Workshop Goals & Themes

The goal of the proposed workshop is to foster cohesion and build mentoring relationships within the community of critical sociotechnical research by creating a space for open and honest dialogue about the challenges of conducting critical research and design practice. The aims are three fold:

Create a space for sharing knowledge about praxis. Taking inspiration from Agre’s piece on critical technical practice, we will ask scholars to articulate the sociotechnical borderlands they have inhabited and how these have shifted over time. Agre’s piece exemplifies situated knowledges that do not often make it to publication. Therefore we aim to create a forum for discussing the practical empirical and theoretical work that goes into crafting these multi-faceted sites/encounters between the critical and the technical.

Trace the trajectories, continuities, traversals, inheritances of critical sociotechnical research over the past decade. Lucy Suchman once reflected that she began to truly appreciate her interdisciplinary encounters during the 1980s only many years later (2002). Understanding these encounters can be a career-long pursuit, as we do not often understand their nature immediately. For this reason, we aim to open up a space to reflect on individual and collective trajectories rooted in our earlier sociotechnical encounters. We ask: what can be learned from looking back and reflecting upon the conditions/sites of critical technical work a decade ago, and how can we use this to help makes sense of where they are today?

Build cohesion and lasting mentorship relations. One attribute of critical technical work is that it tends to renew itself continually to keep up with the pace of new technologies and the flux of a shifting landscape. An emphasis on praxis helps to cut across these domains to build cohesion and to strengthen the critical technical practice community. Each researcher may be active in different fields (healthcare, media, big data, hacking, etc) with their respective sociotechnical entanglements – yet we believe there are challenges of praxis that resonate across these various sites, which can serve to build cohesion and lasting mentor relations.

In order to generate discussion, we pose the following thematic questions:

• In what political, cultural, economic, and institutional borderlands do we as researchers, scholars, students, mentors, teachers, and practitioners of technology operate today? How have these shifted since the last Aarhus conference took place in 2005?

• How do we situate ourselves critically within these borderlands? In what sites do we locate possibilities for criticality? What is at stake in the particular boundaries we work with or translate across – disciplinary or institutional?

• How do we critically craft these borderlands in the current research landscape, through “worldings,” encounters and partnerships? Through what kinds of partnerships within and outside academia do we forge sites of critical praxis?

• How do we navigate the multiple accountabilities of our research engagements and commitments within current structures of academic publishing, funding, and teaching?

By exploring these questions during the workshop, we aim to build up shared knowledge by tracing the trajectories of critical technical research over the past decade and to foster engagements between junior and senior scholars. Our underlying goal is to understand how the borderlands of our scholarship and wider practices and cultures in which we each locate our work have shifted or remained the same.

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