Uppsala University
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Ordering society and nature: some elements of a sociology of algorithms
Oct 2018 | » Get text | Keywords: algorithms, disease surveillance, valuations, infrastructures, actor-network theory
This article is an intervention in the sociology of classification and valuation. The article proposes four metaphors for analyzing how algorithms, modeling, or data practices shape practices of classification and valuation. Elaborating on classic work in actor-network theory, these metaphors highlight four ways in which algorithms can come to shape the practical ordering of society and nature. These metaphors urge the sociologist to pay attention to moments of algorithmic bifurcation, syncopation, absenting, and intervention. These moments highlight the intertwining of judgment and computation, the folding of time and space, the importance of absences, and the variable spaces for intervention afforded by algorithmic infrastructures. Using these metaphors, the article analyzes how the Current Zika State—the classification of the world into classes of disease intensity—was algorithmically assembled at the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lee, Francis. (2018) "Ordering society and nature: some elements of a sociology of algorithms" Working Paper. October 2018. Available at https://francislee.org/texts.html
Sensing Salmonella: disease surveillance and the politics of sensing infrastructures
Aug 2018 | » Get text | Keywords: social theory, disease surveillance, valuations, infrastructures
The intent with this chapter is dual: First, it aims to add to the vocabulary for analyzing the politics sensing infrastructures. Drawing on post actor-network theory sensibilities, the chapter introduces the concept of style of inference in order to analyze the politics of how different sensing infrastructures apprehend the world (cf. Fujimura & Chou; Hacking). Paraphrasing Adrian Mackenzie: different sensing infrastructures have very different ways of navigating the steadily increasing tidal wave of data—and we need to understand how these differences are integrated with society at large (Mackenzie). An important argument of the chapter is thus that different styles of inference are more or less compatible with a wider political and organizational context. For example, the value of web searches on flu symptoms are not fully trusted as evidence of flu outbreaks in the healthcare system. The style of inferring flu intensity is not stabilized. The chapter therefore contends that there is a need to understand how sensing infrastructures have different styles of inference, and how these are differently compatible with governmental action and politics. Thus, the argument is that different styles of inference are deeply implicated in a politics of sensing.
Lee, Francis. (2018) "Sensing Salmonella: disease surveillance and the politics of sensing infrastructures." Working Paper. Aug 2018. Available at https://francislee.org/texts.html
Five years! Have we not had enough of valuation studies by now?
May 2018 | » Get text | Keywords: social theory, valuations
The disparate and heterogeneous body of work that falls under the rubric of “valuation studies” has really taken off in recent years. There are a number of exciting edited volumes and special issues that have been published in the past couple of years (e.g. Berthoin Antal et al. 2015; Cefai et al. 2015; Dussauge et al. 2015; Kornberger et al. 2015). This journal, recently just an idea, is now completing Volume 5 with its tenth issue. Sometimes we hear mumbled irritations about how valuation studies are about everything—and are actually everywhere. “Victory!” we could then answer in triumph, not without noticing how the valuation of valuation studies (and, indeed, of Valuation Studies) goes hand-in-hand with a sense of academic terrain, and the occupation thereof.
Doganova, Liliana, Martin Giraudeau, Hans Kjellberg, Claes- Fredrik Helgesson, Francis Lee, Alexandre Mallard, Andrea Mennicken, Fabian Muniesa, Ebba Sjögren, and Teun Zuiderent- Jerak. 2018. "Five years! Have we not had enough of valuation studies by now?" Valuation Studies 5 (2):83-91.
Styles of valuation: algorithms and agency in high throughput bioscience
Mar 2018 | » Get text | Keywords: algorithms, valuations, infrastructures, bioscience
The biosciences are often proclaimed to be going through a data revolution based on high throughput technologies, online data sharing, and algorithmic tools for analysis. The aim of this article is to examine how actors’ valuations of different human/machine configurations are tied to broader struggles about what should count as good scientific practice in high throughput bioscience. In inquiring about the valuation of these different agential configurations, we have identified four heuristic styles of valuation in the laboratory under study: a bioinformatic, a subjectivist, an experimentalist, and a trialist. Specifically, the article traces how actors value two different algorithmic practices: randomization and normalization. Actor’s valuations of these two algorithms can be seen as exemplifying some broader tensions in current high-throughput biomedical research. The point being that an analysis of styles of valuation—with an emphasis on devices and practices—can shine light on broader shifts in the biosciences. What is deemed a good way of configuring agency is a matter of negotiation of the yardsticks for value that actors’ deem salient in each situation.
