Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Frenemies: STS & Development

Is technological failure a good thing? This question crossed my mind when I attended a lunch lecturer on nano-technology and development. The way the presenter framed his narrative reminded me on dialectic where he played between critics and defenses where one of the defenses suggest the performativity of failure. While I like the way he made a balance between STS and development, at the end of the presentation, he felt into a typical STS conclusion. That we have to include more actors to make an innovation works. If I am using my (critical) development studies, my focus will not about how to make the innovation works but rather what kind of socio-technical change will emerge if the innovation works. My Foucauldian fellows would argue innovation as a form of governmentality, while my STS or my transition fellows would argue there is a sustainable justice that would benefit all the actors. The former sees the latter as naive, while the latter sees the former as negative.

Some scholars suggest to add politics into STS through interaction with development studies. For me, this suggestion is running out of stream. There are good STS scholars that are able to capture politics in innovation. The absence of politics in STS is not a matter of method but more about the scientist's sensitivity to capture what happening in the field. The main difference between STS and development studies lies on their ontology where STS, or to be more precise innovation scholars start from an assumption that human tends to help other, while (critical) development studies start from assumption that human tends to harm other.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Sebuah artikel baru di majalah New Scientists, "Can men and women be friends?" Seorang teman pernah melontarkan pertanyaan itu padanya dan saat itu ia dengan yakin menjawab bisa meski sulit. Dan nyatanya memang sulit untuk mempertahankan pertemanan di saat yang lain menginginkan lebih. Mungkin ia harus lebih peka terhadap perasaan orang lain dan tidak hanya menerima semua perhatian tersebut tanpa prasangka. Di sisi lain, ia lelah dengan segala sesuatu yang tak pasti. Kalau suka bilang, kalau tidak maka ia akan menganggap semua kebaikan itu sebagai bagian dari menjadi manusia.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Chaos and Order

After checking my four pockets, I realized that I left my office key somewhere. The biggest chance was to left inside my office. So I asked my promotor whether he know where the master key was. We ended up in opening several rooms where one room brought us to a key to enter another room, although without any luck of finding the right key. At the end, I waited down stairs for the security to come and asked them to open my office room. And found my key lying nicely at the table.

Life is unexpected and in certain degree, I like to keep it that way. But as a chaotic person, I prefer to live in an orderly environment. Whenever I mess up, I always know my way to return. I locked my self out but I knew the way to get my self in due to the orderly environment. As a scientist, my current position is that everything has an order; what tricky is how to understand this order. In Indonesia, for instance, the key to find my self back whenever I get lost is by asking. But then the order to find my way back is to find a good and knowledgeable person that will provide me with the right answer. The algorithm becomes a bit longer than in the Netherlands.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Presentation Review: Similarity/Difference

"What makes your case different with other countries? The case sound similar with any other innovation stories."

It was the second time I got the same question and I could response by saying that the formal and informal institutions were different and also the values were different, but then I chose to save the answer for later. I am not sure that I can answer the question without going to a debate between actor-network theory and construction of technology. Scholars from the latter tend to accuse the former as only being interested for innovation in the making and not after  a closure or stabilization. Scholars from the former, on the other hand, tend to accuse the latter as doing black-boxing since there is nothing stable; things are always in a constant negotiation. As an actor-network theorist, my response for that question will be, "What do you mean by being similar? Define similarity."

I had a long conversation with one of the audiences after I finished my presentation. We discussed about methodology and framing. It was quite a refreshing conversation since we tried to opening the black-box behind different comments/questions that I got in the seminar. He described my approach as using bottom-up approach where lacuna is created through showing similarity, while the person who asked my the question was using a top-down approach where lacuna is created through showing difference. The key is to find a balance between these similarity and difference.

I guess in front of scholars with different ontology/epistemology background, it is better to have a seminar on what is research.

Self-critique: my presentation is way too ambitious. First, it offers innovation as practice (trying to combine practice theory and process approach); second, it tries to contribute to STS by offering valuation and thirdly, it tries to contribute to valuation studies by offering a conceptualization of crossing. I can make four papers out of this single presentation, each of which has its own literature.

What I like about my presentation: I understand what I am presenting, which usually is not the case :D

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Life is ...

... to love. During my academic journey, I met a lot of new people. Some of them become a very good friend of mine and there are more who I never meet more than three times. But number does not mean anything. If you enjoy being with somebody, you just need to feel it without thinking whether you always going to be together or not. Travelling taught me this ... to life is to love even if there is time to say goodbye. A part that I never managed to pass without being sad. But life without love is not life at all and if sadness is the price that I have to pay, so be it.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Do Talk to Strangers

One of the things of being clumsy is I have to talk to strangers. Like this afternoon when I realized that I did not have anything to stir my dishes while the onion was already in the frying pan. I ran to the office to find something but found nothing. Fortunately, I saw two guys heading to the same apartment building where I lived. I say hi and asked one of them whether I could borrow his stirring thingy. He went to his room and asked me to pick one that I need. I managed to finish my cooking without burning anything. Full and happy :) In Singapore, I met another stranger. She saw me looking at the information board with a confused look and decided to greet me. She showed me the way and we spend the afternoon by eating together and taking picture. Another stranger stopped by when my bicycle was broken and he offered me to take his bike since it was going to storm.

If people ask me what is one of my biggest strength, I think clumsy is one them. At least, as an anthropologist, many people wanted to talk to me since I looked harmless. On another note, when I did an interview with a colleague, I had to become a bad guy, while my friend became the good guy, simply because people rarely get mad at me despite the questions I asked.

So I think I have a minus in my karma account ...


"... What does that mean-- 'tame'?" asked the Little Prince. "It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. ...