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Cultural Psychology and Anthropology of Knowledge

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Many of our activities take place in the RUSTlab. For information please see: https://rustlab.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/



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. 


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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11614-022-00497-w.


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. 



Welcome to visiting scholar Phoebe Sengers

July 2022 - June 2023
We warmly welcome Phoebe Sengers from the Information Science and Science & Technology departmens  at Cornell University. Phoebe will be a visiting scholar of the chair for Cultural Psychology and Anthropology of Knowledge and of the RUSTlab for one year. She is an internationally acknolwedged scholar and has published widely in the field of cultural studies of technology. Her background in computer science makes Phoebe to one of the rare colleagues who is not only analysing technological systems, but also participating in their development. In Bochum she will be working on a project about IT-systems in rural areas, just as she will be writing a book based on her ethnography in a small, traditional fishing community of Change Islands, Newfoundland. We look very much forward to collaborating and sharing research experiences with Phoebe.


Vacancy: Doctoral researcher: Scientific data practices and data centres

Apply until 25. July 2022
We are looking for a doctoral researcher to conduct ethnographic research of scientific data practices and their ecological relevance. Data are central to knowledge production, but at the same time their storage and processing demand energy and raw materials. What role do energy use and the consumption of raw materials play in decisions about data processing methods and about how long data are stored? What trade-offs and negotiations unfold when scientific data infrastructures are established, and what are their consequences for scientific knowledge production, for collaboration in science, and for their ecological impact? What scientific, social, and ecological values and conventions play a role in these negotiations? Researching these questions, the project will contribute to understanding data infrastructures - whose immateriality is often suggested by terms such as "virtual," or "cloud" – as social, material, and ecological. In researching data infrastructures, the project will focus primarily on data centres, since these are, on the one hand, centrally important for science and, on the other hand, also have an increasing ecological impact.

We welcome applicants, who would like to work in a large collaborative research centre, and who is interested in participating in an inspiring and vibrant research community and to conduct research in a team. We particularly welcome applications with a university degree (Master) in the field of Science & Technology Studies, social or cultural anthropology, sociology, or a related social or cultural discipline

Please follow this link for the official announcement (in German – here is a translation). If you have inquiries of any kind, do not hesitate to contact the project leader on estrid.sorensen@rub.de. We look forward to your application by 25. July 2022.


Hacking, Data Visualisations and Health Technologies

7. July 2022 15:45-17:15, IFEMA North Convention Center, Madrid
We are well represented at this year's EASST conference (European Association for the Study of Science and Technology). Jan Schmutzler and Estrid Sørensen will present their work on "Playing with fire: re-identification hacks and organizational micro-politics" in a podcast format. Laura Kocksch and Estrid Sørensen will give a talk on "Setting up speculative visualiyation". And finally Julie Mewes, Sebastian Merkel and Estrid Sørensen have organzed a panel on "Co-design and knowing (in) digital health technologies with future users of all ages".



When URLs on social networks become invisible

8. June 2022
Together with Suay Melisa Özkula, Maria Lompe, Mariangela Vespa and Tianshi Zhao, Estrid Sørensen has published a new article entitled "When URLs on social networks become invisible: Bias and social media logics in a cross-platform hyperlink study" in First Monday.

Extant research has addressed various concerns of representativeness in digital social research including: bias in researchers’ selection of online spaces, foci on single-platform approaches, and limited or skewed samples due to API (application programming interface) restrictions. This paper adds to that work through an illustration of tool bias towards specific social media logics (e.g., Twitter logics) in a URL-based network across/within social media sites (illustrative case study = greenwashing). These “biases” are implicit in design, mirror extant societal trends, and are reinforced through platform biases. As such, researchers using such tools (above all, non-computational scholars) may have little awareness of these subliminal influences. The paper consequently argues that (a) tool choices often fall prey to issues in representation, reinforcing existing biases on a subliminal level; and, that (b) non-platform-specific creative situational approaches (like cross-platform URL explorations) provide a much-needed understanding of wider platform dynamics that highlight such biases.

You can find the publication here.



Vacancy: Post Doc in Participatory Design

As soon as possible
As part of the Collaborate Research Centre 1567 Virtual Life Worlds we are currently looking for a post doc for the so-called INF project “Information Infrastructure: Technology and Praxeologies”. The aim of the project is to build an virtual research infrastructure for the collaborative research centre. This will happen in collaboration with an IT technician and with the participation of the members of the research centre. The research will focus on data practices in the humanities with a particular focus on communication, storage, documentation, and data management.

We offer a 100% position for 4 years in a vibrant community of excellent and open-minded researchers along with extended support for career building. If you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact Estrid Sørensen: estrid.sorensen@rub.de

Please note that this is not the official announcement. You will find the official announcement with detail about how to apply here.


Gender and the History of Computing

7. June 2022
Ryoko Asai’s new article “Gender and the History of Computing” will be published as a part of the quarterly magazine Les Simones. The article focuses on remarkable female mathematicians and scientists who have greatly contributed to developing information technology but have not been paid sufficient attention in the history of computing. In the article, the author tries to approach the hidden side of the history of computing. Please check the details here (in Japanese).



