The aim of this reader is to introduce and contextualise a series of articles on the geographies of contemporary science and technology. The readings offer a partial, but we hope engaging entry point to this research, and we hope it will generate further discussion. Part of a more general ‘spatial turn’ in the social sciences, there has been a growing dialogue between Geographers and those in Science and Technology Studies (STS) interested in the geographies of technoscience. This work has drawn attention to the way that space matters in the production of science and technology; the implications of the circulation of expertise and materials in the situating of science and technology; as well as the importance of locating the effects of technoscience in their social, cultural, economic and political context.
Interest in the geographies of science and technology also figures in the activities of government, industry and civil society. Here, there are questions around the development of a global knowledge economy, the spatial locations of technological innovation and regulation, and the changing boundaries between public and private scientific enterprise. There are also diverse efforts to create new spaces for publics to engage with the production of and ways of living with contemporary technoscientific practices.
This web resource draws together a series of articles from 10-20 years of work at the interface between the Geography and STS, which demonstrate these theoretical, empirical and political strands. We hope it will be of interest to students and researchers in Human Geography, Science and Technology Studies, Anthropology, Sociology and beyond, as well as a variety of non-academic audiences.
The reader emerges out of a two-year ESRC Research Seminar Series, also called Locating Technoscience, which ran 2005 to 2007. The seminars brought together researchers and practitioners broadly working in Geography and STS. The series focused on the spatial dynamics of contemporary technoscience - a term used to designate that scientific knowledge is always socially embedded, historically situated and materially constituted. The seminar series was attended by over 200 people from institutions in the UK, USA and Europe. In these seminars, we started hearing discussions about how it would be useful to have some key articles on the seminar website to introduce new students and researchers into this field of enquiry. The idea for an on-line reader has grown from there.
We hope you enjoy and are provoked by this selection of papers. We should acknowledge at the outset these selections are personal, partial and perhaps idiosyncratic. They reflect, in part, the presenters and debates featured in the Locating Technoscience seminar series. They represent the different areas of science and technology that motivate us – from biological weapons, agricultural and medical biotechnology to the developments of nanotechnology. They also reveal the different routes we have taken through our reading in this area: from Geography or STS and from theoretical engagements or empirical entanglements. All the introductory commentaries are co-authored, but the different voices in these texts reflect these divergent journeys.
We did, however, discuss some criteria for inclusion. The post-war period is taken as an approximate cut off point for the presentation of articles, whose aim is to explore the spatial dynamics of contemporary technoscience. We then blur this arbitrary demarcation through inclusion of an explicitly historical section. This section is important, for much of the dialogue in this area has been between Historical Geographers and Historians of Science, and we wanted to acknowledge this exchange. It also introduces a series of themes that resonate throughout the rest of the papers. However, we’d also suggest the post-war period is significant for establishing a set of relations between geography, politics, economy and culture, which influence the unfolding spaces of science and technology, not always in expected ways.
Establishing criteria for selecting contributions to the dialogue between Human Geography and STS is more problematic. For a start both are ‘interdisciplines’ themselves, with diverse historical, philosophical and empirical threads. There is also a thorough and on-going intellectual exchange between certain arenas of Geography and particular strands of STS, which we cannot encompass. Our aims are thus more limited: to illustrate how this exchange has engaged with charting the geographies of technoscience. The papers chosen are thus theoretically and disciplinarily diverse, but they always return in some way to contributing empirical insights to understanding the emerging geographies of technoscience. There will of course be exclusions and we will already be out of date. This on-line reader is just one way of taking stock before moving on, and we look forward to the continuing dialogue. We invite you to post your comments on the papers and introductions, and to add your references via Cite-u-like.
Putting together this on-line reader from initial idea to its first incarnation has been a collaborative endeavour, involving debate, discussion and sometimes disagreements. Gail Davies (UCL) and Kezia Barker (Southampton) are both based in Geography Departments; Brian Balmer (UCL) and Richard Milne (UCL) are both primarily located in STS; perhaps fittingly Rob Doubleday moved from the Nanoscience Centre at Cambridge to the Geography Department during the period of development. All the introductory sections of this reader have been jointly authored. Special thanks are due to Richard Milne for development of the web interface.
Compiling this reader has involved many more individuals and institutions. We would like to thank the ESRC for their support for the Research Seminar Series on Locating Technoscience. The seminar series itself was an interdisciplinary and inter-institutional effort and wouldn’t have been possible without support from the following people. Helen Wickham, Sarah Whatmore, Adam Hedgecoe, Charles Thorpe and Jamie Lorimer contributed indispensable organisational support as well as intellectual input. We gratefully acknowledge the excellent seminar contributions from John Abraham, Nadia Abu-Zahra, Jon Agar, Ben Anderson, Andrew Barry, Carole Boudeau, Nik Brown, Jacquie Burgess, Will Davies, David Demeritt, Beth Greenhough, Hugh Gusterson, Steve Hinchliffe, Alan Ingram, Andrew Lakoff, Stuart Lane, John Law, David Leitner, David Livingstone, Tom MacMillan, Caitriona McLeish, Noortje Marres, Henrik Mattsson, Mike Michael, Mara Miele, Brian Rappert, Simon Reid-Henry, Arie Ripp, Emma Roe, Astrid Schwartz, Jasber Singh, Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Nicola Triscott, Ian Welsh, James Wilsdon, Brian Wynne and Kathryn Yusoff. We would additionally like to acknowledge all those who have assisted in developing the on-line reader, especially Nanneke Redclift, Norma Morris.
Comments on the reader and suggestions for further development can be left in the ‘Visitors Book’