Call for papers, NSA 2024: Behind the scenes of digital public services

Call for papers for Nordic Sociological Association 2024 conference “Sociology in a digital world” in Norrköping, 14-16 of August (see:

Please consider sending your abstract to our session:

Behind the scenes of digital public services

Session chair(s):
Frida Alizadeh-Westerling, University of Helsinki, Finland

Karoliina Snell, University of Helsinki, Finland

Heta Tarkkala, University of Helsinki, Finland

Digitalisation is often presented as an easy solution to combatting growing costs of public services. Digitalised public services are associated with smooth service provision regardless of time and place, possibilities to automate decision-making and new types of predictive services. However, sociological research has pointed out how careless implementation of digital services might cause novel forms of powerlessness, discrimination, or inequality. While it is important to understand customer experiences and consequences of digitalisation for citizens, in this session we approach digitalised public services from another angle. We are interested in how and why are these services designed, constructed, and implemented? What kind of visions of services, citizens and society drive digitalisation? How are work tasks and organisational responsibilities changing in public services and what new types of digital and data work emerge? What kind of ideology or digital design is embedded in digital systems?

We invite contributions that discuss what precede or takes place behind digitalised services and systems. For example: what kind of visions or digital design principles they are based on, what kind of work is required to keep them functioning, or what kinds of new practices or roles they give rise to? This could mean examining hidden labour, design patterns or identifying clever workarounds and fixes in everyday work. It could also be an analysis of organizational implementation of certain visions related to outcomes of new, digitalised technologies and datafication. We welcome wide variety of conceptual and theoretical choices, discussing empirical cases based on digital public sector.



Technicalities concerning submission:

“A submission of an abstract must be in the form of a document (Word or PDF) that you upload in the submission system, and the document must contain the title of your presentation, the abstract text (max 500 words, including would-be references), your name, your email, and your affiliation. One abstract may be submitted per person: NSA2024 allows for maximum one presentation per person, but a presentation/paper may of course have co-authors.”

STS Helsinki seminar 25.5.: Steve Hinchliffe

On 25 May, we are delighted to host Steve Hinchliffe from the University of Exeter. Join us for the talk at 14:15–15:45 at Unioninkatu 35, room 113.

Regulating Antimicrobial Resistance: Virtual Consumers, Poultry and the Audit Lock-in

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has become one of the defining challenges of the 21st century. Food production and farming account for well over half of annual global consumption of antimicrobials, with the result that the sector’s potential to contribute to AMR is large even if its role in resistance emergence and transmission is subject to uncertainty. Acting in a climate of potential rather than demonstrable threats requires social and technical innovation. In this paper we engage with the role of market actors, or virtual consumers, and associated devices in the precautionary regulation of farming practices and AMR threats. The paper takes the UK poultry sector as exemplary of a device- and audit-led process that has achieved notable and impressive reductions in antimicrobial uses. Using qualitative interview data with farmers and veterinarians we chart the changing farming, diagnostic and health practices that have accompanied this reduction in routine treatments. Contrary to some commentators, we use this analysis to raise some cautions around audit-led systems of regulation. Audits can lock farms and animals into particular versions of farming and animal health; they can produce distortions and elevate otherwise harmful compensatory practices; and they can reproduce an actuarial approach to an issue that may not fit the conventions of risk management. The paper presents the considerable successes that have been achieved over a short period of time in a livestock sector, while generating significant notes of caution concerning the manageability of livestock related AMR threats.

Steve Hinchliffe is a Geographer and Social Scientist at the University of Exeter, UK, with specialisms in science and technology studies, risk, health and human-nonhuman relations. He has published widely on issues of food, risk, biosecurity, contagion and nature/cultures. His recent books include the monograph Pathological Lives (Wiley Blackwell), which pioneered a situated approach to human and animal health, the edited volume Humans, Animals and Biopolitics and the monograph Geographies of Nature. He is currently working on socio-economic approaches to antimicrobial resistance, the social production of microbiomes and public participation and public as well as planetary health. He is an elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. He has served from 2017-2023 as a member of the UK Government’s DEFRA Social Science Expert Group and continues to work on its Scientific Advisory Committee on Exotic Diseases. He currently co-leads the University’s Interdisciplinary Research Network on Microbes and Society, and acts as a steering group member on the GW4 (Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter universities) initiative on One Health and Antimicrobial Resistance. He is currently a member of, principal investigator and has previously co-directed the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health.

