Category Archives: Conference CFP’s

Studying With: Relation and method in the technoscientific field

Studying With: Relation and method in the technoscientific field

Since Laura Nader (1972) suggested that anthropologists turn their attention “up,” using the ethnographic gaze to bring powerful informants down to size, the anthropology of expertise has been entwined with concerns about the politics of method. The anthropology of scientists, engineers and other experts raises new forms of classic methodological questions: How should we understand the relationship between explanations offered by anthropologists and those offered by their interlocutors? How should ethnographers respond to the practical, political, and epistemic problems raised by the idea that our role is to explain what is “really” going on? Anthropologists have proposed a variety of concepts to address these questions, from “polymorphous engagement” (Gusterson 1997), to “lateral reason” (Maurer 2005) and “collateral knowledge” (Riles 2011), to the “found para-ethnographic” (Holmes and Marcus 2005).

Following this year’s call to “examine the truths we encounter, produce and communicate through anthropological theories and methods,” this panel brings together a set of researchers engaged with the practical and conceptual difficulty of studying technoscientific knowledge practices ethnographically. When engineers claim anthropological objects like “culture” as their own, when fieldwork may involve traveling just across campus, or when access hinges on convincing interlocutors of the commercial merit of ethnography, anthropology’s trademark reflexivity and charitable interpretations face new challenges. Drawing on recent and ongoing fieldwork experiences, these papers propose and explore novel modes of relation between the knowledge practices of anthropologists and those they study, building on work in the anthropology of expertise and science and technology studies.

We are looking for one or two papers to round out the panel. If you are interested in joining us, please reply to nseaver@uci.edu expressing your interest by this Friday, April 11th.

Producing Design: Ethnographies of Inequality and Difference in Digital Technologies

Producing Design: Ethnographies of Inequality and Difference in Digital Technologies
Organizers: Jordan Kraemer (UC Irvine/UC Berkeley) and Angela VandenBroek (Binghamton University, SUNY)

Please contact us if you’re interested in participating, and send proposed abstracts of 250 words to Jordan (jordan@jordankraemer.com) on or by April 7.

Technology companies have long been attentive to interface and interaction design, and are increasingly focused on “user experience,” that is, how humans interact with computing devices, products, and other humans. Although ethnographic and other qualitative research methods are now commonplace in corporate and design settings, fewer anthropological studies examine technology design (broadly conceived) in constructing inequality and cultural difference. With the current 2010s tech boom, startups and established companies alike are generating a profusion of new applications, hardware, architectures, and systems. Many of these will be implemented in diverse settings around the globe, albeit in uneven ways. This panel brings together anthropological studies of this unevenness, to address cultural inequalities in user interface and technology design. Recent commentators in the media, for example, have pointed out that tech innovators in places like Silicon Valley design platforms and services mainly for urban elites, like themselves often young, white, male, and technically savvy. Scholarly critics, moreover, seek to trouble utopian visions of technology diffusion by calling attention to the complexity of relations between tech companies, developers and designers, users, states, institutions, and material infrastructures (e.g., Morozov 2011; also Star 1999)—even as these actors often overlap.

Anthropologists and scholars in related fields have studied design and designers for some time, and have contributed to the development of design practices (e.g., Drazin 2012; Suchman 2011). Others focus on emerging forms of digital labor (Ross et al. 2010), especially in relation to value. In this panel, we investigate different ways emerging technologies and their design depend on culturally and geographically specific norms that inform interaction design, to contribute to an ongoing anthropology of design in digital contexts. How does design, especially user interface design, shape experiences of sociality, mobility, personhood, affect, value, or labor? How do designers and users (often the same people) contend with affordances and accommodations of interfaces conceived for elite or dominant subjects? From digital media to Internet-enabled household objects and “wearables,” technologies designed in particular places (whether California, London, Stockholm, Berlin, Shanghai, or Brazil) circulate transnationally and become integrated into daily practices in diverse locales. We follow Lucy Suchman’s call to locate technologies and their design in particular places, while attending to new forms of placemaking they entail.

Topics of particular interest include the anthropology of computing and user interfaces, interaction design, communications infrastructure, online “content creation” and social media, digital forms of labor, surveillance and privacy, crowdsourcing and microwork, big data and algorithms, and issues of space, place, and scale.

Digital technology, transparency, and everyday forms of political engagement

Digital technology, transparency, and everyday forms of political engagement. CFP for 2014 AAA.

Do digital media enable us to see more clearly or accurately than other forms of media? What forms of knowledge, meaning, and/or matter do they make more transparent, and for whom? In which cases do they increase trust and intimacy and in which do they obscure the dynamics of social relationships? What do digital media obscure and how?

These are some of the questions we hope to ponder in this panel on digital technology, transparency, and everyday forms of political engagement. In the global South, in particular, government administrations and civic and community organizations have formed to promote the idea that “going digital” will lead to greater political clarity – i.e., transparency – and eliminate both graft and mundane human error. Capitalizing on the post-Cold War global euphoria for greater openness, and governance built on sharing “information,” digital technology and “transparency” have become indelibly linked, as the former is expected to bring about the latter, itself described as both a desired end of and means to achieve “good governance.”

In this panel we hope to consider the “thingness” or materiality of digital technology in concert with its dialectical opposite: the “seen through.” What are the social, cultural, and technical operations and arguments through which digital technology, on purpose or by oversight, enables us to see…or not? What are the effects of this (non)seeing? Possible topics for discussion include: – the production and circulation of new visual media and the creation of new digital publics – citizen engagement with open data projects – the social production, circulation, and use of crowdsourcing software (esp open source) – the construction, management, and operation of data holding structures – the labor of laying fibre optic cables or transporting lithium, etc.

