Friday, April 24, 2009

Workshop Social Technology

Amsterdam, 2 October 2009

Sponsored by The Netherlands Graduate School of Science, Technology and
Modern Culture (WTMC)

Call for participants

This one-day workshop will be held in Amsterdam, 2 October 2009. Papers
will be pre-circulated and a respondent assigned for each contribution.
If you are interested in submitting a paper, please send an abstract,
400 – 600 words, before 30 May 2009, to


In this workshop, we seek to address two deeply ingrained aspects of
current Science and Technology Studies: the focus on material
technology, and the idea that all technology is social. Devices,
machines, artifacts take central place in STS, in keeping with the
common sense meaning of the word ‘technology’. Combined with STS's
traditional focus on natural science and medicine, this has resulted in
a relative neglect of technologies that stem from the social sciences,
in which material devices are less prominent. Moreover, through the
influence of actor-network theory in particular, the idea has taken
root that material technology forms the glue of our society (the
'missing masses'), as well as being its main source of change. Material
technology is considered to be at the heart of society, and the
dichotomy of the social and the technological is rejected: all
technology is social, and society is technological through and through.

We wish first of all to redress the imbalance inherent in the material
view of technology. The social sciences produce great numbers of
graduates each year, skilled in technologies that are to a large extent
intangible: psychotherapy, focus groups, various types of interview,
techniques of human resource management, and many others. Such
practices have of course been the subject of historical and
sociological study, often from a Foucauldian perspective. However,
applying the conceptual resources of STS may bring into better view the
socio-material construction processes involved in practical social
science, its particular affordances and trade-offs, and embeddedness in
technoscientific networks.

Secondly, we want to problematize the popular 'dissolution of the
social': the widely accepted proposition that the category of 'the
social' is at best increasingly irrelevant, and at worst a fundamental
mistake. Rethinking old dichotomies such as that of nature and culture,
or the material and the social, has been of tremendous importance in
reflecting on our current ways of living. However, the fact that it is
no longer acceptable as a theoretical resource, does not make the
social any less interesting as an empirical phenomenon. The
distinctiveness of people and their interactions is still invoked,
produced, repressed, and utilized in many technological assemblages,
not only those stemming from the social sciences.

We propose the term 'social technology' to cover these issues, and
intend to bring together a number of scholars from Science and
Technology Studies and the Social Sciences to discuss them.

The workshop will be the occasion to address the following questions,
through theoretical and conceptual reflections and empirically-oriented
contributions: What is the current scope of technology studies and to
what extent can it embrace social technologies? Which social
technologies are especially prominent in contemporary culture, and how
can we study these? Does a reframing of ‘technology’ enable STS to
better explore the workings of social science and humanities? How can
the term social technology allow a study of human qualities, without
assuming a priori a human essence?

Papers that compare the role of predominantly material technologies in
building and stabilizing 'collectives' with the role of social
technologies are also welcome, as are papers that address social
technologies as (1) technologies from the social sciences, (2)
technologies that consist entirely or predominantly of human action
(polling, rhetoric, and psychotherapy are examples of social technology
in this sense) or (3) technologies for the creation and maintenance of


Thanks to generous support from WTMC, there is no registration fee.
Some funding is available to cover travel to the workshop.


The workshop will be hosted by the Virtual Knowledge Studio for the
Humanities and Social Sciences, Amsterdam.


Maarten Derksen (University of Groningen, The Netherlands) – Signe Vikkels√ł (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark) – Anne Beaulieu (Virtual Knowledge Studio, The
Netherlands) –


Deadline for submissions: 30 May 2009
Announcement of paper acceptance: end of June 2009
Deadline for full papers: 22 August 2009
Workshop: 2 October 2009

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