187. Listening with the silences in science

Amy Donovan; Heather Anderson;

This panel considers the challenges and opportunities presented by social scientific work that attends to gaps, pauses, static and interference – what we collectively call 'silences' – in what the natural sciences 'hear' when practices of detecting, listening and recording are central to their work. Here we are thinking, for example, of marine scientists who record singing humpbacks off Hawaii's coasts, whose data is contingent on the location of hydrophones; the presence or absence of whales; and existing assumptions about who among the whales sings, and why. However, we are interested in insights offered across the natural sciences. What do the tools of the social sciences bring to such efforts to produce knowledge about nonhuman worlds and spaces? Is it possible to reframe uncertainties, silences, gaps, absences not as obstacles to knowledge but as openings to less oppressive forms of expertise? We propose to discuss forms of listening for what is not heard or recorded, in which attention to these silences and absences could make space for endangered ecologies to be taken seriously, even as their inhabitants dwindle, their voices becoming less audible. How can our social studies of science, and our approaches to disseminating our work, help with this?

Contact: amy.donovan@mail.mcgill.ca, heather.anderson3@mail.mcgill.ca

Keywords: Forms and Practices of Expertise, Method and Practice, Data and Quantification

Published: 04/07/2023