'Mundane Governance: How Ordinary Objects Come to Matter'
What is to be made of the outcry when newly issued recycling "wheelie" bins are discovered to contain microchips for weighing and evaluating householders' rubbish? The angry accusations that speed cameras are generating excessive income for the government? The consternation at the measures taken by airports to heighten security in the wake of the increased threat of terrorist attacks? These widespread reactions to ordinary events and everyday phenomena share a common theme. They all embody concerns about the ways in which our lives are increasingly regulated and controlled in relation to ordinary objects and technologies.
In his talk, based on his forthcoming book 'Mundane Governance: Ontology and Accountability' (with Daniel Neyland; OUP), Steve Woolgar takes these concerns as the starting point for exploring the ways in which relations of governance and accountability in contemporary life are organized around ordinary, everyday, pervasive objects and technologies. In contrast to the contemporary literature on governance, he argues for the importance of examining how accountability relations are enacted on the ground. In particular, it is crucial to understand how governance and accountability arise in relation to the achieved ontologies of ordinary everyday objects and technologies. The focus on ontology draws attention to the social and cultural practices whereby the nature and existence of ordinary things come to matter.
Steve Woolgar is Professor of Marketing and Head of the Science and Technology Studies research group at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. Before moving to Oxford in 2000, he was Professor of Sociology, Head of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of CRICT (Centre for Research into Innovation, Culture and Technology) at Brunel University. He took his BA (First Class Honours), MA and PhD from Emmanuel College, Cambridge University. He has since held Visiting Appointments at McGill University, MIT, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines, Paris, and UC San Diego. He is the winner of a Fulbright Scholarship, a Fulbright Senior Scholarship, and an ESRC Senior Research Fellowship. From 1997-2002 he was Director of the ESRC Programme Virtual Society?- the social science of electronic technologies, a £3½ m venture comprising 22 research projects throughout the UK. In 2008 he was named winner of the J. D. Bernal Prize.
Steve has published widely in science and technology studies, social problems and social theory. Several of his books, including Laboratory Life (with Bruno Latour) and The Machine at Work (with Keith Grint), are considered modern classics. His work has been translated into Chinese, Dutch, French, Greek, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish.
He has served on various European and UK government advisory bodies, including Foresight Panels and Ministerial Advisory Groups; as an advisor to the Research Councils of Denmark, Netherlands and Norway; and as Fellow of the Sunningdale Institute, the UK Cabinet Office think tank on Public Service Management.
Professor of Marketing and Head of the Science and Technology Studies research group at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
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Wednesday 8 May 2013, 16:00 - 17:30
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