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Social Technology Special Issue is out! 18 Apr, 2012

Posted by Anne Beaulieu in Uncategorized.
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We are very pleased to announce that our special issue on ‘social technology’ has now appeared. It is the issue of April 2012 (22(2)) of the Journal Theory and Psychology. Please contact the editors for more information: Anne Beaulieu, Maarten Derksen, and Signe Vikkelsø.

The introduction to the special issue is entitled ‘Social technologies: Cross-disciplinary reflections on technologies in and from the social sciences’ Theory & Psychology April 2012 22: 139-147, doi:10.1177/0959354311427593.


Special issue in press! 30 Nov, 2011

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It’s our turn to go into production at Theory & Psychology!!!

Here is the table of contents!

Who produces social technologies? 23 Oct, 2009

Posted by Maarten Derksen in Uncategorized.
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The relevance to the social sciences also lies in the fact that, as Bas and Paul note, the social sciences have been losing their near-monopoly on defining, analysing, producing and manipulating social relations. Social technology has been democratized. In our chapter we give the example of social software. Katja’s social network analysis is another example, and I think Jonna’s neurofeedback users do something similar but on a psychological level. That means social technology is increasingly salient as an object of study for the social sciences: sociality is more and more something that people create technically. The instrumental, technoscientific approach to social life is not the exclusive province of social scientists anymore, but by the same token, it demands all the more attention as an object of study.

What is the analytical gain? 23 Oct, 2009

Posted by Maarten Derksen in Uncategorized.
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In a field already replete with jargon, neologisms and other attempts at conceptual innovation, one has to have a good reason to introduce yet another new concept. Bas and Paul’s question – what is the analytical gain of ‘social technology’ in comparison with existing concepts – is to the point. I think the gain is twofold: compared to traditional social scientific concepts like institution or ritual, it highlights the instrumental aspect, asks ‘how it is done’, and to what effect. This, to me, was always the most fascinating aspect of Foucauldian work, but technology studies can offer fresh ways of looking at institutions etcetera as technological accomplishments. Second, compared to technology studies and STS in general, ‘social technology’ draws attention to what Bas and Paul call ‘the distinctiveness of human actors in a technoscientific world’. Not only does new technology allow new kinds of human – non-human collectivity (a point well made by Latourians), it also allows and provokes resistance and new ways to be distinctively human. My favorite example is behavioral engineering, which though based on the idea that human behavior is completely determined by environmental ‘contingencies’, ended up as a new way to be in control of yourself, a new way to be free.

In short, ‘social technology’ points to the technological in sociality and to the social in technology. How best to analyse social technologies, is an open question. We do not have a theory. What I would be very wary of, however, is the impulse to demarcate the set of ‘social technologies’ in advance. ‘Social technology’ is an analytical tool, not a thing.

Reporting on the workshop 16 Oct, 2009

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We were lucky to be joined by Bas van Heur and Paul Wouters, who commented: (full text here)

A basic issue raised in almost all concept-centered events, such as this one, is the explanatory status of the concept. Not surprisingly, therefore, in this particular workshop the notion of social technology returned as a key topic for debate. Although most participants resisted the urge to define this concept in advance of empirical analysis, various dimensions of social technologies were addressed.
This approach does raise the issue, however, of how to define the notion of “social technology”. What exactly is the analytical gain of the concept of social technology in comparison with the concept of institution (or in some cases ritual)? To what extent can the social technology concept help mainstream sociology to pay more in-depth attention to social practices and routines that otherwise would be too easily subsumed under more familiar categories or concepts? In other words, in what sense is the notion of social technology useful? Is it primarily a new perspective on social institutions and processes that zooms in on the instrumental dimensions and that mobilizes the sociology of technology for this? Or are social technologies specific phenomena in the world that need particular specifications in order to be properly evaluated and understood?

You can find the full text here.

Paper Deadline: 22 August 19 Aug, 2009

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We hope you are looking back on (or still enjoying) nice holidays and that you are looking forward to our meeting in Amsterdam.

A reminder that the deadline for full papers is 22 August 2009. Please send papers to


It would be a good idea to include a short note at the top of your paper, giving some information about the text and its intended audience, in order to help ‘configure the reader’. (For example, is it a book or thesis chapter, a draft article for a particular journal, etc.)

If any of you have not yet made travel arrangements, there is some hotel and travel information on this blog.

