Upcoming Workshop: Turning Points in Reflections on Science and Technology. Toward Historicizing STS
On March 14-15, 2023 the c:o/re workshop Turning Points in Reflections on Science and Technology: Towards Historicizing STS will take place. The workshop focuses on the 20th and 21st Century intellectual history of science and technology. It aims at opening up the field by historicizing Science and Technology Studies from various historical turns. Furthermore, it aims at discussing the various notions of “historicizing STS”. The Program is available below and here:
The summer term’s c:o/re Lecture Series will focus on the topic of complexity. But what is complexity? The Encyclopedia Britannica explains complexity as “a scientific theory which asserts that some systems display behavioral phenomena that are completely inexplicable by any conventional analysis of the systems’ constituent parts” – but since understanding and explaining the world is what research basically aims at, do we have reached the limits of what we can know when it comes to complex systems?
The talks of this summer term’s lecture series will touch on complexity from different disciplinary perspectives. Our invited speakers are: Giora Hon of Haifa University, Jan C. Schmidt of Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences, Benjamin Peters of University of Tulsa, Klaus Mainzer of Technical University of Munich, interdisciplinary researcher Clarissa Lee at c:o/re, Kyveli Mavrokordopoulou of the Centre Georg Simmel, and the historian and philosopher of natural philosophy and modern science Arianna Borelli.
On January 19-20 the workshop Navigating Interdisciplinarity hosted at the Marsilius Kolleg Heidelberg and organized in collaboration with CAPAS and c:o/re took place. This event brought together interdisciplinary groups of researchers, mostly but not only from the humanities and social sciences, to discuss the complexity of challenges that academic interdisciplinarity poses.
The workshop took off with a discussion on metaphors of interdisciplinarity, the metaphors that may give insight for thinking on interdisciplinarity to researchers from various fields.
Guided through a format well-designed by the organizers, the participants reflected and conversed on the notions of complexity, security and collapse. The debates revolved around the question of whether these notions can be vehicles for inter- and/or trans-disciplinarity? In some of the debate groups in the workshop it appears that systems theory is a reoccurring theme as a possibly encompassing framework for interdisciplinarity. In this we see both possibilities to foster interdisciplinarity as well as a shared disciplinary bias.
Discussions on complexity also seem to draw on notions of models and modeling. The clarity and understanding that models may provide bear on complexity. The work of models is to simplify, so to make comprehensible complex matters. As such, an important consideration in modeling consists in the parameters within a model is rendered insightful to what it models. How much to simplify, how much complexity to retain?
To further ponder on (possibilities of) transfer between disciplines, the participants discussed, in groups, three triads of overarching concerns about knowledge production, namely: (1) Validity – Evidence – Justification; (2) Coherence – Narration – Causation; (3) Argument – Explanation – Rigor.
Security appears to be a difficult but nevertheless useful concept to employ as a notion to breach disciplinary boundaries. Discussions in this regard seem to offer epistemologically open approaches on research in terms of a trade-off between low risk & low gain and, respectively, high risk and high gain.
As a notion, collapse seems to stir interest for interdisciplinary perspectives. It is difficult to start work from the concept of collapse but we find ourselves in the situation of having to start from a collapsing context. Collapse, that is, things falling into each other may cause discomfort but while opening opportunities. It may produce insecurity and it tends to consist in a reduction of complexity.
We would like to thank our colleagues from Marsilius Kolleg Heidelberg and CAPAS for this interesting event and look forward to continuing the collaboration by organizing follow-up events as well as starting to draft papers on the themes discussed.
On December 5th and 6th the first Varieties of Science workshop, titled Patterns of Knowledge, took place at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Varieties of Science is a series of workshops, organized by c:o/re, that aims to explores the pluralities of knowledge production. The workshop Patterns of knowledge brought together scholars from c:o/re, the hosting university in Mexico City as well as the Science, Technology and Society Studies Centre and the Digital Aesthetics Research Center of Aarhus University. We would like to thank Miriam Peña and Francisco Barrón of UNAM for hosting this. The event was live streamed on the YouTube channel of the Seminario Tecnologías Filosóficas, where it can be watched. We will soon post a full report of this event.
On December 14, 2022, c:o/re fellow Fernando Pasquini Santos explained his proposal Towards an ergonomics of data science practices, as part of the 2022/2023 c:o/re lecture series. While he acknowledged that the term is arguably outdated, Pasquini developed a broadly encompassing notion of ergonomics, spanning across modalities and modes of human-computer interaction. In this endeavour, Pasquini started by asking “how does it feel to work with data?” Tackling the question, he distinguished between challenges and directions in technology usability assessments.
In what was a rich and broadly encompassing study, Pasquini found particular inspiration in Coeckelbergh (2019), who notices a tradition in philosophy of technology that equates skilful acting with having a good life.
In this light, Pasquini proposed a “critical mediality” perspective in data science, that covers considerations from abstraction in data work to mathematical constructivism, embodiment and to blackboxing.
