Postdoctoral Researcher for the Prince Claus Chair
´Technology and Citizen Technoscience: Connecting Local Environments with the Ecological Crisis
The Prince Claus Chair (PCC) for Equity and Development seeks to fill a postdoctoral research position starting in December 2023 (negotiable) in the field of the social sciences of the interrelations between climate change, technology and citizen science in the global south. The position is connected to the Prince Claus Chair, which for the 2023-2025 period will be held by Prof. Sebastián Ureta.Research topic
Every day we come across news stories about climate change's devastating effects. These effects are compounded by the impacts of multiple forms of contamination and biodiversity depletion. Especially in the global south, local environmental impacts of environmental degradation are extensive and include multiple forms air, soil, and water contamination due to industrial activity and unsustainable consumption patterns, greatly affecting public well-being. These activities are most often located in peri-urban areas, generating multiple degradation hotspots with lasting socio-ecological effects. Independent and reliable information on the socio-environmental impacts of these activities is often lacking. Given the limited local technical capacity and infrastructure, environmental data is frequently produced solely by companies and, less so, by public authorities. Affected local communities rarely have the chance to produce, access or even make sense of such data.
In recent years, different collectives and organizations have looked to redress this situation. Working within the frames of citizen science, DIY labs and maker movements, they have implemented projects aiming at designing and testing cost-effective methods and devices for the local measurement of several environmental parameters and phenomena. Enabled by a growing amount of affordable sensing technologies and increased public scientific literacy, these initiatives have aimed at providing easy-to-use tools for communities to carry out their own environmental monitoring. Not unfrequently they have achieved an important degree of sophistication, producing methods and prototypes that manage to produce accurate environmental data at low costs, data that strengthen community demands for environmental justice and remediation. More than singular devices, these efforts could be seen as producing novel forms of citizen technoscience
or complex networks of technical innovations, epistemic devices, and forms of practice, all focused on producing community-relevant environmental data with limited means. Given its high adaptability and low costs, citizen technoscience can become a powerful tool for climate action, sustainable development, and environmental protection through civic engagement.
However, commonly citizen technoscience initiatives face multiple barriers to moving beyond the singular projects and/or particular locations in which they were first deployed, greatly diminishing their overall capacity to impact the ongoing global ecological crisis. This lack of mobility is especially acute in the global south, given a plethora of regulatory, sociocultural, economic, and material barriers. Commonly, the only way in which citizen technoscience could proliferate is by becoming singular goods produced by for-profit companies (usually in the form of “frugal innovations”), losing in the process much of the socio-technical complexity that allowed them to provide meaningful data in the first place.
The 2023–2025 Prince Claus Chair will focus on exploring, analysing, and disrupting the barriers facing the mobilization of citizen technoscience for the participative assessment and/or remediation of environmental degradation in the global south
. Working along with Prof. Ureta, the postdoctoral researcher will be tasked to explore the afterlives of a number of citizen technoscience projects carried out in the global south in the last decade. Some questions to be explored would be: Which barriers and challenges the actors involved face when trying to replicate and/or move to different locations? What happened after having prototypes that were deemed as “successful”? Which concessions they were forced to make to move initiatives forward? At which point they gave up? And, more speculatively, how citizen technoscience could expand without losing its soul to commodification and privatization? Remaining dense socio-technical networks for community action and not solely singular devices? These questions will be explored through a mixture of ethnographic and action-research methods, aiming at producing high-impact publications and a public outreach initiative.The Prince Claus Chair
Established in 2003, the objective of the Prince Claus Chair
is to continue the work of Prince Claus (1926-2002) in development and equity. The ISS and Utrecht University alternately appoint an outstanding young or middle-career academic from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean or the Pacific to the Prince Claus Chair. For the 2023- 2025 period the Prince Claus Chair research will be focused on the theme ´Technology and Citizen Technoscience: Connecting Local Environments with the Ecological Crisis
’. During this period, the chair will be held by Prof. Sebastián Ureta and based at ISS. Prof. Ureta holds a joint position at College UC and the Instituto para el Desarrollo Sustentable, Universidad Católica de Chile. Using the conceptual tools from science and technology studies and the environmental humanities, he is currently interested in exploring transitions towards more just and democratic modes of knowledge production in the context of the ongoing ecological crisis. NWO-WOTRO
The post-doc researcher is partly funded by NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development
. NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development is a cross-domain initiative within the Dutch Research Council (NWO), WOTRO Science for Global Development programmes, finances and facilitates research for inclusive global development. The WOTRO research programmes are aimed at providing knowledge and skills that contribute to sustainable solutions for social and ecological problems in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).Duties
- Conducting ethnographic fieldwork with the PCC in Chile and other locations in the global south (to be determined) and working closely with the PCC and host of the PCC at ISS in The Netherlands
- Writing and publishing peer-reviewed publications emanating from the research of the PCC 2023-5
- Organizing an outreach initiative (to be determined) directed to the general public emanating from the research of the PCC 2023-5
- Performing relevant PCC administrative and committee duties