If you have any questions regarding accommodation or how best to get to Amsterdam, do not hesitate to contact Anja de Haas (anja.dehaas@vks.knaw.nl), who assists us in organizing this workshop.

The programme 30 Jun, 2009

Posted by Maarten Derksen in conference, Uncategorized.
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We have put together a programme, organizing the papers into four themes, and assigning a respondent to each paper.  We could have sorted the papers in many different ways, and there are many more themes which run through them, but this seemed a reasonable arrangement.

We would like to ask each respondent to prepare a brief, five minute commentary, in which you discuss in particular the contribution of the paper to the theme of social technology.

Call for Participants 29 May, 2009

Posted by Anne Beaulieu in conference, Uncategorized.
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Amsterdam, 2 October 2009

Sponsored by The Netherlands Graduate School of Science, Technology and Modern Culture (WTMC)

Call for participants
This one-day workshop will be held in Amsterdam, 2 October 2009. Papers will be pre-circulated and a respondent assigned for each contribution. If you are interested in submitting a paper, please send an abstract, 400 – 600 words, before 30 May 2009, to m.derksen@rug.nl

In this workshop, we seek to address two deeply ingrained aspects of current Science and Technology Studies: the focus on material technology, and the idea that all technology is social. Devices, machines, artifacts take central place in STS, in keeping with the common sense meaning of the word ‘technology’. Combined with STS’s traditional focus on natural science and medicine, this has resulted in a relative neglect of technologies that stem from the social sciences, in which material devices are less prominent. Moreover, through the influence of actor-network theory in particular, the idea has taken root that material technology forms the glue of our society (the ‘missing masses’), as well as being its main source of change. Material technology is considered to be at the heart of society, and the dichotomy of the social and the technological is rejected: all technology is social, and society is technological through and through.

We wish first of all to redress the imbalance inherent in the material view of technology. The social sciences produce great numbers of graduates each year, skilled in technologies that are to a large extent intangible: psychotherapy, focus groups, various types of interview, techniques of human resource management, and many others. Such practices have of course been the subject of historical and sociological study, often from a Foucauldian perspective. However, applying the conceptual resources of STS may bring into better view the socio-material construction processes involved in practical social science, its particular affordances and trade-offs, and embeddedness in technoscientific networks.

Secondly, we want to problematize the popular ‘dissolution of the social’: the widely accepted proposition that the category of ‘the social’ is at best increasingly irrelevant, and at worst a fundamental mistake. Rethinking old dichotomies such as that of nature and culture, or the material and the social, has been of tremendous importance in reflecting on our current ways of living. However, the fact that it is no longer acceptable as a theoretical resource, does not make the social any less interesting as an empirical phenomenon. The distinctiveness of people and their interactions is still invoked, produced, repressed, and utilized in many technological assemblages, not only those stemming from the social sciences.

We propose the term ‘social technology’ to cover these issues, and intend to bring together a number of scholars from Science and Technology Studies and the Social Sciences to discuss them.

The workshop will be the occasion to address the following questions, through theoretical and conceptual reflections and empirically-oriented contributions: What is the current scope of technology studies and to what extent can it embrace social technologies? Which social technologies are especially prominent in contemporary culture, and how can we study these? Does a reframing of ‘technology’ enable STS to better explore the workings of social science and humanities? How can the term social technology allow a study of human qualities, without assuming a priori a human essence?

Papers that compare the role of predominantly material technologies in building and stabilizing ‘collectives’ with the role of social technologies are also welcome, as are papers that address social technologies as (1) technologies from the social sciences, (2) technologies that consist entirely or predominantly of human action (polling, rhetoric, and psychotherapy are examples of social technology in this sense) or (3) technologies for the creation and maintenance of groups.

Thanks to generous support from WTMC, there is no registration fee. Some funding is available to cover travel to the workshop.

The workshop will be hosted by the Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Amsterdam.

Maarten Derksen (University of Groningen, The Netherlands) – m.derksen@rug.nl
Signe Vikkelsø (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark) – ssv.ioa@cbs.dk
Anne Beaulieu (Virtual Knowledge Studio, The Netherlands) – anne.beaulieu@vks.knaw.nl

Deadline for submissions: 30 May 2009
Announcement of paper acceptance: end of June 2009
Deadline for full papers: 22 August 2009
Workshop: 2 October 2009