4-6 May 2020
Europe/Vienna timezone

D - Gender, Technology and Society

D.1 Queer-feminist and crip technoscience

Thaler, Anita (IFZ), AG Queer STS

What can science and technology studies learn by integrating queer-feminist, post-colonial and ‘crip’ perspectives? Should we aim on mainstreaming queer and crip technoscience within STS?

We are interested on various attempts to broaden gender in STS and STS in general, for instance by discussing:

  • Utopias as well as practical experiences about radical system changes in academia and research to overcome social injustices and increase equity and diversity (e.g. the debate of academic care-work; inclusion of gender criteria in research funding policies; academic ableism).
  • Discourses of queer-feminist and crip technoscience to improve our understandings of bodies, regimes of care, and modes of knowledge etc..
  •  How with a broad gender and social justice approach in STS – which includes queer-feminist, post-colonial and ‘crip’ perspectives – the mutual shaping of design and use approach (especially in the field of medicine technologies, robotics and A.I) can be enriched and developed further.

All submission formats are welcome, from walking seminars, work in progress reports, artistic submissions, theoretical essays to empirical studies.


KEYWORDS: queer, feminist, gender, crip, intersectionals


D.2 Inequalities in Higher Education: (intersecting) theoretical, empirical, and practical examinations

Froebus, Katarina, Scheer, Lisa, Kink-Hampersberger, Susanne
(University of Graz)

For decades now, inequalities in education have been intensively researched and theorized. Bourdieu and Passeron (1971), bell hooks (1994), and recently Eribon (2017), to name just a few, discuss in their publications how educational institutions and the people involved contribute to reproducing intersecting inequalities along the lines of e.g. gender, class, ethnicity, and disability. Also for quite some time now, policies and measures directed at equal access to education have been in place at a national as well as institutional level – in Austria just as in many other countries.

Despite these long efforts in both theory and practice and despite important achievements along the way, teaching and learning continue to be shaped by hierarchies and inequalities. It still seems adequate to characterize the education system as preserving the “illusion of equal opportunity” as Bourdieu and Passeron (1971) did almost 50 years ago: It pretends to allow open participation and to measure achievements objectively, but instead it reproduces and even consolidates social hierarchies by creating the illusion of a just selection through alleged objectivity of achievements and seemingly equally distributed opportunities (Schneickert 2013). Bourdieu’s sociological view shows that the individual forms of the habitus unfold their effect and contribute to the stability of definitions and classifications into social categories. Acquired in class/gender/age/race-related socialization processes, specific basic orientations, world views as well as patterns of perception and evaluation appear in the habitus as expression of an incorporated social structure. Stauber and Parreira do Amaral (2015) offer another set on questions/perspectives on the subject by pointing out that it is useful to differentiate between access and accessibility: “[F]ocusing on access to as well as on the accessibility of education” allows taking up different perspectives and asking variant questions because the two terms point at “different analytical levels – structural, institutional, discourse/representation, and individual agency” (Stauber/Parreira do Amaral 2015, p. 22).

Altogether, the focus of the session lies on mechanisms of privilege and inequality, on habitus and power, on educational access and accessibility as well as on reflection and transformation in HE. We are interested in contributions on 

  • theoretical and empirical work applying an intersectional approach;
  • reflections and accompanying research on measures aimed at initiating the reflection and irritation of “habitual orientations” of students, especially student teachers;
  • experiences with initiating processes of unlearning (Haug 2003) and risking to loose and to unlearn privileges (Danius et al. 1993);
  • studies and practical experiences on overcoming social injustices and increasing diversity.


