(Un)Making Europe

greek-1289076_1920Tomorrow I’ll be going to the conference by the European Sociological Association in Athens. The conference theme is (Un)Making Europe. Capitalism, Solidarities, Subjectivities. I’ll be giving a talk on the co-production of search technology and a European identity in the session “information technologies & society” organized by Harald Rohracher. It’s related to my article “search engine imaginary” that got published in Social Studies of Science just recently. It’s pretty unusual for me to give a talk about finished work, but I thought I had to submit something since this research corresponds to the overall conference topic so well. 😉

Here’s the conference abstract and the link to the full paper:

(Un)Making Europe in the Context of Search Engine Policy

This article discusses the co-production of search technology and a European identity in the context of the EU data protection reform. The negotiations of the EU data protection legislation ran from 2012 until 2015 and resulted in a unified data protection legislation directly binding for all European member states. I employ a discourse analysis to examine EU policy documents and Austrian media materials related to the reform process. Using the concept ‘sociotechnical imaginary’, I show how a European imaginary of search engines is forming in the EU policy domain, how a European identity is constructed in the envisioned politics of control, and how national specificities contribute to the making and unmaking of a European identity. I discuss the roles that national technopolitical identities play in shaping both search technology and Europe, taking as an example Austria, a small country with a long history in data protection and a tradition of restrained technology politics.


liquid music

liquid-titelbild-94That was fun! Katja Mayer and I attended Liquid Music in Wies (Styria) this year and we took the opportunity to try out something new. Instead of presenting societal implications of biofeedback 2.0, we performed as “good bot & bad bot”. Following the logic of our written essay – yes, there’s a book too! – we personalized both euphorical (good) and critical (bad) socio-political implications of biofeedback out of the pocket; e.g. health apps, wearables etc. While doing this, we visualized our own biofeedback data with an installation by alien productions (Martin Breindl, Norbert Math, Andrea Sodomka) = Autoregulative Spaces. The Quantified Self, the core piece of the whole event.

Here‘s the link to the full program of the festival!

Foto 10.06.17, 11 04 09

Given the fun we had and the great feedback we got, we’re currently thinking about advancing and refining out bot performance.. so stay tuned!

FWF party

IMG_0104Two days ago, at the international women’s day, the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) invited all Firnberg- and Richter-project leaders to a party. It was the official certificate award ceremony that celebrated all successful applicants of 2016. Of course, there was food, drinks and live music too! And lots of children since the balance of family and career is one of the goals of these fellowships. Liam was a little annoyed by the talks though, but he appreciated the nice music.. 😉

Firnberg Richter Feier 2017, Wien 08.03.2017 Foto: MichĂšle Pauty

Firnberg Richter Feier 2017, Wien 08.03.2017 Foto: MichĂšle Pauty

I got my certificate for my project “Algorithmic Imaginaries. Visions and values in the shaping of search engines”. Here‘s a short summary at the ITA website. 

And here’s the link to more party pics on the FWF website.

“netzpolitischer abend”

meme-evil-toddler-netzpat14Genau vier Wochen nach dem letzten Netzpolitischen Abend AT gibt es am ersten Donnerstag im Monat, konkret dem 2. MĂ€rz, wieder drei spannende VortrĂ€ge zu netzpolitischen Themen – wie ĂŒblich ab 19:30 Uhr im Wiener Metalab in der Rathausstr. 6:


  • Astrid Mager (Institut fĂŒr TechnikfolgenabschĂ€tzung, @astridmager): Suchmaschinen in Europa. EuropĂ€ische Suchmaschinen?
  • Maximilian Schubert (@ISPA_at): „Netzsperren in Österreich“
  • Wolfie Christl (@WolfieChristl): Big-Data-Business, Profiling & Privacy

C6fm4W3WYAALsrrUnd hier der Link zum Nachsehen und Nachhören. Danke an alle, va Herbert Gnauer (von Idealism Prevails) fĂŒr’s streamen & schneiden, war sehr fein!!


algorithmic imaginaries & algorithmic regimes

csm_AlgoVis_LupeWelt_01_13c333205fMy new research project “Algorithmic Imaginaries. Visions & values in the shaping of search engines” is online (on the ITA Website)! :) Thanks to Thomas Bayer for his help!

paintby_blck_ju-sm-150x150Further, the short videos on “Algorithmic Regimes” by Felix Stalder & Konrad Becker (World-Information Institute) are online too! The project is called Painted by Numbers, which is a great name I think! All  videos are focusing on algorithmic logics and culture/ politics/ regulation etc. It’s really a great compilation of people and statements on algorithmic power in contemporary society. The videos will be assembled as video installations in art exhibitions. You can watch all of them here.

search engine imaginary

Screenshot 2016-11-02 09.31.05The first empirical article of my project “Glocal Search” is online now: “Search engine imaginary. Visions and values in the co-production of search technology and Europe”! It has been published by the peer-reviewed journal Social Studies of Science, which makes me very proud! I’d like to thank all people who helped me refining my article – especially my ITA colleagues, Max Fochler, SSS editor Sergio Sismondo and three anonymous reviewers who all provided thorough and constructive feed-back and suggestions! I further like to thank my family for letting me work while being on maternity leave!! I’m very confident with the final outcome!

The online first version (plus abstract) can be found here; just drop me a line if you don’t have access – I’ll (very secretly) send you a copy then.. 😉 I would love to hear what you think about it since the whole field of Internet Governance is one that I just recently entered – the great AOIR workshop “The Internet Rules, But How?”, organized by Dmitry Epstein, Christian Katzenbach, Francesca Musiani & Julia Pohle, was a very good entry point by the way! Also, the related special issue by the journal Internet Policy Review on “Doing internet governance: practices, controversies, infrastructures, and institutions” is a good read. It’s open access and free of charge!

course “technology (ICTs) & society”

uni_logo_280My course “Technologie & Gesellschaft.’Opening the Black Box of Technology’ am Beispiel von Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologien” will start soon! – at the Department of Science & Technology Studies, University of Vienna (in German). You can register here.

