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

‘Monitoring vital signs or mediating loving care and connection: the social codes of new care technologies’

Ingunn Moser and Jeanette Pols – University of Oslo/University of Amsterdam:

Download power point presentation> Telecare_IMJP

Icat interacting with user or master
The Icat by Philips

Notes written by students of Theo Vurdubakis -Department of Organisation, Work and Technology, Lancaster University:
Ingunn’s presentation focused upon the growing recognition of the need for a deeper understanding of care technologies and the complexities of material, social, cultural, emotional and aesthetic relations involved in these. The aim of the presentation was to examine and discuss how certain and specific new technologies of care were constructed/designed and how this affected and is affecting relations of care and what it means to be cared for in contemporary times.

The first example of a ‘care technology’ that was introduced was the ‘HealthBuddy.’ Designed by IDEO in 1999. This was outlined as a ‘typical’ technological care system to which those being cared for can be seen to become socially and emotionally attached. This system is designed to monitor and educate those being cared for by asking them a series of questions each day relating to their symptoms, behaviour and knowledge. For example, ‘Did you weigh yourself today?’

health buddy

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Discussion

Why did Aibo go out of production? We don’t know.

Do carers really care? The Eros-Thanatos relation is more complicated. Hate is also mediated through these technologies. There are times in care when this happens.

To what extent does the telecare offer surveillance of care-work? What kinds of pre-emptive effects arise? Do they displace protection or prevention? Reading of screens or codes works both for and against surveillance. Often local knowledge allows selection between different readings of the screens. The managers and commissioners of services can trace the work of carers.

Do patient hate their carers? Yes, even in these systems. They like people some people and not others.

Where does the image of the butler come in? The good butler renders their care invisible. How could a cat been seen as a butler?

How do the people who commission these systems think they work? The abstraction of work does not seem plausible. Somehow it is meant to address specificity. The technology is meant to make people think they are not being treated like a statistic? The push is towards individualization, in many ways. Finer grades of abstraction are ok, but not video cameras.

Why does the conversation about code and care come together? What does code do here? It disables care, it disconnects. It also leads to connections or attachments. The relation between the ill person and the illness seems to drop out here. Illness does not work out source or script or data. Prevention never works but neither does preemption. One could be seduced by a box for a while, but an illness might come and could not be coded.

The box assumes that an illness can be coded and controlled.

Protection has been cached out here in particular ways here – as a trajectory of vulnerability. The trajectory looks very different from different PoV. The agency might have a different view than the client, who feels the here and now. For the latter, the moving in and out of resources feels very different.