TRACK Gender - Technology - Environment

S1: Queer(ing) technologies

Anita THALER (IFZ-Interuniversity Research Center for Technology, Work and Culture), Austria

Sexbots or Zach Blas' gay bombs and gender changers are examples for technologies with(in) a queer discourse and are regarded as 'queer technologies'. Beside those, a lot of biomedical, information and communication, and various other technologies have a queer potential. We invite papers with a focus on queer technologies or queer-feminist perspectives on technologies. We are especially interested in current discussions on reifications of stereotypes of artificial intelligence systems and algorithms (and how to overcome and queer those reifications).

KEYWORDS: queer STS, queer-feminist, sexbot; algorithm, artificial intelligence

S2: Re-configuring computing through feminist new materialism

Goda KLUMBYTE & Claude DRAUDE (University of Kassel), Germany

Computing technologies have been traditionally seen as modes of abstraction leading away from matter, and towards disembodiment – a discursive position that has received considerable feminist critique (e.g. Hayles 1999). However, computing as practice is anything but disembodied. First of all, it is marked by a productive tension between the material and the semiotic: digital computation involves a translation of the discursive and the material into a structured language that then forms the basis of computing implemented through hardware and software that relies on material-infrastructural basis. Furthermore, the historical trajectory of computing and its abstract rendering of information has also been challenged from within the field as early as 1972 by Bateson’s theory of contextualised information and ecological take on cybernetics. Finally, feminist and STS scholars, and especially feminist computer scientists have been pushing the field to take feminist critiques regarding materiality into account and to look for pathways to connecting feminist theory to computer science on conceptual and practical levels (Bardzell 2010, Draude 2011, Maaß, Rommes and Bath 2012, Bath 2014). Simultaneously, the feminist new materialism has been emerging as its own distinctive body of thought (Tuin and Dolphijn, 2012) that takes matter to the core of its investigations and builds interdisciplinary bridges between the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sciences.

This session invites to re-configure the dominant modes and practices of knowledge production in computer science through feminist new materialist and queer-theoretical lenses. Such an endeavour calls not only for interrogation of the power differentials embedded in  computing technologies, but also for critical examination of the dominant modes of knowledge production that underpin computer science, and re-thinking episteme through techne and vice versa. Namely, it encourages contributors to ask: what are the underlying conceptual notions in computer science and how do they (re)produce power dynamics? How are computer science theories gendered? How can insights from feminist and queer perspectives help re-contextualize the methodologies and theories that are commonplace in computing? We invite contributions – both written, or performative, art or media pieces, – from the fields of computing, feminist and queer STS, as well from the arts. We encourage contributors to come up with alternative formats, such as workshops, interactive presentations that focus on learning-through-doing, and other formats that account for the importance of material practices for knowledge production.

KEYWORDS: feminist new materialism, computing, queer theory, knowledge production, critical computing


S3: Sounding out collaboration(s) in toxic infrastructures

Franziska KLAAS & Sven BERGMANN (University Bremen), Germany

The environmental impact of toxic and radioactive substances is one main legacy of industrialized capitalism. Our lives are embedded in “chemical regimes of living”, as Michelle Murphy (2008) puts it concisely. Infrastructures release toxic substances of great but usually unknowable potential into the environment and bodies, with effects that are rather speculative in their temporality and scope. For instance, in marine environments, plastic debris fragments to micro- or nanoplastics that form aggregates with plankton or do sediment in the benthic sea and release additives or get attached by other pollutants. Different chemical compounds subsumed under the term persistent organic pollutants (POPs) withstand biological degradation and thus have long-term effects on bodies and the environment.

These kinds of accumulation, sedimentation and flow of anthropogenic substances have challenged the modern separation between nature and culture, evoking new possibilities of thinking. Nevertheless, governance and regulation of these problems rely on modern ideals of separation and purification: “Production is protected; pollution is externalized” (Kim Fortun 2014). Although modernity has left behind ecological destruction of different kinds, it is assumed that for every modern problem there is still a modern solution, as highlighted by Arturo Escobar (2004). But not only state or economic stakeholders are keen of this logic also environmental activism is pervaded by such ideas.

