CSISP Events 2012-2013


Controversy analysis: changing settings, media, politics

A CSISP Salon with Noortje Marres and Manuel Tironi 

Thursday 18th July 2013, 3.30-5pm in WT1204 

This CSISP salon will explore different takes on controversy analysis as an empiricist methodology at the intersection of the social studies of science and technology (STS), politics and political theory, and medium-specific social research (eg digital). In at least some respects, controversy analysis is a fairly well-established approach in these fields. In this salon, however, we are specifically interested in the displacement of controversy analysis into new media and settings and the implications of this in terms of what this method is capable of. What does a more contextually and politically aware controversy analysis look like? Which types of methods are needed to cope with extended or radical controversies? Does the digital equipment of controversy analysis entail a recalibration of its role and status as an (anti-)social methodology? We would like to discuss, then, whether and how the displacement of methods of controversy analysis may translate into an enhancement of their analytic and normative capacities. 


Tironi, M 'Atmospheres of Indagation: Disasters and the politics of excessiveness', a working paper.

Marres, N 'The environmental rendering of controversy: Who is afraid of the green cloud?', a working paper.


Barry, A (2012) 'Political situations: Knowledge controversies in transnational government' 

Chateauraynaud, F (2009) 'Public controversies and the Pragmatics of Protest: Toward a Ballistics of collective action'


The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media

Thursday 30 May 2013 | 5.30-7pm LG02 NAB (New Academic Building)

Jose van Dijck, University of Amsterdam

In this invited public lecture, Jose Van Dijck, one of the world’s leading authorities on digital memory practices and social media, will talk on topics from her new book The Culture of Connectivity published by Oxford University Press in March 2013. Jose Van Dijck is Professor of Comparative Media Studies at University of Amsterdam; her previous books include Mediated Memories in a Digital Age (Stanford University Press 2007)and The Transparent Body (University of Washington Press 2005).

Respondents: Noortje Marres, CSISP, Goldsmiths, and Richard MacDonald, Storycircle Project, Goldsmiths

Chaired by Professor Nick Couldry, Media and Communications, Goldsmiths

The lecture is open to all, and will be followed by a drinks reception.


CSISP Salon with ‘Gambling in Europe’ team: Rebecca Cassidy, Claire Loussouarn, Andrea Pisac

Tuesday 21st May, 4.30-6pm in WT1204

"Ethnographies of contingency"

‘Gambling in Europe’ is an ERC project, based at Goldsmiths Anthropology. Our team explores the production and consumption of gambling as a global assemblage, influenced by global reaches of digital technology as well as locally adopted and adapted. Our case studies have been concerned with various interactions between gambling producers, consumers and technologies, and more specifically, how certain concepts, such as risk, uncertainty and contingency become productive in gameplay. The four ethnographies explore different gambling environments, such as spread betting, casino gambling and online gambling and social gaming, but are brought together by a joint focus on the ‘prosumption’ of gambling as a single cycle. Gambling technologies, from slot machines, semi-automated casino table games, online trading platforms, social games to gambling regulation are explored as sites where certain products and behaviours temporarily stabilise, turning socio-historical and legislative contingencies into productive outputs of risk and play.

In this Salon, we will be discussing Schüll’s concept of perfect contingency in the context of machine gambling in Las Vegas, following her assertion that ‘addiction to flow’ (interrupted, immersed autoplay) is created through the interaction between the player and the materiality of the machine. Hayles’ article introduces the term technogenetic spiral, which will be a useful starting point to consider the place of agency and control in various interactions between people and machines, such as gameplay. Finally, Miller raises the question of technological determinism: how we can avoid it in conceptualising the interaction between technology producers and consumers and the materiality of machines. We invite you to consider these themes as a frame for more general questions about the place of agency and control, gamification (of gambling but also other social activities) and the ways contingency becomes meaningful and productive.


Hayles, N. K. 2012. “Tech-TOC: Complex Temporalities in Living and Technical Beings”. Electronic Book Review

Miller, D. 2013. “How People Make Machines That Script People.” Anthropology of This Century (6) (January).

Schüll, N.D. 2012. “Perfect Contingency: From Control to Compulsion.” In Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas. Princeton University Press. 

Smart Cities and Speculative Urbanisms 

The Urban Salon will hold its final meeting of this academic year at 

6pm, Tuesday 21 May, in UCL Geography (Exhibition Room, G07, the Pearson Building, Gower Street, see 

Nerea Calvillo, Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid

"Test Bed Urbanism. Data, Machines and Conduits as the Inhabitants of Songdo"

The city of Songdo (South Korea) has been promoted as the first smart city built from scratch. By looking at how the implementation of digital technologies has conditioned (or not) its urban design and built environment, this paper tries to identify some properties of this new territory. By defining this city as a test-bed, it is possible to question a broader logic of testing and big data that emerge as new forms of governmentality. What types of knowing and acting are facilitated by way of test-beds, and what makes them specific to our contemporary condition?

