Upcoming talk and panel discussion at S.NET 2018 Maastricht

Upcoming talk and panel discussion at S.NET 2018 Maastricht

In two weeks, I will present some findings of my dissertation at the annual meeting for the Society for the Studies of New and Emerging Technologies (S.NET), which is held this year at my own Maastricht University. I’m scheduled to talk on Wednesday, June 27th, between 9h and 11h. See below for my abstract.

Next to this presentation, I was invited to join a paneldiscussion on the value of art for public engagement on emerging technologies, organized by former WTMC-colleague Wieke Betten of the Waag Society. Together with Hendrik-Jan Grievink (whom I worked with once at NextNature), Joyce Nabuurs, Lucas Evers (Waag), and Frank Kuppen (theater maker), we will discuss the potentials and pitfalls of engaging with emerging technologies through art. Looking forward to this!


Engaging with the Good: valuing popular neuroscience in society

In the past decade, knowledge and applications of the neurosciences have travelled from the lab to a variety of societal domains. Through popular-science books, self-help manuals, apps, and neuro-gadgets such as brain games, neuro-advocates offer all kinds of advice on how to best train our brains and improve our lives. Scholarly critiques on the impact of this neuro-turn in society either dismiss these popular applications as neurohype (Grubbs, 2016), or fear that they strengthen a “neoliberal ethic of personal self-care” (Pitts-Taylor, 2008). Both positions forego the question how such technical knowledge is made valuable in the first place. For what concerns and desirable ends is knowledge of the brain mobilized?

In my talk, I use neurohype as a rich resource for understanding public ethical deliberation. Building upon pragmatist ethics and the sociology of valuation, I empirically trace valuations of neuroscience knowledge in different societal practices of self-fashioning and flourishing. I show that it takes deliberate efforts to make brain claims valuable in these practices, efforts I call value work. It is through practical and contextual strategies of value work that the possible ethical implications and relevance of neuroscience are articulated: It allows advocates to mobilize and combine different concerns, action programmes, and ideals. The notion of value work thereby not only explicates the hidden moral labour that firmly stabilizes new and emerging science and technologies in society, but also demonstrates the reverse: the role science and technologies play in the (de)stabilization of our moral order.