Category Archives: seminar

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 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:

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:

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.

Join the seminar via Zoom:

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 

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