by Ulrike Felt & Maximilian Fochler
This is the blog of the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at the University of Vienna. It aims to publish critically engaging texts on the relations of science, technology and society. In doing so, it hopes to convey the necessity, but also the intellectual pleasure of observing, analysing and debating science-technology-society interactions.
The cover picture of this blog shows a segment of an artwork by the French-Argentinean artist Julio Le Parc titled “Continuel-mobil”. Captured in 2014 during the exhibit “Le Parc Lumière” in Buenos Aires – where the Annual Conference of the Society for the Social Studies of Science was held –, it shows a “kinetic installation” assembling acryl glass plates, wood, metal, nylon, and light. Entering a dark room and encountering this light sculpture, you quickly transform yourself from an observer, a curious visitor, an analyst into an integral part of the installation: you find yourself enrolled into an entity in a constant state of flux. Yours and other visitors’ moves, the way they create air circulations, a multiplicity of little acrylic plates rotating around the nylon lines attached to the dark ceiling, the invisible alignments they create, the light reflections dancing over the brown wooden floor beneath the installation; All that together makes ever changing entities emerge. It eliminates the possibility of fixed viewpoints. Its does no longer allow you to simply turn around a fixed object, observing, scrutinizing, judging – it is much rather an engagement, a deep entanglement, a conversation between the observer and the “Continuel-mobil”, a co-performance.
This installation is a well-suited material metaphor, a short-hand for what this blog wants to achieve. It wants to open up a space to engage with the multiple articulations of contemporary technoscientific and societal developments. Nourished by several decades of STS debates, it aims to contribute a critical reflection of the technoscientific realities we live by. Doing so, it aims not to lose sight that these realities are not simply out there and given, but always performed in a large variety of practices, and thus are necessarily multiple and in continuous flux.
The contributions to this blog will be a small window on the rich and multi-faceted discussions, which crystallize around the mundane academic organizational form we call department. In this, the department will not speak with one voice, but through the many persons involved in its activities, be they students, researchers or guests. They all will provide a personal perspective on what it means to engage with STS – and what they write will be their viewpoint and opinion, and not necessarily that of the department.
Ulrike Felt is professor of Science and Technology Studies and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Vienna.
Maximilian Fochler is assistant professor and head of the Department of Science and Technology Studies at the University of Vienna.