Grass­roots Radio pre­sent­ed at 4S/EASST Con­fer­ence, the joint meet­ing of the Soci­ety for Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence and the Euro­pean Asso­ci­a­tion for the Study of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy

Despite the restric­tions caused by the pan­dem­ic, it’s been a live­ly sum­mer for the Grass­roots Radio project, which shaped sev­er­al field and dis­sem­i­na­tion activ­i­ties. One of them has been the par­tic­i­pa­tion in the 4S/EASST Con­fer­ence – the joint meet­ing of the Soci­ety for Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence (4S) and the Euro­pean Asso­ci­a­tion for the Study of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy (EASST) – which took place vir­tu­al­ly on August 18 – 21, 2020. The con­fer­ence was sup­posed to be held in Prague, but the orga­niz­ing com­mit­tee decid­ed to move online due to the Covid-19’s pan­dem­ic. 

Rober­to Cib­in pre­sent­ed a paper titled “Low Pow­er­ing: Chal­lenges In The Co-Cre­ation Of Local Com­mu­ni­ty Radio Sta­tions” , with­in the pan­el “(Re)Producing Pow­er in Co-cre­ation”. The pan­el tried to gath­er togeth­er researchers inter­est­ed in reflect­ing about the pres­ence of asym­me­tries of pow­er and agency in the co-cre­ation of inno­va­tion, that is when dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers (lay and experts) are involved in the cre­ation of some­thing new.

The pre­sen­ta­tion, con­ceived with Mari­acristi­na Scian­nam­blo, Nic Bid­well, and Mau­r­izio Teli, focus­es on infra­struc­tures that impede col­lec­tive process­es of empow­er­ment in rela­tion to Grass­roots Radio. By tak­ing the exam­ples of a phys­i­cal stu­dio and a sta­tion-less radio as ele­ments that can favor or hin­der par­tic­i­pa­tion and inclu­sion, the paper argues that empow­er­ment is not just a mat­ter of local par­tic­i­pa­to­ry prac­tices, but about iden­ti­fy­ing socio­ma­te­r­i­al infra­struc­tures that sup­port devel­op­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive prac­tices across dif­fer­ent spaces and time. Com­mu­ni­ty radio sta­tions sup­port ordi­nary peo­ple’s access to demo­c­ra­t­ic process­es and are con­sid­ered a cat­a­lyst for com­mu­ni­ty self-empow­er­ment, for instance, through dia­log­i­cal pro­gram­ming. How­ev­er, the pre­sen­ta­tion under­lined how also these orga­ni­za­tions can face hid­den dynam­ics of exclu­sion, or inequal­i­ties, relat­ed to gen­der, mobil­i­ty, and exper­tise dif­fer­ences. The pre­sen­ta­tion showed how Grass­roots Radio has been work­ing with the local com­mu­ni­ties not only on the tech­ni­cal set­up of the radio sta­tions, but also on the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and man­age­ment of these crit­i­cal issues.

Despite the orga­ni­za­tion­al dif­fi­cul­ties, the con­fer­ence count­ed 1777 pre­sen­ters and 555 non-pre­sen­ters for a total pres­ence of 2332 par­tic­i­pants, becom­ing the largest 4S meet­ing since 4S’s found­ing. 4S and EASST are two asso­ci­a­tions born respec­tive­ly in 1975 and 1981 to rep­re­sent and con­nect aca­d­e­mics and researchers inter­est­ed in Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy Stud­ies, an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research field aimed at inves­ti­gat­ing the inter­con­nec­tions between soci­ety, sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, and inno­va­tion.

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