Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Narratives of Hope: Science, Theology and Environmental Public Policy (SATSU)

Date and time: Wednesday 10 April 2019, 1pm to 2pm
Location: W/306, Wentworth College, Campus West, University of York (Map)
Audience: Staff
Admission: booking not required

Event details
Interdisciplinary collaborations between scientists/technologists, social scientists and philosophers/theologians have revealed deeply submerged yet powerful narratives at work beneath public discourse on controversial technologies. I consider two examples of collaborations with human geographers, on nanotechnology and GM crops, in detail. Resources for narrative analysis and reflection are, surprisingly, found in the ancient wisdom-literature text The Book of Job, which has received more philosophical attention than any other biblical book.

About speaker
Tom McLeish, Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Department of Physics

Failing Workshop (SATSU)

Date and time: Wednesday 1 May 2019, 10am to 4pm
Location: 106x, Piazza Building, Campus East, University of York (Map)
Audience: Staff
Admission: Free admission, booking required

‘Rocket science is tough, and rockets have a way of failing.’ Sally Ride - Physicist and Astronaut

‘We're living in a world where international governance is failing to overcome borders, but technology is succeeding in removing them.’ Taavet Hinrikus - Entrepreneur

‘Your life is made by the failures in it, not the successes. And I wouldn't have become a writer without failing my doctorate.’ Kate Atkinson - Author

Failing may be avoidable, inevitable, instructive, life-changing or devastating. It can be sudden, gradual, imperceptible or an epitaph on success. Failing can be an individual, collective or systemic problem or opportunity. Above all we think it currently under researched and discussed and ask you to offer contributions to our workshop on the topic.
Failing 1
Risk assessment and decision making takes place in an environment where there is little recording or exploration of failure, therefore evidence for decision making is often incomplete, for example academic research. There is distrust in science and expert knowledge in wider society as they have both seemed to fail. Even when there is plenty of evidence perceiving it is not straightforward. Sometimes we fail to understand what is in front of us, with important messages being lost in an array of detached indicators and fake news. Benchmarks and performance measures fail as evidence of competence as they reify complex processes and become ends in themselves, diverting attention away from serious problems as in the case of the NHS. Repeated attempts to manage processes differently fail because they are superficial and fail to achieve participation.  In contemporary organisations people move on before failing projects become manifest. Therefore decision making is poor because people’s subjective perceptions of risk is overly optimistic or pessimistic. As a result, governance of organisations and wider society becomes more difficult.

Organizations fail people - especially those who fall outside the white middle class male heterosexual norm. Governments continually fail to implement their policies - c.f. Brexit. Despite failing being common, organizations project an image of success and the people who work for them do not consider themselves failing. What does failing mean and who judges? Should the current UK government continue to look a fool or is there something to be gained for persistence?

In 1910 Hoechst launched Salvarsan on the market as a new and effective treatment for syphilis. Salvarsan was one of the first successful “magic bullet” chemotherapies to emerge from the laboratory of Paul Ehrlich. Before its commercial production, Salvarsan was known as “Compound 606” as the chemical was discovered after a lengthy process of testing and screening a range of potential agents against disease. Scholars have focussed on the success in this story. But what of the other 605 chemicals that rarely feature? Can we not learn from them too? Are they not moves in the new product development game?

Processes of failure are not well understood, and sometimes technologies discard examples of failing. Failed or failing organisations do not leave behind records from which we can develop our understanding of how things fail. Organisations might also fail to record or remember failed projects. It is also difficult to detect failure in systems from within those systems. How do you know you are failing until it happens? Therefore, how can we extract understanding about failure from historical records and archives? What should we look for in what has been left behind to better understand failure? Are we nostalgic for a past that seems perfect because failing was not recorded? A regressive desire for the comfort of a failed memory?
Failing 2
What about our present and future failings? Global capitalism thrives on destruction of environments and cultures. Logistics technologies reconfigure modes of consumption so that retail shops close and end many jobs. Urban high streets are converting to a series of food and drink outlets that fuels obesity. Health services succeed at treating some conditions only to fail at others. Is it the NHS which is failing when people’s bodies are lasting longer thanks to better housing, sanitation and medication? Universities are succeeding in growing student numbers and chasing externally imposed indicators of success - but are they failing as institutions for the public good and higher learning? Forms of governance are failing, with disaffection in political parties and associations such as the UK and EU, after many years of perceived success. Technologies such as social media enable alternative voices to be aired - but is this another form of failing leading to further failures? Fake news leading to unwise voting.
We welcome contributions that explore the concept of failing for example: 
  • Identities, materialities, spaces, relationships, organizations and systems.
  • Saving face, prevention, measuring,
  • We encourage different theoretical perspectives for example:
Schatzky on practices
Goffman on presentation of self,
Douglas on consumption
Marx on capitalism
Foucault on governmentalities or the care of the self
Turkle on ‘alone together’ with our failings
  • Alternative ways of communicating ideas such as moving and still images, artefacts and dramas 
Please send abstracts of 250 words outlining your perspective on failing by 1 April to and be prepared to share your ideas in a 15 minute presentation. The day will be a mix of presentations and group discussions on the topic.

