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DASTS KONFERENCE 2024: Elegies of waste, surplus, and excess

June 6 @ 09:00 - June 7 @ 17:00

Elegies of waste, surplus, and excess

Waste is all around us. It is a remnant or byproduct, but it is also actively produced by societies relentlessly chasing growth and progress. We live in times where what counts as waste is expanding: from radio-active waste, to plastics, inefficient energy production and uses, and even digital data. With this comes a growing need for efficiently managing, reducing, and even reusing it. Economies of waste and wasting thus also create new desires, risks, and controversies about what constitutes ‘good’ waste or ‘efficient wasting’. Interrogating waste and wasting as an effect of wider social, economic, political, cultural, and material systems, we wish to bring STS in conversation with the emerging fields of waste and discard practices – and beyond – to better understand processes around waste and wasting, as well as related issues of surplus and excess. We are interested in exploring how practices in the present co-produce future practices of wasting, and to probe how publics are engaged or excluded in the midst of it all.

DASTS 2024 provides a platform to gather and share ongoing and emergent STS-related research. We want to discuss how the current landscapes of STS methods and theories inform and impact practices and reactions to waste, surplus and excess. We welcome panel proposals and presentations that address the overall theme. Panels and papers that do not directly relate to the theme but are relevant to STS in other ways are thus also welcomed.

We encourage alternatives to the single authored paper presentation, such as workshop formats, and prototype exhibition or artistic performances  so please feel free to submit abstracts that reflect this or contact us about your idea.

Keynote speakers and abstracts:

June 6 10.00-11.30: On Wasting Energy

Cara New Daggett, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Virginia Tech

  • This talk will meditate on what it means to waste energy, as a distinct phenomenon from waste as a material and spatial arrangement. Waste often refers to material objects or bodies and how they relate to power. A waste of energy, however, points to something different – a relation more temporal than spatial. Energy is a strange and contradictory concept. In climate politics, energy is taken to mean fuel, a material thing. However, as a scientific term, energy is not an object, but an epistemology, a set of calculations for understanding change in the world. The science of energy emerged in the 19th century through efforts to understand how steam engines worked. Waste came to be defined against a culture of industrial productivism, where work and waste were imbued with religious and political significance. Indeed, energy often had much broader, even cosmological, implications for scientists. The work of steam engines and humans only made sense in the context of entropy, which said that energy tended to diffuse into forms that could do less work. The science of energy thus helped to usher in the notion that nature itself tended toward wast(ing) from the perspective of productive work. Imperial managers reasoned that racialized and gendered bodies, understood to be closer to nature, were thus more vulnerable to being wasteful, and needed careful management. This suggested that industrial empires had embarked upon a hero’s journey of rescuing energy from Earthly waste and decay. It remains a battle that is perceived to be both urgent – because any waste of energy is lost forever – and tragic – because waste haunts every increase of work, and can only ever be minimized, but never eliminated. This history warns against adopting a work and waste framework too hastily, in which energy relations are driven by careful monitoring and the pursuit of efficiency

June 7 10.15-11.30: The multiple politics of data loss in digital societies

Nanna Bonde Thylstrup, Associate Professor (Promotion Programme) in Modern and Digital Culture, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, Copenhagen University, ERC grant-holder: “Data Loss: the Politics of Disappearance, Destruction, and Dispossession in Digital Societies

  • Throughout history, the emergence of technological paradigm shifts has been accompanied not only by gains in the form of new tools and methods of production, but also by losses in terms of displacement, destruction, discarding and obsolescence of knowledge and know-how. Countering mainstream claims that digital societies ‘do not forget’, this talk traces and explores the multiple politics of digital data loss, including those emerging out of physical data destruction, planned obsolescence, failures and accidents, intentional deletion, and mundane erasure processes. In doing so, the presentation offers a conceptual framework for context-aware exploration of the ethico-politics of data loss in digital societies, examining questions such as: what does it mean for digital data to “go away”? How do digital technologies introduce new paradigm shifts in data discard practices? How are these shifts embedded within deeper structures of power? And how might we read emergent discard practices such as e.g. ‘digital housekeeping,’ ‘data sanitization,’ and ‘data reuse’ as extensions and transformations of existing discard practices?  Attending to loss as a structural condition of datafication will help us understand not only how, but also why data-driven societies “forget” and lose information and knowledge. What is at stake in this research agenda is two-fold: an immediate challenge to visions of datafication as simple progress or accumulation, and more fundamentally a deepening of knowledge of how new digital regimes of loss generate future ethical and political relations.

