Tuesday, 8 November 2011

4S Annual Meeting, Cleveland

Now back in Cardiff after attending the 4S Annual Meeting in Cleveland. As the conference was co-located with the History of Science and Society (HSS) and the Society for History of Technology (SHOT), plenary sessions were especially abundant this year – one for almost every day of the conference in fact.

As might be expected given events in Japan, sessions about the nuclear industry in general, and Fukushma in particular, had a high profile this year. In contrast, biosciences and public participation felt less numerous to me although the official programme suggests there were lots of them too! My own paper – about Democracy and the ‘Third Wave’ – was part of the Science, Technology and Public Policy theme, which included over 120 separate sessions.

The conference was very enjoyable and presentations in the sessions I went to were all of a consistently high standard. Navigating through the conference program the size of 4S is inevitably somewhat arbitrary but I did enjoy several papers, hear the phrase ‘interactional expertise’ being used as if it were a standard explanatory term on at least one occasion, and find a couple of people to invite to the next SEESHOP.

Overall, therefore, I think it was a successful couple of days.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Linking STS and the Social Sciences, Korea

This conference was organised by Center for Social Sciences (CSS) at Seoul National University and the Korean Association of Science and Technology Studies (KASTS). I’m especially grateful to out hosts Prof. Myung-Seok Oh and Byeong-Cheol Mun for the invitation and the kindness they showed in looking after us so well and making my visit to Korea so enjoyable.
The conference was spread over two days (see programme) and included papers addressing theoretical issues in STS and their application to technoscientific risks. Theoretically, the conference was dominated by actor-network theory, which seems to be the dominant approach in Korea (as evidenced by the framing of the conference which reflected Latours view of the the social as an outcome. I like to think that those of us who dont subscribe to this view persuaded those present that there was at least some life left in the social as an analytic category.
It was also interesting to see the extent to which there was a specifically Korean version of either science or STS. As the previous paragraph intimates, I dont think there is a specifically Korean STS, unless by this we mean it is unusually persuaded by ANT but I am not sure it is unusual even in this sense. I also didnt get much sense that there is a specifically Korean science in the sense that, for example, Arie Rip refers to Maori science. Korean science is basically Western Science as far as I could tell.
What is different, and is (I think) distinctively Korean, however, is science policy. The transformation of Korean society since WWII is quite mind-boggling to see and, as several of the talks from Korean scholars made clear, is no accident. Instead it is a deliberate result of adopting a science and technology policy that attempts to leapfrog the appropriate technology logic of development by going straight for the high-end advanced technologies that Western countries want, use and develop. This is most apparent in the automobile and consumer electronics industries but, as the Hwang Woo-Suk scandal made clear, also includes considerable investment in biosciences too. Whether other countries can follow this model as well I dont know but our brief visit to Seoul showed that it has certainly worked for the Koreans.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Wroclaw Fieldwork

Last week we were in Wroclaw, Poland for another round of Imitation Game fieldwork. This time the topic was religion and we tried to do the full ‘symmetrical’ version in which equal numbers of Catholics try to pass as Secular and Secular students try to pass as Catholics. This meant recruiting over350 participants so well done (and a big thank you) to Jakub, Aga and Kasha who did a fantastic job recruiting and organising so many people.

The results are not quite in yet – the final step in the data collection process should be completed this week – but we hope to have some preliminary results to report in the next couple of months.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Uppsala fieldwork for IMGAME project

Last week the IMGAME project was in Uppsala. After test runs in Maastricht and Pisa we have now started the first large scale trials of the Imitation Game method.

For Uppsala, we chose to research sexuality and, in particular, the ability of straight men to pass as gay. We managed to run nearly 30 Imitation Games in one day, half of which had gay men in the judge role. We also collected another 80 pretender answers over the next two days

We are now combining these with the original questions and non-pretender answers before sending the completed transcripts to new judges. If successful we will have found a way of significantly boosting the sample size without increasing the time or cost of data collection.

More on whether or not this works – and what the results were – when all the data are in!

In the meantime, as none of this would have been possible without the help of Annelie Drakman, who made all the local arrangements and recruited the participants, we must say a special ‘thank you’ to her.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

New Publication

A new paper about technology in sport has been published in the 'Online First' section of Public Understanding of Science. It is a follow up to a previous paper on the Hawk-Eye system and examines the way technologies of visualisation are used in different sports. The abstract for the paper is as follows:

"Technologies of visualisation and measurement are changing the relationship between spectators and match officials at sporting events. Umpires and referees find themselves under increasing scrutiny and sports governing bodies are experimenting with new technologies and additional “off-field” officials in order to preserve the legitimacy of decision-making. In this paper, we examine how technologies are being used in a number of sports, paying particular attention to the way in which uncertainty and indeterminacy are conveyed to viewers and spectators. The contrast between cricket and tennis is particularly instructive in this respect as the same technology is used in two very different ways. The paper concludes with a series of recommendations for implementing sports measurement technologies whilst preserving the traditions of individual sports and enriching technological culture"

The reference is:

Collins, H.M. and Evans, R.J. (2011) ‘Sport-Decision Aids and the ‘CSI Effect’:
Why cricket uses Hawk-Eye well and tennis uses it badly’, Public Understanding of Science, first published on July 29, 2011 as doi:10.1177/0963662511407991

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Starting Out

This is part on my on-going attempt to figure out how best to use the web. I am looking for an easy way to generate web content that doesn't require too much knowledge of html or access to particular hardware/software. Hopefully this will do the trick!