This past April Harvard’s Program on Science, Technology and Society hosted a conference “reflecting on the past twenty years of STS graduate study, and looking ahead to the next twenty.” As the organizers explained in the meeting abstract:
“The meeting is in part a stock-taking. After two decades of increased
public funding for STS, what can we say about our achievements as a
“thought collective”? What have we learned from speaking the truths of
our field to the power of established disciplines? Which areas of work
do we recognize as displaying the greatest theoretical depth and
creativity? What do we impart to STS scholars-in-the-making, and what
can we do to ensure that their ideas are heard more widely and that they
find appropriate academic homes? The three-day program addresses these
questions: first, STS and the disciplines; second, STS and its theories;
third, STS’s institutional challenges and opportunities.
In part, too, the meeting is a provocation: an invitation to reflect
on the conditions needed for this field to thrive and grow—in keeping
with the importance of its mission. As with any provocation, the
questions we hope to explore may have conflicting answers. Ideas will be
generated throughout the meeting from both our physical and virtual
audiences. This website, managed by a local team of scholars, is part of
an effort to make the meeting as inclusive and participatory as
possible, both during the event and after it.
Overall, this is a meeting to rethink questions that all STS scholars
have grappled with at some point in their intellectual lives. Why do
STS? What makes it interesting, distinctive, coherent, relevant, and
deserving of stronger institutionalization?”
Videos from a number of the sessions have been made available on YouTube. You’ll find them embedded below, along with the titles and brief descriptions from the conference organizers:
Does STS Matter, and to Whom?
Theodore Porter (UCLA) and Andrew Jewett (Harvard) discuss the relationship of Science and Technology Studies (STS) to other academic fields, policymakers, and practitioners.
STS and the Law: Reframing Rights
Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard) and Douglas Kysar (Yale) discuss the recent edited volume “Reframing Rights.” The discussion centers on the biological sciences and their associated technologies as providing moments for society to ask fundamental questions about their “bioconstitutional” rights.
STS, Economics, and Sociology: Do Economists Make Markets?
Pierre-Benoit Joly (Paris-Est and IFRIS) and David Stark (Columbia) discuss how STS research has affected work in economic sociology, and what other STS tools might be usefully applied.
Defining the Boundaries
Kaushik Sunder Rajan (Chicago) gives a provocation for STS scholars to think again about STS’s close ties to post-colonial studies, with specific references to Indian life sciences in relation to the Western sciences. Discussants Javier Lezaun (Oxford) and David Winickoff (UC Berkeley) debate other “elsewheres” STS travels to, whether it could travel everywhere, and how best it travels.
STS on Difference
Steven Epstein (Northwestern) delivers a provocation on whether or not STS has made a difference, arguing that it has not done as much as it could. Nelly Oudshoorn (Twente) suggests some productive ways forward, and Sherine Hamdy (Brown) argued that STS scholars have missed opportunities by ignoring the linkages between science, religion, and difference.
Science and Technology Studies and the Public Sphere?
Beginning with a provocation from Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard) this session discusses how the public sphere is viewed from within STS, followed by reflections from Myles Jackson (NYU Polytechnic) and Brian Wynne (Lancaster).
Opening the Black Box
Trevor Pinch (Cornell) provokes this session by looking at where STS has gone and where it is going. David Kaiser (MIT) continues the conversation by focusing on the problem of scale in “black box” studies. Antoine Picon (Harvard) pushes back by suggesting that perhaps STS hasn’t opened the black box after all.