics of counting and visualizing in efforts to monitor the global circulation of people, practices, and data. The goal is to further examine the relationships between circulation infrastructure and supranational efforts at regulation and surveillance.

Long Abstract

This track analyzes the politics of counting and visualizing in the monitoring of the global circulation of people, practices, and data. Researchers are increasingly examining the circulation of technoscience and its spread into non-traditional domains like governance and finance. However, the agents, targets, infrastructures, visions, and techniques of governmentality also circulate beyond local borders. So it is necessary to further examine the relationships between circulation infrastructure and supranational efforts at regulation and surveillance.

How do visualization practices perform and produce international flows, and vice versa? Which social imaginations are reinforced, and which erased, through circulation infrastructure? How does monitoring challenge older spatial and territorial models? How do histories of circulation and stasis, including colonial legacies, help set the conditions of possibility for the circulation of technoscience? How are auditing, evaluation, and big data reshaping scientific practices? How do we study monitoring and circulation, and which methods fail to grasp them? Topics include:

- standardization and quality assurance in the circulation of science

- distributed vision in the routinized work of the quantitative assessments of populations

- surveillance technologies and the shaping of migrant and refugee flows

- auditing and evaluation in institutional governance, including corporations and universities

- rethinking of methods, including ANT (Latour), spider (Ingold), and notions of 'multisitedness'

- quantification and erasure in the circulation of science across the global South and North

- the production of stability and flow through infrastructures of circulation

- the role of international technical expertise in the evaluation of knowledge

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Tools of legibility: Monitoring global trade flows

Author: Julian Stenmanns (Goethe Universität Frankfurt)  email

Short Abstract

This paper traces the different tools of legibility that are meant to produce global visibility in supply networks. It thus discusses the reconfigurations of logistics and the infrastructures of state borders in a time of circulatory capitalism

Long Abstract

State bordering technologies lie at the core of contemporary circulatory capitalism. As modern logistics allows for dissecting production facilities globally, price differences on different markets can be mobilised and turned into profit. This process has radically reconfigured the role of today's state border. A border nowadays must function as a productive threshold that turns movement into value. However, this reconfigured border remains at the same time the proto-sovereign space of state order. Customs and border police are mandated to monitor and interrupt illegitimate border crossings and unauthorised access into the circuits of (inter)national trade. This is a delicate project as opening and verifying consignments represents a laborious task that disturbs the rhythm, pace, and velocity of global supply. In short, control practices become itself a threat to the logic of circulation and arbitrage. To protect seamless and secure international cargo circulation, technology bundles such as container scanners, international security protocols and data centres are used to improve end-to-end visibility in complex supply networks. Building on different strands of literature, including science and technology studies, governmentality studies and critical logistics and infrastructure research, the proposed paper will discuss preliminary findings of ongoing ethnographic field inquiries, from West African seaports to free zones across the European Union.

The visual ecology of European migration politics: becoming visible in the movement of things

Author: Rogier van Reekum (Erasmus University Rotterdam)  email

Short Abstract

Visualization plays is crucial to the politics of European migration. The concept of visual ecology reconstructs a terrain of circulating visualizations. Migrants are able to intervene in this continuous production of movements and help us see beyond the 'migration crisis'.

Long Abstract

Crises signal the limits of the imagination: things must change yet a different future remains unimaginable. The current 'migration crisis' in Europe is no different. While practices of visualization play a crucial role in the ways in which mobility is securitized, controlled, counted and publicized, visualizations tends to hypostasize 'migration crisis' to be unnatural yet inevitable. Specific logics of visualization depict migration so as to render it both external - i.e. 'foreign' - and internal - i.e. 'European' - at once. Thereby, migration remains an exceptional issue, abnormal yet unavoidable. This raises the question which visualizations may destabilize an imaginary of invasion. However, this question presumes an all too clear-cut competition of imagery. By developing the concept of visual ecology, we are able to construct migration's visuality not as an arena of contrasting pictures but as a shifting terrain of circulating visualizations. While a critical analysis would discover hegemony behind representation, a focus on ecological connections demonstrates how visual capacities are entangled. The visual politics of migration turns out not to be one of static imposition, but a continuous co-production of movements in which migrants are able to intervene. Lines of sight beyond migration's crisis are invented in the midst of becoming visible.

A Multi-dimensional Approach to (South) Korean International Research Collaboration

Author: Sooa Lee (Georgia Institute of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

This study monitors a multi-dimensional aspect of social barriers associated with transnational knowledge circulation by examining policy reports and interviews with micro-level actors.

Long Abstract

As social constructivists of scientific knowledge argue, knowledge is socially produced and circulated. That is, the production of knowledge occurs within the boundaries of a social relationship. As a result, social obstacles prevent knowledge from freely circulating, and from this social activity, actors such as scientists, institutions, and governments negotiate their gains. Based on the theoretical frame of STS and Bourdieu's concept of habitus, this research focused on multi-dimensional approach to explain international collaborative research in Korea. As methodologies, content analysis of reports published by national scientific policy research agencies and a case study of scientists and an administrative official who work or used to work for national materials and mechanical research institutes in Korea were used. Policy reports illustrated low level of international research collaboration in Korea and indicated structural problems such as definitions and evaluations of international research collaboration. Interviews with scientists in the field of materials and mechanical engineering suggested administrative culture, technological gap, Intellectual Property Rights as major barriers for collaborations. Finally, interview with an administrative member indicated limits of resources, size of research funding, and conflicts of interest as factors hampering international research collaboration. Exploring three approaches from policy researchers, scientists, and administrative member showed multi-dimensional aspects of social barriers associating with international research collaboration in Korea.

How to do your genes: transformations in a genetics lab

Author: Colin Halverson (University of Chicago)  email

Short Abstract

This talk investigates how technicians in a molecular genetics laboratory manage to constitute a unified sample over the course of radical material transformations – from liquid blood to digital code – with a particular focus on the role of informatic ‘noise’ and its recognition and removal.

Long Abstract

When patients come into the clinic for genomic testing, they carry with themselves an enormous variety of potentially meaningful materials. As their cases move through the testing process - from sample collection to DNA extraction to analysis - the types of objects that serve as evidence for the clinicians and scientists working on their cases change radically. The object of analysis may be - for example - a physical body, peripheral blood, a DNA strand, or a printed report of Gs, Cs, Ts, and As. Because of the diversity of qualities thrown up by these divergent avatars of the patients' cases, significant social work has to be practiced in order to maintain the ontological coherence of the case across sociotechnological time. At moments of transformation, the materials act symbolically as boundary objects, and I lay out the modalities by which different conceptualizations are enacted as ways of referring to "the same thing." I discuss the 'transduction' of patients' cases in terms of both signifiers (naming practices) and signifieds (physical objects). I look at how the patient's body is represented as singular while erasing the multiplicity inherent in these acts of representation. In particular, I focus on the types of qualities that get sloughed off with the 'noise' during the process. (For instance, when a tissue sample is transformed into DNA, it is no longer intrinsically obviously from which organ it was derived.) Such sieving is itself standardized, and the types of 'noise' that remain inseparable from desirable data complicate this purification process.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.