We participated to the Conference Changing Worlds. Ideologies, Utopias and Ambitions in Science and Technology, held at the Department of Science and Technology Studies of the University of Vienna on 20–22 November 2014. We presented a paper entitled “Digital ways of knowing: the digital turn in social sciences and their epistemological utopias”, as a first attempt to give a more structured shape to an ongoing reflexion about the potentialities and challenges of digital technologies for research purposes. The empirical work in progress that is being carrying out in the project, as well as the variagate collection of scholarly “pieces of reflexions” published on personal/collective websites and blogs that we have been collecting so far, stimulated us to reflect on expectations and utopias – but also of anxieties and disbeliefs – regarding the contributions of the digital to academic work and to knowledge creation.
In this presentation we focused our attention on spaces such as the ‘media-labs’, that are not defined by academic disciplinary cultures but explore new forms of knowledge production, offering an interesting perspective on the reconfigurations enabled by digital technologies and tools. The research project is giving us the possibility to approach – to some extent to interact with – the epistemic cultures of two medialabs, the Medialab Prado in Madrid and the Medialab-SciencesPo, in Paris, whose reconfigurations are modelled by imaginaries and particular utopias associated to the digital. While depicting the epistemic culture of Medialabs is far beyond our scope, we attempt to follow the associations/links between ideas, people, spaces, activities through which these utopias circulate and/or are generated. To some extent, it seems to us that following these associations can give us access to how particular utopias related to the digital are shaping different practices of knowledge production – including our own.
UPDATE! The article has been accepted for publication and will come out in late 2015.