KEYWORDS: higher education, social inequality, intersectionality, reflection, transformations


D.3 Beyond Subservient Femininity: Troubling Conversational Agents

Spiel, Katta (KU Leuven), Weiss, Astrid (TU Wien)

Agent-like technology, such as voice assistants, social robots, and embodied conversational agents increasingly enter our public and private spheres. Alexa, Cortana, even automated announcements on public transport – they all have one thing in common: a voice or avatar that implies strong associations with femininity. The android robots Sophia and Erica, designed as conversation companions, embody appearances, behavourisms and speech patterns that draw on traditional subservience assigned to women in cis-binary concepts of gender.
As critical scholars, we raise several questions as matters of concern: What are the dominant power structures that drive the design of virtual assistants and conversation companions? How does machine learning reinforce stereotypes? And what are the societal consequences of these technologies? With an increasing awareness within academia and industry, we are interested in submissions critically analysing the status quo of agent-like technologies and/or reflecting on the potentials of co-construction in society, scientific practice, and technology design. We intend to center two different perspectives: 1) How can we make the design process more reflexive and inclusive of the perspectives of diverse stakeholders? and 2) How can we design technology to be more sensitive and adaptable to salient cultural values and practices?

We expect contributions from perspectives drawing on the fields of STS, Human-Computer Interaction, Gender Studies, and Sociology of Technology who work on assessing, building, critiquing and/or designing technologies.


KEYWORDS: critical design, gender, voice assistants, human-agent interaction, techno-troubles

D.4 New Materialist Perspectives on Love, Sex, and Desire

Kubes, Tanja (TUM)

For the first time in history, the long time topos of man made humanoids is at the brink of becoming a tangible reality. New possibilities in human-machine-interaction already have dramatically changed the ways in which we conceptualize love, sex, and desire. Recurring theme in many of these changes is the agency of matter. How does “thing-power” (Benett) contribute to the emergence of subjectivities and material realities? What is the role of intra-actions in the shaping of the individual, of matter, and of emotions?

Who we are, who and how we love, and what we can wish for has been radically destabilized by both the advent of technologically enhanced sexualities and the new materialist concept of an “ontology of becoming”.

The panel invites contributions discussing love, sex, and desire in the age of teledildonics and robot sex.


KEYWORDS: new materialism, human-machine-interaction, sex & love with machines

D.5 Strategies to overcome inequalities in science and research: How can academia become a social gender just place? 

Conesa, Ester (Universität Oberta de Catalunya), Dahmen-Adkins, Jennifer ( RTWH Aachen), Knoll, Bente ( B-NK GmbK Consultancy for Sustainable Competence),  Thaler, Anita (IFZ)

New academic management regimes (Felt 2016), the capitalization of knowledge production (Bammé 2004) as well as the imperative of academic excellence (Van den Brink & Benschop 2012) have influenced institutional structures in science and research. These conditions have increased the pressure on people working in academia conflicting with the spread of temporary and precarious contracts (Murgia & Poggio 2018).
While women are equally participating in tertiary education (PhD graduate numbers in the European Union are gender balanced, European Commission 2019), they are still underrepresented in research-related job positions and “more likely to have ‘precarious’ contractual arrangements than men, such as fixed-term contracts of one year or less, or no contract at all” (European Commission 2015, p.100).
Additionally, academia has other inequality issues (few academics have social roots in working or lower middle class, Möller 2014; underrepresentation of females and racial-ethnic minorities in management positions due to ‘homosocial reproduction’, Bagilhole & Goode 2001; Dressel et al. 1994).

This all points to systemic and structurally embedded inequalities, which can only be analysed and overcome with intersectional approaches including social justice issues such as ‘social gender justice’ (Dahmen & Thaler 2017).

However, there are policies and practices in place to promote gender equality in academia (e.g. funds for promoting gender equality in science and research in the EU). These policy-driven structural change processes within research performing organisations (RPOs) and lately also within research funding organisations (RFOs) face societal oppositions (e.g. right political movement, anti-gender populism) as well as inner-institutional resistances, which hinder their implementation. Therefore, both structural and cultural change approaches are necessary to disrupt and interrupt traditional organisational structures of unequal work environments. More and more European RPOs have made progress towards gender equality, and some RFOs, especially national funding agencies, have integrated gender equality procedures effectively as evaluation approach (e.g. gender dimension as cross-cutting issue, gender balance in research teams, gender as genuine research content).