Lee, Francis, and CF Helgesson. 2018. "Styles of valuation: algorithms and agency in high throughput bioscience." Working Paper.
Valuations as Mediators Between Science and the Market: How Economic Assumptions Shape Pharmaceutical Trial Designs.
Sep 2017 | » Get text | Keywords: valuations, trials of value
How can economic assumptions be present in the heart of commercially driven drug development research? Such assumptions underpin industry-based bio-statistical discussions around a new pharmaceutical trial design, the ‘compound finder’. This example illustrates several ways in which trials might be designed and situated in the larger setting of interlinked valuation practices central to the development, distribution, and use of pharmaceuticals. It shows how economic assumptions and considerations can be differently entwined with endeavors to produce knowledge. Different trial designs may further differ in what knowledge they produce. Adaptive design trials (ADTs), of which the compound finder is one kind, share the feature that they might be the object of thousands of simulations to specify the design taking many different kinds of considerations into account. These considerations include several economic aspects such as trial costs and assumptions about the future market. ADTs will likely continue to become more common in the years to come, even if the future for the specific compound finder trial design is uncertain. Yet, the continued rise in importance of ADTs means a further intimate entwining of economic assumptions into the specification of trial designs. This will be consequential for what knowledge is produced as well as where and how treatments are assessed.
Helgesson, Claes-Fredrik, and Francis Lee. 2017. "Valuations as Mediators Between Science and the Market: How Economic Assumptions Shape Pharmaceutical Trial Designs." Science as Culture 26 (4):529-554.
Skattkarta eller atlas: om förväntningar och kunskapens värde i biovetenskapen
May 2016 | » Get text | Keywords: valuations, bioscience
Jag ska i det här kapitlet diskutera hur olika förväntningar på vetenskapens roll i samhället formar verksamhet och värdeskalor inom forskningen. Hur påverkar förväntningar, som att vetenskapen ska producera innovationskraft eller att den ska verka för det allmänna bästa, forskningens praktiker och organisering? Hur påverkas värderingen av olika slags kunskap?
Lee, Francis. 2016. "Skattkarta eller atlas: om förväntningar och kunskapens värde i biovetenskapen." In Det forskningspolitiska laboratoriet: Förväntningar på vetenskapen 1900–2010, edited by Anna Tunlid and Sven Widmalm. Lund: Nordic Academic Press.
Valuations of experimental designs in proteomic biomarker experiments and traditional randomised controlled trials
Jan 2016 | » Get text | Keywords: valuations, trials of value, bioscience
This article examines the shifting conditions for biomedical knowledge production by studying trends in the design of biomedical experiments. The basic premise of the study is that the very act of establishing a research design entails a process involving a series of valuations where different values are evoked, ordered, and displaced. In focus is the articulation and ordering of what counts as central values in research design for two kinds of biomedical treatment trials, namely the traditional randomised controlled trial (RCT) and the emerging new form of biomarker trials used to assess biomarker/treatment combinations (BTTs). The empirical material consists of textbooks (RCTs) and journal articles (BTTs). We ask how these materials articulate the various scientific, medical, and economic values at play. Among the differences uncovered are a difference in relation to what counts as ethical in relation to prior knowledge, differences in the flexibility in design as well as the valuation of the risk for false positives and false negatives. More broadly, the study shows how textual accounts of different ways of producing knowledge are linked to partly different valuations of ethics, flexibility, and risk as part of establishing the research design of biomedical experiments.
Helgesson, Claes-Fredrik, Francis Lee, and Lisa Lindén. 2016. "Valuations of experimental designs in proteomic biomarker experiments and traditional randomised controlled trials." Journal of Cultural Economy 9 (2):157-172.
