What worlds do workshops world?

I’m convening a conference track at DASTS (Danish Association for Science and Technology Studies) 2022 – The Politics of Technoscientific Futures – with Peter Danholt, Michael Guggenheim and Mike Michael entitled ‘What worlds do workshops world?’. The conference takes place in Aarhus between the 2nd and 3rd of June. Here’ the track description:

What worlds do workshops world?

Workshops are now commonplace. Workshops are employed in all manner of workplace settings and organisations involving knowledge, knowledge practices, ‘materials’, and world building (Bjerknes et al., 1987; Clegg et al., 2005; Ehn, 2008; Greenbaum & Kyng, 1991; Kallinikos, 2003; Simonsen, 2014; Simonsen et al., 2000; Suchman, 2002). Workshops can be informal: workshoppy ‘get togethers’ and sessions where, for instance, participants brainstorm, or they can be highly structured, planned and formalised, involving milestones and objectives. Historically, the workshop is a certain place of form giving, manufacture and construction such as the setting of an artisanal practice. By implication, we might point out that workshops work exactly due to their vague and pluralistic quality – they are productive due to their looseness and ambiguous quality, as in the case of the Zimbabwean bush-pump (de Laet & Mol, 2000). Workshops, however, are also consequential. In workshops, worlds can be raised: actors, artefacts, environments, technologies, concepts, speculations can be brought to life and may journey into other worlds or ‘the larger world’. Workshops, like laboratories, are places of environmental control and allow for testing. We may also appreciate the ‘event’’ character of the workshop and how it may enable us to build, and in turn be built, with other humans and non-humans – a space where what is shared may be very particular. A space where we can build worlds that span worlds. As such they manifest the possibility of shared worlds which can be made without being premised on universality and homogeneity. Workshop outcomes may have limited reach or just fail miserably, when subjected to trials offered by others and in other places. Furthermore, we may be critical and sceptical of what workshops do; what can be realised based just upon a loose set-up, some post-its and two pots of coffee.  

In this panel we are interested in exploring, analysing, testing and conceptualising the workshop in its manifold specificities. We are interested in ways of thinking about, relating to and critiquing the workshop, not to debunk it, but to test its possibilities. Given this, we are interested in the genealogy of the workshop: how it has changed, what it has become and why. We are also interested in typologies of different forms or modes of workshop. We want to explore and conceptualise the inventory, discourses and materials at work in workshops. We are interested in the workshop as a processual and performative event and as world-producing. We are interested in the spatial and temporal aspects of workshops and the ‘moments’, particularities and emergence that workshops mediate. We are interested in rich ethnographic accounts and conceptualizations of workshops and in experiments and speculations in relations to the workshop. We are interested in the workshop as fabrication, as parasitism, as science, as practice, as assemblage, as…?

Some of the questions we intend to engage involve:

• What is being made and unmade in workshops?
• What is being cared for?
• What worlds do workshops world?
• What tools are and can be used to workshop and how do they shape the outcome?
• How, and to whom, are workshops accountable?
• How do workshops differ from laboratories and experiments, and studios?
• What ‘overflows’ from workshop, what are their boundaries and limitations?


Bjerknes, G., Ehn, P., & Kyng, M. (1987). Computers and democracy: A Scandinavian challenge. Avebury.

Clegg, S. R., Kornberger, M., & Rhodes, C. (2005). Learning/Becoming/Organizing. Organization12(2), 147–167. https://doi.org/10.1177/1350508405051186

de Laet, M., & Mol, A. (2000). The Zimbabwe Bush Pump: Mechanics of a Fluid Technology. Social Studies of Science30, 225–263. https://doi.org/10.1177/030631200030002002

Ehn, P. (2008). Participation in design things. Proceedings of the Tenth Anniversary Conference on Participatory Design 2008, 92–101.

Greenbaum, J., & Kyng, M. (1991). Design at work: Cooperative design of computer systems. L. Erlbaum Associates.

Kallinikos, J. (2003). Work, Human Agency and Organizational Forms: An Anatomy of Fragmentation. Organization Studies24(4), 595–618. https://doi.org/10.1177/0170840603024004005

Simonsen, J. (Ed.). (2014). Situated design methods. The MIT Press.

Simonsen, J., Kensing, F., & Bødker, K. (2000). Professionel IT forundersøgelse: Grundlaget for bæredygtige IT-anvendelser. Forlaget Samfundslitteratur.

Suchman, L. A. (2002). Practice-Based Design of Information Systems: Notes from the Hyperdeveloped World. The Information Society18(2), 139–144. https://doi.org/10.1080/01972240290075066