STudieS: STS in education

Despite its status as an eclectic, multi-disciplinary field of enquiry, research in education has been relatively slow to recognise the rich potential of STS. The field has arguably been dominated by theoretical perspectives from social science that assume a priori sociopolitical structures as organizing forces in the practices of education and knowledge. This has led to an elision of the emergent, the sociomaterial and the more-than-human in research.

However, several strands of educational research have drawn on insights, perspectives and methods from STS leading to fine-grained analyses of the processes and practices of education. These have included analyses of relationships between states and knowledge, the sociomateriality of epistemic and regulatory practices, regimes of discipline and audit, big data and learning analytics, the political economy of educational technology, and the unfolding assemblages of educational institutions, classrooms and online spaces. Especially within a policy environment that increasingly requires educational knowledge of ‘what works’ from the research community, STS theories contribute to educational research from a distinctive angle, by making visible the enormous work that is required to make certain understandings of truths and rationalities stick as scientific beliefs (Sismondo, 2010). The international STudieS-network brings together researchers who are active across a range of STS research in education. As we grapple with increasing inequities, growing standardisation and internationalisation, the deprofessionalisation of teachers, the entrenchment of detrimental neoliberal practices of governance and accountability, the erosion of institutions and the increasingly unquestioning trust in numbers (Porter, 1995), STS is needed to make sense of, and to respond to, the unique pressures facing the field of education as the approach provides means for engaging with the ontological politics of these phenomena.

In the varied use of STS-studies in education, we see confidence and evidence of a certain maturity and development of the field. We hope this network will provide a space for new debates, new thinking and new and interesting intersections with other theories, which are much needed to engage with the many interesting – and often somewhat terrifying – issues that confront us in the field of education.

Calls for Open Panels at EASST-4S 2024, which are organized by STudieS members:


Convenors: Tanja Schneider (University of St. Gallen), Janja Komljenovic (Lancaster University), Loïc Riom (University of Lausanne)

Traditional Open Panel P034 at conference EASST-4S 2024 Amsterdam: Making and Doing Transformations.

Short Abstract:

Aligned with the conference theme, we are interested in empirical and conceptual papers that reflect on the impact of assetizing knowledge but are equally interested in the kinds of expertise produced through and along assetization processes.

Long Abstract:

Diverse forms of knowledge, including technoscientific knowledge, can be and have been assetised via patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial secrets, brands, or tacit knowledge. The privatisation of public knowledge is not new. Universities, key knowledge-producing institutions, have been encouraged to commercialise knowledge since the 1980s, as are other organisations including corporations, consultancies, or start-ups. These global, regional, and national policy shifts have happened in the context of the global economy becoming increasingly rentier and affected by the rise of intangible over tangible assets. After decades of policy and practice change of turning knowledge, its outputs and various knowledge artefacts into assets, it is urgent we examine assetization processes and their various impacts (Birch & Muniesa, 2020). Possible analytical and empirical avenues and questions to explore include:

- Assetization of research processes and outputs: how are global intellectual monopolies built and maintained by assetizing knowledge;

- Assetization of teaching and learning processes: what assets are involved in the teaching process and who controls them;

- Assetization of skills: how can skills be assetized and by whom (individuals, institutions) and under what conditions.

Relatedly, it is important to undestand what kind of knowledge is produced through assetization processes:

- The emergence of new form of knowledge about the economy, companies or business sectors through assetization operations;

- The development of know-how and dedicated staff within public and private institutions to produce assets;

- Indicators, models, expertise and approaches to motivate and justify investment choices.

Aligned with the conference theme, we are interested in papers that reflect on the impact of assetizing knowledge but are equally interested in the kinds of expertise produced through and along assetization processes. The impact may include the potential challenges or benefits of assetizing knowledge for social transformation, mitigating climate change, improving food security, tackling inequities, and so on.

Propose a paper to P034:



Convenors: Aaro Tupasela (University of Helsinki), Nelli Piattoeva (Tampere University)

Traditional Open Panel P046 at conference EASST-4S 2024 Amsterdam: Making and Doing Transformations.

