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!. Deschamps-Sonsino described! 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: 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: 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 2: Richard Haley, ‘Experimenting with Extreme Cold’

Richard Haley (Physics, Lancaster University) started by thanking the organizers for a chance to talk to a totally different community, emphasizing the experimentality and importance of this interdisciplinary workshop. Furthermore, he invited the participants of the workshop to visit and explore his lab. Haley opened his presentation by explaining that the pursuit of extreme cold is a never-ending quest towards the “infinity” of the absolute zero of temperature at a very chilly -273.15 degrees Centigrade. He argued that the historical development of low temperature physics is a long story of cooling things down to see how they behave, with the hope that new physical discoveries will be made, and recognised. When the experimenters get lucky, Haley pointed out, these new discovered behaviours can be further exploited to create new technologies and tools to cool lower, and the cycle continues.

Workshop 2: Henning Schmidgen, The Interval as Event: Helmholtz's Physiological Time Experiments

Henning Schmidgen (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin) opened his paper with a brief introduction of his position and field of expertise. Schmidgen, as a Berlin-based historian of science with a background in psychiatry and Deleuzian philosophy, voiced a special interest in the history of the experimental life sciences of the 19th and early 20th century. He explained how he is currently finalizing a larger project concerning the history of short time measurements in physiological and psychological laboratories, roughly between 1850 and 1930. Schmidgen described how the corresponding time experiments are well-known under the name of ‘reaction time measurements,’ and they have a routine existence in contemporary neurophysiology, brain research, psychology, and more broadly the cognitive sciences. He followed in arguing that the emergence and evolution of physiological and psychological short time measurements is intrinsically connected with the advent of social and cultural modernity.

Monika Buscher

Monika Buscher


Monika Buscher


Centre for Mobilities Research, Mobilities Lab, Lancaster University

Workshop 1 - Discussion - The Age of the Generalised Experiment

Discussion following ‘The Age of the Generalised Experiment’ panel with Michael Dillon and Nigel Thrift explored  three themes: that of the nature of information systems, that of the counter forces to total war, and that of the politics of the security-entertainment complex.

Workshop 1 - Nigel Thrift, ‘The Transformation of Contemporary Capitalism’

Nigel Thrift (Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick) opened his paper by asking a question: What if there were several ontologies constituting the world? He likened the contemporary social reality to ‘LIFEWORLD INC.’ and proceeded in arguing that there is a new kind of naturalism appearing in the world – although culture is the same, natures differ, thus multiplying ontologies.

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