BiCoDa Conference 2011

From June 29 to July 2, 2011, the first BiCoDa conference at the ZiF in Bielefeld will also be the first cooperative venture of the BiCoDa Alliance after it was constituted in the Fall of 2009. Five teams of collaborators from the three universities have each organized sesssions at the conference.

The conference-theme Research in its Technological Setting reflects the area of overlapping interest by the three universities – Bielefeld University, the University of South Carolina in Columbia, and Darmstadt Technical University along with the Hochschule Darmstadt. The theme is programmatic also in that it argues for the centrality of technology for an understanding of scientific research practice:

  • … much contemporary research takes its problems from a world that is already the product of science and technology
  • … scientific, engineering, and medical research relies on instruments, experimental systems, computational methods, and media technologies
  • … science has always been beholden to demands for technical and social utility
  • … science changes not just how we think about the world but changes the world also materially, to the point of seeking to shape or (re)design it.
  • … in concert with many other technologies, science brings tools and techniques to bear that establish a certain kind of „world order“

Conference Programme

For the programme please click here: BiCoDa Conference 2011

The Political Ramifications of Scientific Uncertainty

Wednesday afternoon, June 29

The workshop aims to stimulate discussion, in particular with regard to the role of scientific consensus and dissent for dealing with uncertainty in contexts of politics and policy-making. Like other social epistemologists, Miriam Solomon has emphasized the positive role of pluralism and dissent for bringing to light uncertainty and for provoking productive debate and mutual criticism. On the other hand, some examples (such as some of the cases from climate science that Conway and Oreskes have studied) suggest that dissent can be abused or even fabricated in order to create the impression of uncertainty where there is really a strong enough scientific basis already for action. We would like to stimulate a discussion among the conference participants both about the factual question of how scientific uncertainty is handled in different contexts, and ideally also about the normative question of how it should be handled. (organized by Justin Biddle, Kevin Elliott, Nina Janich, Thorsten Wilholt)

speakers include: Miriam Solomon (Temple University), Erik Conway (California Institute of Technology), and Carl Cranor (University of California, Riverside)

Technologies as Languages of Explanation

Thursday morning, June 30

A classical problem for classical modern science and philosophy of science is to specify the empirical content of scientific theories. In order to do so, scientists and philosophers learn to distinguish the contributions of mind and nature – what owes to the chosen formalism, the manner of representation, or the experimental set-up on the one hand, and what is due entirely to mind-independent reality? Recent discussions of explanation foreground technological metaphors (as in the “new mechanicism” or in notions of robustness, reliability, tractability) and changed technological conditions of explanatory practice (simulation modelling). How does this affect conceptions of explanation and the ideal of isolating empirical content? (organized by Martin Carrier, Michael Dickson, Alfred Nordmann)

speakers include Norton Wise (University of California Los Angeles) on “Science as (Historical) Narrative”, Eran Tal (University of Toronto) on „Standardization as Applied Research? Explaining the Stability of Universal Coordinated Time“, and as commentators Michael Stöltzner (University of South Carolina) and Leah McClimans (University of South Carolina)

The Resilience of Systems: Complexity, Instability, Top-Down Constraints

Thursday afternoon, June 30

The systems-based evolutionary paradigm of self-organization, emergence and complex systems is predominant in present-day technosciences and converging/emerging technologies. It stretches across the borders of different natural and engineering sciences, also including the social sciences. This session will scrutinize this paradigm in systematic way from the points of view of biology and technology, late-modern physics of instabilities, and the philosophy of medicine. These might be some of the questions to be asked: To what degree can we decompose a system into structural or functional elements, and then understand it in terms of those elements? What accounts for the resistance of systems to decomposition? How are descriptive accounts of phenomena of interest – with instabilities or functions, systems, and modularity – entangled with the language of intervention? Is there a parallel between the work of instruments in stabilizing phenomena and the work of organisms in stabilizing certain kinds of homeostatic dynamics that are integral to life? Does the notion of complex systems lead to a distinction between two kinds of technologies: One kind would be designed in the way circuits are, with modular components. (this has provided the model of an ideal engineering discipline for fields like synthetic biology); the other kind of technology provides a material encoding of stabilizing conditions, which, in turn, configure certain phenomena so they settle out into elements in an especially transparent way (perhaps a better model for the “things” synthetic biologists seek to create)?

speakers include: George Khushf (University of South Carolina), Ulrich Krohs (Universität Bielefeld), Jan C. Schmidt (Hochschule Darmstadt/Universität Jena)

Precursors to Technoscience

Friday all day, July 1

This workshop will exhibit and discuss concrete examples of 19th and 20th century research technologies. This will serve (among other things) as a way of problematizing the notion of technoscience.

speakers include: Graeme Gooday (University of Leeds), Ann Johnson (University of South Carolina), Ursula Klein (Universität Konstanz and MPI History of Science, Berlin), Johannes Lenhard (Universität Bielefeld), Joe November (University of South Carolina)

Janet Kourany – Author meets Graduate Student Critics

Saturday morning, July 2

The graduate students of the BiCoDa Alliance will host a special session during the conference, where guest speaker Professor Janet Kourany (Notre Dame) will participate in a critical discussion of her recently published book Philosophy of Science After Feminism (Oxford University Press, 2010).

In her book, Kourany claims that philosophy of science needs to locate science within its wider societal context, ceasing to analyze science as if it existed in a social/political/economic vacuum. At the same time, philosophy of science needs to aim for a more comprehensive understanding of scientific rationality, one that integrates the ethical with the epistemic. This is Kourany’s main message in Philosophy of Science after Feminism. Her goal is not only a (descriptively and normatively) more adequate philosophy of science, but also a more socially engaged and socially responsible philosophy of science, one that can help to promote a more socially engaged and socially responsible science. Feminists, Kourany points out—feminist scientists and historians of science as well as feminist philosophers of science—have been pursuing this kind of philosophy of science in gender-related areas for three decades now. Kourany tries to develop from their work a comprehensive new program of research for philosophy of science.

The conference session will comprise a presentation by Janet Kourany (Notre Dame), followed by critical commentaries by BiCoDa graduate student members Dan Brooks (Universität Bielefeld), Allen Driggers (University of South Carolina), Tiffany Florvil (University of South Carolina), Anna-Lena Leuschner (Universität Bielefeld), Gordon Purves (University of South Carolina), and Danka Radjenovic (Technische Universität Darmstadt). The floor will then open for a general discussion.