From a postcolonial and feminist STS point of view, we can easily critique such kind of problem solving as sticking with the problem instead of stepping outside; or even as being part of the problem. Gender and Queer Studies have taught us to scrutinize binary and anthropocentric logics of representation and thus to challenge notions of (re-)naturalisation. Even though these approaches are helpful to understand and display complexity and entanglements in emerging NatureCultures, they concurrently tend to keep the subject/object of analysis at distance. Hybrid environmental objects have become “good to think with” in the social and cultural sciences, yet preserving a gap between fascination and on-the-ground-engagement. Within the scope of our workshop we intend to create an environment for academic and non-academic participants who actively engage with environmental/natureculture issues, searching for possibilities of collaboration (with and within environmental_toxic activism) by other means. It provides a setting for people interested in exchanging experiences of collaboration in practice, moving beyond the position of criticism and purity to be “in the action, be finite and dirty, not transcendent and clean” (Donna Haraway 1997).

We are looking forward to contributions and proposals for discussions and more uncommon, even performative formats that engage with collaboration and dialogicity. They can cover but are not limited to one of the following topics and questions:

• Possibilities and Limits of Collaboration in Practice

• Queer-Feminist and Anti-racist Engagements with Toxic Environments

• Science, Activism and Environmental (In)Justice

• Citizen Science and Other Alternative Ways of Knowledge Production

• Socio-Ecological Education Beyond Ideas of a Pristine Nature

• Politics of Scale and Non-Scalability

• Queer Ecologies: Entanglements in Naturecultures

• Thinking Relational with Matter and its Temporalities

• Creating Infrastructures, Sanctuaries and Shelters in in Ruins of Capitalism

• Maintenance and Caring as a Critical Issues

KEYWORDS: NatureCultures, collaboration, temporalities, speculation, ecological activism, problematization, toxicity, queer ecologies



S4: Analysis and perspectives of inter*, non-binary and trans in higher education (and research)

Philipp ROUSCHAL (TU Graz, HTU Graz, ÖH Uni Graz, ÖH BV); Alex MÄHR (Austrian Students’ Union), Austria

In the last year awareness about the relevance of gender in higher education and STEM has increased. Institutes of higher education have often programs to increase gender diversity.

Funding of research in science and technology requires a statement to or inclusion of a gender dimension. Yet gender is most of the time still understood as a binary construct of female and male fixed at birth. This continues the exclusion of marginalized genders and sexes – inter*, non-binary and trans (INT). Inter*, non-binary and trans persons still face varies forms of discrimination in their life. In institutes of higher education specific forms of discrimination can occur additionally. The high administrative overhead of institutions can prolong transitions or even ignore the reality of people. IT systems that only include a female-male-binary enforce the discrimination.

Changes to the system are considered an insurmountable obstacle. This leads also to an erasure and leads to incorrect statistics. A difference in discrimination is also in the status groups – students, staff and tenure professors. Depending on the individuals status institutes of higher education implement changes, but those often only effect the privileged group of tenure professors.

In few countries a legal recognition of inter* and non-binary identities has been given by introduction of a legal gender category outside of the female-male-binary. In the European Union this was done by Malta and Germany. This legal changes also have an impact on all institutes of higher education in countries of the European Union, because of the highly international education system in Europe and the equality of EU-citizenships. In Germany this did not translate into a recognition of this genders in institutes of higher education. For example information management systems for students and staff only include a female-male-binary. This reproduces a discriminatory system.

Self-representation groups of students and staff have been formed to improve the situation for INT students and staff and raise awareness for INT related topics and issues. Examples for this initiatives are are in Austria “NaGeH – mein Name, mein Geschlecht, meine Hochschule” and in Germany “AG transHoPo – Arbeitsgemeinschaft transemanzipatorische Hochschulpolitik”.

