Steve Woolgar: It could be otherwise – provocation, irony and limits

The Graduate Programme in Medicine, Culture and Society, and the Centre for Medical Science and Technology Studies invite you to a seminar with Steve Woolgar.

Date: 11th November, 2014
Time: 15:00 – 17:00
Venue: CSS 1.1.18, Øster Farimagsgade 5, Copenhagen


One element of the success of STS is its capacity to apply analytic scepticism to a wide range of areas beyond science (which we used to think of as the hardest possible case) and technology. Yet STS’ radical potential has been continually compromised by successive failures of nerve and by its routinisation, appropriation and domestication. In this paper I outline some key features of provocation in STS as provided by the slogan “It Could Be Otherwise”. I consider the fate of radical STS arguments. And I look in particular at the operation of irony and at the limits on provocation, if any. If my nerve holds, I shall try to work some of this through in relation to reportings of 911.


Steve Woolgar is Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Linköping University, and Professor of Marketing and Director of Science and Technology Studies at Oxford University.

Professor Woolgar researches in Science and Technology Studies. His most recent research includes an extended investigation of the ways in which ordinary objects and everyday technologies are increasingly regulating our lives (with Daniel Neyland, Mundane Governance: ontology and accountability, OUP 2013); an examination of the myriad social and organizational practices involved in scientific representation (with Mike Lynch, Catelijne Coopmans and Janet Vertesi, Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited, MIT, 2014); a collection on practices of visualization in the digital age (with Annamaria Carusi, Aud Hoel and Tim Webmoor, Visualisation in the Age of Computerisation, Routledge, forthcoming 2014); and a close look at a large variety of the ordinary objects and practices that make up ‘globalization’ (with Nigel Thrift and Adam Tickell, Globalization in Practice, OUP, 2014). He is currently working on the impact of the neurosciences on social sciences and the humanities, looking in particular at the rise of ‘neuromarketing’; and preparing a book length exploration of the nature and limits of provocation.

Before joining Saïd Business School in 2000, Steve was Professor of Sociology at Brunel University and the Director of the University’s Centre for Research into Innovation, Culture and Technology (CRICT). Steve is the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and a Fulbright Senior Scholar award. He was awarded the JD Bernal Prize for Research Distinction in 2008, and was elected to the Academy of Social Sciences in 2010.