Cultural Psychology and Anthropology of Knowledge



Many of our activities take place in the RUSTlab. For information please see:

Welcome to Mace Ojala

15th September 2023
Mace Ojala holds a rare and very valuable combination of design skills as well as Media Studies and Science and Technology Studies expertise. After several years of teaching topics such as
Data Design, Advanced Empirical Methods and Theory of Science, and Analysis, Design and Regulation of IT Infrastructures at the IT-University in Copenhagen, Mace accepted a position at the RUB in 2022 to research the design of teaching practices in Media Studies. He holds a Masters Degree in Information Studies and Interactive Media from the University of Tampere. We are extremely happy to welcome Mace as a PhD scholar in the SFB 1567 "Virtual Lifeworlds". Over the coming three years he will be researching the PDF and writing about the format. He will join the CUPAK team as well as the RUSTlab. The latter will profit from Mace's experiences from the Copenhagen situated Ethos Lab. We warmly welcome you to the team, Mace, and look very much forward to collaborating.

WDR5 Interview: Müllentsorgung - "Infrastruktur reicht nicht aus"

4th September 2023
CUPAK was in the news, or rather, WDR5 invited Stefan Laser to speak about the sociology of waste, infrastructures, and unshared responsibilities. Listen to the piece by following this link: Müll-Entsorgung: "Infrastruktur reicht nicht aus" - WDR 5 Morgenecho Interview - WDR 5 - Podcasts und Audios - Mediathek.

Rescaling the planet through microchips

2nd September 2023
Stefan Laser attended the Science & Technology Studies conference in Taipei, Taiwan, which focused on “Rescaling the world.” His presentation discussed current research in the CRC 1567 on the global production network of data centres, with a particular look at the scales of microchips and how to map their planetary impact.

Investigating the sustainability-cybersecurity nexus in HCI as a practical problem

July 2023
In their newly published paper, Laura Kocksch and Estrid Sørensen investigate the entanglement of sustainability and cybersecurity based on ethnographic fieldwork. While there has been growing attention to sustainability in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) interventions and recommendations, it has mostly been directed outward, addressing policymakers, administrators or users. This paper explores sustainability as a practical problem, inviting the HCI community itself to the sustainability debate. It investigates how the design of technologies can be crafted in a more sustainable manner and, more profoundly, what sustainability is in the design, deployment and discarding of IT systems.
You can also find the paper on Estrid Sørensen's publication list now.

Towards artful sustainable integration of IT Infrastructures

June 2023
In the Summer 2022 researchers, industry-representatives, politicians, public administration officials and activists met in the "Bits & Bäume" conference in Berlin to discuss how to shape digital transformation for a sustainable society. As a result of the three days of exchanges, a journal has now been published with articles from conference participants. Estrid Sørensen and Stefan Laser have contributed a text discussing the organisational challenges of sustainable IT infrastructures. The text is based on their ongoing research in the SFB 1567 "Virtual lifeworlds" in which they study the interrelation between data centres and planetary matter.
The journal can be found here.

Von distanzierten zu engagierten Daten

18th May 2023, 19 hrs., Klagenfurt University
In her key note lecture at the Austrian Society for Empirical Cultural Studies' 2023 conference Estrid Sørensen will suggest a genuinely qualitative take on data science.
We live in a time where the encounter of different practices, life concepts and epistemologies presents a central challenge. At the same time, the emerging field of data science provides new analyses that offer a larger overview and a broader insight into variables and parameters of the world. For an ethnographic sensibility that focuses on concrete and practical everyday life, Big Data analyses often appear as machines of distanced world relations. With a postcolonial perspective, digital data, data analyses and data visualisations can be embraced as a way to highlight different, other and speculative designs of heterogeneous practices, ways of life and epistemologies. As methodological tools, such designs are engaging, not distancing. The keynote outlines a sketch of an engaged and decolonialist data research as a theorising practice of empirical cultural studies.

The keynote will also be streamed online at 19 hrs. and can be joined via this link.

