A woman unscrews a laptop with a screwdriver.

Power to the people: making & politics at the Science Museum

by Cian O’Donovan and Adrian Smith The maker movement in the UK, and globally, has grown rapidly over recent years. Hundreds of maker spaces, equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, design software, as well as old-fashioned hand tools, have popped up in cities, towns and on university campuses, potentially promising new forms of re-distributed and…

What we talk about when we talk about technology

In casual conversation ‘technology’ usually means something like a device, gadget or machine. Your smartphone for instance, or the satellite navigation system in your car; maybe the car itself, why not? But this conception of technology soon collapses if you subject it to a few quick tests. For example, try asking: Where is the technology?…

A man walks to his field with his house and granary store and dark storm clouds behind.

How to move beyond technology in ‘Sustainable Intensification’

by Saurabh Arora and Ravic Nijbroek Sustainable Intensification (SI) promises more food from the same amount of land, while minimizing pressure on the environment. In Sub-Saharan Africa, considerable research and effort has been put into achieving it – but without the expected success. So why has Sustainable Intensification (SI) not made as much progress as…

Civilising Hypocrisies and Fundamental Questions: on “emancipating transformations”

This week Manchester Tyndall Centre hosted a provocative and highly interesting seminar. Professor Andy Stirling, who spent the 80s in the trenches for Greenpeace, had schlepped up to deliver a seminar on “Emancipating Transformations.” What they? Read on for an (almost) blow by blow account. [My multiple two centses are in square brackets like these.]

Engineers working on solar technology

How can African countries really provide sustainable energy for poor people?

Last month, delegates drawn from across the world gathered at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi for the second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) to discuss the theme ‘Delivering on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. I was privileged to be a panelist at a side event on ‘Sustainable…

Contested Agronomy: Four big questions to debate

We have just finished a fantastic conference co-hosted by the STEPS Centre on ‘Contested Agronomy’ with 80 participants and a vibrant discussion. I was asked to give some comments at the end. Here are some of these thoughts. Throughout the conference it was clear that ‘agronomy’ had to be understood both as a technology and…

What would a sustainable city look like?

On Thursday, India announced the first 20 cities to receive funding to become ‘Smart Cities’. It’s a high profile mission to modernise and transform urban infrastructure, especially using digital technologies like sensor networks and data centres. Smart cities are one response to the huge challenges facing urban India. The conference on pathways to sustainable urbanisation,…

Call for papers: EASST/4S session on makers, manufacturers and politics of digital fabrication

STEPS member Adrian Smith is one of the organisers of a session at this year’s EASST/4S conference. The session title is ‘Digital fabrications amongst hackers, makers and manufacturers: whose “industrial revolution”?’ The conference itself (title: ‘Science and technology by other means: exploring collectives, spaces and futures’) is on 31 August until 3 September in Barcelona,…

Why climate negotiations should tackle ‘technology injustice’

Climate change is already causing harm to vulnerable people and will continue to do so. If we accept that mitigation and adaptation alone cannot avoid all the adverse impacts of climate change, this means that there will be some unavoidable consequences. This has led to the concept of ‘loss and damage’ appearing in global climate…

Moving beyond products to material culture

Prototyping or debating sustainable developments in makerspaces? In the previous blog I introduced some of the diverse ways that makerspaces are helping cultivate sustainable developments. Admittedly, these initiatives do not represent the totality of makerspaces, where many projects and activities are oblivious to demands for sustainable developments. In this blog I discuss some of the challenges…