Graduate Conference

Materials and Methods

The 3rd Annual Graduate Conference in Science and Technology Studies York University, Toronto, Canada

May 1–2, 2013

In conjunction with Materiality: Objects and Idioms in Historical Studies of Science and Technology

This is both an exciting and troubling moment for social studies of science and technology: renewed sensitivity to questions of embodiment, sensation and materiality has emerged alongside an increased interest in developing tools for non-traditional, non-textual modes of scholarly engagement and dissemination. The explosion of possibilities is staggering, extending already challenging questions about relationships between science, art, engineering, philosophy, and the humanities – as well as the nature of legitimate and ethical scholarly practice. For example, some researchers are reactivating what we might call a ‘craft’ mentality (Mumford 1934) in their engagement with the materials and methods that drive technoscience, as they attempt to recreate biological and physical experiments. Other researchers working under the heading ‘digital humanities,’ are embracing new methods of digital production and rapid fabrication, translating skills from science, engineering, art and design into the frameworks of the social sciences. At the same time, in their attempts to tell detailed stories of ‘events-­‐in-­‐practice’ (Mol 2002), ethnographers are recognizing the importance of methodological frameworks that account for the collaborative and multi-­‐sited nature of technoscientific labour, while historians are increasingly concerned with theorizing the sensual connections of material objects (Tresch 2012). Regardless of one’s disciplinary affiliation, it’s becoming increasingly clear that describing the materials and methods that make a given project possible is a theoretically and ethically fraught activity.

This year’s conference seeks to critically engage with newer and older modes of knowledge production as well as to address the complex role both materials and methods play in crafting scientific and STS work. We seek papers that interrogate the benefits and pitfalls of both established and emergent ways of engaging with matter and materiality: What is gained and what is lost when minds and bodies are opened up to such a wide range of disciplines, media and styles of scholarly interrogation? How do new materials and methods transform interactions between scholars and informants? What are the ontological and epistemological commitments involved? What are the ethical stakes?

The complete graduate conference program is available here.