Category Archives: seminar

STS Helsinki Seminar – Sampsa Hyysalo, 18.03, 14:15

We are happy to continue our seminar series in in 2021 with a talk by Sampsa Hyysalo:

18 March, 14:15–15:45 (EET)

Sampsa Hyysalo, Professor of Co-Design, Aalto University, School of Art, Design and Architecture


Method matters in the social study of technology
Investigating the biographies of artifacts and practices.

Science and Technology Studies understandings of technological change are at odds with its own dominant research designs and methodological guidelines. A key insight from social shaping of technology research, for instance, has been that new technologies are formed in multiple, particular (albeit interlinked) settings, by many different groups of actors over long periods of time. Nonetheless, common research designs have not kept pace with these conceptual advances, continuing instead to resort to either intensive localised ethnographic engagements or broad stroke historical studies, unable to address both the intricacy and extent of the process in tandem. There has consequently been increasing interest in extending current methodological and analytical approaches through longitudinal and multi-site research templates. We discuss this fundamentally methodological critique and its implications through one of these approaches: the ‘biographies of artifacts and practices’ (BOAP) framework, which by now offers a twenty years body of studies to reflect upon methodological choices in different sociomaterial settings. This paper outlines the basic principles of BOAP and its significant variations, and discusses its contribution to STS understandings of innovation, especially user roles in innovation. We finish by arguing that if STS is to continue to provide insight around innovation this will require a reconceptualisation of research design, to move from simple ‘snap shot’ studies to the linking together of a string of studies.

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Topic: STS Helsinki seminar series

Time: Mar 18, 2021 02:15 PM Helsinki


Meeting ID: 667 2846 9489

Passcode: 313016


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Spring schedule for the STS Helsinki Seminar Series

The STS Helsinki Seminar Series will continue in spring 2021 with talks by both Finnish and international scholars. We are especially happy to get back to our regularly scheduled events after having to cancel a large part of our programme in 2020. We hope the seminar series will continue to be a place to bring together people interested in STS, and look forward to continuing to host lively discussions around the themes this spring.

All talks in the spring programme are planned to take place online. Details will be posted closer to each event.

21 January 2021, 16:15–17:45
Małgorzata Rajtar, Prof. IFiS/Associate Professor, Institute of Philosophy & Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences/Rare Disease Social Research Center
Health passports and vulnerability: The case of rare diseases

18 March 2021, 14:15–15:45
Sampsa Hyysalo, Professor of Co-Design, Aalto University, School of Art, Design and Architecture
Method matters in the social study of technology: Investigating the biographies of artifacts and practices

29 April 2021, 14:15–15:45
Mikko Ojanen, Information specialist, Helsinki University Library, DataSupport
Engaging with electronic music technology in Finland in the 60s and 70s

27 May 2021, 14:15–15:45
Heta Tarkkala, Postdoctoral researcher, University of Helsinki
Visual arts in the presentation of research results in qualitative social science – reflections on collaboration with an illustrator

Video recording of Ilpo Helén’s talk: What does sociotechnical imply?

We are excited to have been able to come back with the STS Helsinki seminar series after a hiatus this spring.

The new, now virtual programme was kicked off on 3 December with a talk by Ilpo Helén on the concept of sociotechnical. A video recording of the seminar is now available and will stay up until 18 December. If you missed the event as it happened, you can listen Helén’s talk on the University of Helsinki video service:

Ilpo Helén: What does sociotechnical imply? Conceptual fieldwork with a case of data mining in healthcare

STS Helsinki seminar series continues in December: Ilpo Helén

We are happy to continue our seminar series in December with a talk by Ilpo Helén:

3 December, 14:15–15:45
What does ”sociotechnical” imply? 
Conceptual fieldwork with a case of data mining in healthcare

Ilpo Helén’s talk is about a trend in many discussions of social sciences to replace “social” with “sociotechnical” both as the subject of study and as an attribute. He elaborates what “sociotechnical” as a concept possibly implies in the context of this tendency, with focus on Bruno Latour’s critique of sociological theory and his suggestion of ‘sociology of associations’. Finally, Helén asks how the idea of ‘sociotechnical’ and Latour’s ‘sociology of associations’ would work in an empirical study, using a case of datafication-in-the-making in healthcare as an illustrative example.

