Established in 2016, IstanbuLab provides a collaborative and transdisciplinary research space for academics, activists, and artists engaged in the social studies of science and technology within the Turkish context and beyond. By generating and prioritizing collective research environments, IstanbuLab aspires to stimulate the generation and spread of critical and constructive studies of Science, Technology, and Society (STS) in Turkey.
IstanbuLab (Science, Technology, and Society Platform in Turkey) was established in 2016, and held its first official meeting in January, 2017 at Koç University in Istanbul. On a cold day, a small group of people, who had been engaged with STS in one way or another, sat together and discussed the ways to build an infrastructure for such a platform. In the first 6 months, through the monthly meetings, a group of people continued to discuss various issues ranging from the name of the platform to its red lines, from membership to its focus. In this first period, people began to learn about and from each other, became friends, and more importantly, enjoyed time spent together: we read articles together, shared our different ways of engagements with STS, discussed why and how we do STS in Turkey, developed collective research projects, and so on. And, at the end of this period, we were ready to launch our website.
*The image is the logo of IstanbuLab designed by Istanbul-based visual artist Mehmet Kurtuluş Tuncer in support of this newly established, independent STS initiative.
Since the members of IstanbuLab are located in different universities, in different cities, and even, in different countries, we were in need of a collective space: the idea of launching a website emerged out of such a need. The monthly meetings organized in different places -meeting rooms at our affiliated universities, our homes, coffee-shops - have been proving us temporal collective spaces. We decided that the only way for such a group to create a permanent location was in a virtual environment.
The content of the website was prepared collectively, and designed as a partially dynamic and bilingual platform.* The site is constituted of seven main pages: 1) About - provides a general information about IstanbuLab's mission and vision; 2) People - contains information about group members; 3) Research -outlines research areas and research projects; 4) Blog - this is the most active page (Aybike Alkan and Mehmet Ekinci are coordinating the publication process); 5) STS -page provides general information about STS in the world and in Turkey, especially for the ones new in the field; 6) Events - where we announce the public events organized by IstanbuLab; 7) Contact.
*Aybike Alkan and Duygu Kaşdoğan put generous labor during the installation and maintenance processes.
Feminist technoscience has been an important theme that informed our conversations from the beginning, as well as being a common theoretical and research interest for many members (https://stsistanbul.org/areas/). As such, one of the first projects for our blog happened to be dedicated to interviews with scholars in this field.
Feminist technoscience (FSTS) interview series is a blog project among other projects such as interview series with STS scholars in Turkey and translation of related articles/pieces into Turkish.
FSTS interview series was launched in April 2018 with the publication of an interview with Michelle Murphy, over her recent book "The Economization of Life.", conducted by Duygu Kaşdoğan. It was followed by a second interview with Marilyn Strathern, entitled "On the partible person, the relational individual and the multiplicities of kinship" and conducted by Onur Arslan (June 2018). The most recent one in the series is the interview conducted by Aybike Alkan with Hélène Mialet: "Articulating the Scientist as a distributed-centered subject" (August 2018).
In 2018, IstanbuLab launched an event series entitled "Science, Technology, Society Talks", curated by Ebru Yetişkin and Duygu Kaşdoğan.
Science, Technology, Society Talks aims to introduce STS in Turkey as well as increasing the democratic participation of public into the collective production of science, technology, and society with a focus on contemporary issues/discussions.
This event series is held four times a year in the months of April-May and November-December. The guests from Turkey and abroad have a conversation with the audience around a specific theme. 2018 events are sponsored by the art center Akbank Sanat, located in Beyoğlu, İstanbul.
The image on the left is the poster of the first event:*
April 2018 | Social Media Abyss | Dutch media theorist and internet critic Geert Lovink was the first guest of the Science, Technology, Society Talks. In this event, Lovink, in conversation with Ebru Yetişkin, talked about the relation of social media to power-knowledge production from a critical perspective on the basis of his book Social Media Abyss, which is recently translated into Turkish and published by the Otonom Press. By focusing on the role of social media in the construction of power relations and social conflicts, the ways to construct a democratic and free society with and against social media were discussed.
