The Regulative Capacity of Knowledge Objects: Opening the Black Box of Knowledge Governance

Call for Papers



Think of Climate Change, Wikileaks, nanotechnology, Responsible Innovation, neural implants, Linux, GMOs or the German Energy Transition. But when we think about it, do they actually exist? And if they do what should they be like in the future? What exactly are they? Are they symbols, technical artifacts, discourses, constellations of actors, scientific disputes? Are they political issues, societal problems, human-nonhuman-hybrids, modifiers of existence, problems for governance and regulation? In a way, they are all of these things and less – and probably more.

They are what this Summer School refers to as "knowledge objects". These objects are peculiar, blurry, constantly unfolding and transforming entities that increasingly challenge contemporary societies and sciences and our understanding of knowledge. The knowledge in knowledge objects is always plural: scientific, public, mundane, interdisciplinary, speculative, uncertain. It is heterogeneously produced about, with, through or in them and contributes to their identification, contestation and transformation. Yet, knowledge objects are also enablers of such knowledge productions and the societal controversies that go along with them. This intricate entanglement of knowledge objects and society poses various normative and regulative questions – which are part of these objects and due to them the problems societies face. This entanglement could be viewed as a fundamental challenge for knowledge governance. To address these complex challenges to societies and sciences, the Summer School aims to bring together two strands of science and technology studies (STS) which so far haven’t combined: the focus on "knowledge objects" and the perspective of "knowledge governance".

The starting point of this summer school is the assumption that knowledge objects are subject and object of knowledge governance. They create the need for and they enable various forms of knowledge governance. In a way, this synchrony is a black box of knowledge governance. The Summer School proposes that this "governance black box" can be opened by focusing on an extended concept of knowledge objects and by analyzing their governance dimensions.

Therefore, the aim of the Summer School 2014 is to untangle the relationship between knowledge objects and governance phenomena. The Summer School invites contributions from different disciplines (e.g. sociology, philosophy, political science, ethnography) that focus on the empirical and/or conceptual-theoretical analysis of this correlation.

Concept and venue

The Summer School is part of the XXXI summer courses and XXIV European courses of Donostia-San Sebastian. The Summer School provides PhD students with the opportunity to develop their projects in an intensive working atmosphere and in an international context. We aim for an inspiring environment for learning and discussion that ensures excellent feedback on everyone’s work. In formats such as “Lecture”, “Individual Presentation”, “Workshop” and “Open Discussion” a varied intellectual experience shall be created. At the same time, San Sebastian provides participants with the opportunity for a week of relaxed interchange, discussion and networking with experienced scientists and other PhD students.

  • "Lecture": Established scientists will present their basic positions in lectures. For a list of professors who have agreed to give lectures, and the lecture subjects, please visit our website
  • "Individual Presentation": This format consists of a 30 minute paper, in which PhD students present their project to the plenum. A senior scientist will provide comments on the presentation, on the basis of a previously submitted paper, and the presentation will then be discussed in the plenum. PhD projects presented in this framework should already be in an advanced stage.
  • "Workshop": In the workshop, problems of relevance to the work of the PhD students will be addressed and discussed in small groups. Each group will be chaired by a scientist with practical experience in the relevant field. In this intensive format, the students will be able to submit and discuss their own concrete problems.
  • "Open Discussion": This will be an experimental format in which participants explore governance issues in relation to exemplary knowledge objects which are related to the area of San Sebastian.
  • "Poster Presentation": Each PhD student shall bring a poster showing the key questions and issues related to their work. Creative designs are encouraged. The posters will feature in a special session and facilitate the mutual learning in the group.

The language of the Summer School will be English. On successful completion of the Summer School, the graduate will receive a certificate of attendance.

Important information about ECTS CREDITS: Students who attend the course will get a certificate of attendance, which includes the number of course hours. With this certificate, each student presents it to her/his university and the university converts this course hours into the corresponding number of ECTS credits.

Keynote Lecturers (confirmed)

Petra Schaper-Rinkel, PhD, Austrian Institute of Technology, Vienna, Austria

Graham Harman, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, American University, Cairo, Egypt

Karin Knorr-Cetina, PhD, Professor emeritus of Sociology, University of Konstanz, Germany, and George Wells Beadle Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago, US

Noortje Marres, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Goldsmiths University of London, UK

Discussants (confirmed)

Mario Kaiser, PhD, University of Basel, Switzerland

Astrid Schwarz, PD PhD, University of Darmstadt, Germany


The Summer School is open to PhD students at various stages of progress on their dissertation project, and offers two forms of participation: graduates may take part either in combination with a proposed individual presentation or without their own presentation.

To apply for participation with individual presentation, please send us, at the latest by March 28th 2014, an abstract of max. 3.000 characters outlining your PhD project and in particular the background to the problem discussed, research questions as well as the methods and theoretical approaches to be adopted, together with a CV. Participants are expected to submit a full paper by June 6th 2014. To apply as participant without individual presentation, please send us, at the latest by April 4th 2014, an abstract of max. 1.500 characters briefly outlining your PhD project, together with a CV.

Please send your suggestions to Constanze Scherz. Applicants will receive notification of acceptance by May 15th 2014.

Participation in the course is free of charge. Unfortunately, the organizers cannot cover any travel or accommodation costs. We would like to draw your attention to national sponsorship institutions like the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) in the case of Germany, who offer training course scholarships for students. Please contact your university’s international office for further information on scholarships available in your country.

Course directors

Prof. Dr. Andoni Ibarra, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Spain

PD Dr. Stefan Böschen, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (KIT/ITAS), Germany

PD Dr. Andreas Lösch, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (KIT/ITAS), Germany

Organizing committee - Contact

Constanze Scherz: Mail - Homepage

Christoph Schneider

Julia Hahn: Mail - Homepage