STS Helsinki seminar 4.5. with Venla Oikkonen

Our spring seminar series continues with Venla Oikkonen on Thursday 4.5.! Join us for the seminar at Unioninkatu 35, room 113, at 14:15–15:45, or via Zoom:

Anticipating adverse effects: Living with pharmaceuticals in chronic illness

In this presentation, I explore the concept of adverse effect in the context of hormonal pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of endometriosis. Endometriosis is a chronic illness in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body, causing inflammation and pain. As an estrogen-dependent illness, endometriosis is treated today primarily with hormonal products such as oral contraceptives and hormonal IUDs. Drawing on interviews with people diagnosed with endometriosis, I examine how concerns about potential adverse effects structure expectations of and personal decisions about treatment. The case sheds light on how uncertainties concerning pharmaceuticals’ effects are conceptualized and assessed among their actual users. Approaching anticipation of adverse effects as affective work, I analyze how unknown future outcomes of medications are negotiated in relation to the temporality of chronic illness as well as embodied memories of past adverse effects. I also examine the affectively charged temporality of adverse effects, especially the perceived distinction between a temporary, reversible effect and a permanent, irreversible outcome.

Venla Oikkonen is an Academy Research Fellow and Associate Professor at Tampere University. She is the author of two books, Population Genetics and Belonging (Palgrave Macmillan 2018) and Gender, Sexuality and Reproduction in Evolutionary Narratives (Routledge 2013) as well as a number of articles on genetic ancestry testing, affect, epidemics and immunity, and gender and sexuality in popular science. She leads an Academy of Finland and Kone Foundation funded project Gendered Chronic Disease, Embodied Differences and Biomedical Knowledge (GenDis).

STS Helsinki seminar 6.4. with Maya Hey

STS Helsinki will be hosting our second seminar this spring with Maya Hey, a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for the Social Study of Microbes. Join us for the seminar on Thursday 6.4. at Unioninkatu 35, room 113, at 14–16, or on Zoom via the link:


“Working from the Perspective of Microbes”: On Unknowability in Natural Fermentation Practices

This talk examines the onto-ethico-epistemologies of working with microbes in a natural fermentation setting: what are microbes, how do microbes become known, and what is done with them in the multiple steps of sake-brewing? Since the ‘natural’ part of natural fermentation assumes low-intervention brewing methods, the answers to these questions paint a less mechanistic understanding than modern logics of control would imply.

Microbes are still categorized along good/bad binaries but only insofar as they mobilize deference and proactivity on the part of the brewers; the practices of working with them prioritize ongoingness over mastery and finality; and brewers adopt a dispositional ethic that takes seriously the unknowability of microbes. To accept this unknowability as such could mean positing a way to work with, think with, and be with microbes despite/given the incommensurability across different agents.

Based on ethnographic data, this talk analyzes how brewers “work from the perspective of microbes” at the scale of a brewing business, and how this perspective comes with an opportunity to test the tensility of concepts such as non-anthropocentrism, multispecies worlding, and differential ways of knowing. It weaves together three disciplinary foci—the epistemics and knowledge-production of STS, multispecies relationality and ethical entanglements in environmental humanities, and mediated sense-making in communication studies—with the hopes of furthering discussions about ways of knowing microbial life.

Maya Hey is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for the Social Study of Microbes at the University of Helsinki. She received her doctorate in Communication Studies from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, and was a postdoc for the international STS-project “Future Organisms” with University of Edinburgh, Colorado State University, and Keio University.

“Inside the steaming basket” Credit: Maya Hey, 2019.

STS Helsinki seminar 9.3. with Cindy Kohtala

We’re kicking off the seminar series again this spring! For our upcoming seminar in March, STS Helsinki will host Cindy Kohtala. Welcome to the talk, which will be held at Unioninkatu 35, room 113, at 14–16!

Studying Fab Labs as an Industrial Transitions Movement 

DIY makers are grassroots translocal groups whose activities, strategies and visions are directed at localizing design, innovation and production. They develop their own open-source projects, products and inventions in shared spaces (fab labs, hacklabs and makerspaces); contribute to open software and distributed web development; and engage wider publics in material experimentation. Discourses and practices in maker culture are fragmented and shifting over the previous two decades, at times critiqued for being techno-utopian and at others explicitly oriented to environmental sustainability, material circularity and social justice. At the same time, European Commission funding calls are increasingly attracting fab labs and distributed manufacturing interests into strategic coalitions, design research and education is experiencing an identity crisis with regard to its origins in European and US “industrial design”, and the utopian promises of initial world wide web peer-to-peer culture are now being experienced as social media capitalist enclosure, mass surveillance and threats to democracy. In this talk I will discuss my experiences as a design researcher examining maker culture and sustainability material activism as an industrial transitions movement, after David J Hess’s framework bridging Science & Technology Studies, transitions studies and social movement studies.