June 7 15.30-17.00: What discards do: cleaning (waste) water in the Netherlands

Annemarie Mol, Prof. dr., Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam and

The Clean Water Team: Annelieke Driessen, Roos Metselaar, Annemarie Mol, René Nissen, Evrim Özkol, Fenna Smits & Sam van der Lugt

  • Sand does not belong on indoor floors, it can be swept away into the garden. Stuff that pollutes, by contrast, is not simply in the wrong place, it hinders. An excess of excrements in surface water leads to algae blooms, which kills off other organisms. This is why waste water treatment plants call upon microbes to digest urine and faeces. The microbes, once dead, are transformed into (useful) fuel and (hard to properly deal with) ashes. Micropollutants elude the microbes and may be poisonous for living creatures downstream. Reed plants absorb (some) micropollutants and thus clean the water—at least, until they die and decay. Using these and other examples from our research into the cleaning practices of households and water authorities in the Netherlands, we will argue that the question to ask when studying discards is not where they are, but what they do. The difficulty is that they don’t do just one thing, but many—while, along the way, they transform. Hence, the professionals tasked with caring for water quality face the conundrum that the pertinent goods and bads don’t add up. For an STS inquiry into discards this means that opening up knowledge practices is not enough; we have to engage with valuing practices, too.

For a glimpse of the programme, please see PDF in link: DASTS24 Programme

For a book of abstracts, please see PDF in link: DASTS24 Book of Abstracts

Important dates:

Submission of abstracts (theme-related and open): 15th of March 2024

Notification of acceptance to authors: 19th of April 2024

Deadline of registration for panel organizers and presenters: 3rd of May 2024

Deadline of registration for regular attendance: 10th of May

Notification of final program for DASTS panels and overall conference: 17th of May

DASTS 2024 conference: From 10 am on the 6th of June to 16:30 pm on the 7th of June 2024

(Reduced) price!

Price for students: 800 DKK excluding dinner (1400 including dinner at Kilden, Dyrehaven on the 6th)

Price for researchers: 1000 DKK excluding dinner (1600 including dinner at Kilden, Dyrehaven on the 6th)

The conference will be held at DTU Lyngby Campus.

DASTS 2024 is organized by

  • Julia Kirch Kirkegaard (DTU Wind & Energy Systems; Section Society, Market & Policy)
  • Brit Ross Winthereik (DTU MAN, Technology, Management and Economics, Human-Centered Innovation)
  • Emil Nissen (DTU Wind & Energy Systems; Section Society, Market & Policy)
  • Søren Riis (Roskilde University, RUC)
  • Sophie Nyborg (DTU Wind & Energy Systems; Section Society, Market & Policy)
  • Tom Cronin (DTU Wind & Energy Systems; Section Society, Market & Policy)
  • Benjamin Lipp (DTU MAN, Technology, Management and Economics, Human-Centered Innovation)
  • Amanda Obitz Mogensen (DTU MAN, Technology, Management and Economics, Human-Centered Innovation)

Call for papers STS Encounters

STS Encounters – the Danish STS journal – hereby invite the presenters for this years’ DASTS conference to consider writing up their conference manuscript or presentation to an article for publication in STS Encounters

The length of the article can be between 3000 – 8000 words (excl. references). Articles will of course be peer reviewed and both blinded and not-blinded peer-review is possible.

Deadline for submission: August 31. 2025. Planned publication of the DASTS 2024 special issue: February 1. 2026.


The editorial team: Irina Papazu, Julia Kirch Kirkegaard, Kasper Ostrowski & Peter Danholt


June 6 @ 09:00
June 7 @ 17:00