18 April

Andreas Weber and Tjerk Timan (STePS)

Location: RA 1247

Abstract Tjerk:

Code Culture - methods of researching programming languages from an STS perspective

Studying invisible work and mundane technologies (f.i. Bauker, Star) has been on the STS agenda for quite some time. When looking at current mundane technologies, ICT's present a pervading and ubiquitous presence and are also acknowledges as such within for instance STS, HCI and communication studies. Often , these studies focus on the end user of these technologies (f.i. Oudshoorn), where the interface and the way these interfaces change work practices are topics of research. However, one aspect aspect remains underdeveloped within STS as of yet. The backbone of these ICT's is code. Computer code. Where in humanities language presents an important field of study, here turn is made to the language of computer code, where questions rise as to how human values are literally inscribed in code, and how this code creates culture. Not dismissing the interface as a point of study, rather the language behind the creation of these interface are of interest here.

The relevance for this inquiry lies the in fact that while at the surface 'we' are quite used to certain ways of dealing with ICT's, this seemingly obvious ways use are based on underlying logics of code and premises about the world. Questioning this logics reveals the shaping role of code in daily life. What and who are these underlying assumptions and premises representing and are there alternative views to these strictness and protocol-based structures?

The main point in this methodology seminar is provide a glimpse into how one goes about researching code from an STS perspective. Starting off with a short history of programming languages and the development of programming languages, a move is made towards an STS perspective and method on computer code via a new field of research that is dubbed 'software studies' (Manovich).

Some tools will be shown, as well as a typology and layers of types of ICT artifacts to be studied.

Abstract Andreas:

Governing Nature and Society in the Late Dutch Republic: Chemistry as Universal Panacea

The late Dutch Republic offers an intriguing case study for more general reflections on the co-evolutionary development of science, governance, and entrepreneurism in the past. In particular in the aftermath of the Fourth-Anglo Dutch War (1780-1784), administrators, policy makers, engaged citizens, and entrepreneurs were challenged to find innovative ways to manage the country’s domestic and overseas natural and human resources efficiently. Many of these projects were in one or the other way tied to chemistry which was considered as universal panacea to mitigate the country’s relative economic and moral decline. By situating such endeavors in their broader social, political, and economic context, this paper aims at fleshing out the general methodological framework of my current research project.