STS4Cities Seminar Living with machines: AI, robots and IoT in everyday life (SATSU)

Date and time: Tuesday 26 March 2019, 12.30pm to 4pm
Location: University of Sheffield (ICOSS), (Map)
Admission: Free admission, booking required (see below)

Event details
The first STS4C mobile seminars in the ‘More than Human?’ series will be held on Tuesday 26th March at ICOSS, University of Sheffield. The event will be in two parts: a network meeting from 12:30-14:00 (with lunch from 12:00) followed by the seminar from 14:00-16:00. The network meeting will provide an opportunity to update each other and discuss community building activities and future events.

Seminar: ‘Living with machines: AI, robots and IoT in everyday life’

This seminar will bring together scholars from a range of disciplines who work in the broad field of science and technology studies (STS). It will consider how humans are using, interacting with and coproducing a series of powerful digital and automated technologies (artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things) in a range of settings at home, work and in everyday life. How are they changing social practices, reconfiguring personal relations and identities, and enabling new forms of power and control? What issues does this raise for society?

PLEASE REGISTER NOW (it takes 1 minute) at
The deadline is the 15th March for STS4C members to register at the very latest, so I can organise catering etc. I will hold places for STS4C members until then, but after this date I would like to open the seminar part of the meeting to other people with an interest in the topic.

Dr Philip Garnett, Dr Murray Goulden, Dr Stevie deSaille

Dr Philip Garnett (York Management School, University of York) “AI and the Technology of Organisational Surveillance”

Dr Murray Goulden (ISS, University of Nottingham) “Smart Homes, Platform Families, and the Reformatting of Domestic Life”

Dr Stevie deSaille (iHuman, University of Sheffield) “Robots in a Human Future”

Monday, 25 February 2019

PRG Annual Conference - CFP: (extended 25 March 2019) Beyond Fluid Identities? New Sensitivities in the 21st Century

PGR Conference
CFP Deadline: (extended) 25 March 2019
Event: Thursday 20 June 2019
Department of Sociology, University of York
Keynote Speaker: Dr Steph Lawler, University of York

‘Identity’ exists as a key question not only in academic research, but also in our social and personal lives. Who we are and how we came to be continues to be challenged and interrogated on individual and global scales. The importance of research in this field endures not only as a site of academic intrigue, but as political, social and personal phenomena.

We welcome abstracts from postgraduate researchers across the social sciences for 15 minute talks which address the conference theme of fluid identities, and how this manifests in light of new sensitivities in the 21st century. This includes, but is not limited to:
  • The construction of the self in the contemporary world
  • New tensions in the construction of identities
  • The sensitive world and identity
  • Identity and power in national crisis
  • Going beyond Identity Politics
  • Gender and sexuality; LGBTQ identities, feminisms and masculinities
  • Social class, poverty and inequality
  • Race, ethnicity and identity
  • Belonging and migration; global and local identities
  • Representations of identity; media, discourse and culture
Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words to no later than 25 March 2019. Please also include your name, institution and your stage of study. Applicants will be informed of our decision in April 2019.

Further information on registration and attendance will be released in March 2019. There will be a nominal charge of £5.

Any questions can be sent to:

Thursday, 7 February 2019

‌‌The York Dead Good Festival

‌‌10-19 May 2019
Various locations in York

The York Dead Good Festival is a coordinated by the Death and Culture Network (DaCNet) and St Leonards Hospice, York during Dying Awareness week 10-19 May 2019. Lots of free public events will be running during the festival ranging from theatrical performances to will writing to thinking about death in science fiction and pet grief.

When it comes to conversations about death, it always seems too early until it's too late. As a society, we're not particularly good at talking about these things. The festival aims to encourage people to be more open about dying, death and bereavement.

The festival will encourage people to express themselves in different ways, whilst giving advice and support on a number of practical matters. Join us for events throughout York including performances, informative talks, crafts, discussions and more, many of which are free.

Programme to follow 


Friday, 18 January 2019

The Weight of Expectation Comic Launch: Illustrating How Obesity Stigma gets Under the Skin

28 February 2019
York Medical Society, York

Event Information
A new edition of a comic exploring how our culture stigmatises larger body sizes is launching in York on 28 February. The Weight of Expectation, or WoE, comic was created in 2018 and tells the story of how stigma associated with bodyweight and size gets under the skin and is felt in the flesh. Now the ‘Next Generation’ edition, designed specifically for young people, is to be launched in a special event at the York Medical Society (23 Stonegate, York YO1 8AW). The Weight of Expectation is the result of a collaboration between art collective Act With Love and illustrator Jade Sarson to visualise the research of sociologists Oli Williams and Ellen Annandale. Limited edition screen prints from the comic will be exhibited at the event.