Interdisciplinary Workshop: “Discovery work” of Practical Action in Different Institutional Settings

10th - 11th May 2023, Collaboration Space GB 8/129 at the Ruhr-University Bochum
In this interdisciplinary workshop we will collectively explore the concept of "discovery work." Apart from a keynote by Michael Lynch and shorter talks pointing to specificities of discovery work in different fields, we will engage collectively in empirical analysis of video footage from the GDR intelligence service Stasi.
The workshop regards "discovery work" as a phenomenon and practice, which is shared across different
professional fields and settings, with the focus on the main questions: what characterizes the particular local and practical organization of discovery work across different professional practices? And how does discovery work vary across their different local and practical organization?

For more information on the programme and the aims of the workshop, please see the poster and this short introductory text.

KKC-Lecture by Olga Galanova: From Physical Abuse to Detention Facilities as Memorial Sites

19th April 2023, 16:15-18 hrs. Ruhr University Bochum (GD 1|156) and via Zoom
Olga Galanova will present her research in a lecture titled "From Physical Abuse to Detention Facilities as Memorial Sites: Media and Formats of Flashbulb Memories of Arrest in the GDR" (please note that the talk will be in German). The lecture is organised by the Hans Kilian and Lotte Köhler Centrum and will take place in room GD 1|156 at the Ruhr University Bochum and via Zoom.

On the basis of diverse data material, the lecture will examine communicative forms - both reconstructive genres and material objects - in which experiences of bodily harm during imprisonment in the GDR manifest themselves as memories. More information on the lecture and registration can be found here.

RUSTlab Lectures Summer Term 2023

Summer term 2023, Ruhr-University Bochum and via Zoom
The programme for the 9th episode in the RUSTlab Lecture series is now available. The lectures will take place on site and online. The guiding theme this semester is "Infrastructuring Indeterminacies" and Speakers include Julie Sascia Mewes (Ruhr University Bochum), Frauke Rohden (University of Oslo, CAIS Bochum), Phoebe Sengers (Cornell University), Laura Kocksch (TANTlab, Aalborg University Copenhagen), Andrey Korbut (Centre for Advanced Internet Studies, CAIS) and Lindsay Poirier (Smith College). Please find more information here. Everyone is most welcome!

Welcome to Katrin Amelang

1st April 2023
From April-September 2023 Katrin Amelang serves as the interim professor at the chair for cultural psychology and anthropology of knowledge. Katrin's research is located at the intersection of cultural anthropology and science and technology studies and currently focuses on algorithms, data, and software in and as culture. We warmly welcome Katrin and look very much forward to the collaboration.

STS-hub Circulations in Aachen

15th - 17th March 2023, RTWH Aachen
The CUPAK team travels collectively to the STS-hub conference at the RTWH Aachen to present their current research.

In his talk "Embracing Fluidity in Style and Theorising - Drawing Inspiration from Bruno Latour" Koushik Ravi Kumar will discuss styles of academic theorizing and appeals for more diversity in the accepted standards of academic writing in STS. As a part of the panel "STS and the arts", Fabian Pittroff will talk about "Artificial and artistic intelligence" addressing circulations between algorithmic and aesthetic practices with findings from an empirical study on artistic work dealing with artificial intelligence. Mace Ojala will discuss the generative nature of software testing with a paper titled "Testing to Circulate. Addressing the Epistemic Gaps of Software Testing" together with Anja Klein, Libuše Hannah Vepřek, Rebecca Carlson, Sarah Thanner and Tamara Gupper of Code Ethnography Collective. Estrid Sørensen will participate in the session "What version of STS are we circulating", which discusses her and other books introducing to STS and how they shape the curriculum of STS and (unintendedly) discipline STS. Together with Cornelius Schubert (TU Dortmund) Estrid has also organised a network meeting for the STS community in NRW.

Welcome to Kerstin Parasidis

1st March 2023
The CUPAK team has got a new secretary. After many years in the tourist business, Kerstin Parasidis has done the leap into academia. She is eager to learn about this new world and we are sure we can learn from her competences. We look very much forward to working together!