Purity and interest: on interest work and epistemic value
Jan 2015 | » Get text | Keywords: social theory, valuations, bioscience
The biosciences are sometimes ‘activated and fashioned in articulation with neoliberal, entrepreneurial modes of participation’, but also, in simultaneous contrast, assembled as an echo of Merton’s CUDOS norms. This chapter asks how actors establish what counts as good and valuable biomedical science, and how they, in practice, establish what are acceptable relations between science and industry. The chapter shows how the studied actors use two main strategies to uphold a difference between science and industry, and proposes to describe these strategies as two different modes of purification: temporal purification and organizational purification. By introducing modes of purification the chapter highlights the multiplicity of strategies that are utilized to fashion acceptable science–industry relations.
Lee, Francis. 2015. "Purity and interest: on interest work and epistemic value." In Value Practices in the Life Sciences and Medicine, edited by Isabelle Dussauge, Claes-Fredrik Helgesson and Francis Lee. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
On the omnipresence, diversity, and elusiveness of values in the life sciences
Jan 2015 | » Get text | Keywords: social theory, valuations, trials of value, bioscience
Biomedicine – life sciences and medicine – are saturated with values. Valuations of life are intermingled with values such as scientific reputation, profitability, fairness, competition, and accessibility of care. Reciprocally, the practices of biomedicine produce values. For instance: public health, the preservation of endangered species, profitability of tamed animals, usability of clinical data, or bodily autonomy. This chapter begins outlining an approach to the study of values in practice. Thus it takes an interest not primarily in values as given entities, but rather how they are made. The exercise is rooted in an ambition to consider ‘values’ as something to be explained and explored rather than as given entities with explanatory power. In this the chapter tries to account for how peoples’ actions draw on values, and how agents’ actions and reactions come to enact values.
Dussauge, Isabelle, Claes-Fredrik Helgesson, Francis Lee, and Steve Woolgar. 2015. "On the omnipresence, diversity, and elusiveness of values in the life sciences." In Value Practices in the Life Sciences and Medicine, edited by Isabelle Dussauge, Claes-Fredrik Helgesson and Francis Lee. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Valuography: Studying the making of values
Jan 2015 | » Get text | Keywords: valuations, trials of value, bioscience
Many profound concerns in the life sciences are linked with the enactment, ordering, and displacement of a broad range of values. This chapter proposes a number of analytical and methodological means to deal with these concerns. The chapter proposes the word valuography to indicate a programme of empirically oriented research into the enacting, ordering, and displacing of values. The valuographic research programme embraces the idea that values do not exist as transcendental entities, impinging themselves upon our actions. Drawing on the chapters of this volume, this chapter outlines a number of approaches for examining values as precarious outcomes of practices. It also grapples with three main areas of concern: these relate to how stakes are made; the intertwining of values and the epistemic; and the relationships between economic and other values. The chapter states these are providing direction to the development of a critique of values, given the weakness that comes from a purely pragmatic stance.
Dussauge, Isabelle, Claes-Fredrik Helgesson, and Francis Lee. 2015. "Valuography: Studying the making of values." In Value Practices in the Life Sciences and Medicine, edited by Isabelle Dussauge, Claes-Fredrik Helgesson and Francis Lee. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Valuation Studies and the Critique of Valuation
Dec 2014 | » Get text | Keywords: valuations
What are the possible relations and tensions between the study of valuation as a social practice and the critique of valuation? Valuation denotes here any social practice where the value or values of something are established, assessed, negotiated, provoked, maintained, constructed and/or contested. The question thus in effect asks how the very study of such practices relates to the exercising of critical judgement on these very same practices. This topic is pertinent here and now for a number of reasons.
Doganova, Liliana, Martin Giraudeau, Claes-Fredrik Helgesson, Hans Kjellberg, Francis Lee, Alexandre Mallard, Andrea Mennicken, Fabian Muniesa, Ebba Sjögren, and Teun Zuiderent-Jerak. 2014. "Valuation Studies and the Critique of Valuation." Valuation Studies 2 (2):87–96.
Publications updated in Jan 1970