Ilpo Helén is a professor of sociology in University of Eastern Finland

Join the seminar via Zoom:
Topic: STS Helsinki Seminar Series // Ilpo Helén: What does ”sociotechnical” imply?
Time: Dec 3, 2020 02:15 PM Helsinki 

Meeting ID: 623 2743 8269
Passcode: 170980
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Next Helsinki STS seminar Wed 29th January: Jose A. Cañada

29 January, 14.15-15.45 Room 10, Metsätalo, Fabianinkatu 39.
Jose A. Cañada, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences.
Local enactments of global health: thinking about scale-making with microbes

What does it take for a phenomenon to be global? How many countries or regions need to engage with it? How does the material manifest in the global scale? Existing literature has argued that the global is not so by itself, but it is made of locally situated practices mostly enacted from Western technoscientific and policy spaces (e.g. Blok, 2010; Law, 2004; Tsing, 2005). Its impact, on the other hand, has the potential to be much wider than that. This is a topic of great relevance when looking at global health policies, the priorities that they formulate, and the implementations that they propose – although it applies to many globally formulated challenges such as climate, sustainability, or innovation, especially when elaborated in terms of development.

The session will reflect on the relevance of scale-making in global health challenges and, more specifically, in those that are formulated around the activity of microbial forms of life, such as pandemic threats and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). These cases are especially interesting because besides the complexities of the multi-scalar character of the global, they must deal with the microscopic scale of viruses and bacteria. This entails a struggle to make visible (or at least perceptible) something that is not for most involved actors. This mobilizes the use of different methods and practices (some more technical than others).

In global health, scale-making must be taken into account not only as part of the studied field, but also in our own practices as social researchers. Consequently, the lecture will formulate questions of relevance to scale-making not only from the perspective of how it is carried out by those who do global health, but also from the perspective of its study as a sociotechnical activity, reflecting on the methodological and analytical implications of studying global phenomena in situated spaces.


Jose A. Cañada is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences. He has a PhD from the University of Helsinki (2018). He has been especially interested in the production of knowledge and material practices associated to sociotechnical controversies, working on topics such as pandemic preparedness and response, biobanking and the development of water infrastructures. He is currently working in the project Social study of antimicrobial resistance: health care, animals, and ethics (SoSAMiRe), where he studies issues related to AMR global policy-making, knowledge production, and implementation.

Helsinki STS seminar Fri 15th November: Stephen Turner

Welcome to the STS Helsinki Seminar Series session on 15 November, 14.15-15.45!

Venue: 3rd floor seminar room, Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies (HCAS), Fabianinkatu 24

Stephen Turner, Distinguished University Professor, University of South Florida

Expertise and Complex Organizations


Expertise always has a place in social organization. One of the fundamental problems of the employment of expertise derives from the conflict between the fact that experts must be supported and therefore have interests and the need for at least the appearance of disinterestedness that is necessary for their expertise to be persuasive. This requires that experts have a protected status, and that expert systems, which involve the aggregation of expert knowledge for the purposes of decision-making, also be organized in such a way that they are protected from conflicts of interest. This, however, is a problem of organizational design with no standard solution, though there is one common one: redundant structures with different evidence sources. In this chapter examples of the problem are discussed, and the sources of failure are considered. It is shown that the sources of failure are intrinsic to the devices used to protect experts. The example of the failures of the International Monetary Fund in the 2008 and the Greek crises is examined in detail, from an organizational perspective, to show that the flaws that led to expert failure in this case were features that were effective in normal circumstances rather than bugs. This is an important lesson that generalizes to all expert systems. The concluding discussion deals with the implications for reliance on these systems

Stephen Turner is Distinguished University Professor at University of South Florida. He has written extensively in science studies, especially on patronage and the politics and economics of science, and on the concept of practices. His Liberal Democracy 3.0: Civil Society in an Age of Experts, reflects his interest in the problem the political significance of science and more broadly in the problem of knowledge in society. A collection of his essays on this topic, The Politics of Expertise, has recently appeared. Among his other current interests are problems of explaining normativity, especially the conflict between philosophical and social scientific accounts, and issues relating to the implications of cognitive neuroscience for social theory, especially related to the problem of tacit knowledge and mirror neurons. (See full bio and more information at University of South Florida homepage.)

Helsinki STS seminar May 21st: Liina-Maija Quist

Welcome to the spring term’s final session of the STS Helsinki Seminar Series on Tuesday, May 21st 12.15-13.45!

