My research focusses on software engineering and data analytics as an epistemic and transformational practice and I combine participatory methods of qualitative social science research with an actor-network approach to social theory to design interdisciplinary collaborations between science, engineering and social science. I look at how contemporary societies are increasingly relying on the use of digital technologies. We find our way through unknown cities not by consulting the locals or travel guides, but by using Google Maps and the apps of the city’s public transport provider on our smartphones. Organizational chains of command are not only shaped by formal hierarchies, forms and filing cabinets, but by the flows of CC and BCC emails and SAP’s electronic resource planning software. Global finance is not so much based on greed and personal networks but on the fiber-optic cables connecting 60 Hudson Street and Wall Street. National Security is more an issue of data storage and efficient number-crunching than of fences and border control.
These technosocial implications of digital transformations are at the heart of my research profile. Being trained in social sciences and computer science, I have always tried building bridges: I contribute to disciplinary debates as well as to interdisciplinary exchanges; I have also brought together such diverse fields as computer science, urban planning, international relations, philosophy or geography. My work focuses on three core areas:
Social Life of Software, Data and Algorithms
Central for today’s digital societies is the growing relevance of data collection, storage and processing, as well as the use of quantification and algorithms. With Josef Wehner and Tilmann Sutter, I successfully applied for and managed the project Numeric Inclusion (DFG, 2010-2013) to study the use of user tracking and recommender systems. At the Munich Center for Technology in Society I serve as head of the Digital/Media/Lab, a group of junior scientists studying digital transformations. Together with Sabine Maasen I am Co-PI in the EU H2020 Project IMPROVE where we collaborate with mechanical engineering and industry automation to set up a big data infrastructure for process engineering. We are also PIs of a subproject of the engineering DFG CRC 768 to study the participatory design of innovations processes in engineering companies. In collaboration with the IfKW at LMU und the BR we study software engineering for non-linear television as part of the Munich Center for Internet Research. Projects in preparation are: a DFG proposal on “Governing Algorithms” with with researchers at the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society; a DFG proposal on “Algorithmic Urbanism” with Ignacio Farias, MCTS and a project “Simulation as Media” with Hajo Greif.
Infrastructures of Governing
Governance as we know it is based on an infrastructure crafted by science and poured into technology. After all, what are we to make of Max Weber’s foundational claim about the legitimate use of state violence without the bureaucratic regimes crafted in economics and jurisprudence? What is a population without a census and statistics, without techniques of defining, measuring, and counting people? Since 2005, Nicholas J. Rowland and I maintain a productive collaboration, looking at the technical and scientific infrastructure of modern nation states. Since 2011, we have been organizing annual sessions at the meetings of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) and the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S), giving a growing group of scholars an academic home. With Ben Hurlbut, Chris Kelty, Sabine Maasen, Shobita Parthasarathy, Sebastian Pfotenhauer and Malte Ziewitz I applied for a DFG-NSF Symposium on Technoscientific Constitutions of Politics, Law and Public Reason that has already received funding from the NSF and is currently under review at the DFG.
Transdisciplinary Collaboration and Disciplinary Diplomacy
While science & technology studies is by definition inter- and transdisciplinary research, it forces us into serious departures from the core of our home disciplines. Translating the results of transdisciplinary collaborations back to traditional disciplines like sociology, political science or media studies is therefore crucial. My dissertation “Technology and Society” provided a better understanding of the locally and historically situated origins of science & technology studies. My habilitation thesis “On Circumstances” develops an actor-network approach to practice theory that can be linked back to debates on social theory and methodology. Sabine Maasen and I are preparing a special issue of the German journal Soziale Welt on “Sociology of the Digital – Digital Sociology” that translates results and approaches from science & technology studies back to disciplinary debates in sociology.
