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Sensing Subjectivities: Biosensing and Human/Machine Entanglements

Sat, September 2, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Sheraton Boston, Floor: 3, Exeter

Session Submission Type: Traditional (Closed) Panel


This panel explores issues of embodiment, perception, and new forms of human/machine entanglements that occur through biosensing technologies. Biosensors create data about bodies or their environments using an ever evolving array of sensor technologies and data infrastructures. No longer the exclusive domain of medical experts, biosensing technologies invite an increasingly wide range of people to contemplate bodily phenomena like emotional arousal, or microbes in the gut, through the lens of what a sensor can see. Much broader than fitness trackers or the Quantified Self movement, biosensor data is caught up in a wider range of situations where sensory aspects of subjectivity and social relations come to the fore, and where what is “real” becomes a matter of concern. Notions of viscerality might be pressed into biosensor design features, while design practices might be used to unpack the privacy and surveillance issues that biosensing inevitably raise. Biosensors might be mobilized for practices beyond supposedly “objective” measurement, while technologies like virtual reality (VR) might be repurposed in order for psychologists to measure and sense the body more precisely. Thinking through biosensing as a multi-sited phenomenon invites critical but generative understandings of biosensors, ones that might afford alternative and just possibly better sense-abilities and sensitivities. To this end, the panel brings STS scholars into dialogue with STS-minded human-computer interaction scholars who also physically build sensor systems, in order to expand our sensibilities about what might be materially and socially possible.

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