Noortje Marres

Noortje Marres is Professor in Science, Technology and Society (STS) in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick. She studied philosophy and sociology of science and technology at the University of Amsterdam and conducted her doctoral research, on pragmatist, object-centred conceptions of the public in technological societies, at that same university and at the École des Mines, Paris. Her work investigates issues at the intersection of innovation, everyday environments and public life: the role of mundane materials and devices in civic engagement, technology testing in society, and changing relations between social life and social science in a computational age. Noortje also contributes to methodology development, in work on issue mapping online and situational analytics. She was recently awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship for her project Beyond the Lab: An Empirical Philosophy of Intelligent Vehicle Testing and is Principal Investigator on the ESRC-funded project Shaping 21st Century AI: Controversy and Closure in Research, Policy and Media. Marres published two monographs, Material Participation (2012) and Digital Sociology (2017) and co-edited Inventing the Social (2018).

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Beyond controversy: why we need a Durkheium Test for artificial intelligence today

Recent controversies about AI enable a diagnostics of the changing role of science in increasingly compute-intensive societies. On the one hand, in controversies such as those around Large Language Models (LLMs), it is clear that science has become subject to politicization. Here, key issues that have long been central to the sociology of knowledge are put at stake by societal actors (scientists, journalists, activists): the boundary between science and politics; relations between research and advocacy, and the societal consequences of techno-scientific advances (Roberge and Castelle, 2020). Classic questions of the sociology of knowledge can thus be seen to have gained renewed relevance. However, on the other hand, AI controversies suggest that sociology can no longer rely on controversies to render visible, and analys-able, formative dynamics in science-intensive societies. The configuration of „spaces of problematization”, which social studies of science and technology long assumed to emerge more or less spontaneously in society, can no longer be taken for granted. To find orientation in this situation, I will draw on Susan Leigh Star’s (1989) proposal that we need to develop a Durkheim Test for AI, if we are to contribute towards ensuring that intelligent computational systems serve societal goals.

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