I am engaged in public outreach and consultation, for example by being part of the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung Workshop on “Innovation Policy in Times of Digital Transformations” and the Siemens CKI Conference on “Autonomous Systems”. During the last years I hosted workshops for the Deutsche Telekom to work with infrastructure practitioners and junior management staff. Finally, I consider myself a public scientist: Since 2011 I have been co-editing “Installing (Social) Order”, where we collect and discuss cases of infrastructural politics in a public forum. We experimented with keeping a public journal for field notes in the project on music distribution and recommender systems to document the research process transparently.
|30.8.– 2.9.2017||“Social Studies of Politics: What do we care for?”, Two Sessions in an Open Panel, Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) in Boston, MA with Prof. Dr. Govind Gopakumar (Concordia) and Prof. Dr. Nicholas J. Rowland (PSU)|
|4.– 6.11.2016||4. Annual Workshop for Qualitative Video Analysis, with Felix Albrecht, Andrea Geipel, Benjamin Lipp, Ajit Singh, Dr. Rene Tuma, TUM|
|31.8.– 3.9.2016||“Social Studies of Politics”, Open Panel, seven sessions at the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) Meeting in Barcelona, with Prof. Dr. Nicholas J. Rowland (PSU) and Prof. Dr. Jan-Peter Voss (TU Berlin)|
“STS and the State“ – editorial workshop for a special issue of “Engaging Science & Technology Studies” with Prof. Dr. Govind Gopakumar (Concordia) and Prof. Dr. Nicholas J. Rowland (PSU)
|1.–4.6.2016||“Co/Laboration. Science and Technology in, with and for Society” International Graduate School of Science and Engineering, TUM, Workshops for STEM Graduate Students|
|24.– 25.5.2016||“STS Figures to think with: Modest Witness, Invisible Technician,
Cyborg, Idiot”, Graduate Student Workshop with Prof. Dr. Ignacio Farias, Dr. Tomás Criado and Dr. Laurie Waller, TUM
|11.– 14.11.2015||“Social Studies of Politics: Assembling Governance”, Open Panel, three sessions at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) in Denver, CO with Prof. Dr. Nicholas J. Rowland (PSU)|
|3.–4.7.2015||“Profile/s: Individual and Collective Classifications in Digital Media”, Working Group Data and Networks of the Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft (German Association for Media Studies) in Braunschweig, with Dr. Theo Röhle, Dr. Jan-Hinrik Schmidt and others|
|21.– 22.11.2014||“Measuring the Body”, Annual Meeting of the Gesellschaft für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung (German STS) in Tübingen, with Prof. Dr. Jörg Strübing|
|17.– 19.10.2014||“STS and ‘the state'”, Open Track, Biannual Meeting of the European Association for the Social Studies of Science and Technology (EASST) in Torun, Poland, with Prof. Dr. Nicholas J. Rowland (PSU)|
|20.– 23.8.2014||“STS and ‘the state'”, Open Panel, Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with Prof. Dr. Nicholas J. Rowland (PSU)|
|7.–8.2.2014||“Making data count” Spring Workshop, DGS Work Group “Sociology of Media and Communication” in Bielefeld with Thorben Mämecke and PD Dr. Josef Wehner|
|7.–8.11- 2013||“Struggling with Innovations. Social Innovations and Conflicts in Urban Development and Planning”, Leibniz IRS in Erkner with PD Dr. Gabriela Christmann, Kerstin Falk and Anika Noack|
|9.– 12.10.2013||“State Multiplicity, Performativity and Materiality: STS Research on State and Stateness” Triple-Session, Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) in San Diego, CA, with Prof. Dr. Nicholas J. Rowland (PSU)|
|14.– 15.3.2013||1. Summer School of the DFG Research Training Group “Innovation Society Today: The Reflexive Creation of Novelty” in Berlin|
|17.– 20.10.2012||“On States, Stateness and STS: government(ality) with a small g?” Double-Session. Biannual Meeting of the European Association for the Social Studies of Science and Technology (EASST) in Copenhagen, DK, with Prof. Dr. Nicholas J. Rowland (PSU)|
|2.–11.2011||“Seeing the State and State Theory in STS” Double-Session, Annual Meeting, Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) in Cleveland, OH, with Prof. Dr. Nicholas J. Rowland (PSU)|
|29.5.2009||“Agency without Actors?” German-French University (DFH-UFA) Workshop in Bielefeld, with Florence Rudolf, HDr. (Strasbourg) and Dr. Birgit Peuker (HU Berlin)|
|30.1– 31.1.2009||“Classes to Clusters?” Workshop, Bielefeld, with PD Dr. Josef Wehner|