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Gaps and Voids

  1. What are some of the gaps in our conversation? What have we not addressed, or what have we skirted around that we need to speak about more explicitly?
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16 Comments
  1. Monamie Bhadra permalink

    I have two comments: Yesterday’s lecture by Dr. Suzuki drove home how the developing world is on its way to becoming the next nuclear market. It seems plausible that in the next few decades there may be a nuclear disaster in the Global South, with it s own forms of epistemic, political, and social chaos. Perhaps we can talk about what kinds of unique tools Disaster STS would marshal to deal with such future catastrophes?

    I also would like to know to what degree Disaster perceives other disasters as disasters, such as the perpetual oil spills in the Niger Delta by Shell. Should those be relegated to the problems of modernization and development, or should they fall under the ken of disaster studies?

    Here is a fun but serious parody: http://en.avaaz.org/969/shell-oil-spill-greenwash-parody

  2. Jen Schneider permalink

    I’m intrigued by the suggestion yesterday that we should be thinking about how STS scholars might be “on the ground” or embedded in regulatory institutions (forgive me if I’m mis-paraphrasing). I’m interested in hearing more about what this would look like, how capacity might be built, how to prevent co-optation, etc.

  3. Sonja Schmid permalink

    Still wondering about “Disaster STS” as a distinct research trajectory. How is DSTS different from “mainstream”(?) STS and what are the tradeoffs involved? Would love to keep questions like these on our collective mind as we move into day 2 of this workshop.

  4. Scott Knowles permalink

    I agree with Monamie’s second point entirely.

    I think we were getting into a very useful dialogue about disaster memory yesterday towards the end of the day. I hope we can continue. I might even suggest an exercise for anyone interested. Take 5 minutes and pretend you have been asked to advise the Japanese government on a museum–should they support it, when, and what should it do/collect/present? I would love to do this and discuss our ideas. Or email it to me.

    I also think we might profit by some explicit discussion of the moral/ethical dimensions of disaster preparedness and response. By this I mean, how do conceptions of moral responsibility weigh into calculations on risk taking, and post-disaster response. How do these issues compare across cultures. These issues came up a bit with our discussion of the legal aspects of “blame.”

  5. Nicolas Sternsdorff permalink

    We didn’t talk much about what it means to study an event. This touches on Monamie’s comment on the difference between disasters and ongoing forms of violence/environmental degradation. Yesterday there was a prompt to talk about what “disaster” means, and it could be helpful to further refine the concept.

  6. I think we need to talk more about ends and means. What are the ends we are hoping for? Better policy? Recognition of injustice? Avoiding a future reactor? Identifying those to blame/shame?

    Also, what are the means that we are going to use to achieve these goals? A few main approaches emerged during yesterday’s session, but there was little discussion of their costs and benefits. At the very least, we have seen analyses involving archival documents, government reports, media studies, quantitative analysis, and ethnography. Do we think these are sufficient? What other methods would be necessary to achieve our goals?

  7. Three gaps are critical to building collective action to manage nuclear power responsibly and need further study:
    a. The impact of uncertainty on decision processes in public, private, and nonprofit organizations
    b. The integration of information technology more productively into the communication and coordination processes.
    c. A clearer vision of responsible management of nuclear power, with an informed assessment of benefits, costs, risks, and means of representing this vision to diverse groups within the global community in ways that can readily

  8. Kohta Juraku permalink

    I would persist that we still have many gaps in the understandings of some words and concepts shared, implemented and functioned in society. As I mentioned in the sessions yesterday, “accident investigation” and “事故調査 (jiko-chosa)” have pretty different meanings, functions and implications in each society, though those are the direct translation linguistically. “Manmade” and “人災 (jinsai),” “compensation” and “損害賠償 (songai-baisho)” have the differences in their nuances, too.

    Cultural differences should not be taken as explanatory without cautious (cultural essentialism), but it doesn’t means that we should not see the existence of such differences. Rather, we must be much more careful to detect them, and should give academically reasonable and convincing explanations with empirical, conceptual and theoretical basis.

    I’m afraid that we are still obsessed by their tacit assumptions shared in their home society. I think this meeting can be and should be taken as an opportunity to mediate or even overcome this problem.

  9. Ryuma Shineha permalink

    I think we need to discuss “disaster” much more. What is disaster? How can we approach disaster? What kind of comparison is possible (methodology, case, framework, etc)?
    Off course, we can learn and draw implications through thinnking about these questions. And off course, yesterday workshop contributed to thinking about them. However, it seems to be short yet.
    And, if we want to establish DSTS or something, we should learn and draw lessons much more from disaster studies and thier previous implications.

  10. Tamiyo Kondo permalink

    When we discuss about Fukushima nuclear accident issues,
    we need to relativize it by comparison between Great East Japan Earthquake Tsunami disaster. My undestanding is that this workshop is not only for nuclear accident, but triple disaster.

  11. Cathryn Carson permalink

    I’m struck by the gap in conversation after Joonhong’s question yesterday: so what would WE want to do to make a dent in the problems we see. I think the question deserves a response, maybe just because it feels like an engineer’s framing — but not an easy response to say, it’s more complicated than that. The longer I’ve spent working with Joonhong, the more I’ve come to respect the desire to take on problems the way an engineer would.

    I get the feeling that the answer I’d give, to burrow into the expert system and work on its consciousness from within, would be marked as compromising with technocracy. It’s not sufficiently distant, it re-privileges elites, it stabilizes a system we should morally refuse. That’s true. I want to push the question of what it takes to engage a system that is not naturally responsive to STS insights. I’m fine that others will see their role as being critical analysts from the outside. I wonder if STS will have space for what I’m inclined to do.

    • Kohta Juraku permalink

      I would really like to have answers to, comments on , criticisms against or at least some replies to this Cathryn’s note. I have very similar motivation and feeling to hers.

    • Scott Knowles permalink

      Thanks Cathryn, for this:
      “so what would WE want to do to make a dent in the problems we see.”

      Maybe this will come up today, and if not we should raise it explicitly tomorrow–I see a connection as well to Lisa Onaga’s prompts that we examine for whom this conference and the broader research agenda under discussion is for, who participates (and who doesn’t).

  12. To what extent is it appropriate to extrapolate the disasters in Japan, especially “Fukushima,” to draw a schematic for “DSTS”? We have an opportunity here to discuss and articulate what is at stake for multiple fields with regard to the framing of agendas for research and action – what is at stake when these ideas are informed by careful analyses of the triple disasters carried out by those who reside in / go to Japan and/or visit Tohoku to produce scholarship in this area? I’m not sure if the concern here is whether we are talking about these issues but who is and how. Maintaining an awareness of tensions that arise from attempts to bridge the particular and universal seems necessary and would likely be very productive going forward. Without doing so, we perhaps run the risk of perpetuating intellectual exploitation of a) young scholars, b) scholars from non-Western contexts, c) women, d) others [insert chuckle]. These thoughts are based on various conversations I’ve had with fellow conference participants this weekend.

  13. Jen Schneider permalink

    My silence has more to do with reflection than with a refusal to answer. It was a provocative question, but one without easy answers. I’m glad we have the space to reflect here on such questions (though I’m not ready to offer a substantive response yet).

  14. Kyoko Sato permalink

    I would personally be interested in how emotions played — and still plays — a significant role not only on the ground as the triple disaster unfolded, but also in shaping politics, policy, and public discourse since then. Research on emotions in supposedly cognitive and “rational” (or non-emotional) spheres of society is growing in social science, and with a case like the Tohoku disaster, I believe that they can be addressed explicitly in relations to this literature.

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