[URBANTH-L] CFP: Urban Laboratories: Towards a Science and Technology Studies of the Built Environment

Angela Jancius jancius3022 at comcast.net
Thu Apr 30 17:36:22 EDT 2009


Urban Laboratories: towards a Science and Technology Studies (STS) of the 
Built Environment

Thursday 5 and Friday 6 November
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Maastricht University, the Netherlands

Organized by the Manchester Architecture Research Centre and Maastricht 
Virtual Knowledge Studio

Theme and Focus
This workshop follows a recent argument by Collier, Lakoff and Rabinow 
(2006) in highlighting the relevance of the laboratory concept for the human 
sciences and proposes to analyse the urban built environment as an 
assemblage of local knowledge claims, collaborations and emergent 
interactions. This approach highlights - following a veritable tradition in 
STS - the contingent cultural and institutional dimensions of knowledge 

Such a shift allows for a more ethnographic investigation of laboratory 
dynamics and creates awareness of the heterogeneity of urban laboratories: 
besides academic research institutions, it might also be productive to 
investigate policy think tanks, planning departments, economic development 
agencies, architectural firms and creative clusters as urban laboratories.

Despite increasing references to the notion of laboratory in specific urban 
development and policy projects, sustained research on the role of these and 
other laboratories in shaping and transforming our cities is almost absent. 
This seems to reflect a broader trend in STS: after foundational work in the 
1970s and 1980s that investigated the socio-cultural and technical context 
of knowledge production, this once active field of laboratory studies is now 
rather neglected (Kohler 2008) and Karin Knorr Cetina's hope in a 1995 
review essay that laboratory studies could be further extended by 
investigating "processes of laboratorization" (163) in a variety of settings 
has hardly been realized.

This workshop aims to contribute to this extension by revisiting the 
theoretical notion of laboratory and by investigating the ways in which this 
notion can be productively put to work in our analysis of the urban built 
environment. Three dimensions are central in this regard:

Dimension 1: we still know very little of the actual dynamics involved in 
the emergence and reproduction of urban laboratories. Research, however, 
needs to avoid the internalist bias of early laboratory studies and should 
pay explicit attention to communication between urban laboratories and the 
rise of regional and transnational networks of expertise. How do facts 
emerge and circulate in and through these networks of expertise?

Dimension 2: this second dimension is related to the first, but zooms in on 
questions of method i.e. the ways in which features of urban life become 
objects of laboratory research and manipulation. In the case of research on 
and in the city in particular, there seems to be a constitutive tension 
between laboratory and fieldwork science that needs to be addressed (Gieryn 
2006). Through the use of which methods and in what ways do the various 
urban laboratories construct and manipulate local objects of research?

Dimension 3: laboratories interact with other laboratories, but they also 
engage with a world directly outside the laboratory. This third dimension 
refers to the fact that laboratories actively shape the urban environment in 
which they are embedded. How and to what extent do processes of 
laboratorization transform the built environment in which laboratories are 
simultaneously embedded?

For a full call for papers, please see: 

Call for Papers

Please submit a 500 word abstract by 1 July 2009 to the organizers Bas van 
Heur (b.vanheur at vks.unimaas.nl) and Ralf Brand 
(Ralf.Brand at manchester.ac.uk). We will send out notices of acceptance 

The goal of this workshop is to publish an edited volume on Urban 
Laboratories. For this and to facilitate discussion during the workshop, we 
ask all participants to prepare a full paper and to submit this to the 
organizers before 1 October. We will then send the papers to all 

Limited funding for travel expenses and accommodation will be available. If 
you have any questions on this call for papers or on the workshop in 
general, please contact the organizers.

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