The WoE comic is based on the experiences of people who attended NHS-subsidised weight-loss groups in one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England. There will be a special launch event on the 28th February where Oli will give a talk about the project and chair a panel discussion between 6.30-7.30pm. The panel will include the comic artist Jade, co-author Ellen and others. This will be followed by a signing session where Jade can sign copies of The Weight of Expectation. Free comics will be available to anyone who attends, including education packs of 10 comics for anyone who can put the comic to good use in their practice, from teaching to health services.

Guests are invited to attend the event from 6:00pm and are welcome to stay until 9:00pm. Complementary food and drink will be available for all guests. Limited edition prints will be available to buy, with all money going back to supporting the WoE project.

Additional Information
Jade is a Lincoln-based illustrator and comic artist whose style is a fusion of British roots with Japanese influences, combining digital and traditional techniques. In 2013 she was nominated for Best Emerging Talent in the British Comic Awards, and in 2014 won the Myriad Editions First Graphic Novel competition with For the Love of God, Marie!

Oli and Ellen’s shared research interests are health inequalities and social change. Currently Oli is a Research Fellow at King’s College London researching inclusive and collaborative health service design. He is a co-founder of Act With Love, along with his brother Joe, and recently spoke about his research and the WoE project on the popular Don’t Salt My Game podcast hosted by Laura Thomas:

Ellen is a Professor of Sociology at the University of York whose research has focused on various aspects of health inequalities, especially as they concern gender. Ahead of the exhibition, Oli said:
“There is a clear link between social inequality and obesity. Despite this the strategy for the war that has been declared on the ‘obesity epidemic’ places blame on the individual for their condition rather than more seriously addressing the social factors which make a ‘healthy lifestyle’ an unrealistic aim for many in society.

“This comic is based on the experiences of people who were not lacking in motivation – they attended a weekly weight-loss group – but still struggled to maintain a so-called healthy lifestyle due to the challenges they faced in everyday life.

“One challenge which we pay specific attention to in this comic is weight-based stigma. Our research has shown that if the goal is to promote health this stigma is both unhelpful and ineffective. So we wanted to illustrate in the comic how it impacts people’s lives and actually acts as a barrier to the adoption of health promoting behaviours like being physically active. We felt it was important to do this because a better understanding of the effects of stigma would help to improve public health.

“The WoE comic tells the story of how stigma associated with bodyweight and size gets under the skin and is felt in the flesh. It has been gratifying but depressing that so many people have recognised their own experiences in our comic. We would all benefit from a different approach to health promotion being taken, so let’s come together and call for change.”

WoE was funded by the Wellcome Trust, NIHR CLAHRC West, NIHR CLAHRC East Midlands, Attenborough Arts Centre and the University of Leicester.

Obesity, Stigma and Reflexive Embodiment: Feeling (and illustrating) the “Weight” of Expectations

Existing research overwhelmingly demonstrates that obesity stigma is an ineffective means by which to reduce the incidence of obesity and that it promotes weight-gain. However, the sensate experiences associated with the subjective experience of obesity stigma as a reflexively embodied phenomenon have been largely unexamined. We explore the unhelpfulness of weight-based stigma drawing on ethnographic research with weight-loss groups whose members were predominantly overweight/obese and of low-socio-economic status and investigate what/how obesity stigma made group members feel. We found that obesity stigma confused participant's objective and subjective experiences of their bodies. This was primarily evident on occasions when group members felt heavier after engaging in behaviours associated with weight-gain but this 'weight' did not register on the weighing scales. We conceptualise this as the weight of expectation, which is taken as illustrative of the perpetual uncertainty and morality that characterises weight-management. In addition, we show that respondents ascribed their sensate experiences of physiological responses to exercise with moral and social significance. These carnal cues provided a sense of certainty and played an important role in attempts to negotiate obesity stigma. Oli Williams has collaborated with award-winning illustrator Jade Sarson to present the study findings in the form of a comic ‘The Weight of Expectation’, which tells the story of how stigma associated with bodyweight and size gets under the skin and is felt in the flesh. Free copies of the comic will be available at the seminar.

Oli Williams PhD
Oli Williams was awarded the NIHR CLAHRC West Dan Hill Fellowship in Health Equity which he took up at the University of Bath. He later joined the SAPPHIRE Group at the University of Leicester as a Research Associate before being awarded a THIS Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship based at King’s College London. His research concerns health inequalities, co- production, patient and public involvement, knowledge translation, area-based and equitable intervention, obesity stigma, and promotion of healthy lifestyles. He is an active promoter of health equity and social change and co-founder of the art collective Act With Love (AWL)

Ellen Annandale
Is Professor of Sociology at the University of York. She has a longstanding research interest in health inequality which stems back to her early post-PhD research position at the University of Glasgow working on the West of Scotland 2007 Study on health in the community. She has focused particularly on gender inequalities in health from a feminist perspective. Some of her publications in this area are Women’s Health and Social Change (Routledge) and The Palgrave Handbook of Gender and Healthcare (co-edited with E Kuhlman).

Narratives of Hope: Science, Theology and Environmental Public Policy (SATSU)

Date and time: Wednesday 10 April 2019, 1pm to 2pm Location: W/306, Wentworth College, Campus West, University of York ( Map ) Audie...