Across the Layers: Scientific Knowledge Production, Planetary Resources, and Data Centres

20th February - 13th March 
In this online workshop series, we gathered key scholars of the three fields of Critical Data Studies, Media Studies and Science & Technology Studies for short, intense and frequent discussions on planetary resources, data centres and scientific knowledge production. Over three weeks, we will meet online every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 16 hrs CET starting 20th February, to share concerns, ideas, concepts, empirical findings, political statements, and good laughs. Everyone is invited to join.
More information on this online workshop series can be found here.

Sustainability and Critical Data Studies: Invitation to the presentation of students' research projects

Friday 27. January 2023, 10-12 hrs. Ruhr-University Bochum (IA|1/91).
In the seminar "Sustainability and Critical Data Studies" Master's students of Social Science and Applied Computer Science worked together on research projects concerning the sustainable transformation of the Ruhr-University's campus. They will present their research findings on Friday 27th January in IA 1/91. All are welcome to join the presentations and stay for discussion afterwards.

As a part of their research projects the students also created data stories, which can be found here.

The environmental footprint of social media hosting: Tinkering with Mastodon

December 2022
Economic structures and everyday practices that stabilize excessive consumption, extraction, and energy-intensive practices must be challenged and abolished. Using discard studies as an innovative lens, a small group of scholars have come together and talked about the entanglements involved in setting up a solar-driven Mastodon server. Stefan Laser, Leman Celik, Koushik Ravi Kumar and Estrid Sørensen from CUPAK have contributed to setting up such a server at the Collaboratory Research Centre 1567 "Virtual Lifeworlds", and published a short piece on this together with Anne Pasek, Mél Hogan, Mace Ojala, Jens Fehrenbacher and Maximilian Gregor Hepach:

Categorizations of World War II in Videogames

31. December 2022
WWII remains a popular adaptation for videogames seventy years after its end, yet, what kind of war is depicted through these games? With inspiration drawn from Ethnomethodology, Jan Schank and Estrid Sørensen have written an article that asks which cues WWII first person shooters, strategy games and flight simulation provide players with to categorize WWII. Eight different categorizations are identified. Even though preferred categorizations are found in each of the three genres analyzed, each game invites players to categorize WWII in several different ways. Moreover, it is shown that the sequentiality of these different categorizations is crucial for the way in which players are led to engage in virtual military engagements. They are offered varied moral orders and varied moral engagements:

Invitation to the book launch: "Interspecies care? The Corona Pandemic and the Human-Animal Relationship"

Thursday 01. December, 16 hrs. Ruhr-University Bochum (GB8|137).
We cordially invite you to the book launch (in German): "Interspecies care?
The Corona Pandemic and the Human-Animal Relationship" [Artenübergreifende Fürsorge].
The monograph was published this year by transcript.

The book launch will take place on Thursday 01/12 at 16h in GB8|137, i.e. in the "Virtual Classroom".

The book is the result of a writing collective. Empirically we assess public discourses around the Tönnies scandal and the mink culling from the year 2020.

The Geo-Ressources of Data Centres: Mapping and Shaping of Entanglements

Tuesday 15. Nov 16-18 hrs. Deutsches Bergbaumuseum.
Characterized as "the cloud" or as "virtual" the internet is mainly seen and marketed as light and hovering somewhere we do not have to bother about and where no harm can be done. Recently, STS and media studies scholars have emphasised how heavy the internet is, both in terms of cables, servers, metal, water, and indeed CO2 emissions. When having realized this dramatic reality, it is time to think about how the internet could be conceptualized differently. In their lecture at the German Mining Museum Estrid Sørensen and Stefan Laser suggest a topological approach that inquires how geo-ressources and data centres are entangled. They study how data centre planners and operators map data centres and look out particularly for when and where they map geo-ressources and their relations to data centres. 

Expenditure on 'Strava' and with 'Powermeter': On technologically mediated self-evaluation in cycling and an energetic perspective in sociology"

21. October 2022
Stefan Laser, A02 staff member at the Collborative Research Centre Virtual Worlds, has published an open-access paper on "Expenditure on 'Strava' and with 'Powermeter': On technologically mediated self-evaluation in cycling and an energetic perspective in sociology". This is an autoethnographic study on the technological mediation of sport. The data centre, part of the current research project, emerges as a central force. The paper differentiates between modes of expenditure, elaborates the prominence of the value of energy efficiency, points out some practical shortcomings of this value and outlines the merits of an energy sociological perspective. This raises awareness of the prominence of non-efficient practices in digitalised sport.