Venue: 3rd floor seminar room, Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies (HCAS), Fabianinkatu 24

Liina-Maija Quist, postdoctoral researcher, University of Helsinki
Undersea uncertainties: Ethnographic engagements with maritime worlds in Mexico (and the US)

Sea(water) becomes known to humans in diverging ways depending on the senses, technologies, and time through which it is engaged. This talk discusses materiality in the study of politics of marine environments through analysis of embodied knowledge that fishers in Tabasco, Mexico employ in making claims about scientifically uncertain and contested consequences of marine oil exploration. I examine STS-inspired ethnography in creating understandings about the non-verbalized aspects of human-non-human relations and related knowledge. Drawing on theoretical ideas from de la Cadena and Ingold, the talk focuses on the fishers’ mobility at sea and related knowledge claims as ‘excess’, or beyond conventional political discourses, interrogating the multiple and contested meanings that fishers attach to their sea environment, fish and fishing in the context of increased oil extraction operations in Mexico. It illustrates the productivity of anthropologies inspired by STS in analyzing these embodied meanings that are difficult to articulate in words and even more so within a political frame that shapes marine spaces in terms of their contribution to economic progress. Lastly, I reflect upon similar approaches in my incipient work examining the ‘worlds’ of marine scientists based at the Scripps institute of Oceanography in California.

Liina Maija Quist is a post-doctoral researcher in Environmental Policy at the University of Helsinki. Her research focuses on the politics and science involved in governing marine environments in the Global South and North. Currently, she studies seafarers’ and marine scientists’ every day engagements with environmental, scientific and technological uncertainties. In her PhD thesis (2018), Quist examined ethnographically a marine-environmental conflict between fishers and oil companies in Tabasco, in the Mexican Gulf of Mexico.

STS Helsinki Seminar April 26th: Nik Brown

Join us for the third session of the STS Helsinki Seminar Series on:

Friday, April 26th from 12.15-13.45

At: U35, Unioninkatu 35, seminar room 114. Note, we will be in a different location than usually!

Nik Brown, Professor of Sociology, University of York

Materialities of air care: a biopolitics of breath, buildings, bodies and bugs

This paper outlines an ‘aerography’ of respiratory life in the context of lung infection treatment by focussing conceptually and empirically on the embodiment and architectural materialisation of breath, breathing, air and atmosphere. It builds on an in-depth anthropology of three respiratory lung infection clinics treating patients with cystic fibrosis, a disorder characterised by life-long chronic respiratory infections, inflammation of the lungs. For most people with CF, breath and breathing are not to be taken for granted. Instead, respiration becomes an uncommon matter of conscious effort, determined resolve and atmospheric management. Here, the involuntary and implicit nature of breath is made explicit, surfacing above the taken-for-granted. To take an aerographic perspective is to attend more carefully to questions of air and atmosphere by challenging and reversing a sensorial hierarchy that privileges visibility, touch and solidity (Iragaray 1999). Any threat to breath and breathing is an ‘elemental’ source of abject dread and no more so than for the embodied lives of those for whom breath has become perilous (Williams 1989). Instead of an afterthought, an aerography asks ‘why not begin with air’ (Jackson and Fannin 2011), with the immaterially absent presence of the invisibly intangible? The question of air is, as Sloterdijk notes, a matter of sphereology, of being located and positioned ‘in’ some definite atmosphere or aerosphere. It prompts us to think about the nature of life enveloped ‘inside’ or encased in contrasting biospheres of relative exposure and protection, endangerment and safety (buildings, architectures, vehicles, rooms, households, neighbourhoods, air quality zones, worlds, hemispheres). Aerography prompts reflection on air’s movement, its ‘management’ or flow within ‘architectures of air currents’ (Wagenfeld 2008). In the context of infectious contagion, the air has become materially spatialised in physical sites of concern that call into question the biotic and ecological life of building design, layout and geometry (Kelley and Gilbert 2013). The biotic, and its capacity to select for resistance, newly refocuses attention on the mutually implicated microbiomes of buildings entangled with the microbiomes of bodies, respiratory tracts, nasal cavities, mucosal membranes, lungs, guts, hands and skin.

