Our Science, Technology and Society list publishes books that examine the social, political and economic implications of developments in science and technology.
Recent highlights have included Data Lives, The Imposter as Social Theory and We Have Always Been Cyborgs. Path-breaking book series include Dis-positions: Troubling Methods and Theory in STS and Contemporary Issues in Science Communication.
Science, Technology and Society
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Quantitative realism does underpin data bounds. But the desire for data bounds to be established can often underpin a strategic need for quantitative realism in the first place. In other words, the tail can wag the dog. This chapter explores this idea by tracing the life of two figures concerning people’s belief in misinformation: how The Plandemic was viewed ‘more than eight million times’ and how ‘7% of Britons think there is no hard evidence that coronavirus exists’. Both figures point to a key take-home message: using simplistic quantitative data to make definitive conclusions about people’s beliefs in misinformation can be read as a strategic ploy by the news media. The chapter argues that journalists ignored the questionable empirical grounds of misinformation because they needed to emphasize its threat to construct their own identity as trustworthy gatekeepers of information. In other words, the news media needed the data bound of misinformation to be underpinned by quantitative realism.
Chapter 10 concludes the book by returning to some of the questions raised in this introductory chapter. I review the key arguments developed in this book, and, in an attempt to understand why modern finance theory has become such a powerful force in reshaping various domains of society, I relate the key arguments of the book to the notion of ‘performative power’ (Svetlova, 2012). I subsequently address the question of how the institutionalization of modern finance theory may be interpreted as a form of rationalization that, on the one hand, achieves socio-technical closure by making it more difficult to sustain organizational forms of insurance other than large proprietary insurance companies that predominantly sell unit-linked products. I finally raise the question of whether this socio-technical closure should be seen as a desirable development in the context of future needs for economic security.
The main purpose of this book is to document and explain a process of cultural change in the British life insurance industry, away from traditional actuarial practices of prudence and profit participation and towards a system of financialized governance that relies on the explicit quantification of financial risk. This task can be subdivided into three components: (1) a description of how life insurers came to organize uncertainty around the explicit quantification of financial risk; (2) an explanation of why financial risk became incorporated into insurers’ evaluation machinery in the way it did; and (3) an examination of the consequences of insurers’ changing evaluation machinery. In this chapter, I outline the theoretical approach I follow to study the process of cultural change and the remaking of the boundaries between British life insurance and the financial sector more generally. The chapter contains three sections. First, I explain what is meant here by financialization, drawing on the work of Eve Chiapello and colleagues, who, in Weberian spirit, link the evolution of capitalism to the tools and instruments employed to render capital visible, deployable and manageable. Second, I review the social science literature on insurance. This section enables us to see how the insurance logic changes with the appropriation and institutionalization of new financial evaluation practices. Third and finally, I outline the theoretical apparatus that underpins the analysis of how the boundaries between finance and insurance were remade. I draw on, and integrate, three sociological perspectives: the social studies of finance, field theory and the sociology of professions.
Citizen and community science has been recognized as an impactful development in science communication and has become an important avenue for potential lifelong STEM engagement. This chapter focuses on LGBTIQA+ people’s experiences participating in citizen science projects in the US with recommendations for improving their experiences and broadening participation. The chapter highlights how few community and citizen science projects have focused on queer topics, issues, or participants in the US and elsewhere.
Despite this notable effort to meaningfully support inclusion among some axes of identity, a remaining challenge is creating science communication communities that are radically and intentionally inclusive of queerness.
This chapter seeks to present how this came to be and provide recommendations for how we might build science communication communities that are inclusive of intersectional queer identities moving forward. It discusses practical strategies for building inclusive networks and events, emphasizing the need to continue adapting to diverse people and needs.
The opening chapter introduces the methodological, empirical and theoretical contributions of this book. It begins by outlining the six empirical chapters and emphasizing how they provide a unique perspective on data bounds. This is followed by an overview of the concluding chapter that puts forward a four-part toolkit for scholars looking to apply data bounds in their work. Given the significance of the empirical work, the chapter goes on to document the Life of a Number approach, where particularly importantly numbers are analysed through five stages: demand, production, communication, public meaning and backgrounding. Given that these numerical case studies emerge from the UK, the final part of the introductory chapter outlines the rationale for a focus on a single country. It emphasizes how the lessons learnt from the UK can be applied across different national and regional contexts.
Queer people face specific issues in the world of science and have unique contributions to make to science communication, so bringing ‘queer’ and ‘science communication’ together in dedicated events, products, and networks is an important part of queer protest, liberation, and visibility. Yet an examination of the science communication research literature reveals that little has been published on the intersection between queerness and science communication over the past thirty years or more.
This introduction provides the foundations of a book on queering science communication. It covers the structure of the book and describes how contributors approached queering science communication in different domains.
This introductory chapter sets the stage for the book by describing the ways in which the long-standing institution of insurance has evolved in the second half of the 20th century and the first two decades of the 21st century. Contemporary capitalist societies, for instance, are held together by extensive welfare arrangements that define, measure and redistribute the costs and risks associated with (un-)employment, illness and death. While most scholarly attention tends to be devoted to public insurance arrangements of this kind, private insurance is an almost equally pervasive phenomenon that is present in many spheres of social life, even if just in the background. The chapter describes changes in life insurance by giving two snapshots of British life insurance: one in the 1960s and one in the 2010s. In studying the changes that lie between the snapshots, the book provides an exemplary case study of financialization in the making, which is characterised by the rise of financial risk management as a dominant mode of governance in the insurance business, the privileging of shareholder interests, and the individualization of financial risk. In performing this exemplary case study, the book aims to inform broader debates about the economic and cultural hegemony of finance and financial economics.
Do numbers have a life of their own or do we give them meaning? How do data play a role in constructing people’s perceptions of the world around them? How far can we trust numbers to speak truth to power?
The COVID-19 pandemic offers a unique moment to answer these questions. This book examines how politicians, experts and journalists gave meaning to data through the story of seven iconic numbers from the pandemic.
Shedding light on a new dawn of data, this book makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the relationship between numbers, meaning and society.
Chapter 8 focuses on the complicated relationship between the British insurance sector and Solvency II. The anticipation of Solvency II played an important role in the British decision to move ahead and implement a market-consistent framework in the early 2000s. In subsequent years, British insurers also came to play a lead role in the development of Solvency II, taking key positions in various working groups. Already before Solvency II finally went live in 2016, however, various elements of the framework were criticized for being ‘overengineered’, first by insurers and later also by supervisors. Pleas for changes to be made to some of the key features of Solvency II subsequently fed into Brexit narratives about ‘taking back control’. This chapter ultimately shows how in the EU context, implementation of principles-based regulation caused not a regulatory race to the bottom but a push to fix the meaning of regulatory concepts and rules, which was perceived as a poor fit with the British reliance on market-based finance.