Jennifer Gabrys, Goldsmiths, University of London

"Programming Environments: Environmentality and Citizen Sensing in the Smart City" 

A new wave of smart cities projects is underway that proposes and deploys sensor-based ubiquitous computing across infrastructures and mobile devices to achieve greater sustainability. But in what ways do these digital programs of sustainability give rise to distinct material-political arrangements and practices within cities? And what are the implications of these distributions of governance for urban citizens and ways of life? This presentation will consider the ways in which speculative smart city project proposals might be understood through processes of environmentality, or the distribution of governance within and through environments and environmental technologies. Revisiting and reworking Foucault’s notion of environmentality not as the production of environmental subjects, but as a spatial-material distribution and relationality of power through environments, technologies and ways of life, this paper further considers which practices of citizenship emerge through computational sensing and monitoring that are a critical part of the operations and imaginings of smart and sustainable cities. 

All are welcome, please circulate widely to interested researchers and students who are invited to subscribe to receive notices at 


Markets in death and default: the uncertain enactment of public concern

Tuesday 7th May, 1-3pm, RHB 352

With Pascale Trompette (CSISP visiting fellow, Pacte – SciencesPo Grenoble) and Joe Deville (CSISP postdoctoral researcher).

Chaired by Dan Neyland. 

Each will explore the conditions and devices through which a public politics is staged, or not, around markets, focusing on the practices associated with the progressive marketisation of funeral care (Trompette) and the sometimes contentious encounters between defaulting consumer credit debtor and debt collector (Deville). The aim is to use these two cases to explore the role played by quite specific market devices in formatting of both economic value and public political concerns.

The seminar will explore shared questions including: What is the politics of value performed in around these two sets of market-based interactions? How, when and where do forms of participation in these markets become variously enacted as economic, public, political (or not) – and by what means?

Pascale Trompette | The changing politics of value in the funeral market

The case of the funeral market offers privileged insights into the way market devices closely link politics and markets. The talk will first go back to the formation of the French funeral market at the beginning of the 19th century, in the context of constant interference by Church, State and the first Pompes Funèbres (a service profession whose function was to organize funerals) in the supply of funeral goods and services. The ‘system of the classes' appears here as a central device in managing dissonance between conflicting values. A historical jump then leads us to the contemporary stage, with the significant reduction of the state’s involvement in funeral provision, in favour of a liberalized and competitive market and the exponential development of death insurance. In both periods, the analysis will stress the role of market devices in the implementation of a politics of value through a 'calculation formula', which confers on the devices a capacity for addressing and combining social values – e.g. the desire for ostentatious funerals in the 19th century, or the ‘intimization’ of death –  with political concerns – e.g. the dividing line between public and private, or the question of how solidarity, as an expression of a common humanity, might be achieved through the rituals surrounding burial.

Joe Deville | A (de)faulty public? Tracking down a collective consumer credit politics 

The word ‘default’ is becoming increasing locked onto a meaning that only began to take hold in the 18th century: the failure to meet a financial obligation. Less familiar is a more general sense of non-presence: the ‘lack, absence or scarcity’ (of something). This is the jumping off point for an exploration of a seemingly non present body of concerned persons: a defaulting consumer credit public. Despite the degree of debate about the global expansion and reliance on debt, a frequent absence in is the voice of some of those many individuals experiencing difficulties with their own personal, consumer credit borrowing. These are individuals who are, actively, ‘in default’ – who are economic actors also repeatedly and materially made aware of their participation in a debt problem through an active destabilisation of existing routines and habits by debt collection activities. It is just these kinds of conditions that in other situations, have been shown to contribute towards the emergence of materially mediated concerned groups. Yet, on the face of it, this seems not to occur in the case of consumer credit default.  




CSISP Seminar: Online Devices, the Enactment of Personal Data, and their Politics

24th April 2013, 4.00-5.30pm in WT1204 

"Data Biographies, Contexts and Persons: Search Keywords as Windows to the Soul"

Ana Gross (Warwick University) 

What happens to biographies and persons when the range and type of data that becomes ‘personal’ proliferates at a much higher rate than before?  What happens to biography and persons when inscriptions that today count as persons or personality where inexistent or invisible before the emergence of a new range of devices, genres and formats for the observation and documentation of human agency (either purposefully designed or not for such enterprise)? In the following seminar I look at search engines and search keywords as (newly emerging) assemblages for classifying and doing persons and biographies. In doing so, I depart from the notion that there were no necessary, natural, a priori connections between the practices of searches, persons and their biographies as a specific form of representation; but that searching, or the act of retrieving information through search queries is becoming personalised in multiple ways.

