Seminar: Collateral damages of prevailing scientific practice

A workshop on contemporary scientific practice and its effects on people.
Palau Macaya, Barcelona, 15 December 2017
Free admission – registration is needed

The workshop is born out of our common interest on contemporary scientific practice and the changes it is going through. We’d like to:

(1) Discuss and analyse some of the recent changes both in scientific research and in academic institutions, having to do with broader economic and policy trends such as knowledge economy, accountability, entrepreneurial state, new public management… Themes that are variously referred to in literature as ‘academic capitalism’, ‘neoliberal science’, ‘accelerated academy’, etc.

(2) Discuss and analyse experiences, within and outside academia, that either promote science in alternative ways or counteract present mainstream trends with specific initiatives. These would include work by independent scientific organizations, consumer and patient associations, NGOs… as well as movements for slow, weak or little science. There is a need, we think, to clarify the relation amongst these modes of research and knowledge making, and also their relation as a whole with fast, strong, big science.

This would be very much an exploratory meeting, with a view to connect work in progress from different perspectives and help us think about how to best to pursue research on these issues

Dominique Pestre (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris)

Willem Halffman (Institute for Science in Society, Radboud Univ. Nijmegen)

Vincenzo Pavone (CSIC, Madrid)

Teresa Carvalho (Universidade de Aveiro)

Ester Conesa (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

Lucía Gómez (Indocentia, Universitat de València)

Esther Barrena (Institut de Ciència de Materials de Barcelona, ICMAB-CSIC)

Organizers: Eduard Aibar (UOC), Xavier Roqué (UAB) and Agnès Vayreda (UOC)

Centre d’Història de la Ciència (UAB) – Estudis d’Arts i Humanitats (UOC)


Hackers against technology: Critique and recuperation in technological cycles

The subject of the case study, the RequestPolicy browser extension in action. Source:
The subject of the case study, the RequestPolicy browser extension in action. Source:

Maxigas published a paper in the journal Social Studies of Science:

I offer an interpretation of hackers’ technological choices through a theoretical framework of critique and recuperation in technological cycles, building on prior research that brings the pragmatic sociology of Boltanski and Chiapello to bear on matters in Science and Technology Studies. I argue that contextualizing technology choices in the development of capitalism through innovation illuminates their political significance. I start with the counterintuitive observation that some browser extensions popular with hackers, like RequestPolicy, make it considerably harder for them to look at websites. This observation showcases the Luddite aspects of hackerdom, in that they are willing to ‘break’ popular websites that would otherwise cheat on the user. In line with an undercurrent of hacker studies, in this case study I find hackers fighting technological progress they see as social decline.

A historical inventory of threats to the Internet Relay Chat ecosystem

IRC as a time machine, illustration for the upcoming book Technological Sovereignty, vol. 2, by foockinho. Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International
IRC as a time machine, illustration for the upcoming book Technological Sovereignty, vol. 2, by foockinho. Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Maxigas presented at the annual conference of Freenode, the chat network serving “peer directed projects”. The conference was the first of its kind and drew around a hundred participants at We The Curious in Bristol, UK, over the weekend of October, 28-29, 2017. The talk was recorded and should be available in the future. Maxigas also made interviews with IRC users, operators and developers for his ongoing research on the social history and contemporary use of the Internet Relay Chat protocolHere is the abstract:

This talk is an attempt to take a long durée view of challenges to IRC in the context of the changing technology landscape and its political economy, with a conclusion that addresses the burning question of the day.

IRC manifests a basic human desire to chat, hang out and collaborate in an informal manner. However, these activities have not always been valued too high by managers and gatekeepers of IP networks. At other times, they have been perceived as the potential basis for lucrative business models. Therefore, IRC communities and operators met various challenges through the history of the technology, ranging from outright ban to corporate takeover. Social conflicts unfolded in close interaction with industry actors, where sometimes users even reclaimed resources from employers. However, the very meaning and consequences of peer directed projects also shifted with the reorganisation of production during the latest decades of late capitalism.

Nonetheless, the story of IRC is an outstanding example of the self-organisation and self-management of users, showing how norms of organising and managing infrastructures prevalent in the early days of the Internet could persist through increasingly hostile historical circumstances.

Seminar on When People Take Technology in Their Own Hands: Shared Machine Shops in Context

June 29, 2017
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Room S201, Tibi3)
Av Tibidabo, 47. Free Entry.

When people take technology in their own hands: Shared Machine Shops in Context

Shared Machine Shops – hacklabs, hackerspaces, makerspaces, Fab Labs, incubators and accelerators, medialabs and tech shops – have been widely studied as so many variations on the same theme: for instance as strange institutions performing the democratisation of innovation through the involvement of non-experts. Building on the results of multi-sited ethnographic research, in this workshop we take a more methodologically nuanced and empirically rigorous approach. It turns out that even if SMSs all provide access to machines for non-experts, their social functions can vary greatly according to how they integrate into the social fabric. In other words, the “lab format” is mobilised by a wide range of social groups (often simultaneously) for different ends and with varying results. Thus, the aim of the workshop is to explore the diversity of Shared Machine Shops and explain such diversity through situating the phenomena in its temporal, spatial, economic and ideological context.

16:00 – 16:20 Maxigas (OSI/CareNet). Lab Waves: The historical logic of Shared Machine Shop evolution.

16:20 – 16:40 Debora Lanzeni (Mediaccions). Performing futures for assembling smart city projects: From imaginaries to markets.

16:40 – 17:00 Rosen Bogdanov (OSI/Mediaccions). Do-it-together science and platforms for public participation: Can biohacking be legitimising synthetic biology in the EU?