Cindy Kohtala is Professor in Design for Sustainability and Programme Director of the MFA programme in Interaction Design at the Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå University, Sweden. She received her doctorate from Aalto University, Department of Design, and was a postdoc in Aalto’s INUSE Users and Innovation research group.

Join the talk on Zoom:

CFP: Health data and public value in the Nordic countries (Nordic STS conference, Oslo 7-9.6.2023)

The Nordic welfare states have always been systematically collecting large amounts of population data (Bauer 2014, Tøndel 2014), including health and welfare data. Traditionally, this information was meant for governance and improving public health. In recent years, some Nordic countries, such as Finland, have positioned themselves in the global health data economy to attract investments (Tupasela, Snell, and Tarkkala 2020). This development includes efforts in building large national health infrastructures, such as Findata in Finland (Snell, Tarkkala and Tupasela 2021), Denmark’s National genome center (Jensen and Svendsen 2021), or a Health analytics platform in Norway (Åm, Frøyhaug and Tøndel 2021). There are multiple ways health data can become valuable (Fiske, Degelsegger-Márques, Marsteurer and Prainsack 2022). The potential to derive financial profits from health data may challenge relations between citizens and the welfare state. The question emerges how publics are considered, and how efforts, that increase the availability of health data, are for the benefit of society and of public value. There is little civic engagement in this topic, but the building of health infrastructures has caused some controversies. In this panel, we invite contributions on the issue of public value and health data in the Nordic countries. We invite empirical and theoretical contributions addressing questions and topics such as:

  • How do relations between citizens, Nordic welfare states, and marked actors change through new ‘data logistics’ (Tupasela 2023)’ in health care?
  • What and who is driving developments towards a health data economy in Nordic countries? What are the justifications? Which benefit-sharing-models are envisioned (if any)?
  • How do developments in health data governance build on or morph values expressed in the Nordic model concerning ‘community’ and ‘collectivity’? What are the similarities and differences among Nordic countries as regards public values and health data governance?
  • How does the policy work on a European Health Data Space influence health data governance in the Nordic countries, and vice versa?
  • How is policy learning from biobank governance in the Nordic countries translated into the new health data economy, regarding issues of data ownership, relations between samples and data, consent and opt-out, or public purpose evaluations
  • What new roles and forms do ‘quality indicators’ take in this larger picture of the health data economy and datafication?
  • Definitions and conceptualizations of public value and social benefits of health data in theory and practice

Organizers: Heidrun Åm, Lotte Groth Jensen, Karoliina Snell, Aaro M Tupasela, and Heta Tarkkala


For more information about the conference see conference website:

Abstract submission, see:

CFP: STS Helsinki: Methods in Motion at the Annual Conference of the Westermarck Society 2023

STS Helsinki will host the working group ‘Methods in Motion’ at The Annual Conference of The Westermarck Society 2022 in Tampere 23–24 March 2023.

STS Helsinki: Methods in Motion


Marianne Mäkelin,

Santtu Räisänen,

The sociology of science has always taken a keen interest in the practices by which scientific facts are constructed, their credibility produced and their uncertainty tamed. In this panel, we turn this analytic eye to methodological explorations in sociology itself. While methods with long traditions are often seen as the gold standard of knowledge production, increasingly we are seeing interest in escapades into new methodological territories. For example, in STS researchers have borrowed from aesthetic or design practices to produce knowledge by walking (Thorsen 2016), “mind-scripting” (Allhutter 2011) or producing “biographies of artefacts and practices” (Hyysalo et. al 2019). Engaging in STS inspired self-reflexivity, we feel that there is room for discussion about how these kinds of explorations are formed and what they aim at.

To engage with the conference theme of knowledge and doubt, this year STS Helsinki will organize a panel about methodological experiments, crossovers, and collaborations.

How do we produce knowledge? What might be rendered knowable by verging beyond well-theorized methods such as interviews and observation? How do we theorize with them? What kinds of claims do we make with them? To what extent do our more commonly used methods entail adjustments, improvisation, and risk? What can or should be doubted, and what role does doubt play in doing (social) science?

We invite presentations dealing with these questions, from out-there experiments to more down-to-earth reflections. We hope the panel could serve as a meeting point for researchers interested in experimental methods. We are also interested in if and how your methodological explorations draw from STS.