Nik Brown is professor in sociology at the University of York working across Science and Technology Studies (STS) and the Sociology of Health and Illness (SHI). He has several decades of research and scholarship experience working first on the regulation and governance of the biosciences. He has examined the political and moral economies of stem cell biobanks and umbilical cord blood banking. Nik’s most recent areas of interest include the biopolitics of infections and anti-microbial resistance (AMR). He has published widely on the biopolitics of immunity including a forthcoming monograph (‘Immunitary Life: The biopolitics of Immunity’, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2018).

STS Helsinki Seminar March 18th

Join us for the second session of the STS Helsinki Seminar Series on:

Monday, March 18th from 12.15-13.45

At: 3rd floor seminar room, Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies (HCAS), Fabianinkatu 24

Andrea Butcher, postdoctoral researcher, University of Helsinki

Tackling antimicrobial resistance in biosocially demanding settings: the challenge for low-income regions

Bioscientific research of antimicrobial resistance is increasingly focusing on the role of environments, specifically anthropogenically-created sites of environmental pollution, in AMR evolution and acceleration. Such emphasis invites examination of the socioeconomic and material agencies driving the creation of such sites. Drawing upon field research of urbanisation and food production dynamics in South Asia and West Africa, the paper will examine how AMR risks relate to the various demands placed upon human and non-human agents in an ecology of development practices that include economic growth, urban infrastructural development, food production techniques and healthcare facilities. It will consider how social science and STS approaches can be applied to AMR knowledge generation, in which antibiotic use is but one determinant.

Andrea Butcher is postdoctoral researcher in Sociology at Helsinki for the sociological component of AMRIWA (Antimicrobials in West Africa), a project producing knowledge of how AMR genes flow between people, animals and environments in West African regions. Andrea’s background is the anthropological study of the nexus of development, environment and religion in the Indian Himalaya. Since 2017, she has been engaged in the social study of microbes, initially examining socioeconomic drivers for potential antibiotic use in Bangladesh’s aquaculture sector.  Her previous research at the University of Exeter examined antibiotic use and AMR flows in Bangladesh’s shrimp and prawn export aquaculture. She is a member of the Helsinki-based research group Cultures of Cultures: Antimicrobial Resistance in Global Contexts.

Launch of new STS Helsinki Seminar Series

Welcome to the new STS Helsinki Seminar Series!

The STS Helsinki Seminar Series is a newly founded seminar series by the STS Helsinki research collective. Our aim is to create a space for in-depth conversations about current research in Science and Technology Studies (STS). The topics cover a wide range of contemporary issues, such as climate change, the role of experts, medicine, genetics, gender, robotics or organic food. The seminars function as a platform for strengthening the STS community in Finland and bringing STS to new audiences. All scholars, students and audiences interested in the interaction between science, society and technology are welcome!

Seminar programme/Spring 2019

Venue: 4th floor seminar room, Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies (HCAS), Fabianinkatu 24 (except for April 26th)


27 February, 12.15-13.45

Helena Valve, senior researcher, Finnish Environment Institute

Analysing policy processes and power with STS


18 March, 12.15-13.45             

Andrea Butcher, postdoctoral researcher, University of Helsinki

The challenge of tackling antimicrobial resistance in biosocially demanding settings: the case of protein production in South Asia


26 April, 12.15-13.45

Nik Brown, Professor of Sociology, York University



20 May, 12.15-13.45

Liina-Maija Quist, postdoctoral researcher, University of Helsinki

Epistemic practices of marine scientists examining climate change


Abstract for 27 February

Analysing policy processes and power with STS

Scientific experiments and the role of experimentation in the generation of scientific evidence are classic themes within science and technology studies (STS). Research in the field has created understandings of the performative, yet contested role of test designs.  Drawing from studies focusing on Baltic Sea protection, I propose that STS insights have much to offer for the analysis of governance. Power ceases to be just a property that can be used to explain policy outcomes. Moreover, the contested capacities evolve not only within, but also along the material (re)arrangements that indicate what is at issue and for whom.

Dr. Helena Valve works as a Senior Researcher at the Finnish Environment Institute. Her research focuses on the politics and performance of environmental policy and natural resource management. The studies make use of the insights provided by science and technology studies (STS), and aim to contribute to the development of methodologies that acknowledge the role of materialities and material arrangements for the practicing of governance and regulation.


For more information, please contact Kamilla Karhunmaa (kamilla.karhunmaa at or Karoliina Snell (karoliina.snell at