17:00 – 18:00 Discussion

The seminar is organised in collaboration between the “Open Science and Innovation” research group and the “Mediaccions” research group, UOC.

Seminari ‘Quatre dècades d’Estudis de Ciència i Tecnologia: balanç i reptes’

Seminari OSI. Quatre dècades d’Estudis de Ciència i Tecnologia: balanç i reptes

15 de Juny de 2017, 16-18h
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Sala Tony Bates)
Av. Tibidabo 39. Entrada lliure.

Després de 4 dècades des dels seus orígens, els Estudis de Ciència i Tecnologia (Science & Technology Studies, STS) s’ha consolidat com un àrea plenament institucionalitzada – tot i que no tant al nostre país – en la docència i la recerca acadèmica internacional. Durant aquest període s’han desenvolupat diferents aproximacions teòriques, multitud d’estudis empírics i històrics, així com diverses formes d’interacció amb col·lectius i institucions socials. Aquest seminari reuneix tres dels més importants experts d’aquest àmbit en el nostre país, amb l’objectiu doble de fer un balanç crític del seu desenvolupament passat i, alhora, de discutir els reptes actuals d’aquesta àrea d’estudi, tant des del punt vista teòric o metodològic, com social o polític.


16:00 – 16:10 Eduard Aibar (UOC). Introducció.
16:10 – 16: 30 Miquel Domènech (UAB). Ciència i democràcia: on és el repte?
16:30 – 16: 50 Agustí Nieto-Galan (UAB). Pensar la ciència avui.
16:50 – 17:10 Israel Rodríguez Giralt (UOC). Technoscience otherwise: balanç i reptes del gir participatiu.
17:10 – 18:00 Discussió

Organitza: Grup de recerca en Open Science and Innovation (OSI)
Estudis d’Arts i Humanitats

Seminar on the role of networks in the social sciences

May 25, 2017
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Room 201, Tibi3)
Av Tibidabo, 47. Free Entry.

The role of networks in the social sciences

Networks have been studied since the beginning of the social sciences (by Malinowsky, Simmel, Moreno, etc.), particularly in anthropology where they have been a major tool for understanding kinship as the basis of social relations and cultural paradigms. Yet, the second part of the twentieth century saw the network model emerging as a major contender for understanding society sociologically (Barabássi) — so much so, that Actor-Network Theory famously sought to replace the very notion of society with networks, and sociology with their study (Latour’s claim). Today, network analysis can be used to attack any problem or sphere of life whatsoever. The triumphant advance of networks have been tightly coupled with the inspiring imaginative and efficient practical development and application of Information and Communication Technologies. Indeed, computerisation mediates social life as such through material and conceptual networks.
The seminar aims to take up such a two-pronged idea of “networkisaton” — in social life in general, and the social sciences in particular — as an object of reflection in itself. While network methods have been seized upon with great enthusiasm by scholars across diverse fields, analysing their role as a social ontology is often lost in the flurry of practical results. A telling symptom is that methodological textbooks on the topic often come without a historical exposé of the field. Addressing such amnesia may help to re-invigorate knowledge production on and about both society and networks.

17:00 – 17:20 Maxigas (OSI/CareNet). Introduction.

17:20 – 17:40 Ramon Ribera Fumaz (TURBA Lab). We have never been networked: A symmetric geographies exploration.

Departing from past and current debates on scalar and network politics in geography, this presentation explores how by reducing social space to network forms, current theories of networks do not allow to explain the actual existing geographies of internet driven capitalism and its alternatives.

17:40 – 18:00 Antonio Calleja-López (CNSC). Constructing and deconstructing networks: Scattered thoughts on the ontologies of the social

“Network” is a term that has been used to name or qualify an age, a type of society, a social form, a form of association, concrete technologies, a new science, an STS theory, a set of methods, a visualization paradigm, a conceptual vocabulary, and more. In this intervention I attend to some key contemporary discourses and practices around “networks” and discuss aspects of the ontologies underlying, or emerging from, them.

18:00 – 19:00 Discussion

Seminari sobre neoliberalisme i ciència

El proper 27 d’Abril, de 16 a 18h, el grup de recerca OSI organitza el següent seminari:

Llloc: Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Sala Tony Bates), Av. Tibidabo 39. Entrada lliure.

Ciència i neoliberalisme: un nou règim de producció de coneixement científic?

Els impactes de les polítiques i pràctiques neoliberals estan produint per alguns autors la transformació més important de la ciència i l’acadèmia contemporànies des de mitjan s. XX. Des de la dècada dels 80 les polítiques científiques neoliberals han posat l’èmfasi més en la creació de valor comercial que en la consecució del benestar social o en la generació de coneixement; s’ha fomentat l’ús de patents – amb lleis de propietat intel·lectual cada vegada més permissives sobre el tipus d’objectes patentables – més que la difusió oberta del coneixement i s’ha promogut la inversió privada en les universitats i en els projectes de recerca desenvolupats pels seus investigadors, a fi d’afavorir aquelles línies de major aplicació comercial i, per tant, amb més expectatives de retorn econòmic. En aquest seminari explorarem algunes de les qüestions més rellevants d’aquest fenomen, així com llur conceptualització teòrica des de diverses disciplines, i discutirem possibles línies de recerca futures.
16:00 – 16:10 Eduard Aibar (UOC). Introducció.
16:10 – 16: 30 Xavier Roqué (UAB). Ciència, diners i política: una lectura històrica.
16:30 – 16: 50 Ester Conesa (UOC). Acadèmia neoliberal, temps i gènere. Cap a una ètica de la cura enfront del model de competitivitat?
16:50 – 17:10 Daniel López (UOC). La universitat emprenedora contra l’ethos acadèmic?
17:10 – 18:00 Discussió