A Summer Camp for Science and Technology Studies

SitusciFor those of you who miss the summer camp of your childhood as much as I do (Camp White Pine, to be exact), REJOICE!, for the next few days I’ll be blogging about a summer camp I’m attending this week.

But wait, you say, You’re a grad student, and way too old to be at summer camp! True. And false! I am certainly too old for Camp White Pine. But Situating Science, a multi-year, multi-million dollar academic project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC, Canada), started a summer camp for grad students today, and I was one of the lucky few people invited.

The five-day camp brings together a small group of graduate students from across Canada at Elbow Lake in Southeastern Ontario. Queen’s University owns the lake, which provides the backdrop to a retreat-style facility including 10 cabins, and education centre, and a main mess hall slash gathering space. Its picturesque cottage-country Ontario feel is exactly the place to gather a group of academics eager to dive into a fresh topic of interest.

And that’s precisely what they’re doing.

The summer camp is actually a workshop focused on topics in Science and Technology Studies (STS), a discipline that to an outsider might look like sort of mash-up of philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and history. STS is about studying science and technology as a social practice; its about studying doing science and making technology, with all the messy politics and social dynamics that go along with it.

Students were selected as part of a competitive process and gathered Sunday morning in front of the Kingston Courthouse, after flights, train rides and car trips, to board a yellow school bus bound for camp. But of course they did. How else does one get to camp?

Sergio Sismondo, a professor in the philosophy department at Queen’s University, and editor of Social Studies of Science, one of the leading STS journals, organized the workshop.

Intro to STSSismondo will be leading seminar style sessions throughout the week, designed to introduce and guide students through some of the key foundational STS topics. He is a great choice of guide, given he literally wrote the book on STS. His Introduction to Science and Technology Studies (Wiley-Blackwell) is one of the standard texts used in universities today.

I’m looking forward to the week. There’s a great mix of students at the camp, none of who have a background in STS. They come from communication, English, history, international relations, history and philosophy of technology, philosophy and other disciplines. A diverse set of perspectives should make for a few good blog posts, I think. It’s what’s given credibility to STS since its early days.

You can follow tweets from the summer camp at #situscisummerschool. Keep posted.

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