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Workshop 4: Ilana Lowy, ‘‘Designer babies’: embryos and foetuses as experimental objects’

Ilana Lowy (Centre de Recherche Medicine, Science Santé et Societé (CERMES), CNRS, Paris) opened her talk stating that the dream of deciding the baby has a long tradition and practical as well as emotional importance. Lowy emphasised that it is a small object by volume but very important politically. She proceeded in explaining the recent development of perfection in medically assisted reproduction as a domesticated technique in France (women try to forget rather extraordinary measures that lead to pregnancy, naturalising stress). 

Workshop 4: Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, ‘Creativity outside the boxes’

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (CEO & Co-Founder Tinker.It, London) opened her presentation by introducing herself briefly. She explained to the participants that she runs a design studio based in London and Milan called Tinker.it!. Deschamps-Sonsino described Tinker.it! as a firm oriented on making interactive products, spaces and events that link the digital to the physical. She stated that she started this company with a man called Massimo Banzi. While a student at IDII in an interaction design program in Italy, Massimo Banzi developed a product called Arduino. Deschamps-Sonsino proceeded to explain that Arduino and following its creations will be the topic of her presentation.

Workshop 4: Bruno Strasser ‘Collecting Experiments: The Art of Natural History and the Pursuit of Objectivity’

Bruno Strasser (Department of History, Yale University, USA) opened his presentation by stating that in it, he will provide a brief glimpse into a book that he is working on now regarding changing meanings and practises of experimentation in the context of natural history practises (museum) and experimental practises (laboratory). Strasser’s talk was combined of four parts: historiography, Boyden’ serological systematics, a museum in a laboratory and conclusions.

Workshop 4: Daria Loi, ‘Of Playful Triggers and suitcases – field tales on the joys and dangers of experimental practise’

Daria Loi (Intel Corporation, USA) opened her presentation  by thanking the organizers for the invitation and emphasising the fact the she finds the workshop very exciting and intriguing. She continued in stating that her presentation will focus on experiences related to her PhD project, instead of talking about her current work for Intel. Loi proceeded to explain that her PhD thesis was exploring the role of design and designers in organizations and the notion of Playful Triggers was developed as a way to foster collaborative practises before undertaking co-design activities.

Workshop 4: Stuart Walker, ‘Experimental Objects – propositional designs for sustainable futures’

Stuart Walker (ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University) opened his presentation by stating that he is interested in looking inside and re-conceptualizing the nature of our material culture in order to create more sustainable and meaningful (not just disposable, exploitative and damaging) approaches. Walker explained that propositional design is concerned with exploring the nature and aesthetics of functional objects in relation to sustainability and understandings of substantive meaning, where particular function is not a primary concern. He claimed that his take on sustainability orientates around economic viability, environmental care and social responsibility. Walker argued that as 90% of plastics and 90% electronics go to landfill, environmental issues of resource use, energy use, pollution and waste, as well as social issues of social inequity, exploitative labour practices and effects of use (value, meaning etc) are at the forefront of his interest as a designer. He also emphasised that approaching this topic through a historical perspective of pre-industrial and industrial stages, sustainable future is difficult to conceptualize.

Workshop 4: John Pickstone, ‘Deconstructions and new Constructions in Science and in Art: Experiments in Historiography’

John Pickstone (Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine Manchester) started his talk by stating that it is a pleasure to be at this interdisciplinary workshop and thanking for the invitation. He admitted that he is about to present an ambitious paper, extending the work on ways of knowing and ways of working in science and technology. He proceeded in stating his interest in multiplicity of works of science and elementary forms. Pickstone likened his presentation to an exercise in analysis, looking at the components and historicity of them.

Workshop 4: Gail Davies, ‘Moving mice: Managing emergence in experimental systems‘

Gail Davies (Department of Geography, UCL) opened her presentation stating that her paper is about deviants, mutants, virgins and rogues. Davies emphasised, however, that these are not her terms, but are used by her respondents to talk about the animals in their care. She explained that these are people managing the range of genetically altered mice used in contemporary biomedical research. Further, Davies argued that the terms take us back to the monstrous bodily overspills of early taxonomy. However, she pointed out that the context here is twenty-first century biology. Therefore, Davies proposed that these terms emerge as animal caretakers and scientists seek to understand the challenge that spontaneous mutations in laboratory mice present to their use as experimental objects.  Unexpected happenings in the mouse house either herald a useful new strain of research animal, or they are culled. Gail Davies stated that she is interested in where and when these different outcomes occur – the difference difference makes as it were.  Being a geographer, she read this through the spatiality of these experimental forms, using site as the basis from which to explore whether these moments of biological emergence are able to articulate new potential, or remain excessive to the demands of control in experimental systems.   

Workshop 4: Lucy Suchman, 'Immeasurable Results'

Lucy Suchman (Centre for Science Studies/Sociology, Lancaster University) opened her presentation arguing that the experiment is one of those figures through which the natural sciences have stamped a large footprint upon our collective imaginary. Therefore, she proposed that she wants to approach the trope of ‘experimentality’ cautiously.  At the same time, having spent the first twenty years of  her working life in an organisation that identified itself as a technology research and development laboratory, its members (including Suchman) as scientists, and its objects as experimental, she is fascinated by the resonances through which such identifications are made.  Hence, Suchman argued that the challenge in thinking about the research and development laboratory through the trope of experimentality is one that attends any form of analogical thinking; that is, to be attentive to generative points of metaphorical and figurative connection, while avoiding too easy elision of differences that matter. 

Workshop 3: Brian Balmer and Norma Morris, 'Who is the 'guinea-pig' in human experimentation?'

Brian Balmer and Norma Morris (Science and Technology Studies, UCL) discussed their empirical work and its relevance to the theme of Experimental Subjects drawing on a nine-year collaborative research project on how volunteers understand their participation in biomedical research. Their research has involved interviewing women who have volunteered for a test scan using a new medical imaging technology about their experience of being a volunteer. They discussed three ways of understanding the 'experimental subject' that they have encountered in their research. First, they argued that the healthy and patient volunteers themselves are the experimental subjects being experimented on by biophysicists, and then being interviewed by social scientists. Next, they claimed that another type of 'experimental subject' emerges from their relationship with the biophysicists and they discussed the ambiguity around this relationship as either collaborators with the biophysicists or social scientific experimenters on the biophysicists.  Thirdly, they reflexively made themselves into 'experimental subjects'  and discussed how the biophysicists and volunteers constructed their identity in the course of their interactions.

Workshop 3: Lisa Blackman, ‘Experimenting with Suggestion: Performing ‘social influence’ processes’

Lisa Blackman (Dept of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London) began her presentation stating that in it she will outline some work on experimentation and subjectivity that is the subject of her forthcoming book, ‘Im/material Bodies: Affect, Relationality and the Problem of Personality’ (Sage). In the book Blackman takes the problem of ‘social influence’, as it has been stabilized and enacted as a particular kind of object within the psychological sciences, as her topic of problematisation. The genealogical investigation developed throughout the book takes a number of scenes (the laboratory, the séance, the clinical encounter, the therapeutic relationship, live performance and the theatre) as sites for the production of different forms of subjectivity articulated through differing conceptions of suggestion or suggestibility. Lisa Blackman considers all these sites as differing practices of experimentation which stage suggestion as a particular kind of ‘thing’ or entity.

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