Panel 26

Interesting worlds as matters of caring and commoning

Organizers: Mariacristina Sciannamblo (1); Maurizio Teli (2); Giacomo Poderi (3)

1: Sapienza University of Rome, Italy; 2: Aalborg University; 3: IT University of Copenhagen

Topics: Knowledge co-creation, citizens science, co-design processes, material publics and grassroot innovation; Methodological challenges in a more-than-human world; Everyday life and design of the mundane; The value of science, technology, innovation and research practices; Extractivist powers, imaginaries and asymmetries; Building alliances in public participation and engagement

Keywords: caring, commoning, collaborative research, co-design, engagement

The concept of ‘interest’ has been central in STS since its inception (Callon and Law 1982; Callon 1982), when it was introduced to describe networks of relationships between human and non-human actors through the employment of devices, the development of interpretations, and the mobilization of alliances. The discussion of the formation of interests and its related processes of translation has brought the issue of power, and its reconfiguration(s), under the spotlight, as meaningfully articulated by Callon through the questions: “Who speaks in the name of whom? Who represents whom?”.

More recently, the increasing prominence of critical approaches - e.g. feminist and postcolonial STS - and the intersections with cognate research fields - e.g. participatory design, information science, environmental humanities - have stressed the politically engaged character of STS which emphasized its ‘activist interest’ (Sismondo, 2008). That has spurred the emergence of a "collaborative turn" in STS (Farías, 2017) that we see as a direct consequence of STS concerns with power. The collaborative turn has brought about questions on the ethical, affective, and political dimensions of researching by means of collaborative and committed action-research projects based on dialogue, mutual learning, and caring relationships within heterogeneous collectives.

These concerns have been troubled and further elaborated by feminist thinking in STS, in particular with the prolific reflections on the concept and practice of care (Mol et al. 2010; Martin et al. 2015), which emphasize the ambivalent, situated, and material character of care as well as our own care and concerns as STS researchers and practitioners (Puig de la Bellacasa 2017).

In parallel, STS research has explored the importance of the commons whether these are natural, material, human made, or immaterial (Papadopoulos 2018). Commoning practices can indeed be considered matters of care as they attend to everything we do to maintain, continue, and repair our world (Tronto 1993). Additionally, commoning prompts us to reconsider human-nature and more-than-human relationships in ways that challenge dominant existing extractive capitalist models, towards “the production of ourselves as a common subject” (Federici 2018). These allow us to stay with the troubles that attend to matters of care and the related implications of unpacking the logics, contradictions, and multiple ruptures generated by capitalism. Against this backdrop, we hope to make visible the neglected and often invisible labor of reproducing the commons, and to question which and whose material, political, and ethical orders come into play when researching and intervening in/for the commons.

This panel invites presentations that explore the intersections between caring and commoning in the context of STS intervention-oriented research. Both empirical and theoretical contributions are welcome. These may include (but are not limited to):

  • disciplinary intersections among STS, design, and commons/-ing studies;
  • knowledge co-creation, co-design processes, material publics and grassroot innovation;
  • ICT, labor, and precariousness;
  • theories and methodological approaches as forms of caring and commoning;
  • complexities, opportunities, and contradictions of making new alliances between researchers, activists, local populations, and institutions;
  • sites of ambivalence and contradictions in caring and commoning practices.