Vienna STS Talk: Karen Kastenhofer

04.05.2016 17:30

I am a Biochemist by Training": Identity and Community in Systems Biology

Talk presented by Karen Kastenhofer (Institute of Technology Assessment, Vienna)

STS scholars have been struggling for a while now with how to conceive of new phenomena such as systems biology and synthetic biology. Do these represent "empty signifiers", "buzzwords", "emerging research fields" or new disciplines? I argue in my presentation that all of these attributions are neither completely wrong nor completely right; rather, they do not represent new phenomena in a ceterus paribus environment but should best be understood as manifestations of a changing technoscientific context, in which 'emergence' is perpetuated, 'futures' are frozen, discourse has gained a new, reflexive role and disciplinarity is re-invented via new modes and conditions of enculturation and socialisation. Changing interrelation of research and education (abandonment of the Humboldtian model), changes in socialisation processes, changes in the funding regime (to a 'label-oriented' funding programmatique) and changing institutional landscapes result in the need to re-think our understanding of (techno)scientific identity, community and practice.

In my presentation I aim at addressing these contextual changes in doing, talking and being in (techno)science by highlighting the continuities and discontinuities in one specific case, that is the trans-national emergence of systems biology and its local repercussions within the Austrian academic landscape (with some comparisons to the UK and German context). I draw on interviews with contemporary systems biologists, biologists from earlier generations and actors involved in the funding and regulation of systems biology. The thematic focus of this presentation will be on changed modes of socialisation and enculturation within university education and beyond as well as on a broader contextualisation of these changes in the contemporary technoscientific innovation regime.

Departement of Science and Technology Studies
Seminar room STS, NIG, 1010 Wien, Universitätsstraße 7/II/6th floor