During the last week of September, the Department celebrated its 50th anniversary with a full week of academic talks and conferences. Among them was a panel titled "Sociotechnical Controversies: “Acting in an Uncertain World" featuring panelists from the Institute for Science, Society and Policy, the Department of Sociology at Queen’s University as well as the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa. Here is a report back from someone who attended:
“We know that we do not know but that is almost all that we know” (Callon et al. 1991, p.21). What are analysts of new technologies to do in such circumstances? The panelists indicated all kinds of research avenues that they fruitfully explore in their research. Marisa Beck talked to us about the necessity of opening up the algorithms designed by economists to assess the impacts of climate change. Sachil Singh showed how he unpacks the meaning of race and gender in big data (point of care) used to guide medical practice and the effects those databases have on disadvantages communities. Ciara Bracken-Roche emphasized how drones are not just instruments and how they have political impacts for the Indigenous communities policed by them in times of protests. Rafael Aguirre talked about the shock between different spheres of validity in knowledge in the oil and gas industry as well as the dynamic of ignorance that fluctuate over a project. Finally, Laura Nourrallah shared with us the fact that more or better information is not always the solution and discussed how analysts have to start seriously tackling the role of community values in projects such as hydraulic fracturing. These researchers offered a rich and thoughtful discussion to all of us interested in issues of justice.
We want to thank all our panelists for making this event a success!