"The Third Party Diary"

Lonneke van der Velden (University of Amsterdam)

There exist many tools that are designed to protect 'privacy online'. Ad blockers, cookie protectors and tracker detectors all contribute to a safer browsing experience. But they can do more than offer protection for the individual user. In this presentation I will discuss how such a browsing tool, Ghostery, actively contributes to a particular understanding of contemporary consumer surveillance. Ghostery is a browser plugin which operates as a 'web detective': it detects invisible techniques that collect (personal) data on websites and it gives the user an alert of their presence by a small visualisation in the browser. Ghostery also has its own method of classifying and ranking these invisible techniques as 'third party elements'. Building upon work by the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), which specialises in repurposing web devices for research, I have explored one of these tools. The 'Tracker Tracker' mobilises Ghostery's capacities for the study of third party elements on specific sets of urls. I used the Tracker Tracker to collect third party elements of 1100 governmental websites in an online diary for several months. Taking into account methodological reflections on the role of (online) devices, I will discuss my case study, method, format and findings, with attention to the network of relations in which the tool is embedded.


Ana Gross is a PhD student at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies in Warwick University. Her PhD thesis broadly explores different data forms and their qualities (personal data, provisional data, perturbed data, anonymised data) and looks at understanding how entities (people, things) are inscribed in data but also how data affects the entities it inscribes. 

Lonneke van der Velden is a PhD-researcher at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) and the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI) in The Netherlands. Her work focuses on interventions that make surveillance mechanisms tangible and on how such transparency devices play a role in public engagement. She also looks at the significance of these devices for digital research.



CSISP Salon with Jennifer Gabrys 

23rd April 2013, 4.00-5.30pm in WT1204 

“Ecology of Practices, Ecology of Abstraction, and Etho-Ecology: Thinking through Surrounding(s)” 

In her writings in relation to Whitehead and on the history and philosophy of science, Isabelle Stengers makes frequent use of the term “ecology” to variously capture the connections, surroundings, habitat and environments within and through which thought develops, lives and makes experience “vivid.” Here is an ostensibly scientific term that has gained traction as a more conceptual and poetic device, at once referring to concern for environments, while abstracting connections within environments as a device for making relations more evident as integral to what thinking is and does. This CSISP salon will consider the type of work that ecology does as an abstraction, and will discuss whether or how it might be revised to fuel, as Whitehead suggests, the “locomotion of ideas.”


Isabelle Stengers, “A New Epoch?” in Thinking with Whitehead: A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts, trans. Michael Chase (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2011 [2002]), pages 123-141.

Isabelle Stengers, “Introductory Notes on an Ecology of Practices,” Cultural Studies Review 11, no. 1 (2005), 183-196.



Image, Number, Language

Warren Sack, University of California, Santa Cruz 

March 12, 17:00-18:30 

Goldsmiths, University of London

RHB 342 

The “digital convergence” of the last few decades has coerced a number of industries into the business of computers and networks.  The institutions of film, television, video, photography, printing, publishing have succumbed to a “rewriting” in digital format.  This rewriting is only possible because of the new, uncanny form that language has taken, the language of computer programming, the language of software.  The uncanny language form makes images, numbers, and languages “equivalents.”  Consequently, to write today is a hybrid affair of code and commentary, programs and prose, in which one must tangle with this entanglement of images, numbers, and languages. 

Warren Sack is a software designer, media theorist and artist whose work explores theories and designs for online public space and public discussion. His projects include work in Open Source software development, locative media, computer-supported translation, and systems for visualizing and facilitating online discussions.  Sack’s work has been exhibited at the ZKM, Karlsruhe,; the New Museum, New York; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. He has a Ph.D. from the MIT Media Laboratory and a BA in Computer Science and Psychology from Yale College. He is a Professor of Film & Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz and, for the 2012-2013 academic year, an American Council of Learned Societies Digital Innovation Fellow and a Visiting Professor at the École nationale supérieure des télécommunications (Paris).

This lecture is co-hosted by the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process and the Digital Culture Unit, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London



CSISP Salon with Michael Guggenheim

The Elephant in the Lab: Or, How to Separate Science from Politics

PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF DATE AND LOCATION: Thursday 21st March, 4:30-6pm in RHB350

*wine pairing to accompany discussion.

