Making & Doing Technoscientific Futures Better

CfP – The Changing Political Economy of Research & Innovation (CPERI) 6th Annual International Workshop

[Please note that the date has changed; the workshop will be held directly before the EASST conference in Lancaster]

Dates: 23-24 July 2018

Location: Institute for Social Futures, Lancaster University, UK

Organizers: David Tyfield (Lancaster University), Stevie de Saille (Sheffield University), & Janja Komljenovic (Lancaster University)

Abstract Deadline: 30 March 2018, submit via email to

Keynote speakers:

  • Professor Susan Robertson (Cambridge) on “the University in an age of platform capitalism”
  • Dr Mark Carrigan (Cambridge) on “Securing public knowledge amidst the epistemic chaos of platform capitalism?”

Call for Papers

There is no shortage of scholarship identifying the profound challenges of contemporary techno-scientific lifeworlds, whether regarding the Anthropocene (Hamilton 2017, Bonneuil & Fressoz 2016), emergence of post- (or even trans-) human ‘digital disruptive innovation’ (Harari 2016, Lanier 2017), or their conjunction in the emergent ‘technosphere’ (e.g. Haff 2016, Szerszynski 2017).  Meanwhile, and not unrelated, public spheres (viz. CPERI 2016, Liège) continue to be upended and turbulently transformed as digital social media, and potentially their deepening percolation into material life, unleashes social division, economic inequality and ‘culture wars’ polarization.

Indeed, 2017 was the year in which a new ‘reasonable’ or ‘respectable’ declinism regarding ‘civilization’ (often identified with Western and/or liberal democracy) went mainstream (Luce 2017, Reich 2017, King 2017, Cf Mishra 2017).  Techno-science, and thereby the research and innovation (R&I) from which it hails, plays a crucial role in all these narratives, whether optimistic and utopian or pessimistic and dystopian.  Indeed, the zeitgeist of doom and incipient barbarism raises with renewed urgency long-standing but fundamental, ‘big’ questions about the crucial role of science and technology and innovation – and, crucially, education – in the evolution and formation of ‘civilizations’ and stable, thriving societies (e.g. Mumford 2010, Mauss 2006, Beinhocker 2007).  With digital social media, built on privately-owned and deliberately addictive platforms, parsing up the public sphere, are there even socio-technical grounds any longer for a single, shared (if not ‘objective’) body of knowledge that both binds a society together and is itself collaboratively developed and disseminated by its R&I and educational institutions?

There is a grave danger that this new Western declinism simply serves to enact and perform its bleakest premonitions, even as it may aim to forestall them.  For which socio-political forces benefit most from deepening the public sense of things ‘falling apart’? Indeed, this challenge resonates particularly strongly with the contemporary situation of STS more generally.  On the one hand, the situated co-production of (materialized) knowledges with worlds and selves is increasingly accepted not only across academia, but is now also spilling over into public common-sense.  But, on the other, today STS finds itself in a predicament arising from neglect of many of its traditional presuppositions, which now appear in radical flux.  Many core insights are being (ab)used in ways that undermine the sociopolitical causes that STS has traditionally supported, and instead taken to legitimate practices of ‘post-truth’ and rejection of expertise (see CPERI 2017, Boston); while post hoc critiques of specific technological trajectories and technocratic programmes of anticipatory forecasting only serve to deepen political paralysis vis-à-vis a daunting future.

To counter this downward dynamic meaningfully, however, demands not just the voluntaristic politico-cultural formulation of new ‘narratives’ or ‘myths’ for society, even as these are undoubtedly both powerful and crucial.  But it also calls for new forms of active engagement with R&I that both underpin such new narratives with demonstrable practical experiment, and thereby bring a hands-on, in-depth and appreciative understanding of current R&I frontiers that can possibly direct these from within, not just criticize or critique from without.

Such future-oriented and engaged research must also go beyond simple activism by actively interrogating and illuminating the political economic and ‘structural’ conditions of any such particular techno-scientific initiative as these are changing in parallel.  Amidst the Anthropocene, post-human innovation and cosmopolitized globalism, we see transformations underway in (global) political economy, political ecology and human self-definition, driven by the US-dominated, neoliberal conditions in which STS has largely developed – and has not only taken for granted but sometimes refused to examine – to date.  STS must thus engage more concertedly with these changing but presupposed aspects of its research, and vice versa.

In short, what remains urgently needed is (re-)constructive research that engages with changing and shaping emergent techno-scientific futures in ‘better’ directions.  This encompasses not only positive agendas and initiatives – e.g. ‘responsible research & innovation’ – across the systems of socio-technical life – e.g. health & medicine, environment, mobility, energy, cities & construction, production & consumption etc… – but also regarding the institutions and practices of knowledge production.

This workshop invites papers at the boundaries of STS and political economy and/or political ecology, across the spectrum of positions (including trans-feminist, post-human(ist) and non-Western scholarship), investigating new perspectives on key global challenges in ways that offer promising approaches to future-oriented action.

We invite papers (for 20 minute presentations) on any theme of contemporary R&I or higher education, insofar as they engage with making and/or doing technoscientific futures better, for instance:

  • The Precarity and Politics of the Expert / The Fact
  • New/Emerging Forms of Value & Valuation in Science, Technology & Medicine
  • Futures of Knowledge & Education Institutions amidst Changing Knowledge Cultures
  • Austerity and the Economics of Innovation
  • Challenges to Responsible Research & Innovation
  • The Geography of (Alternative) Knowledges
  • Diverse Knowers and Knowing
  • Commercial Imperatives in Research and Innovation
  • Scientific Ambiguity and Environmental Science
  • Complexity and Scientific Decision-making
  • Technologically-driven Social/Political Change
  • Ontological / Epistemic Politics of Emerging Technoscientific Fields

We especially encourage contributions from scholars from Eastern and Southern Europe and beyond, areas which are not well-represented within our network, and with whom we would like to foster opportunities for future collaboration, particularly at the early-to-mid career stage.

Abstracts should be no more than 300 words, and should include the author’s name, institutional affiliation, and contact information. Questions and abstracts should be sent via email to  by 30 March 2018.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of Lancaster’s Institute for Social Futures in hosting this event.


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