Making and doing goods in practice: a proposition for empirical ethics
This event took place on Wednesday 18 January 2023 at 11:30
This paper considers the Science and Techology Studies (STS) approach of 'making & doing' as one possible resource for empirical ethicists who want to go beyond descriptions of the good in practice and engage in the field with an explicit commitment to improving the practices they study (Sharon et al., 2022). Based on a close reading of a collection of making & doing accounts (Downey and Zuiderent-Jerak, 2021) I argue that this approach can be an inspiration for a more political form of empirical ethics for two reasons. First, in making & doing projects, what needs improvement and how this can happen is neither externally prescribed, nor are making and doing scholars solely facilitating improvement from within. Problems and solutions, bads and goods, are defined in an iterative process characterized by negotiations, persistence, and adjustments to respond to both the local reality and the directions for improvement the scholars bring to the field. Second, making & doing is about creating attachment between the forms of the good the scholars propose (in making & doing these are STS knowledge contents enacted as ‘STS sensibilities’) and the practices, problems, and hidden resources present in the field. With these two elements, I suggest, making & doing approaches make it possible to let evaluations from beyond the context of study inform and co-create ‘goods’ in the field without losing empirical ethics’ commitment to situated accounts (and consequently also situated creations) of everyday morality. To reflect upon this proposition, I discuss experiences from my own making & doing research in the context of the H2020 funded large scale pilot project GATEKEEPER, an international and transdisciplinary research initiative on smart living environments for the aging populations. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in one of the GATEKEEPER pilot sites (Puglia, Italy), I first examine the diverse and often conflicting enactments of ‘good aging’ of users (adults 55+) as well as research and technology partners involved in the Puglia pilot. I subsequently discuss how our making & doing interactions with project partners reshape how ‘good ageing’ is understood and done.
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