RUSTlab stands for Ruhr University Science & Technology Studies Laboratory. The lab is affiliated with the Chair of Cultural Psychology and Anthropology of Knowledge at the Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB). The lab infrastructure first and foremost is a specific place that we care for, filled with tables, books, coffee, plants and more. The lab also is a virtual space. A webpage, a runway of emails, a Twitter account and Element. Its spatiality and temporality are, therefore, multiple, collective and always in process.
The RUSTlab’s central conceptual heritage lies in the interdisciplinary and international “Science and Technology Studies” (short: STS). The field develops creative methods and theories through empirical studies to examine science and technology in action. Having STS as a field, we stitch in many other interests and competencies that change with the lab members (see the section on membership). The lab is a way of relating things, people, controversies, methods and approaches. The following list points to some of our current interests:
ANT, anthropology of knowledge, algorithms, artificial intelligence, classifications, data, ethnography, feminism, health technologies, infrastructures, materiality, political ecology, posthumanism, practice, ruins, social anthropology, sociology, standards.
Why RUST? In a world of industrial ruins, shiny and clean material becomes rusty. Rust is a “becoming”, a process of transformation from provisionally well-defined and contoured shapes to a rough and fragile existence. Rust is part of ghostly landscapes in a time of domination by the Anthropos. We live with rust and constitute rust. Rust is beautiful, an aesthetic pleasure. Rust is also the surname of a German teenager and amateur pilot who in 1987 crossed the iron curtain and landed in Moscow near the Red Square. This action indicated the possibility of the impossible and the ability to point to weaknesses of powerful infrastructures.
Rusting and living with rust is not always a choice, but a requirement of living on post-industrial earth.
Taking rust as a metaphor that applies to various conditions of life on this planet, to aesthetics and courage, our lab seeks to contribute to better ways of engaging with the science and technology-intensive cultures that give rise to and are affected by these conditions. Embedded within the field of STS, the lab themes are subsumed under the broader questions of knowledge production, technology development, naturecultures and socio-material entanglements.
Our approach and the challenge we take upon ourselves is ethnographic at its core. Building on the different shapes and shades that ethnography went through and is still going through, the RUSTlab aims to contribute to and develop participatory, sustainable, open-ended, experience loaded and creative approaches that push the boundaries for engaging with scientific and technology-intensive cultures.