The session will view the situation from different perspectives and will focus on the institutional aspects like policy, infrastructure and environment, rather than INT in research. Included is an analysis of discrimination of INT people in institutes of higher education and guidelines, demands and suggestions for improvement of policies, processes and infrastructure.

The activities of NaGeH and AG trans* HoPo and the national situation of Austria and Germany will be presented. Space for discussions and comparison of different situations provided by participants will be given.

KEYWORDS: queer, inter*, trans and non-binary, institutes of higher education, gender equality, structural change



S5: „Surviving in academia“ – careers in the academic neo-feudalism

Jennifer DAHMEN (RWTH Aachen University), Germany; Anita THALER (IFZ - Inter-University Research Centre for Technology, Work and Culture), Austria

Producing and teaching knowledge is one of the main purposes in the professional life of people working in academia. But the circumstances for pursuing a stable and successful career in the university system have changed a lot during the last two decades. New academic management regimes (Felt 2016) and the capitalization of knowledge production (Bammé 2004) influence institutional structures and even more on the individual career level. A high amount of flexibility and mobility are demanded from scholars and that under uncertain working conditions like non-permanent contracts, lack of institutional belonging and appreciation, limited access to institutional resources and financial insecurity etc. Those alternative science careers or how Tara Fenwick (2005) called it, career avenues of ‘portfolio professionals’ are common reality and yet the situation of this group is mostly neglected in the supposedly fair academic practice. They remain outsiders within the system even though the system and the privileged people within it could not persist without them. And the high fluctuation of staff is even a wanted condition by science policy “since research would ‘freeze’ without granting the permanent inflow of young academics and new ideas” (Preis/Ulber 2017, p. 10). Additionally academics try to ‘survive’ in academia by combining several external lecture contracts at different (often geographically distant) universities to earn their living. These precarious lecturer contracts are paid poorly and constitute insecure positions, as external lecturers have to submit new lecture proposal each year and go through selection processes for each and every teaching concept. Although universities rely heavily on external lecturers, their appreciation within the system is very low, they have no professional representation at universities and cannot rely on their employer. In this session we would like to welcome theoretical and empirical papers, which contribute towards a better understanding on how structural and institutional conditions of precarious employment affect personal careers in multiple ways. We are interested in papers on the macro-level of science policy and performance evaluation (like academic excellence debate ‘Sheep with five legs’, Van den Brink & Benschop, 2011), on the meso-level of university governance and organisational effects (like ‘advanced discrimination’, Dressel, Weston Hartfield & Gooley, 1994), and on the micro-level of individual careers and psychological factors (like ‘embodied anxiety’, Sigl 2012). Beside social justice, gender, and intersectional analyses, we especially encourage queer-feminist approaches and LGBTQ+ perspectives. We would like to stimulate a discussion of papers, who dare to develop the vision of a fair, inclusive and just academic environment – what could it look like to not only survive but to live a good live in academia – and how could it be achieved?

KEYWORDS: social gender justice, science careers, organization, precarious jobs, queer-feminist



S6: Gendered career progresses in STEM – Networks as influential (and crucial?) factor

Jennifer DAHMEN & Andrea WOLFFRAM (RWTH Aachen University), Germany

In this session, we want to discuss gendered career perspectives of female and male scientists in engineering and information technology. During their qualification process, which often leads after the PhD to an activity in industry, networks represent a key factor for reaching a professorship or leadership position in industrial and academic research.

Background of our session is a new research project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, called GenderNetz. Overall aim of the project is it to increase  and foster equal opportunities in (information) technological science careers by examining disciplinary micro-structures and micro-processes, especially of informal networks and their influence on successful career promotion in science and industry, with a subsequent reflection by the relevant actors in these organisations.

We are looking for empirical and theoretical contributions, which analyze these gendered interdependencies between career progression and (in-)formal networks in STEM professions and which try to answer some of these points:

• How are networks between science and industry research composed?

• Which strategies are applied for using network potentials in career promotions?

• How can the potential of networks respectively from the inner network relations be used?

• How and in what way are networks gendered?

• Who are important actors in networks and which relevance do they have for professional success?

• Which resources are necessary for successful networking?

