sowi:docs Fellows 2023

sowi:docs is the doctoral fellowship programme of the ViDSS. sowi:docs Fellowships give outstanding doctoral candidates in the social sciences the opportunity to devote full-time effort to their research and to writing their doctoral thesis in the vibrant research environment of ViDSS.

We welcome our new sowi:docs Fellows starting in late 2023 and early 2024:

Ariadne Sevgi Avkıran

Seamless, flawless, and instant translation: Technoscientific expectations of neural machine translation

Research field: science and technology studies

Supervisor: Sarah Davies

The aim of my PhD research is to investigate what expectations of future neural machine translation (NMT) are and to trace how these are inscribed into work routines and material practices around NMT engineering. Sensitised by Jasanoff’s notion of the co-production of science, technology and society, my theoretical framework builds on literature on the sociology of expectations. According to this scholarship, expectations are not descriptive statements which can retrospectively be verified or falsified, but are instead discursive and performative statements about the future. Building upon the understanding that humans (unlike machines) are capable of dreaming, envisioning, imagining, and caring, I argue that expectations play a crucial role in human agency and therefore shape the process of engineering NMT. The methods I see as most fitting for this research project are digital ethnography, semi-structured interviews, and ethnographic field work. In this way, I will gain access to personal and publicly available narratives about futures of translation technology, trace how expectations are negotiated and circulated, and follow material and work practices around NMT engineering. Findings of this project will inform a wider scholarship on the sociology of translation and present insights into how expectations materialise and shape the entanglement of human and non-human agency in the process of technoscientific knowledge production. In exploring the relation between expectations of the future and human agency in the present, this research will contribute first steps towards a sociology of machine translation.

Aleksandra Maria Fila

‘Young Wolves’ and ‘Domestic Hens’. A feminist political economy of creativity in the Polish neoliberal transformation

Research field: development studies

Supervisor: Eva-Maria Muschik

In the critical theorisations of neoliberalism, creativity is examined as a disciplining force enhancing productivity and competitiveness. Its prominence is discussed in the context of individualisation, dissolution of communities, and precarisation of labour. Simultaneously, feminist everyday creativity scholars try to ‘democratise’ creativity by pointing out its obscured dimensions, not corresponding to its hegemonic, masculinised images. They argue that caring, unspectacular activities sustaining and reproducing everyday life rely on creative practices. This project combines those approaches, which until recently were largely disinterested in the contexts of post-socialism, through engaging with Poland's ‘long ‘90s’. I explore the issue of creativity from the perspective of the commons and discuss the common spaces of everyday creativity and communal creative practices as vital resources for marginalised groups. More specifically, I focus on the consequences of the state-owned industry's collapse – or restructuration – for the working-class women from middle-sized Polish cities. I explore how the enclosures of state companies’ ‘non-productive’ parts, previously mediating the reproduction of everyday life and creative practices, were experienced and coped with. I investigate the dispossessions of the communal forms of everyday creativity and relate them to the revaluation of labour across its different kinds. Hence, I deconstruct hegemonic, entrepreneurial and market-oriented modes of creativity that gained prominence after 1989 – embodied by a figure of ‘young wolf’, and trace the processes of devaluation and ‘housewifisation’ of women’s labour, symbolically represented by the ‘domestic hen’ figure.

Felix Lene Ihrig

trans*forming healthcare: Healthcare for genderqueer people in Austria between affective embodiment, community care and subjectivation

Research field: sociology

Supervisor: Anna Durnová

Despite growing visibility in civil and academic discourse, the needs of TINQA* (trans, inter, nonbinary, genderqueer, agender and other gender nonconforming) people in healthcare are still rather unknown. TINQA* individuals therefore rely on their peers’ recommendations for "queer-sensitive" healthcare providers. The support of a caring community is currently essential to become a queer subject in healthcare. Situated in Political Sociology, this dissertation project will critically analyse the power dynamics and the experiences of TINQA* people that are relevant in institutionalised general healthcare. The overarching research question is what queer-sensitive healthcare means and how it is implemented in Austria. Forming a cumulative dissertation, three sections will focus a) on the recommendations on (a community-based website listing queer-sensitive healthcare providers), b) the experiences and affects that shape access to and handling of general healthcare for TINQA* people in Austria, and c) the related attitudes and un_wareness of healthcare providers. This project is based on Affect Theory, Institutional Ethnography and Trans Studies, since all three focus on the intertwinings of personal, social, political, and institutional dimensions (of healthcare) as well as the entanglement of identity, embodiment and emotions.

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