Science, Technology and Medicine in Society (STeMiS)

Science, technology and medicine are pervasive parts of contemporary society. The STeMiS theme is interested in how knowledge is made, how technologies are developed, how these come to be employed in different settings and with what implications for social relations. 

Test tubes and chemicals in a lab (stock image)
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Our academic staff members working in this area are a vibrant and diverse group of researchers drawing on a number of sociological perspectives, but all share a common interest in the relationship between society and science, technology and/or medicine. Much of our work is inter-disciplinary and we have links with colleagues and networks across all faculties at the University of Sheffield.

Some examples of questions we are currently grappling with:

  • How can data visualisations make data more accessible to ordinary citizens?
  • What are the effects of surveillance systems on democratic society?
  • What are the implications of new knowledge about the human body and brain and new technologies with the potential to change these for understanding what it means to be human?
  • What does self-monitoring mean for the people who undertake it and what are the implications of self-monitoring practices for the wider provision of healthcare?
  • How are visual technologies such as MRI changing medical practice and parents' experience of foetal and neonatal post-mortem?
  • To what extent might digital media enhance bottom-up, patient-centred health practices?
  • What assumptions about the good life, death and suffering underpin statutory measures of 'quality of life'?
  • How do mobile technologies affect the way we visually experience our surroundings?

Our major research areas include:

  • Digital societies
  • Surveillance and society
  • Engineering and society
  • Biomedicine, biotechnology and society

For more information on our work in STeMiS, please contact Dr Kate Weiner: k.weiner@sheffield.ac.uk or Dr Ros Williams: r.g.williams@sheffield.ac.uk.


Upcoming workshops, lectures and events

This section will be updated as and when future events are confirmed.

All events are open for all and are free to attend.


Past workshops, lectures and events

Wednesday 20 October 2021, 4pm - 5pm

Pru Hobson-West - University of Nottingham

Controversies in human and animal vaccination: Exploring constructions of risk, trust and science

Vaccines are not just another technology; they are arguably the symbol of scientific medical triumph. Opposition to vaccines such as MMR or Covid-19 is thus also highly symbolic. Drawing on approaches from medical sociology and science and technology studies, this presentation will warn against terms like ‘anti-vax’ and instead focus on the way in which discourses of vaccine resistance reframe ideas of risk, trust and science. The paper will argue first that aspects of vaccine resistance actually conform to other social and healthcare trends. Second, it aims to demonstrate that there is merit in comparative research across vaccine controversies, including to the arena of veterinary medicine, as sociologists and others belatedly recognise the entanglement of human and animal health.

Pru Hobson-West is a sociologist of medicine and science. She is based in the Institute for Science and Society,and has an honorary appointment in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham. Her current projects include Wellcome funded work on animal research, and EU Horizon 2020 funded work on vaccine hesitancy.  


Algorithm as propaganda, repression and paranoia

Wednesday 15th May 2019, 4:00pm - 5:00pm, Elmfield, G18

Dr Emiliano Treré Lecturer, School of Journalism, Media and Culture, Cardiff University

Abstract:

"This talk is based on the findings of my recently published book Hybrid Media Activism: Ecologies, Imaginaries, Algorithms (Routledge 2019). It represents a journey through the digital strategies of Mexican politicians and the state in the last decade, and the ways in which they were able to bend social media algorithms in order to spread propaganda, enact repression, and generate paranoia. I commence by unravelling the complexity of the phenomenon of algorithmically manufactured consent, documenting the various opaque strategies adopted by politicians to spread disinformation and propaganda, and artificially boost political popularity. Then, I illustrate how the #YoSoy132 movement was caught in an ‘algorithmic trap’ when an infiltrated agent of the Mexican Secret Services was able to appropriate their main online platform to steal data, monitor protest activities, and discredit the reputation of the movement. Further, I show that in the Mexican scenario, various strategies of algorithmic repression have progressively become more treacherous, broadly deployed to limit, silence, confuse, defame, threaten, and attack activists, civil society actors, and journalists. Issues of control and surveillance had serious consequences on activists who developed a ‘social media paranoia’ around digital platforms and mobile devices. I conclude reflecting on the possibilities and the challenges of algorithmic resistance in the Mexican political context and in the broader global scenario."


The Post-truth Interview?

Wednesday 20 Feb 2019

In the so-called ‘post-truth’ era, many people are bypassing traditional news media altogether, sourcing news from unverified sources on social media. For some, in particular, marginalised communities, this is nothing new. And, different versions of truth, scientific or otherwise, are often embraced, for 'specific' reasons.

This talk examined the site of ‘the interview’ in traditional social science studies, which privileges certain forms of knowledge over others. It offered a critical lens that embraces auto-ethnographic, co-designed approaches through mobile filmmaking, a practice embraced by social movements, such as #blacklivesmatter. This offered an opportunity to gain deeper insights into key social issues, re-think what counts as truth, data and evidence, and reflect on their value to social science. Further, in offering modes of inquiry that value ‘marginalised’ perspectives, it moves towards transdisciplinarity.

Dr Erinma Ochu MBE, Lecturer in Science Communication and Future Media, School of Environment and Life Sciences, University of Salford.


Yorkshire Medical Sociology Group Meeting

Thursday 31 January 2019

This meeting marked this year's Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness book prize, with keynote presentations from 2 of the nominees:

  • Amy Chandler from the University of Edinburgh will be speaking about her book "Self-Injury, Medicine and Society: Authentic Bodies" London: Palgrave Macmillan (winner of FSHI book prize).
  • Gareth Thomas, from the University of Cardiff will be speaking about his book "Down’s Syndrome Screening and Reproductive Politics." London: Routledge. (shortlisted for FSHI book prize)

New staff seminar

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Paper swap, followed by 'nearly new' staff seminar:

  • Stefania Vicari, Senior Lecturer in Digital Sociology, Political hashtag publics and counter-visuality: A case study of #fertilityday in Italy
  • Elisa Serafinelli, Research Associate, Digital Life on Instagram: New Social Communication of Photography

Reaching Out Online: Expertise, embodiment and social capital in online sexual health promotion

Monday 12th November 2018

Seminar with Sharif Mowlabocus, Senior Lecturer from School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex.


STeMiS symposium

Tuesday 18th September 2018

Conference rehearsal / conference revisited.


New staff seminar

Tuesday 22nd May 2018

  • Dr Warren Pearce, Faculty Fellow (iHuman) How climate scientists use social media: collusion and collision of personal, professional and epistemic contexts
  • Dr Ros Williams, Research Associate, Mix and match: Constituting mixed racialized communities in UK stem cell donation

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