Emily Wanderer, University of Pittsburgh; Raha Peyravi, MIT;
Expert practices have become increasingly reliant on and enmeshed in practices of computing and their underlying socio-technical infrastructures. Computing infrastructures and communication networks are becoming ubiquitous bedrocks for a wide range of scientific, financial, and legal pursuits. Financial institutions are being replaced by computing infrastructures, ecological and wildlife management happens by way of AI and machine learning analysis, and computational tools are deployed to model biological systems from the genome to the organism. STS studies of computing have attended in detail to the practices and ideologies of hackers, developers, and free software movements (Beltran 2020; Coleman 2015; Kelty 2008). This panel invites papers that extend that analysis and contribute to STS scholarship by examining how computational practices and digital infrastructures are reshaping knowledge production in fields outside of computer science. We query the way that these new practices reinforce or destabilize historical and contemporary geographies and structures of power. This may include addressing how knowledge production changes when scientists become preoccupied with making pieces of code work and debug programs or examining transformations of labor as research practices change with the deployment of new tools. Most importantly, we ask how STS methodologies can adapt to attend to practices of computing with the same attention to intricate details of material and everyday practices that have historically characterized lab studies. What is the place of computational practices and infrastructure in STS, both as a subject of analysis and as a tool for knowledge production that is changing STS and ethnographic research?