Vacancy: PhD position on the co-configuration of data centres and scientific data practices

As soon as possible
How do data centre configurations contribute to shaping science? To what extend is scientific knowledge production adapted to the data storage and data processing capacities available? And to what extent does a university data centre adapt to scientists’ data practices? Data centres is a new object of study in Science & Technology Studies. The link between scientific knowledge production and data centres has not yet been investigated. This is the focus of this vacant PhD position. The successful candidate will work in the team “A02: Virtual Infrastructures: The Data Centre as Infrastructurer between Scientific Knowledge and Planetary Resources”. A Post Doc scholar in the team will study the interrelation between planetary resources and a university data centre while the PhD scholar will do ethnographic studies of the interrelation between the data centre and scientific data practices. In close collaboration also with the project leader, they together seek to answer the overall question of the interrelation between knowledge production and planetary resources, mediated by the university data centre. The project is part of the Collaborative Research Centre “Virtual Life Worlds” at the Ruhr-University, a vibrant group of almost 50 researchers, all eager to shed light on many different angles of the “Virtual” from a genuine humanities perspective. You will furthermore be part of the RUSTlab, which gathers Science & Technology Scholars in the Ruhr Area and beyond.

We are looking for a person with a Master Degree in Social or Cultural Anthropology, Sociology or similar. You must have experience with ethnographic research, preferably from a Science & Techology Studies perspective. But most important is that you are a team player and interested in contributing to a lively and creative research community. You need to be able to understand and speak a minimum of German, since the ethnography will be in a German speaking context.

We offer a 65% position for 4 years. The position will be filled as soon as possible. If you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact Estrid Sørensen: estrid.sorensen@rub.de

Please note that this is not the official announcement. You will find the official announcement with detail about how to apply here.


Vacancy: Post Doc position on the co-configuration of data centres and planetary resources

As soon as possible
The establishing and the operation of a university data centre require a lot of rare and raw materials and a lot of energy. This has been documented in several studies. Rarely, however do scholars have access to study the everyday practices of building and running a data centre. Attending to a university data centre, this is what this research seeks to do with ethnographic methods. Additionally, the successful candidate will conduct a value chain ethnography, following the material route from the data centre and back to the sources of the materials that feed into its construction and operation, inquiring where and how decisions about the use of planetary resources are negotiated. The successful candidate will work in the team “A02: Virtual Infrastructures: The Data Centre as Infrastructurer between Scientific Knowledge and Planetary Resources”. A doctoral scholar of the team will study the interrelation between a university data centre and scientific data practices, while the Post Doc will study the interrelation between data centre and planetary resources. In close collaboration also with the project leader, the team seeks to answer the overall question together of the interrelation between knowledge production and planetary resources, mediated by the university data centre. The project is part of the Collaborative Research Centre “Virtual Life Worlds” at the Ruhr-University, a vibrant group of almost 50 researchers, all eager to shed light on many different angles of the “Virtual” from a genuine humanities perspective. You will furthermore be part of the RUSTlab, which gathers Science & Technology Scholars in the Ruhr Area and beyond.

We are looking for a person with a Doctoral Degree in Social or Cultural Anthropology, Sociology or similar. You must have experience with ethnographic research, preferably from a Science & Techology Studies perspective. But most important is that you are a team player and interested in contributing to a lively and creative research community. You need to be able to understand and speak a minimum of German.

We offer a 100% Post Doc position for 4 years. The position will be filled as soon as possible. If you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact Estrid Sørensen: estrid.sorensen@rub.de

Please note that this is not the official announcement. You will find the official announcement with detail about how to apply here.


Data temporalities: the arts and relevancies of making data last

5. April 2022 via Zoom
As a part oft the 43. congress of the Deutschen Gesellschaft für Empirische Kulturwissenschaft (DGEKW) Laura Kocksch and Estrid Sørensen will hold a presentation with the following abstract:

Open access to research data is increasingly promoted throughout the European Union. Before anyone can access research data, however, these need to be documented, made machine searchable and stored. For some data this alone is a major challenge. Once stored, data also needs maintenance in order to stay accessible. Apart from the infrastructure related requirements such as hardware, electricity bandwidth and staff for the continuous update and development of servers and platforms, data management and data maintenance are required (Sandfeld et al, 2019). The costs, efforts and kinds of these requirements depend among others on the period of time data are stored. The German Research Foundation requires of research data storage of a period of 10 years. The aim is twofold: to allow third parties to re-use the data and to enable re-examination of data validity (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, 2015). In our interviews with 11 German researchers from different disciplines (among others plasma physics, medical informatics, theoretical chemistry, economics and ¬geography) about their data practices temporality turned out to be a key point of difference between disciplines. While 10 years is a brief moment in one discipline, it is an unsurmountable era in another. Due to the enormous amount of data in plasma physics, for instance and the accompanying non-sustainable data storage costs most data are deleted immediately. In Geography, on the other hand, the location data saved decades ago on paper, in images, and on several different digital storage media remain essential for re-use now and in the future. Here, the issue of the temporality of data comes with more than the general requirements mentioned above. The conversion of data from older formats to new ones and the sustained readability of older formats require continuous work. The paper suggests the notions of “data durability” and of “data durability devices” to draw attention to how data achieve their durability and what social, material and epistemic devices are involved in this.

More information about the event can be found here.



Find previous news in the archive.