In this session we want to discuss strategies and practices, how RPOs and RFOs managed to overcome inequalities. We want to highlight success stories of social gender justice, so that other organisations can learn from valuable lessons.

We define social gender justice broadly, including intersectional analyses, postcolonial theories, queer-feminist and LGBTQ* approaches. We are interested in papers on implementation of strategies and practices, which contribute successfully to structural and cultural changes in RPOs and RFOs. While structural change can be fostered by e.g. European and national research policies applied in the institutions, cultural change is mainly pushed by inside processes. Both approaches are relevant for this stream.

We would like to encourage submission of papers with a vision of a gender fair, inclusive and just academic environment:

  • Practical experiences that successfully have made changes in RPOs and RFOs
  • Windows of opportunities for cultural changes in academia and research
  • Detection of resistances and theoretical or practical ways to overcome them
  • Frameworks or approaches that might or do already contribute to foster social gender justice in academic environments
KEYWORDS: gender, social justice, structural change, academia, research funding


D.6 Playing with a Politics-of-How: Sensuous Practices-in-the-Making 

Skeide, Annekatrin, Mandler, Tait (University of Amsterdam)
In much science and technology studies (STS), knowledge is positioned as both alpha and omega—knowing subjects produce knowledge and, thereby, enact ‘objects’. Feminist STS scholars such as Annemarie Mol have adhered to an ‘ontological turn’, arguing that ‘objects’ are not only known but also practiced. The political momentum of the shift towards practices consists of the possibilities of attending to the normativities involved when multiple versions of ‘objects’ are enacted in practices. The ‘politics-of-what’ (to do) (Mol 2002, 172–77) acknowledges the different goods, e.g. goals to achieve or values to share, that are shaped in practice when ‘objects’, such as bodies in medical practices, are brought about. For Mol (2002, 177): “In a political cosmology ‘what to do’ is not given in the order of things, but needs to be established. Doing good does not follow on finding out about it, but is a matter of, indeed, doing. Of trying, tinkering, struggling, failing, and trying again.”

Our proposed session seeks to socio-materially engage, play with, and develop a sensuous ‘politics-of-how’. Taking ‘radical relationalities’ (Pols 2014)—everything(s) and everyone(s) are unfinishedly and unfinishably becoming in relation to each other—and materialities of bodies seriously, we would like to taste, hear, feel, or otherwise sense the method(olog)ical and political dimensions of stepping from knowing to practicing. Together with feminist geographers Hayes-Conroy and Hayes-Conroy, we suppose that “addressing the visceral realm—and hence the catalytic potential of bodily sensations—has the potential to increase political understandings of how people can be moved or mobilised either as individuals or as groups of social actors” (2008, 462). We are eager to conflate knowing about, knowing with, and knowing through bodies (Hirschauer 2008b), and, more importantly, to experiment with sensating, which makes knowing and the knowing subject possible (Serres 2008, 325-6). We’re interested in bodies’ constant need for adjustment, for more-than-human “mutual attuning” (Abrahamsson and Bertoni 2014: 137) as well as bodies’ potentials and capacities to sense, to affect and to be affected. Collectively and multi-sensorially, we indulge in activities, such as tasting beer or listening to fetal heart sounds, that do not necessarily create passion and continuous attachments (as in the work of Gomart and Hennion 1999) but perhaps interests (Despret 2004). Sharing and multiplying sensibilities and interests, we map out our sensible togethernesses.

This nontraditional session will take a workshop-like form, we welcome contributions that invite bodies to sense beyond seeing, talking, or hearing while also providing some assistance in reflecting together what we do and how we do it. Please bring something to taste, to listen to, to feel, to do, so that we can practice a politics-of-how together.

KEYWORDS: feminist STS, sensory studies, visceral, practices