It was one of the founding moments of STS to claim that "science is political" and that "you cannot separate science from society", that science can be studied sociologically like other fields of society. STS has also produced a number of empirical studies demonstrating this. However, theoretically, it was not always clear what was meant by these statements. If you cannot separate science from society, then what is meant by the term "science"? Is it just a name for a profession, whose practices are indistinguishable from those of other professions? More recently, STS scholars have started to study other fields, practices, professions, such as law, architecture or design. But if science is no different from "society" and STS consisted in studying science sociologically, what could it mean to do an STS study of law or design? 

At the same time, STS has also downplayed, ignored or fought theories based on the logic of differentiation, such as those of Bourdieu, Boltanski and Thévenot and Luhmann, precisely because they were based on the assumption that modernity is fundamentally based on different codes of communication, logics of fields, or forms of critique. At least one representative of STS, Bruno Latour has recently begun to re-analyse the problem of differentiation, couched in terms of "modes of existence". In this salon, we discuss: should we renunciate these central tenets of STS? And if so, which theory of differentiation serves us best?

CSISP Salon is an ongoing event where CSISP members meet to debate issues within the field of sociology of science and technology and beyond. This year the Salon will focus on the canon of "CSISP Classics". Each Salon will centre on figures central to the genealogy of STS, exploring the ways in which these thinkers animate the work of CSISP today. Participants are also encouraged to propose thinkers who are less commonly associated with STS, whose work might fruitfully be accommodated within this framework or indeed problematise it. 



Andrew Pickering 

5pm, Tuesday 19th February
Ben Pimlott Building, Lecture Theatre, Goldsmiths

Public LectureFree, all welcome.

This talk aims to map out an important but little known branch of cybernetics as it developed in Britain from the 1940s to the present. Examples are drawn from the work of leading cyberneticians including Ross Ashby, Stafford Beer, Gordon Pask, Gregory Bateson and R D Laing in fields as diverse as brain science, psychiatry and antipsychiatry, adaptive robotics, biological computing drawing upon lively material such as ecosystems, management, the arts, entertainment and architecture, including connections to eastern spirituality and the 1960s counterculture. We can understand cybernetic projects and artefacts as ontological theatre—as staging and acting out for us a vision of the world radically different from that of modern science and western commonsense, and the talk seeks to explore the ontological politics of cybernetics, arguing that it aimed at an experimental openness to what the world has to offer us, rather than the grim modernist quest for domination and control—revealing rather than enframing, in Heidegger’s terms. 

Andrew Pickering began life as a physicist, with his first degree from Oxford and a PhD in particle physics from University College London. He changed fields to science and technology studies, joining the Science Studies Unit at Edinburgh University in the late 1970s. He taught for many years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before returning to Britain as professor of sociology at the University of Exeter. Along the way he has been a Guggenheim Fellow and held fellowships at MIT, Princeton and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and at the Institutes for Advanced Study at Princeton, Durham and Konstanz. His books include Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics (1984), The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency and Science (1995) and, most recently, The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future (2010). His current project, 'Art, Agency and Environment,' grew out of earlier research on cybernetic art, and he is presently a Senior Fellow at the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie (IKKM), Bauhaus University, Weimar, Germany. 

This event was organised by the Digital Culture Unit, Centre for Cultural Studies, and the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process, Goldsmiths, University of London.

An ordinary technology of politics: the office as a device for taking nature into account/ing

Kristin Asdal, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo. 

February 7, 2013 
RHB 144

How are we to analytically grasp environmental change? Or put differently; how can we grasp the ways in which natures are being taking into account(-ing)? This lecture brings together two approaches, the social studies of science and technology (STS) and Foucauldian studies of government, to analyse a particular technology of  politics: the office. It argues that we risk missing too much if we let mundane political institutions slip from our attention. If we are to grasp the ways in which nature is taken into account, maybe it´s precisely “the ordinariness” that ought to interest us? In trying this route, the slow and steady rhythm, the sometimes close to repetitiveness of the workings of ordinary political institutions, might be a fruitful place to start. Hence, in exploring environmental change, this paper attends to accounting practices, budget procedures and long term programs as they are practiced in governmental offices. Empirically the paper explores two such governmental settings or offices. Employing notions like interested objects, relational spaces and practices of timing, the paper seeks to find ways for studying devices and technologies of politics, while at the same time carefully trying to avoid taking “nature” as the relevant object for granted. What interests me is to explore which emerging objects are taken into accounting and accounted for within offices of politics and administrations.

Jennifer Gabrys 
(Goldsmiths) will act as respondent.

