::fibreculture:: Lecture: Johan Soderberg, "Reconstructivism versus Critical Theory of Technology"

nathaniel tkacz nathanieltkacz at gmail.com
Tue May 4 10:27:05 CEST 2010

if anyone is in melbourne next thursday, this lecture might be of interest:

*University of Melbourne Media and Communications Program presents a guest

* Reconstructivism versus Critical Theory of Technology:
Alternative Perspectives on Activism and Institutional Entrepreneurship in
the Czech Wireless Community
*Johan Söderberg
Thursday 13th May 2010 4.30 – 6.00pm Old Arts-Theatre C

The once dominant position of constructivist STS theory looks increasingly
tenuous, and the question has been raised what will come after
constructivism (Sterne & Leach, 2005). A number of proposals for future
research avenues have been put forward in recent years. One candidate for a
reinvented, more partisan STS program continues to build on constructivist
theory. It retains the basic insight that knowledge and technology are
constructed, but gives a political spin to that statement by asking how
things could be re-constructed in a better way (Woodhouse, Hess, Breyman,
Martin, 2002; Woodhouse, 2005). Another avenue goes back to the writings of
the first generation of members of the Frankfurth school. A number of
contemporary scholars have, for most part independently of each other,
adopted critical theory as their starting point when reflecting over science
and technology (Feenberg, 1999; 2008, Cooper, 2002; Kirkpatrick, 2008; Brey,
2008; Radder, 2008).

The objections raised by reconstructivist and critical theory perspectives
against constructivist STS are rather similar and underpinned by the same
political concerns. Nevertheless, the philosophical traditions which
reconstructivism and critical theory of technology build on are distinct. It
is this difference which stands at the centre of my investigation. I will
argue that from these two philosophical traditions have followed, among
other things, varying estimations about the relevance of over-arching,
analytical categories. Suspicion against general truth claims is part and
parcel of the intellectual current to which the many constructivist STS
schools belong. In contrast, the inclination in critical theory to use
'totalising' concepts goes back to its roots in Hegel and Marx. A
theoretical understanding of commodity exchange as a relation which
permeates the whole of capitalism is the startingpoint of an analysis of
science and technology conducted in the tradition of critical theory. I
believe that such an approach is useful for adressing some of the more
urgent, political concerns which awaits a normative, STS discipline ”after
constructivism”. My argument will be developed through a case study of the
Czech wireless network community and specifically around the
commercialisation of the free space optics device called "Ronja".

*Johan Söderberg* http://www.sts.gu.se <http://www.sts.gu.se/> Göteborgs
Universitet, Avdelningen för Teknik och Vetenskapsstudier, Sweden
Johan Söderberg has been working on the emergent free hardware movement and
on how hackers provide a new angle to on-going discussions within STS on how
politics is folded into technological design. The central claim is that
whatever political consequences that hacking might have stems from the
challenge it poses to the control of firms and government institutions over
innovation processes. Published books include: Allt Mitt är Ditt –
Fildelning, Upphovsrätt, Försörjning (2008) Atlas Förlag. Hacking Capitalism
– The Free and Open Source Software Movement (2007) Routledge. Published
papers include: ”A Mis-User Centred Innovation Model – Hackers, Crackers &
Filesharers”, Science as Culture ”Hacking as Labour Struggle”, Capital &
Class, January 2009, co-autor George Dafermoes ”Long Wave Theory and
Information Technologies”, Technovation 25, 2005, pp. 203-211, co-author Bo
Göransson ";Copyleft vs. Copyright";, First Monday, 7 (3), 2002
 All welcome.


Nate Tkacz

Research Fellow,
RMIT University

Twitter: http://twitter.com/__nate__
Homepage: www.nathanieltkacz.net
Current project: http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/cpov/about-2/
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