Category: Science & Technology

Put to the test: For a new sociology of testing

A test can be defined as an orchestrated attempt to reveal an entity’s potentially unknown properties or capacities. A drug trial, a pregnancy test, and a planetary probe are all procedures designed to ascertain the properties of some entity. However, while tests and testing are well‐established social forms, their role in culture, economy, politics, and everyday life seems to be expanding. With smart city experimentation, randomized controlled trials in economic development, and apps to test your personality and the performance...

“If it’s not on Strava it doesn’t matter”. The collective shaping of running via self-tracking social interactions

“If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen”, I have often been told as I explain my research to runners and cyclists familiar with the social fitness platform. Self-tracking has become an everyday activity, and not just for athletes (and ‘wannabe’ athletes). Wearable devices for self-tracking of sleep, food intake, physical activity and even sex are readily available, and smart phones gather data on steps, heart rate and sleep without you even knowing. The ethics and power issues associated with...

Against false dichotomies in the politics and ethics of big data exploitations in public healthcare

Care.data was so short-lived. Announced in 2013 and scrapped 3 years later, it was never actually given the chance to serve its purposes and prove how it differed from other ‘revolutionary’ state health data research services. However, someone has only to read the transcripts of the special Health Committee to understand the confusion of the public, healthcare professionals and state institutions in England around this big data programme: how achievable it was, who could deliver it, to whose benefit or...

The Humanities in Technology: What Kind of World Do We Want?

As the world becomes increasingly reliant on the work of artificial intelligence, machines, and automated learning, where does that leave the Humanities? How can we use these technological tools to inform research without compromising the necessary human contributions to these fields? Machine-learning and AI algorithms are becoming ever more commonplace within research, and are beginning to find their uses within the broad scope of Humanities scholarship. At its most ambitious, AI aims to equal, if not outstrip, human intelligence. AI...

Digital Health: Sociological Perspectives

Digital technologies are increasingly being developed, implemented and used in the delivery of health and care, contributing to potentially disruptive changes in how healthcare is practised and experienced by health professionals, patients and those within their wider care networks. The following extract is from the introduction to a new special issue of Sociology of Health and Illness, edited by Flis Henwood and Benjamin Marent, now free to access until the end of 2019: ‘Digital health’ is both easy and hard...

‘Cloud chasers’ and ‘substitutes’: e-cigarettes, vaping subcultures and vaper identities

The social meaning of e-cigarettes and vaping involves a vaping subculture, ideas about health through harm reduction, pleasure and community, as well as addiction and stigma. Some use e-cigarettes to quit smoking; others thrive in the flavoured clouds. In addition, there is a ‘split vision’ of health and stigma in the perceptions of vaping where the vaper identities are constantly negotiated. The use of e-cigarettes has increased and moved beyond a cessation-only practice, were vaping has started to serve social,...

Sexed up online: Instagram influencers, harassment, and the changing nature of work

Kylie Jenner is estimated to earn $1 million per sponsored online post. Scrolling through her Instagram feed shows plenty of examples of how lucrative – and sexualized – the online attention economy has become. From poolside parties and bikinis, to fast cars and crop tops, and from motherhood to makeup tips, branded products are peppered among the mix of idealized selfies, professional headshots, and candid (or made to seem candid) snaps. Jenner is touted as the highest paid influencer on...

The Campbell Collaboration selects Wiley as new publishing partner

    John Wiley and Sons Inc. and the Campbell Collaboration are pleased to announce that the Campbell Library has selected Wiley as its publishing partner beginning in 2019. Campbell is the pre-eminent international network publishing high quality, transparent, reliable and policy-relevant evidence syntheses and maps in the social sectors to promote positive social and economic change by enabling evidence-based policy and practice. These systematic reviews and evidence maps are published in Campbell Systematic Reviews, a fully open access online...

Risking safety and rights: online sex work, crimes and ‘blended safety repertoires’

Like all areas of life, the sex industry has been massively affected by the dominance of the internet and digital technologies which now is the main mechanism for advertising, marketing and organizing how sex is sold. In our project, Beyond the Gaze, there has been some intriguing findings which tell sociologists a lot more about the practices of online sex workers. Notably we found, as reported in the British Journal of Sociology, that the internet makes sex work safer. Primarily...

What the Greatest Generation Knows about Technology that You Don’t

In 2015, Anthropologist Veronica Kirin took a solo trip of 12,000 miles through 40 states in America to interview our oldest living citizens, ranging from 75 to 106 years old, about the changes they’ve seen during their lifetimes. The resulting book, “Stories of Elders,” documents nearly 8,435 years of life lived and roots our technological evolution in history. In this interview, we discuss her findings and why she was the one to do this research. What were the common themes...

The digitalisation of cities and housing: what will the future bring?

There is a lot of talk at the moment about the how digital technologies are or will impact on a variety of aspects of our lives, ranging from the nature of our work relations to urban life and housing. The ramifications of the impacts of digitalisation on our cities and in particular on housing have been the topic of a recent Housing Europe conference in Tallinn, Estonia. This article will draw out some of the broader themes discussed during this...

Interview: Lisa Garforth on Green Utopias: Environmental Hope Before and After Nature

Lisa Garforth is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Newcastle University. Her work explores green future visions, especially in fiction. Her recent book Green Utopias: Environmental Hope Before and After Nature (Polity 2018) examines the changing content and socio-cultural contexts of green utopias from post-war environmentalism to the challenge of the Anthropocene. What lead you to write your book, Green Utopias, and what are the major themes? I wanted to rethink environmental utopianism, not so much from the perspective of practical...

True cowmen and commercial farmers: differing opinions on what it means to be a ‘good’ dairy farmer

Farming is both an art and a science. Dairy farming in the UK is poised between being a traditional backbone of the rural economy and a high-tech industry. We need to understand what farmers and other stakeholders value within this sector in order to understand how they make decisions. The idea of the ‘good farmer’ is a useful concept within rural sociology for understanding farmer decision making12. Farmers make decisions that are in line with the ideal of being a...

The Digital Nudge in Social Security Administration

This is an abridged version of our full research paper, published in the journal International Social Security Review, which can be read in full for free here. There are significant trends occurring across three major pillars of public administration, namely social investment (policy), nudge (process) and predictive analytics (technology). The European Commission defines social investment as policies designed to strengthen people’s skills and capacities, supporting them to participate fully in employment and social life (EC, 2015). Key policy areas include education,...

Smart Farming: Wither Do It Yourself (DIY) Farmers

We have data coming out of our ears.  Between 2015 and 2016, the world generated more of it than what had been created in the previous 5,000 years.  The same holds true in agriculture—data related to soil characteristics, water quality (and quantity), weather, yield, market trends, and the like. The global market for precision farming technologies is estimated to reach approximately US$6 billion by 2021, which translates to an annual growth rate of 12.4 per cent. Adoption rates of precision...

“Digital Sociology: The Reinvention of Social Research”. Noortje Marres on how digital technology contributes to sociology.

Noortje Marres is the author of 2017 book, Digital Sociology: The Reinvention of Social Research, a critical new overview and assessment of the key concepts, methods and understandings that currently inform the development of specifically digital forms of social enquiry. In conversation with Francesca Halstead, Noortje discusses the key arguments in her book, how she came to write it, and how digital technology contributes to sociology research and practice. What is Digital Sociology? Digital Sociology came into usage as a...