workshop 3

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.

Workshop 3: Neal White, ‘Experimentality. The Experimental Site’

Neal White (Office of Experiments and Media School, Bournemouth University)  works across media, and in no particular medium at all – creating projects with the Office of Experiments that develop collaborative, social and critical spaces using art methods and art materials. His work operates along the fine line between how art thinks and the effect that art has as a social practice. Neal White has been associated with 0+1, formerly APG, Artists' Placement Group, for several years. Maintaining that art has always pushed the boundaries of the possible in terms of models of social collaboration and networking, Neal White's work looks at how these models can engage with other kinds of knowledge producing structure. The Office of Experiments is a structure for experimental cultural practices. Their work is based on the need for new forms of cultural practice, forms of contemporary artistic production that draw on critical lessons of former experimental movements, artists, thinkers and structures - and that seeks to disentangle these modes and systems of approach from the value systems that underline mass media, financial systems and contemporary art markets.

Workshop 3: Alan Collins, ‘Subjects in the early history of experimental psychology’

Alan Collins (Psychology, Lancaster University) introduced himself as a historian of psychology and opened his talk with apologies for the lack of originality of his paper, stating that familiarity is his main fear. Collins continued by describing the emergence of the experiments on human consciousness, both in the late 19th century Germany and in the USA. He explained that experiment is a badge of modernity and ‘constructing the subject’ (Danziger, 1990) is a common method in psychology.

Workshop 3: Rod Dickinson, ‘Experiments with an Audience’

Rod Dickinson (School of Creative Arts, University of the West of England) opened his presentation arguing that from the artistic perspective the idea of an experiment is interesting precisely because it requires participants rather than viewers. Dickinson explained how engagement was a key to the idea of Milgram experiment as well. He proceeded in explaining that he wants to introduce workshop participants to two examples (looking at some short video clips) of an attempt at reformulation of the idea of an audience.

Workshop 3: Bronislaw Szerszynski, ‘Experimental time and the event of politics’

Bronislaw Szerszynski (Sociology, Lancaster University) opened his presentation stating that he wants to use it as an opportunity to develop some ideas about experimental subjection, the being subjected to an experiment. He proceeded in arguing that the force of experimentality can be used as an analogy to the force of law (Agamben, 1998; 2005).

Workshop 3: Linsey McGoey, ‘Experimental dissidence: economies of credibility in drug regulation’

Linsey McGoey’s  (Science and Technology Studies, Oxford) presentation  can be read below in the original version:

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