Short Abstract:

We explore the reshaping and reproduction of nations and nationalism in the policies and sociomaterial practices of digitalization and datafication. Using digital nationalism we ask how digital and data-driven technologies create new forms of national identity, territory, imaginary, memory and more.

Long Abstract:

This open panel explores the notion of digital nationalism where digitalization and datafication reshape and reproduce nations, nation-states and nationalism in new ways. As a political principal nationalism equates the state as a bounded territory with a cultural community performing itself as sharing common traits. Nationalism as discourse (Özkirimli, 2010) builds on broader claims of a shared identity, spatiality and temporality, constructing a frame of reference for making sense of and structuring reality. Old and new conceptions of territory, identity, memory, inclusion and exclusion, among others, (re)emerge through the sociomaterial work of digital and data driven technologies, the policies and discourses that promote them also in the new spaces of digital and often virtual communities such as transnational diasporas or corporate networks (Tupasela, 2021; Couldry and Mejias, 2019; Kitchin, 2014; Trigo, 2003). Across public and private domains some technologies may become powerful tools of communicating and stabilizing social and cultural norms through material and affective, spectacular and mundane means (Larkin, 2008). For instance, historically and contemporarily nations have deployed large-scale infrastructures to bind themselves physically and affectively (Barney, 2017). Technological innovations and aspirations are also indicative of and nurture visions and collective imaginaries of the future (Jasanoff, 2015) whereby different policies and practices play generative and mediating roles between nationalism and technologies. The development of technologies and technological infrastructures entails deliberate or unintentional choices of inclusion and exclusion.

Our panel will discuss these and other emerging forms of digital nationalism to start building an intellectual community focused on this phenomenon. We invite presentations which engage with historical or contemporary empirical cases including but not limited to:

- Education

- Immigration

- Social media and virtual communities

- National digital policies and infrastructures

- Medical technologies

- Visual representations

- Cultural institutions

- Corporate and commercial activities

Propose a paper to P046:



Convenor: Lesley Gourlay (University College London Institute of Education)

Traditional Open Panel P302 at conference EASST-4S 2024 Amsterdam: Making and Doing Transformations.

Short Abstract:

Policy discourses are characterised by claims that the university should be ‘transformative’, and that education itself is in need of ‘transformation’. However, these discourses are open to critique, towards more nuanced understandings of educational continuity and change from STS perspectives.

Long Abstract:

Policy discourses in contemporary higher education are characterised by frequent claims not only that education should be ‘transformative’ in terms of its role in society, but also that education itself is in urgent need of ‘transformation’. These statements may initially appear laudable, accompanied by mission statements addressing ‘global challenges’, social justice, or claims regarding inclusive engagement in learning. However, these discourses and the attendant practices that surround them could benefit from critical scrutiny and contestation, particularly given that they sit in radical tension with neoliberal regimes of surveillance, audit and performativity pervading the contemporary university. The term ‘transform’ is derived from the Latin transformare, meaning ‘to metamorphose’, implying not mere enhancement, but a fundamental altering. Inherent in this call for metamorphosis is the notion that education is fundamentally flawed and in need of radical reshaping. Frequently, this is accompanied by technosolutionist discourses proposing digital technologies as the means by which this desired metamorphosis may be brought about. In this ‘scorched earth’ imaginary, all existing epistemic and educational practices are assumed to be problematic and in need of remediation, or even an implied destruction, accompanied in in some cases with the implication that educationists themselves are a problem to be solved. Although there are clear imperatives for educational practices to be improved and challenged, this absolutist position raises questions regarding centuries-old practices of education, such as the embodied, co-present lecture or seminar, and the secluded, ephemeral, embodied and private epistemic practices and cultures of study, experimentation and teaching. This panel invites papers from a range of STS perspectives which take a critical approach to these discourses and the underlying assumptions that they convey. Participants are encouraged to consider alternative conceptions such as maintenance, stewardship, adaptation, and care, in order to provide nuance, and counterweight to these dominant discourses of educational ‘transformation’.

Propose a paper to P302: