Public Worth of STS: Drawing on STS Sensibilities to Inform the Design of an Ethical Surveillance System

You’ve probably gathered by now that I’ve been involved in the University of Nottingham’s hosting of the Science in Public conference in July. It is all very exciting and looks like it is shaping up to be a busy event with around 90 papers – the draft programme will be announced and registration opened very soon .. perhaps even this week.

In this post I am flagging up the STS Breakfast that will be happening on the Tuesday morning (23rd July), and giving some of the details that can’t fit on the registration page. The breakfast will be hosted by a team from Goldsmiths College and the following text is theirs.
We are a group of STS researchers (from Goldsmiths) working with a broad constellation of organisations from across Europe on the development of a new ‘ethical’ surveillance technology (the group includes activists, big technology firms, transport organisations, consultants and University based computer scientists, along with us STS researchers). The technology is based upon the science of algorithms (at once a computer science and in this project a science of spaces within which people and things move and associate). We have drawn on Actor-Network Theory and the notion of assemblage and Callon’s work on hybrid forums, to re-think the design configuration in which we are engaged. Within this work, we are interested in simultaneously exploring the making and non-making of (a surveillance) public, the making public of STS sensibilities, and the translation of STS sensibilities into a prospective public good (a putative of set of values with possible value, or what Stark terms worth).

Rather than singly define the worth of STS, we have sought engagements with a variety of audiences with whom we can engage in a demonstration/assessment exercise. So far this has included demonstrations to the ‘public’ (broadly construed), data protection officers and EU bureaucrats. However, we would like to take these engagements to STS audiences too. What do STS researchers make of what we have made of STS? We are interested in exploring the multiplicity of voices, accountability relations, deferrals and delegations of accountability that this might provoke.

The session we will run in Nottingham will last an hour. It will include a video based demonstration of the technology, plus some presentation of the STS sensibilities that have fed into the design. The audience will be invited to join in a discussion on the project, what we have made and what we have made of STS. This will involve a direct Q and A session and we also have an anonymous web feedback mechanism that anyone is welcome to use.
Looks pretty great! And you’ll even get a bacon/veggie roll or pastry and some coffee and juice etc. As someone who is interested in the way public(s) are imagined/used and how markets translate and manage some of the concerns STS-thinking raises I’ll definitely be there.
If you have any burning questions on the ADDPRIV project please contact Daniel Neyland at Goldsmiths direct. If you have any questions about the logistics of the breakfast at Nottingham please feel free to contact me direct. In the meantime, make sure you look out for the chance to register for this free session when registration opens.

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