Tomorrow (from where I am writing this) I will present some of my research at the joint conference of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology and the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S). Originally planned in Prague from Aug 18-21, COVID-19 has made the conference move to virPrague, i.e. online. Unfortunately I had to miss out on the first day of the conference, but today I had the chance of attending a few presentations, all excellent by the way. I love to learn what others are working on and get new perspectives. Therefore, I am glad that I will again be able to be part of “my” conferences this autumn (also looking at you, AoIR2020). Despite the particular circumstances it is clear to me that virConference is always better than noConference.
More than anything else I owe my active participation at the EASST/4S 2020 conference to two fantastic scholarly colleagues. Elinor Carmi and Dan Kotilar masterfully responded to the conference theme “Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and Agency of STS in Emerging Worlds” by putting together a wonderful panel about “Contextualizing Algorithms in Time and Space” that I would want to attend even if I were not presenting. From the summary:
[W]hile the power of algorithms is unquestionably global, the exact temporal and spatial trajectories through which algorithms operate, and the specific socio-cultural contexts from which they arise, have been largely overlooked. This panel aims to address these gaps, and uncover the complex spatio-temporal contexts through which algorithms operate. We will ask: What is the role of locality, temporality, and culture in the creation and implementation of algorithms? How algorithms become localised to create ‘personalized’ experiences? What types of data are being used to contextualize people’s lives through platforms? and what gets filtered out in the process of datafication, and why?
Together with Taina Bucher (because, yes, I forgot to mention: the brilliant Taina Bucher is also part of our panel) we will talk about Facebook, Google, and a user-profiling company, about personalizing, profiling, and targeting, and about structures, timing, and practices. I am looking forward to it — if you intend to join, please say hi :)
Although half of the conference is already over, the program of the next two days is still extremely rich. Are you attending EASST4S and would like some pointers? Please let me recommend the following panels and presentations by my STS Lab/STS-CH colleagues from Switzerland and my ex-colleagues from S&TS Cornell (apologies in advance to anyone I may have overlooked):
Thursday morning starts with food: at 10am (all times are Prague local times, i.e. CEST) you could attend The Follies of Scaling-up Processed Foods in India or Logics of Food Consumption, Choice and Politics on Digital Media, then Commercial and Temporal Logics of Digital Food at 12pm. In the afternoon, perhaps peek in on Comm Scholars in STS – Making it work as an interdisciplinary scholar before attending Locating And Timing Matters Of Attention Through Wikipedia: Technical, Epistemological And Political Considerations. (Re:the latest session, you need to know that it will be held in a flipped format, so you need to engage with the presentations beforehands.) At 8pm, in case you are not attending our panel, there are still at least two more Swiss STS presentations on offer: Charting the Political Epistemologies of Epigenetics and DOHaD and Architectonic Studies of Radio Signals: Reorganizing Archives of Data/Natures In Their Own Terms.
Friday starts at 10am with: New Patient’s Definition Shaped by Preventive Properties of HIV Drugs. At noon, there is Articulating Politics with Design and Technology: Public Space, Computation and Commoning, and a little later Scaling a “global music platform”: secret gigs, live music and the platform metaphor. At the end of the last conference day, a last difficult choice: between Another Type of Precision Oncology? Knowledge Production within a Platform of Cancer Immunotherapy in Switzerland, Cures, Harms & Medical Authority: Animating Side-Effects As Modes Of Resistance In Hepatitis C-Treatments and Locating South Asia in Social Studies of Science and Technology. All interesting, all relevant, although not necessarily linked to my immediate research topic. But even if I had to choose which session to attend based on topic or research area, I would hardly manage to come up with a satisfying schedule: there are so many parallel sessions happening! Impossible to attend everything I am interested in — just like with in-person conferences.
However, unlike in-person conferences there will be recordings available, it seems… great news!