*Poster design by Mehmet K. Tuncer.
This image is the poster of the second event in the series:
May, 2018 | "A Laboratory" under scope | The second event of Science, Technology, Society Talks organized by IstanbuLab, and moderated by Maral Erol, opened a conversation with Prof. Dr. Reşit Canbeyli over the tradition of experimentalism and laboratories on the basis of his story of building a laboratory in the Department of Psychology at Boğaziçi University. “A Laboratory” Under Scope underlined that scientific interest cannot be limited to a summary of what others have done, and science cannot be seen as a linear practice devoid of failures and emotions. This talk emphasized the importance of laboratories to inspire young generations while activating an enthusiasm and passion for science and criticized the myth of lacking infrastructure, that is, the most important obstacle in Turkish scientific development.
The first STS collection in Turkey was published by the journal Toplum ve Bilim in July 2018. This issue entitled "Bilim, Teknoloji, Toplum" [Science, Technology, Society], and edited by Duygu Kaşdoğan, Maral Erol and Özgür Narin, is also the first collective publication work undertaken by IstanbuLab members with the aim to introduce STS as a field of study/discipline to the Turkish audience in response to the lack of introductory level written material This special issue did not aim to represent the field of STS in one way or another but rather be a modest contribution towards the development of intellectual infrastructure of STS in Turkey.
The issue opens with an article entitled "An introduction for Science, Technology and Society Studies" that tells a story of STS in terms of its emergence and configuration in the world as well as providing the first findings of archaeological excavation towards understanding intellectual and institutional genealogies of STS in Turkey.
The following three articles continue deepening a number of discussions in STS at theoretical/conceptual levels, such as actor-network theory, feminist technoscience, public understanding of scientific and technological controversies, science and art. The rest of the articles are organized thematically: 1) experts and infrastructures; 2) biology and biotechnologies; and 3) industry and production relations. Abstracts in English are available here, and below is the list of article titles and authors in the dossier:
An introduction for Science, Technology and Society Studies | HACER ANSAL - MEHMET EKİNCİ - DUYGU KAŞDOĞAN
A laboratory, yet another: Nettachmental curating | EBRU YETİŞKİN
Social movements, networks and body | ÖZNUR KARAKAŞ
“Gendering” science and technology: Feminist Science and Technology Studies | MARAL EROL
Infrastructures in Science and Technology Studies: The black box of GAP | AYBİKE ALKAN
The science of uncertainty: The expected Istanbul Earthquake and the anthropology of experts | EBRU KAYAALP - ONUR ARSLAN
Eugenics as a “modern” technology and genetic sciences in the twenty-first century | MURAT ERGİN
Making families in secrecy: Seeking forbidden biotechnologies as last resort abroad | BURCU MUTLU
Bioeconomy: A thought experiment on the “political economy of life” | DUYGU KAŞDOĞAN
Industry 4.0 and its impact on employment: Can it be an opportunity for women? | HACER ANSAL - NİHAN YILDIRIM
A discussion on the implications and limits of Industry 4.0: Is “online capitalism” possible? | ÖZGÜR NARİN
Since the first official meeting of IstanbuLab in January 2017, the lab has made good progress towards developing STS in Turkey through volunteer, collective and transnational efforts. The organization of the lab is based on the ethics of care, commons, and collaboration. In Fall and Spring terms, monthly regular meetings are held to discuss current and future projects. The lab also hosts interested individuals/collectives during the monthly meetings from time to time to strengthen the collaboration culture. Twice a year, retreat meetings are organized so as to reflect on the past process, develop current projects, and create new ideas.
Currently, the lab gets coordinated through seven working groups (academic research; academic publication; academic events; public events; social events; website/blog; and, transnational STS). To facilitate the collaborative work process, a coordinator is attained to each working group, with a 6 month rotation.
IstanbuLab aspires to contribute towards the development of the intellectual infrastructure of STS in Turkey and beyond. To do so, lab members put generous labor beyond individual interests. Plans for its future direction involve efforts to strengthen ties with other transnational STS programs, networks, and projects, as well as fostering further communication and collaboration with scholars who work in and/or about Turkey.