Laser, Stefan. 2022. ‘Verausgabung auf „Strava“ und mit „Powermeter“: über technologisch vermittelte Selbstbewertung beim Radsport und eine energiesoziologische Perspektive’. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie 47 (3): 319–32.

Welcome To Koushik Ravi Kumar

October- December 2022
We warmly welcome Koushik, who is a Student at the STS-Programme at the TU-Munich. Over the coming months Koushik will do an internship at the chair, at the RUSTlab and in the CRC Virtual Lifeworlds. Koushik has a background in computer engineering but has left this field to engage in a more critical engagement with science and technology in society. One of Koushik's key tasks will be to make a controversy analysis of sustainability in data centres. We look forward to work with you. 

RUSTlab Lectures

Winter term 2022/23, Ruhr-University Bochum and via Zoom
The programme for the 8th episode in the RUSTlab Lecture series is now available. This term the lectures will be in hybrid format: both on-line and on-site. The guiding theme will be "Data at work" and Speakers include Alina Kontareva (Alexander von Humboldt Institute for the Internet and Society, Berlin), Martha Komter (Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR), Amsterdam), Dr. Basil Wiesse (KU, Erlangen) and Jan Schmutzler (RUB, Bochum). Please find more information here. Everyone is most welcome!

Welcome to Leman Çelik, Stefan Laser, Fabian Pittroff, and Lynn Werner

October 2022
Our research team will be considerably strengthened. Due to our participation in the Collaborative Research Centre 1567 "Virtual Lifeworlds" we will be able to employ four new researchers. Leman Çelik joins us from Istanbul, where she has been part of the Turkish STS
community. At the RUB she will do ethnographic studies of scientific data practices. Stefan Laser will return to Bochum after 18 months in Siegen, where he studied energy practices. He will now turn to study data centres practices and their sustainability, which indeed has a lot to do with energy. Fabian Pittroff recently finalized his dissertation at the University of Kassel where he studied digital privacy and personalization as distributed phenomena. Lynn Werner will join the team as student assistant. She just started her Master studies on social science methods at the Ruhr-University after completing her bachelor thesis on the data practices around femicide. We welcome you all.

Data Centre Politics and the Politics of Data Centre Studies

7. October 10-16 hrs., Technische Universität Berlin
On the workshop "Technopolitics and the Politics of STS Research: Experiences from Germany and Turkey" organized by Aybike Alkan Estrid Sørensen will discuss the state of the art of STS data centre research and compare this to how the data centre industry approaches current challenges such as sustainability, contributions to society and the power of technical infrastructure. Based on this she will discuss what we can - and should - expect of STS in their study of data centres. In her opinion, a more intimate collaboration with the industry is needed.

Hacking Everything. The Cultures and Politics of Hackers and Software Workers

4. October 2022
Jan Schmutzler and Estrid Sørensen will discuss their work on "Playing with fire. Re-identification hacks and organisational micro-politics" on episode 4 of Hacker Cultures: The Conference Podcast.

Data anonymisation has long been the central measure for social scientists to protect the privacy of the subjects from whom they collect data. Recent years computational methods have made it increasingly easy to combine data sets, which also makes it easier to re-identify individuals in anonymised datasets (Rocher et al, 2019). No standard procedure exists for testing if anonymised datasets are sufficiently protected against re-identification (Emam et al, 2015). In practice the method is re-identification attacks. Jan Schmutzler's and Estrid Sørensen's contribution will discuss the case of a re-identification hack and its repercussions. Based on this empirical analysis, they will address hacking and attacking more generally as methods for testing re-identification protection. 

The episode is a live recording from "Hacking Everything. The Cultures and Politics of Hackers and Software Workers" panel organized at the European Association for the study of Science and Technology (EASST) 2022 conference in Madrid on 2022-07-07. The hosts are Paula Bialski, Andreas Bischof and Mace Ojala. 

Find previous news in the archive.