From the ultimate abstraction to new intellectual producers

‘The Team Around the Children: Codes, rules and imaginary epistemic objects in interagency working for integrated childrens’ services. – Steve Brown, Leicester University

CAF

 

Notes written by students of Theo Vurdubakis -Department of Organisation, Work and Technology, Lancaster University:

Steve’s presentation focused on the frameworks and technologies used in the protection of children who are seen to be at risk. The aim was to examine and question how technologies such as the CAF (Common Assessment Framework) form were used to co-ordinate all of the services involved in the detection and ultimate protection of children at risk. It examined methods of assessment that were carried out by a multitude of services, under the technology of the CAF form, making the child an object of intervention and risk assessment by a plethora of agencies.

In response to the death of Victoria Climbie, a project was initiated named ‘Every child matters’ (ECM) . The findings of a report published by ECM identified a lack of co-ordination between all of the services involved in assessing and determining which or whether children were at risk. One of the outcomes was the development of the CAF form, which was to provide through ‘master codings’ a way of overcoming the problems of co-ordination. The aim was to provide different professions and services involved in the assessment process, a way of working on different bits of the child at different moments and to bring these processes together. The CAF form is a way to ‘cut up and then reassemble the child’.

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‘Securing conduct through codes: some reflections on sociomaterial agency’

Lucas Introna – LUMS, Lancaster University

Value-sensitive design seeks to shape code to conform to values. But looking at search engines or facial recognition that are hard to understand, who can do what? The paper focuses on how agency works here.

The inter-actional human-centred account is often invoked. The original agency is assumed to be human. The determination of original agency becomes an ethical-social requirement. On this account, it becomes really hard to account for agency (e.g. Foucault’s work shows this). Also Latour’s work helps shows that materials are very active in practice. Barad’s notion of intra-action makes phenomena ‘primitive’ and relata are not pre-given. Where does all this lead us in terms of responsibility? Responsibility is sedimented around particular practices that we play a role in shaping. Finally Heidegger’s account of being-in-the-world provides an account of how things become present-to-hand. The constitutive relation is ontological – it performs all participants, human and nonhuman, at once. The intra-action that constitutes is prior to any scripting of our behaviour.

Figuring intra-actional sociolmaterial agency in the context of plagiarism detection systems such as TurnItIn.com is illustrative. This a vast technology, receiving 50,000 essays/day. Students were asked about how their work came to be detected by the system. They spoke of having many electronic sources open on the screen. They would cut and paste relevant fragments into a document that becomes the skeleton of the document. They then write over the fragments in a way that becomes their own. Sometimes that involves changing little, for others a lot. Sometimes they just connected the fragments with writing. The students think they are writing their essays, using re-use. This is highly valorised in object-oriented programming. They use the discourse of reuse, and this reconfigures the social-mterial practice of writing.

turn it in originality report

The TurnItin system understands plagiarism in terms of thresholds of copying – the ‘traffic light’ system. TurnItIn incorporates all the essays into its databases. The students are then sometimes asked to sign off their essays for submission to TurnItOn. The effect is to constitute students as intellectual producers. Their essays can then be sold on ebay, especially if they can show that it has not been submitted to TurnItIn. Internet ghost-writing services offer guarantees that their products will not be detected by TurnItIn.

An ethical debate against the Turnitin software can be read here at DontTurnItIn

Problematic code-conduct relations

‘Compromising standards and the Politics of Development. Health, Safety and New Ways of Living on the Interoceanic Highway, Peru’ – Penny Harvey and Hannah Knox – University of Manchester

ioh005.jpg

Penny discusses the implications on the notion of safety, code and conduct between different belief cultures whilst the construction of the Interoceanic Highway is built across Peru. Focusing particularly in the engineers strong belief in the health & safety code and the actual conduct and local customs of the Peruvian people. The research study can be found here at ESRC Centre for Research for Socio-Cultural change>

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‘Airport Emergency: Scrambling the Codes of Conduct’

Damian O’Doherty – University of Manchester Business School

Glasgow Airport car explosion

 

The airport is a site where the sciences of protection are being advanced almost hegemonically. They are deployed in the name of safe living. The airport is concerned with national citizenship, with transition, and is a non-place. The airport space is highly coded. For instance, objects are coded differently depending on where they are. In the departures terminal, space is striated. People become different things in different places. People are coded differently according to their tickets. Classifications apply to planes as well. So many calculations and coding have to occur. They are always incomplete. The system must juggle too much.

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‘Seeking Safety: Code, Conduct and Spirituality’

Chris Westrup – University of Manchester Business School

The issue of spirituality does concern safe living, as well as reassurance about death. Issues of code and conduct arise around spirituality. They are difficult to research because of the ‘other minds’ problem. Can spirituality be a ‘science of protection’? How should it be addressed? Can it be described?

From the perspective of clinical psychology, spirituality has lifestyle benefits. From a sociological standpoint, religious consumers construct their own package of belief. It makes it hard for a shared faith to develop. But it is impossible to judge whether anything authentic occurs here.

In medieval Christian settings, safety was a major preoccupation. For eastern settings, things are a bit different. But what of code and conduct? In Margery Kemp’s biography, she describes her pilgrimages. She could be seen as mad or possessed. But what of the interior states? What evidence is there of a code of her inner experiences? The code available at that time was rather general. Only later did detailed codes of conduct become available, especially at the outset of the Counter-Reformation.

For instance, 89 states of mind, with many combinations are known in some Eastern schools of Buddhism. Code here is used to identify and formulate experience.

A thorough-going sociological account of spirituality would need to translate emic to etic accounts. In the Christian and Buddhist examples, conduct was seen as more important than the coding of experience. If spiritual traditions involve long training, how can naïve observers account for them? In short, how does one move from code to conduct? Spirituality can be seen as a design for safe living. Can they be seen as a ‘science of protection’? The bricolage of spiritual practices is not new. But there is a less esoteric dimension to it – it is popular. There is a mixture of sociality andis s individualization. Some approaches have both code and conduct. Spirituality is being

Extending the notion of code

Yuwei Lin – Manchester University: ‘Embodying Hacker Culture in Women-friendly Free Software Groups’

Yuwei Lin discusses the rise of women friendly hacking networks in a male dominated free software culture. Download Yuwei Lin’s presentation slides

Female software networks

Notes written by students of Theo Vurdubakis -Department of Organisation, Work and Technology, Lancaster University:
Yuwei’s presentation focused on the contextualisation and embodiment of the hacker culture. The aim was to address why certain groups, namely women, are excluded from this type of technological development and to discuss and examine free software as an available source code to all for modification. Free software then is never perfect and should be seen as transparent and open which the reporting of bugs, viruses etc identifies. In contrast, however, notions of hacking and coding are not seen as open and transparent as they tend to originate from engineering cultures and are defined therefore, in the mainstream, by men. It is these cultural beliefs attached to coding and hacking which lead to a lack of visibility of women in free software.

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‘Countryside Code’

Martin Dodge – University of Manchester

Thewells Countryside code cartoons

The original country code was published in the 1950’s and illustrated by Norman Thelwell. Download more cartoons here>

The VMS DeLaval robotic milking machine promotional video. This robot now enables the farmer to use a touchscreen and robotic arms instead of actually physically milking the cow in the cowshed. In automatic milking systems, there is massive investment in changing the nature of working with animals. No one touches the cow. It becomes a machine-readable entity. Is farming a code/space? Is a cow only a cow through code?

Download Martin Dodge’s presentation slides>

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