Kristin Asdal
 is Professor at the Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture (TIK), University of Oslo. She was trained in economic history and later moved to science and technology studies. In her research Kristin explores the exchanges and confrontations between natural science and economics in politics and administration. Kristin also works on methods and the performativity of methods, both in politics and social science and history and is currently working with Noortje Marres on a project on performing environmental change. Recent publications include a special issue of Science, Technology and Human Values on "context" with Ingunn Moser and a paper on The Office in Accounting, Organizations and Society.

Jennifer Gabrys 
is Principal Investigator on the European Council Research project, “Citizen Sensing and Environmental Change,” and Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research investigates the intersection of environments, materialities and communication technologies through theoretical and practice-based work. Projects within this area include a recently published book, Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (University of Michigan Press, 2011), which examines the materialities of electronic waste; and a study currently underway on citizen sensing, Program Earth: Environment as Experiment in Sensing Technology. 



In an Age of Devices Before Devices, Are We All Post-Representationalists?

David Oswell, Goldsmiths Sociology 

Thursday 13 December 

3-5PM Warmington Tower 1204

This Salon will be led by David Oswell and will explore the recent focus in STS on the concept of "devices". The intention though will be to contrast contemporary STS understandings of 'devices' with work in cultural theory and research from the 1980s. The intention is to raise questions about a 'post-representational' and 'materialist turn' in the context of the (inter)textualities of devices. In doing so, it is contended that for any sensible discussion of 'descriptive devices' an engagement with 'description' is as necessary as one with 'devices'. David has chosen two readings: Ian Hunter's (1984) 'After representation'  and Colin Mercer's (1984) 'Entertainment ore the policing of virtue'. The CSISP Salon is an ongoing meeting to debate issues within the field of sociology of science and technology and beyond. This year we are exploring the works of classic STS thinkers and imagining what a cannon of "CSISP classics" might look like. 

CSISP Salon is an ongoing event where CSISP members meet to debate issues within the field of sociology of science and technology and beyond. This year the Salon will focus on the canon of "CSISP Classics". Each Salon will centre on figures central to the genealogy of STS, exploring the ways in which these thinkers animate the work of CSISP today. Participants are also encouraged to propose thinkers who are less commonly associated with STS, whose work might fruitfully be accommodated within this framework or indeed problematise it. 

Friday October 26, 14:30-17:30

Goldsmiths, Ian Gulland Theatre.
Free - no booking required.

The question of influence: What to expect from visual communication?
Stephanie Hankey and Marek Tuszynski, Tactical Technology Collective, Berlin and Bangalore

Sensors against censors: Scraping legal normativity and quantifying legal reasoning
Vincent Lepinay, European University at St.Petersburg

Mapping Issues with Twitter? Plotting lifelines, detecting partisanship 
Noortje Marres and Carolin Gerlitz, Goldsmiths and the University of Amsterdam

This event provides an overview of on-going efforts to develop issue mapping as a method and a practice at the intersection of sociology, technology and advocacy. It presents some of the diverse tactics that researchers, developers and activists are currently devising to render issues researchable and communicate their findings, using digital, visual, and other techniques.

The audio recordings of the presentations are available now.


Book Launch

Material Participation: Technology, the Environment and Everyday Publics by Noortje Marres

Wednesday 10th October, 5.30 pm

This launch takes the form of a discussion with Javier Lezaun (Oxford), Celia Lury (Warwick), Alex Wilkie (Goldsmiths), moderated by Monika Krause (Goldsmiths)

Location: the Centre for Creative Collaboration, Kings' Cross. 

ISSUE-0RIENTATED ACTIVISM: Comparing the emergence of concerned groups around care policies for dependent people in UK and Spain. 

Israel Rodriguez-Giralt
Postdoctoral Researcher at CSISP, Goldsmiths

Tuesday 2nd October 2012, 16.30pm

This talk analyses and compares two political situations: the launch of the "Act on Dependency", an important and controversial social policy approved in 2006 by the Spanish Government with the aim of guaranteeing public support for people who cannot lead independent lives for reasons of illness, disability or age; and the austerity programme (also known as "the cuts"), promoted in 2010 by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government of the United Kingdom as a way to tackle the UK's budget deficit. Both episodes have given rise to huge public debates and they are still highly contested reforms. For this reason, they are both good scenarios where to study and compare the raising, development and transformation of political activism. Particularly around issues regarding social care, disability, independent living policies and ageing in contemporary societies. In this context, the aim of this talk is to map those forms of activism and analyze their actions, strategies and mechanisms of participation. The final section will address some recent discussions opened up in Science and Technology Studies about the "objects" of politics and the processes/practices mediating political participation/mobilization.   

 Go to CSISPOnline to listen to the talk