Workshop on Konwledge Infrastructures & Energy
On 6-7 of June, 2016, the PP Platform organized a research workshop together with the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Business School investigating possibilities for future collaborative research on a distinctive social studies of energy and information infrastructures and markets.
Several members of the PP Platform’s cluster on Markets and Valuations participated in the workshop.
The event focused on two empirical fields: Energy infrastructures and markets and Information infrastructures.
The workshop was framed by the following conceptual rational:
A material sociology of markets and valuation is developing from European traditions of sociology and anthropology of economics (see for example Callon, 1998), actor network theory (Callon and Latour, 1981) and sociology of scientific knowledge (MacKenzie, 2009). This conceptualisation makes specialist knowledge and expertise, and its role in the formatting of markets, the structuring of value and material investment, a subject for investigation. Most work has so far focused on economic science, processes of economisation of societies and the implications for future sustainable and socially just prosperity. This perspective tests the conjecture that economics may have ‘performative’ effects through development of instruments, which create the conditions for a theoretical proposition to become true, thus enacting ‘homo economicus’ (Caliskan and Callon, 2010). Cultural practices of value, which defy or resist monetisation may be lost or marginalised in the process. Relatedly, actor network theories conceive of economic agency not as residing solely with human actors, but as distributed across heterogeneous socio-technical assemblages, or agencements, of human and non-human constituents, including the instruments of economics. This theoretical framework also suggests questions about the potential performative effects of other forms of specialist expertise. These could include the legal, contractual and regulatory institutions, which govern the markets of advanced capitalism, as well as the multiple sciences of business management, finance and engineering.
A material sociology of energy and information infrastructures aims to avoid an over-socialised model of market practices, as well as the opposite under-socialised model. Hence, we consider the dimensions of corporeality and sociality as integral to practices. The former conveys the significance of the material capacities and limitations of the human representatives of complex organisations and inter-linked social ecologies. The dimension of sociality emphasises the relational networks of belief, trust and distrust, cultural scripts and reputations, which shape the legitimacy, validity and reliability of technical models, cost benefit metrics and valuation instruments, and contribute to the making of facts about value (Beckert, 2011; Fligstein and Dauter, 2007). An orientation to sociality does not mean simply micro-social interactions, but seeks to reveal the historically-contingent materiality of power and differential control over resources, and their agency in shaping innovations in actor-network assemblages.
The two day workshop had around 20 participants and more than 10 presentations from researchers from both host countries as
well as e.g. France and Japan.