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Mapping Controversies

During the last 3 weeks, I've had the pleasure of participating in the first ever MACOSPOL (MApping COntroversies for Science and POLitics) course in Denmark. Very much in the spirit of Latour and STS, the course took place at the Technical University of Denmark, where two brave researchers threw a dozen students head first into the mapping praxis.

In my team, we decided to map the heated debate on tax reform that has been going on in Denmark - especially in this spring. The two main blocks in Danish politics have been pitted against each other in a war of rhetorics and economics. According to the sitting conservative-liberal government, tax cuts and welfare cuts are the only way to keep Denmark competitive and thus fund the welfare system in the long term. To challenge this logic, the centre-left coalition stresses that it would be more in the spirit of the Danish welfare state if everyone helped generate the necessary worth by worked a bit harder. The centre-left opposition has c…

Let machines be machines and humans be humans?

Fascinating promise here:

"In our most recent Internet of Things post Objects Aren't Social, Orban comments that objects " ...are going to form their own independent social networks, which are going to be fundamentally incompatible with human communication." These new machine networks will be so redundant and reliable that we will be freed from most of our machine-operating duties. We will get to be human again."

The statement seems to imply that we as humans have been under an (increasingly heavy?) burden of operating machines. If one thinks about the ridiculous amount of time we spend bend over or staring at 10"-50" size screens, that seems true enough. But in a more general sense, haven't we always been machine operators - is that not one of the fundamental traits that makes us stand out among other species? Or, perhaps more to the point: What kind of pre-machine-operating life does the blogger cited above long for?

Open master course in the mapping of knowledge controversies with digital methods

From June 7th-25th 2010, the Technical University of Denmark offers a 5 ECTS course with the title Mapping Controversies.

I plan to be there. As the course objectives state:

"Contemporary democracy frequently finds itself confronted with highly unstable forms of knowledge around which there exists no clear guide. Controversies rooted in the techno-polical entanglements of science and society seem increasingly resillient to conventional political process and cannot simply be settled by 'the facts'.

How do we handle and engage with complex knowledge controversies? And what new forms of 'democratic equipment' might be of use in that enterprise? The course enables students to make practical use of a series of new web-based research tools and map out complex controversial issues in an easily accessible manner."

(...)

“Mapping Controversies” was first taught by Bruno Latour at the École des Mines in Paris and has been jointly developed as an online programme involvi…

When cars get an identity change operation

Intuitively, one would think that identity experiments are something that takes place during the teenage years and that for example gender change operations are reserved for transvestites. But as in so many other cases, we underestimate the flexibility of our fellow non-human citizens when limiting identity change practices to humans.
One surprisingly clear example of this came before my eyes while digging into a heavy law proposal as a part of my internship with a Danish MP who is also spokesperson on taxation. As it occurs, Danish tax legislation has until now left a considerable tax hole wide open because it failed to recognize that cars too go through "identity change" (as it says in the justification for the proposed law).
More precisely, a car can undergo an operation that tranforms it from a business vehicle into a private car. Most of the time it involves mounting a few passenger seats in the back and changing the color of the number plates. Afterwards, it has to be …

”Internet Means Everything” - When Asylum Seekers Use the Internet

Here follows a short English abstract of my Danish bachelor thesis, which I defended last week at the Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen.
Abstract This paper presents a case study on how asylum seekers in Denmark use the Internet. Drawing on the empirical sociology of Bruno Latour, examples of ’grand theorizing’ on the subject are discussed and confronted with new data. Based on 14 qualitative interviews and participant observation in an asylum centre internet café and among the editorial staff of an asylum seeker newspaper, several concrete stories of Internet use are fleshed out and analyzed. The results are condensated into 7 types of Internet praxis among asylum seekers. They indicate that the Internet is of significant importance for the asylum seekers, who go online to improve their language and IT skills, explore Danish culture, stay in touch with family members and sometimes even inform their case. The paper also establish the existence of several barriers to the …

How about looking at Danish agriculture the way these Norwegians look at fish?

When handling climate change and other unintended consequences of our current way of upholding human existence, a part of our problems seem to stem from the way we produce food. This rather basic type of human praxis seem to have undergone huge transformations over the last century. As Norwegian researchers say: "Although natural resources have been exploited since the beginning of humanity, modern resource managementis a recent phenomenon."

To appreciate these changes, we probably need to leave out the idyllic visions of small fishing villages in gorgeous Nordic fjords and look again at a new kind of "process, wherecomplex and heterogeneous networks link together nature, society, technology, science, markets, and policy in new ways" (same source as above).

In the same way, the Danish agricultural sector has more to do with lobbying, speculating, optimizing and handling large amounts of sticky substances than living the independent life on a family farm. As it tu…

ICT makes taxation easier

These days, the Internet and database technology seem to play a role in any specialized subject you happen to look into. Since 1st of February, I have been a full time intern in the Danish Parliament. Here, I do research, advice and ghost-write for the young up-and-coming MP Jesper Petersen. On top of being an energetic and sympathetic politician, he happens to be the political spokesperson on taxation for his party.

Digging into the charming field of taxes, excise and levies, I encountered a few examples of ICTs providing the taxation authorities a helping hand.

On the international level, rich people hiding their fortunes from their local authorities in countries like Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg is a hot issue right now. For many years proud (welfare) states of law have vainfully tried to get hold of these tax-money. Now stolen data start to emerge out of the secret money tanks, with e.g. the German government paying millions of euros for the information to cash in billi…