 Presentations in both English and Finnish are welcome.

Please apply to the working group by via the abstract submission form linked here. The deadline is Tuesday 31th of January 2023. Update: Deadline extended until 15 February.

For more information about the conference, please go to:

STS Helsinki seminar 25.5.: David Moats

For our seminar in May, STS Helsinki will host David Moats. Welcome to the talk, which will be held at Unioninkatu 35, room 113, at 13:15–14:45!

The ‘Problem’ with Definitions of Fairness: A Reflection on Interdisciplinarity in AI Ethics

It is increasingly understood that attempts to make artificial intelligence (AI) or autonomous systems ‘fair’, ‘accountable’ or ‘transparent’ will require collaboration between different disciplines. Yet it has frequently been noted that these key terms, like ‘fairness’ or ‘bias’ or ‘discrimination’ have different uses for different communities in the emerging field of AI Ethics. While some scholars might see these divergent uses of words as an obstacle to more fruitful inter- or trans-disciplinary work, in this paper I argue, that these competing uses of terms may be an opportunity, in fact a precondition for the development of interdisciplinary projects. Drawing on experiences of working in an interdisciplinary team on a project attempting to map the field of AI Ethics with quantitative and qualitative tools, I recount several moments of disciplinary tension which, I argue, reconfigured the ‘problem’ of the project in productive ways. These moments only arose through unexpected juxtapositions of terms, methods or ways of knowing the world. Following this insight, we propose an experimental intervention: a workshop exercise intended to provoke such moments of disjuncture in interdisciplinary groups, using a novel visualization of AI Ethics literature.

David Moats is Research Fellow in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki. His research is mainly about digitization and the role of machine learning and artificial intelligence in transforming various industries including media, healthcare, politics and academia. He is also interested in the methodological implications of these new sources of digital data and techniques like data visualizations for the socialsciences and interdisciplinary collaborations. A book he co-edited with Steve Woolgar, Else Vogel and CF Helgesson, called The Imposter as Social Theory, was published by Bristol University Press in 2021.

STS Helsinki seminar 16.3. with Aaro Tupasela: When the National Population Becomes a Brand – Marketing National Resources for Global Data Markets

For the March instalment of our seminar series, we will be joined by Aaro Tupasela. The talk will be held at Metsätalo, Unioninkatu 40, room 18 on 16th March at 13:15–14:45, welcome all!

When the National Population Becomes a Brand – Marketing National Resources for Global Data Markets

In this talk I will discuss how country branding has extended into the realm of national data resources. I describe how Denmark and Finland have begun to market and brand their resources using methods and practices drawn from the commercial sector. National and public resources, such as biobanks, electronic health care records, population registers and national statistics have become the object of branding. I argue that this phenomenon constitutes a novel form of nation branding in which relations between the states, individuals and the private sector are re-aligned. The historical underpinnings of population branding can be found in the field of medical genetics starting in the early 1960s but transforming significantly during the 2010s into a professional marketing activity undertaken at multiple levels and sites. In studying this recent phenomenon, I provide examples of how marketing material has become increasingly professional and targeted towards a broader audience, including the public. The talk will be of particular interest to scholars of critical data studies and nation branding, as well as students of science and technology studies, sociology and marketing.

Aaro Tupasela works as a Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI) research fellow at the Faculty of Social Science, University of Helsinki. Previously he has worked as an Associate professor at the Faculty of Law and The Centre for Medical Science and Technology Studies (MeST), Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen. His current work centers around what he has termed Critical Nordic Data Studies, which explores the changing landscape of data logistics in Nordic welfare states like Finland and Denmark.

STS Helsinki seminar 10.2. Salla Sariola: Social study of microbes: fermentation as a method of doing STS otherwise

Welcome to the STS Helsinki seminar series’ first talk of the spring, held by Salla Sariola on 10th February at 14:15 EET.

Social study of microbes: fermentation as a method of doing STS otherwise

Salla Sariola is the Director of the Centre for the Social Study of Microbes at University of Helsinki and a Finnish Academy Research Fellow in sociology. Her current research on the social study of microbes includes exploring changing scientific practices on environmental microbes and antimicrobial resistance and well as developing fermentation as an experimental research method. She is the author of four books and her fieldwork has taken her to feminist, queer and HIV activist movements in India and Kenya, hospitals of Sri Lanka, and rural laboratories in Benin and Burkina Faso, as well as fermentation enthusiasts in Finland the Northeast of India.

Join us on Zoom: