[URBANTH-L]2nd Cfp - Urban Laboratories: Towards a Science and Technology Studies of the Built Environment

Bas Van Heur basvanheur at gmx.net
Wed Jun 10 22:02:35 EDT 2009

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Please circulate        

         2nd CALL FOR PAPERS        


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 production.         

         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 

         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 

         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 maastrichtuniversity.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 draft paper and to submit this to the 
organizers before 1 October. We will then send the papers to all 

         Participation is free and 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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