We call on panelists to consider how the representational and the material, the transparent and the opaque, the seen and the unseen are entangled in historically specific moments and culturally specific locales. At the same time, we urge panelists to consider how particular digital transparency claims and/or projects resonate with those formed in other times and places, and collectively contribute to broad transnational political visions, projects, and movements. We thus welcome proposals from all geographical areas. If you are interested in being on our panel please send an abstract of 250 words or less with your name and institutional affiliation by April 5 to poggiali@stanford.edu and dmahoney1@usf.edu.

Thanks, Dillon Mahoney, University of South Florida, and Lisa Poggiali, Stanford University

Localities: Science and Technology in Places, Spaces, and Times

Localities: Science and Technology in Places, Spaces, and Times is a Graduate Student Conference in STS at York University, May 3-4 in Toronto.

The Science & Technology Studies Program at York University announces the forth annual graduate student conference. This year’s theme, Localities, challenges us to consider how places, spaces and times take active roles in shaping the science and technology we research, and our research of science and technology. As places, spaces and times create boundaries, the concepts surrounding them are something considered and vigorously debated within STS. Their definition and construction reflect the social nature of the ways science is conducted, technologies developed, and the manner in which both are disseminated, debated, and considered, both publicly and within their respective communities. What are the localities created by such boundaries, in which science and technology and their subsequent consideration and debate reside? Do they reside within them at all, or are the very idea of localities, within which science and technology and the discourse surrounding them takes place, even something that exists or something that needs to be considered? This year’s graduate student conference looks to explore these bounded localities, hoping to bring attention to the various realms, in which science and technology reside, and to encourage discussion on how the tangible and intangible is presented across localities, as well as
how they impact individuals and communities.

We invite papers from graduate students from all areas of the humanities and social sciences that will inspire, challenge, and stretch personal assumptions, academic categories, and pedagogical approaches to the practices of STS. This conference provides an excellent opportunity to share research as well as to meet other like-minded up-and-coming academics and researchers.

We welcome contributions on the following topics:
• Education, Pedagogies and Methodologies of Locality • Public Dimensions of Science & Technology
• Science & Technology in Academic Localities • Science & Technology in Nature and Space
• Science & Technology in Fiction and Media • Technicalities of Science & Technology
• Extraordinary Localities • Embodiment and Identities • Material Dimensions
• Policies, Regulations, Law • Political Localities • Historical Localities
• Localities / (Con-)Temporalities • Thinking and Making • Multispecies Ethnography

Submission & Registration
Please submit a maximum 350-word abstract, which includes your name, affiliation, year of study, and e-mail address to STS2014@yorku.ca.
Deadline: March 31, 2014.
Please go to our website yorkustsgradconference2014.wordpress.com for further details.

Applied Anthropology and the Digital Humanities

DANG members and collaborators have been sharing with me their Calls for Papers for some really exciting conferences where digital anthropology can take a leadership role in our discipline. In fact our organization was born from the desire to reimagine a professional anthropology that exceeded the capacity to be contained by the American Anthropological Association and, indeed, any traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Jeremy Trombley writes of his plans to organize a panel on “Online Anthropology” for the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, in Denver, March 2013.

Over the last year, there has been a lot of attention paid to the work that anthropologists do to promote the discipline, collaborate, and share information online (e.g. blogging, social media, open access journals, etc.). Unfortunately, much of this work goes unrecognized and unrewarded by traditional institutional structures, both academic and applied. The papers on this panel will explore the roles of anthropologists in online communities, the ways that anthropologists have used online media to further their own interests, and the different mechanisms for calling attention to online work within our institutions.

It’s time we built bridges with the applied anthropologists to learn from them and share with them the many ways in which Internet platforms are transforming anthropology. Organizing a DANG panel at the SfAA would be a good way to initiate dialogue with the applied folks over Open Access policy. And drawing upon their expertise in practicing anthropology within and without academia could have a positive long-term benefits for our group.

I attended the SfAA in 2005, in Santa Fe, and found it to be a very different program than the AAA, in a good way. If you haven’t been before join Jeremy in representing DANG. The SfAA does offer funding for grad students awarded on a competitive basis.

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Ethan Wattral, associate director of Michigan State’s MATRIX center for the application of new technologies in teaching, research, and outreach is looking for colleagues to join him at the Digital Humanities Conference at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, July 2013. This could be a fantastic opportunity to network among digital humanities scholars both to develop professionally and to benefit our organization.

As many of you no doubt recall “interdisciplinary” was the buzzword of the early 2000′s and it was bandied about proudly by anthropology, self described as the most interdisciplinary of the social sciences. If this is to amount to something more than lip service than anthropologist must step up to the plate and engage scholars outside our field. Digital anthropology stands to gain a lot by nurturing ties to the digital humanities. If this sounds up your alley please join Ethan in making a DANG panel happen in Lincoln.

It’s my understanding that Ethan does not have an abstract pre-drafted, but rather is looking for someone to collaborate with in making something happen. He writes, the proposed panel “could be an ‘in practice’ kind of thing with case studies or a discussion of the current state of digital anthropology… or even a more focused look at how digital anthropology fits into Digital Humanities.”

According to CFP linked to above some funding is available for “early-career scholars” so that might be interpreted as inclusive of adjuncts and newly minted PhD’s.