Coeckelbergh, Mark. 2019. Technology as Skill and Actvity:Revisitng the Problem of Alienation. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 16(3): 208–230.
For the international conference Nowhere(to)land? What Science Studies Contribute to Science Communication, that will take place in Bonn in June 14th to 16th, 2023, the Rhine Ruhr Center for Science Communication Research (RRC) and c:o/re are inviting researchers to submit proposals for contributions on the topic of STS and SCS. Deadline is January 15th, 2023.
You can follow the workshop Varieties of Science: Patterns of Knowledge, that c:o/re organizes together with the Seminario Tecnologías Filosóficas at UNAM in Mexico City, live on Youtube. The Workshop starts on Monday 5th, Dec at 10 am (5pm CET) [LINK to Livestream] and continues on Tuesday 6th, at 10:30 (5.30 CET) [LINK to Livestream].
On July 4th, we celebrated the Inauguration of our Center in Aachen’s Historical Town Hall with many friends and colleagues. The program included an insightful key lecture by STS scholar Karin Knorr Cetina on epistemic shifts in the digital age and a rich discussion on interdisciplinarity and the past and future transformations of research cultures with the journalist Jan-Martin Wiarda, historian Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, chemist Matthias Wessling, and microbiologist Lars Blank. If you would, besides our written report of the event, you can get an insight into the even by watching the highlights here:
On November 11 a Science night (Wissenschaftsnacht) took place at RWTH Aachen University. This was an open-doors event in the University’s impressive CARL building, where various university departments and research groups exhibited their work, in a welcoming ambiance, aided by food and drinks (see program here). The c:o/re team took this opportunity to engage in dialog with the attendees. While many colleagues such as engineers and natural scientists represented their work by showcasing actual technological products, we thought to best represent our work by irritating and inspiring science-enthusiasts with the question what is science?
That is, in the best of philosophical traditions, instead of pointing to solutions and giving answers, important and urgent as that is, we invited to reflection and dialogue through questioning. Specifically, prompted by materials that we prepared aiming to inspire conversation we asked the more subtle and challenging question addressing our interlocutors: what is your science?
This was an excellent event and we are grateful to the University for organizing it. It helped us both to better reach out to interested stakeholders that are not formally part of higher education institutions and, also, to connect with colleagues from other departments and faculties. As a result, many citizens from the Aachen region now know about the Käte Hamburger Research Centres and about c:o/re. We had very interesting and challenging discussions with a diverse public, from children to students and to professors, and we discovered many common interests with colleagues working in, for example, bioeconomics and teacher training. We used prompts, such as postcards and posters, to intrigue passers-by about the difficulties of pinning down what science is. The people we talked to left their impressions on what is science on post-it notes. We collected the notes, thus forming a collection that can now serve as an unusual set of data, at least for stimulating wonder and inspiring questions, if not for conducting concrete research. The many answers ranged from claiming that science is “magic”, to “applied imagination”, “ongoing” and to “what can be debunked” and “fallibilism”.
We are now pursuing the dialogues that we started with colleagues at this event and we look forward to next year’s Science night!
The work that this group pursues aligns with that of the Computational Science Studies Lab, set up by Professor Gabriele Gramelsberger, Chair for Philosophy of Science and Technology (Humtec, RWTH Aachen University) and Director of c:o/re. The work of c:o/re fellow Alexandre Hocquet and his co-author Frederic Wieber on computational chemistry has been instrumental to setting the directions of this research group. An important observation by Alexandre Hocquet, through which this group is working to conceptualize software, is that software is not just code. It involves much more, being a cultural practice. Also, a critical insight came from Gabriele Gramelsberger who stated that “software is an alien”.
On November 8 and 9 the Engineering Practices Workshop: New Horizons in the Social Study of Science and Software took place at c:o/re. This workshop marks the formation of a group, within c:o/re, focused on software research. The group consists in former and current c:o/re fellows and c:o/re team members, all of whom share an interest for software studies, but coming from various angles.
The workshop started with two talks by c:o/re team members Dawid Kasprowicz on Managing the unmanageable: Is software engineering the art or science of scientific programming? and Phillip H. Roth on Scientific communication in the age of software: Sorting out materiality, community and infrastructure. c:o/re fellows Benjamin Peters and Arianna Borrelli acted as discussants to these presentations, opening then the debate to the entire group. Dawid Kasprowicz opened the question on how does scientific programming look like from a software engineering perspective, touching upon matters such as research reproducibility and the transferability software engineering knowledge. In his response, Benjamin Peters remarked that software in unmanageable in interesting ways. Analogies to previous technologies and practices are often improper, as software it is not 4-dimensional, but potentially (infinitely) n-dimensional.
Phillip H. Roth asked how doe representations of science and, consequently, science itself, too, change through technological change?
These talks were followed by a roundtable consisting in several c:o/re team members and fellows. Each tackled software from a disciplinary angle.
On the second day of the workshop, the group tried to make a synthesis of the discussion and set the ground for a position paper on software on which they are now working.