SKAT25 Conference Description

Since it became a full-fledged section of the American Sociological Association in 1990, the Science, Knowledge, and Technology Section has grown steadily and now approaches 600 members, with a current annual growth rate of 7 percent. With this expansion has come a broadening of our intellectual agenda and a thickening of connections and intersections with other intellectual fields both within sociology and beyond. That more than a third of our current members are graduate students testifies to the vibrancy of our subfield and its bright future. At the same time, as the borders blur between sociology of science/knowledge/technology and other scholarly arenas (and as interdisciplines like STS likewise become increasingly heterogeneous), the time is right to reflect on our mission and imagine the range of directions in which our scholarship might usefully lead.

On August 21, 2015—in our section’s 25th anniversary year, and on the eve of the ASA’s annual meeting in Chicago—the SKAT Section will hold a one-day mini-conference (its first ever) on the downtown Chicago campus of Northwestern University. The mini-conference is open to SKAT members and all others interested in social and cultural studies of science, knowledge, and technology. Because the SKAT “section day” in 2015 is the first day of the annual meeting (August 22), ASA members who attend the mini-conference will be able to enjoy two back-to-back days of focused activities, including the sessions sponsored by the section on August 22. We therefore encourage section members to arrive in Chicago a day early. The mini-conference venue is a short distance from the ASA conference hotels and is accessible from them by public transportation or taxi.

At the mini-conference, as we celebrate our 25th birthday, take stock of our past, and also look forward, we will ask:

  • What have been the main contributions of the sociology of science, knowledge, and technology over the past 25 years?
  • What do we gain through our unique concatenation ofscience, knowledge, and technology as topics of sociological analysis?
  • Without seeking to prescribe any fixed agenda, what are the various potential directions in which our scholarship might lead in the coming years?
  • What is the place of science/knowledge/technology studies in relation to other sociological subfields, such as sociological theory, the sociology of culture, political sociology, sociology of race and ethnicity, sociology of gender, sociology of sexuality, etc.?
  • What is the place of sociological study of science, knowledge, and technology in relation to other STS agendas being pursued outside of sociology?
  • What roles can or should SKAT scholars play through intervening in public debates?

Activities at the mini-conference will include:

  • Plenary panels at which invited speakers at a range of career stages address the mini-conference themes.
  • Open submission sessions (run in parallel) at which attendees can present their work.
  • Lunchtime informal workgroup meetings at which small groups of attendees can discuss specific topics, approaches, theoretical directions, or methodologies and make connections with others who share their interests.
  • A poster session for the presentation of specific projects and initiatives.