That’s the abstract:

Das VerhĂ€ltnis von Technologie und Gesellschaft ist komplex und vielschichtig. Technologien wie Smartphones, Suchmaschinen, soziale Netzwerke oder Überwachungskameras werden als Innovationen gesehen, die unsere Gesellschaft zunehmend prĂ€gen und verĂ€ndern. Technologie wird dabei oftmals als ‘Black Box’ wahrgenommen, die von außen auf unsere Gesellschaft trifft. Dieser Kurs möchte die schwarze Box öffnen und zeigen, dass Technologie in unserer Gesellschaft verhandelt wird und daher gesellschaftliche Normen, Werte und Ideologien in sich trĂ€gt. Als Handwerkszeug dienen uns dabei Konzepte aus der Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung. Diese werden uns helfen Technologie als Politik mit anderen Mitteln zu verstehen, die soziale Konstruktion von Technologie unter die Lupe zu nehmen, die Verschmelzung von technischen und sozialen Elementen zu analysieren, die Beziehung von Technik und Geschlecht zu begreifen, sowie unterschiedliche Orte der Technikgestaltung/Kontroversen in Medien- und Onlinedebatten, Steuerung und Regulierung, sowie BĂŒrgerkonferenzen kennenzulernen.

Das Seminar bietet eine EinfĂŒhrung in Konzepte der Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung, die sich mit dem VerhĂ€ltnis von Technologie und Gesellschaft befassen. Die Lehrveranstaltungsleiterin wird zentrale Konzepte vorstellen, welche wir dann anhand von konkreten Beispielen aus dem Feld der Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie diskutieren werden. Klassische Text-Diskussionen (zu Themen wie Gesichtserkennung, Suchmaschinen, Social Media, Online-Kontroversen, Internet Governance etc) werden sich dabei mit experimentellen Arbeitsaufgaben (Selbstbeobachtung zu Technik im Alltag, BĂŒrgerkonferenz zu Internet of Things) abwechseln. Voraussetzungen fĂŒr den Zeugniserwerb sind Anwesenheit, Mitarbeit, mĂŒndliche PrĂ€sentation, schriftliche Arbeitsaufgaben, sowie die Absolvierung der schriftlichen AbschlussprĂŒfung. Da der Kurs grĂ¶ĂŸtenteils auf englischen Texten basiert sind grundlegende Englischkenntnisse erforderlich. Die Unterrichtssprache ist deutsch.




I’m so (so so so) happy that my project “Algorithmic imaginaries. Visions and values in the shaping of search engines” will finally come true! After a really long application process the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) decided to fund this awesome habilitation project! You’ll find the abstract below; more information will follow once the project has started (November 2016 since I’m still on maternity leave). For all of you who have projects under review (or rejected already): don’t give up! It’s a nerv-wrecking process, but if you finally manage to succeed, it’s all worth it!!! (Of course, in times like these peer review has become some sort of strage academic lottery, which does not make the practice any better..)

Algorithmic imaginaries.
Visions and values in the shaping of search engines

Search engines like Google are developed in the US-American context, but are used around the globe. Their business models are based on user-targeted advertising. They collect user data, turn it into user profiles, and sell them to advertising clients. Since the NSA affair practices of user profiling are critically discussed; especially in European contexts with diverse data protection laws, historically shaped notions of privacy, and very different tax systems. The ongoing reform of the EU data protection legislation is an important arena where tensions between global search engines and European policy visions and values can be observed. Besides, European search engines emerge that aim to provide users with alternative styles of search. Some are explicitly developed as a European competitor to US-based search engines (Quaero or Independent Web Index). Others are developed in Europe, but draw on other value-systems to distinguish themselves from big search engines, such as respecting users’ privacy (e.g. Ixquick), protecting the environment (e.g. Ecosia), or creating a non-commercial search engine owned by the public (e.g. YaCy).

This poses important questions: What motivations, value-systems, and visions guide the development of European search engines? How are these imaginations translated into sociotechnical design practices? What power struggles, negotiations, and compromises may be observed? How do place and cultural context matter in the design process? Researchers in Science and Technology Studies (STS) investigated the politics of search engines, the relevance of algorithms, and internet governance. What is missing is an in-depth analysis of the shaping of search engines in specific cultural contexts and the role shared value systems and visions play in it. Rooted in the discipline of STS the suggested habilitation project will fill in this gap by investigating design practices of European search projects using a case-study approach (qualitative interviews, workshops, ethnographic observations).

Results from this analysis will be compared to and cross-analyzed with results from my past research on capitalist ideologies driving global search engines like Google and my present research on visions and values guiding European search engine governance. This overall analysis will result in a typology of algorithmic imaginaries, which describes visions and values in the development and governance of search engines in global, European, and local contexts. It will show how search technologies and society co-emerge in specific economic, political, and cultural settings. The primary focus on European contexts is a particular strength of the project since tensions between global search engines and European governance structures and search projects are growing, but have not been systematically studied yet, both in the field of STS and internet research.

AOIR 2016, Berlin

internetrules_banner-11-1024x478I’m already looking forward to the AoIR (Association of Internet Researchers) conference in Berlin (6-8 October 2016). The overall theme of the conference is “Internet Rules!”. I’ll be part of the pre-conference workshop “The Internet Rules, But How? A Science and Technology Studies Take on Doing Internet Governance”; here‘s the program with its exciting line-up!! After one year of maternity leave this workshop will get me back on track.. hehe.