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Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), 2020

August 18 - 21, 2020

Conference theme: Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and agency of STS in emerging worlds

How has the world changed since 2016 when EASST and 4S met in Barcelona? Since then, efforts to frame “alternative” approaches and futures appear to have been co-opted by powerful actors. Big Data has been fiercely replacing former identities with digital identities for humans, animals and artefacts. Geopolitical and epistemic centres have further multiplied. The global temperature of the planet continues to increase, as do global emissions of CO2. Wildlife biodiversity is decreasing, while the first CRISPR-Cas engineered babies with altered germlines were born. Modern nation-states have become more unstable even as we see the tentative emergence of new collectives and solidarities. The #metoo campaign has sparked a new wave of articulations of and conflict over gender power asymmetries contributing energy to other ongoing efforts against asymmetric differentiations and exclusions in and beyond academic contexts.

These are just some of the major shifts that create feelings of urgency, unease and confusion. Calls to “act now” proliferate. And yet, while technoscience and its products ever more tangibly shape our planet and lives, politicians, publics, and even academics feel helpless.

We invite STS scholars to examine such spiraling changes that generate these feelings of urgency and powerlessness in ways that make our research relevant to wider academic and non-academic publics. For the meeting in Prague, we especially welcome inquiries into longer term continuities and discontinuities and material legacies of modernity—both desired and undesirable—that have been built into our sociotechnical infrastructures and ways of living. We want to pay special attention to the ways in which geopolitical, economic and epistemic globalization is localized and distributed over Planet Earth. What are the means and ends of STS in different places? What does it take to intervene and be relevant here and there? Whom do we want to speak and act with? Who wants to speak and act with us?

We encourage STS researchers to ask reflexive questions with regard to our own existing and potential practical contributions to these ongoing developments. How do we, can we and should we (re)organize our own professional practices to the differences we desire? How may we collaborate across regions, genders, races, religions or disciplines without reproducing inequalities? How shall we publish, (co)author and cite in inclusive ways? How do we rethink and remake ways of recognizing and crediting the work of others in an era of pervasive audit and (self)tracking? How do we liaise, meet up and travel responsibly in a time of climate disruption and overproduction of waste? How can we engage with policymaking and society at large amidst the dynamics of “alternative facts”?

We welcome experiments in conference formats. Apart from regular paper sessions, we also invite submission of walking seminars, performances and participatory formats of knowledge making and exchange. We plan to collaborate with local artists as unruly participant witnesses and agents of intervention into the conference.