• How are actions and contributions of individuals in the network composed?

KEYWORDS: STEM, gender equality, networks, career progression


S7: "So, you’ve got talent?" Future potentials in scientific career development beyond gender and disciplinary  stereotypes

Renate HANDLER & Karin GRASENICK (convelop cooperative knowledge design gmbh), Austria

Researchers in early stages of their career have to navigate in a demanding and highly competitive environment and are increasingly faced with precarious working conditions and limited contracts. In order to successfully pursue an academic career, excellent research and a respective track record is expected, which is enhanced by a clear scientific focus.
At the same time, inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration is considered necessary to tackle complex societal, environmental and technical challenges. However, recognition for an interdisciplinary scientific focus is still lacking in the scientific communities (e.g. lack of publication possibilities) and therefore often perceived as a barrier for career development. Biases towards different research interests are often interrelated with sex and gender issues and other socio-economic factors. Hence, an intersectional approach is needed to foster equal opportunities.

Instruments to support young researchers and underrepresented groups in academia in their career development often focus on an individual level and disregard structural change. Therefore, they have been criticized for reproducing traditional organizational cultures, impeding power relations and stereotypes. 

The aim of the session is to stimulate an open discussion and feedback to identify  improvements and creative options towards a more inclusive academia embracing different talents and disciplines.

This session invites researchers and practitioners to present. . .

. . . processes, methods and instruments designed to overcome biases and to support equal opportunities by developing mutual appreciation for the diversity of talents and different scientific approaches, e.g. for juries, peer review and recruitment, for inter/transdisciplinary collaboration and academic career development on organizational and team level.

The session will offer an interactive format with short trigger talks by the presenters followed by a structured reflection and interactive discussion. The final setting and format will be targeted according to the specific interests and questions of the contributors.

KEYWORDS: equal opportunities, career development, interdisciplinary research, intersectionality, gender

S8: Experimental methods as modes of intervention in the study of science and technology

Ellen FOSTER (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Institute for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology Studies Graz) Austria

In 2015 at the annual meeting for the society of the social studies of science, the organizers introduced the ‘Making and Doing’ session as an avenue for non-traditional presentations and modes of research often in the realm of making material objects. Many lauded this step as a way to open up discussion on scholarship, formats of knowledge sharing, and to give voice to researchers who are exploring diverse modes of enacting Science and Technology Studies. Indeed, it gave visibility to the rich and vast modes of research and knowledge exploration that STS practitioners enact and for those who might not typically be able to present their work in its best form. However, set up much like a science fair or poster presentation session, there was little room for discussion across presenters or for a larger group discussion towards critical assessment and acknowledgement of these experimental methodological forms.

This proposed session is intended as a next step forward for deepening conversation across practitioners who enact experimental methods, or who are just starting to explore such possibilities. This session is particularly interested in presenters who will engage how non-traditional methods enable interventionist work into the development of science and technology via policy change, cultural change, or sparking new technoscientific method. It is also an avenue for sharing difficulties, failures, or hardships within experimental methods; problems of knowledge dissemination or academic approval; unintended consequences or outcomes; skill-sharing for how to enact a particular method; new research found from such methods that is not necessarily interventionist; the ways in which knowledge produced is affected by the methods that frame explorations and highlight certain experiential or sensoric knowledges over others.

Modes of inquiry might include, but are not limited to:

  •  Participatory Action Research
  •  Design of Workshops
  • Culturally Situated Design Tools
  • Critical Design
  • Movement/Dance
  • Transmission Arts
  • Sound-walks
  • Speculative fictions and design
  • Visual anthropology
  • Ethnographic film/documentary
  • Game Design
  • Story-telling
  • Running anti-colonial or (de)colonial technoscientific research

While this panel might go down the more traditional route of paper/video/visual presentations ending with a group discussion, there is room for experimentation in the display as well  that might entail a more participatory or workshop atmosphere. This will be developed via further communication prior to the conference with panelists who have been selected.

KEYWORDS: experimental methods, feminist methods, knowledge production, critical design