Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University
Materiality and Specificity in STS Workshop

Many thanks to everyone who took part in this fantastic workshop during March 2009. Below are all the details of the workshop for reference…

We are pleased to announce a day workshop on ‘Materiality and Specificity in STS’. The workshop will explore problems arising from STS empirical work. Please download the workshop announcement or see details below.

Registration is now open

Please visit the registration page for further instructions, and to book a place.

Organised by: Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University

Location: Meeting Room 4, Conference Centre, Bowland College

Date: 18th March 2009

Time: 9.30-17.00

Closing date for early bird registration: 28 February; closing date for applications: 16 March

Cost: Students, £15; Salaried, £38

Organisers: Endre Dányi, Natalie Gill, John Law, Michaela Spencer, Jennifer Tomomitsu-Tomasson

Website: (see also Centre for Science Studies website)

Contact: Endre Dányi (

The Workshop

STS likes to work on specificities, material, and social, on how matters get done, and how heterogeneous practices performatively assemble realities. This attention to specificity throws up problems, empirical and theoretical:

  • Seeing Specificity: We have to overcome the self-evidence of practice: to find ways of seeing and attending to what may otherwise seem mundane. We often need to put common-sense accounts of practices to one side. But how? Is there an aesthetic here to do with beauty? To be able to relate to/deal with the specific, do we need to see the entities involved as interesting, and beautiful.
  • An Aesthetics of Scale: Then we face the question: what is small? Does attention to specificity produce the sense of smallness (as opposed to thinking in big, generally relevant stories)? What’s the difference between studies of specific cases and cases used as examples/illustrations? What’s the difference (if any) between anthropological and STS understandings of specificity?
  • Narrating Specificity: We also have to find ways through specificities and materials to narrate these by discovering or imputing patterns. Writing specificity requires us to slow down, and attend to details. This is when the boring becomes fascinating, the small becomes beautiful. But this raises empirical questions: How much (specificity) is enough? How to make lots from little? And how to make little from lots?
  • Making a Difference: If we narrate, then our stories are performative. What kinds of links do we make (up) when writing our stories? How do we make our stories transportable to other STS stories or disciplines such as anthropology and sociology. One issue is that our stories of specificity don’t readily map onto ‘big theory’ stories. Does this matter? And again if our stories are performative, what do we want them to do? What kinds of differences would we like to make?

All of which is difficult! And this is the rationale for this workshop. If we didn’t know better, we would say that this is about sharing ‘best practice’ – but STS tells us that there is no ‘best practice’.

We’ll have introductions by five speakers: Nick Bingham, Steve Hinchliffe, John Law, Ingunn Moser, and Vicky Singleton. But, and especially, we’ll organise workshop sessions where smaller groups will work on specific materials on the four issues outlined above. Then we’ll have a plenary and a panel. But the core of the day is hands-on, the practical sharing of (not best) practice.

The Programme

(note that this is provisional)

9.30 Introductions

9.45 Nick Bingham, Ingunn Moser, and Steve Hinchliffe

11.15 Tea and Coffee

11.30 Group work: workshop

13.00 Lunch

14.00 Group work: plenary reporting

15.00 Tea and Coffee

15.00 Vicky Singleton, John Law

16.00 Panel

17.00 Close

Travel Information:

Train services – Visitors should note that Sunday journeys are particularly slow, and there are few trains on Sunday mornings.

There are direct trains from Manchester Airport to Lancaster – see link below for timetable.

Lancaster is close to the most beautiful parts of England, the Lake District, and the Yorkshire Dales. They are highly recommended!

Please find below URLs for the University, the area and transport:

Lancaster University Home Page:

Lancaster University Travel Page:

Lancaster University Map:

Lancaster City (and links):

Lancaster Area (and links):

National Rail on-line timetable:

Visit Lancashire Website

Lancaster Tourist Information + 44 (0)1524 32878

Alternative accommodation also can be found at the following recommended establishments:

Crows Nest Hotel – 01524 382888 (city centre)

Lancaster House Hotel – 01524 844822 (on-campus)
Royal Kings Arms Hotel – 01524 32451 (city centre)
The Sun Hotel – 01524 66006 (city centre)
Wagon & Horses – 01524 846094 (the quay)
The Greaves Hotel – 01524 63943 (between city & university)
Holiday Inn – 0870 40009047 (out of town near M6 junction 32)
Travel Inn – 08701 977 290 (out of town near M6 junction 32)

Guest Houses
Edenbreck House – 01524 32464 (city centre)

Mulberry Cottage – 01524 64755 (city centre)

Manesty – 01524 60611 (between city & university)

The Castle – 01524 849137 (city centre)
Old Station House – 01524 381060 (city centre)
The Shakespeare – 01524 841041 (city centre)

For long stays

Patty’s Farm Barn Cottages (between university & Garstang)


One Response

  1. I would like to participate. I have a particular interest in Making a Difference.

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