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.

International Conference - The Experimental Society

7 July, 2010 - 9 July, 2010, Lancaster University


science / politics / economy / publics / religion / music / art
education / design / media / advertising / technology
laboratory / simulating / making / performing / testing / trial
democracy / reflexivity / creativity / event / revolution

The idea of experimentation was at the heart of modernity’s promise of human freedom and self-determination. But is the experiment now too complicit with power to act as a carrier of hope? To close the year-long Experimentality programme, which involved collaborations with the University of Manchester, the Royal Society, FutureEverything and a range of academic and art organisations, participants at this international conference debated different visions of an experimental society in which the emancipatory potential of the experiment could be renewed.

Plenary speakers:

  • David Byrne (University of Durham)
  • Dieter Daniels (Academy of Visual Arts, Leipzig)
  • Bülent Diken (Lancaster University)
  • Josephine Green (Social Innovation, Philips Design)
  • Stephanie Koerner (University of Manchester)
  • Michael Krätke (Lancaster University)
  • Scott Lash (Goldsmiths, University of London)
  • John Milbank (University of Nottingham)
  • Helga Nowotny (European Research Council)
  • James Wilsdon (Royal Society)
  • Brian Wynne (Lancaster University)

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