Title: European noise: reflections on the politics of comparison in STS

Date: 7 December 2016
Venue: Ravelijn, RA 1247
Speakers: Dr. Ignatio Farias (Munich Center for Technology in Society)

Abstract:
In 2002, the EU introduced an Environmental Noise Directive (END) that mandates member states to monitor environmental noise in urban agglomerations, as well as to develop concrete action plans. Notably, the new guideline does not introduce ‘common criteria’, ‘common indicators’, ‘common assessment methods’ and thus of a ‘common understanding’ of what environmental noise is, but only a mathematical formula to calculate environmental noise average indexes. By describing how environmental noise is currently being measured and tackled in three European cities, I will argue that, rather than leading to so-called ‘harmonization’, the END has led to cacophony in European noise politics. This result, I will note, cannot by accurately explained in terms of the principle of ‘epistemic subsidiarity’, as heterogeneous enactments of environmental noise reveal its fundamental ontological indeterminacy. Taking this into account, I will conclude with some reflections about the politics of comparing, and thus making simultaneously commensurate and incommensurate, indeterminate objects such as noise.

Ignacio Farías is assistant professor at the Munich Center for Technology in Society and the Department of Architecture of the Technical University of Munich. His research interests lie at the intersection of urban studies, science and technology studies, and cultural anthropology. His most recent work explores the politics of urban environmental disruptions, from disasters to noise, as well as the challenges of technical democratization, especially in the context of smart city projects. Together with Anders Blok, he has recently co-edited Technical Democracy as a Challenge to Urban Studies (City, 20(4), 2016) and Urban Cosmopolitics: Agencements, Assemblies, Atmospheres (Routledge, 2016).