From Affect to Action: Choices in Attending to Disconcertment in Interdisciplinary Collaborations

Mareike Smolka*, Erik Fisher, Alexandra Hausstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Reports from integrative researchers who have followed calls for sociotechnical integration emphasize that the potential of interdisciplinary collaboration to inflect the social shaping of technoscience is often constrained by their liminal position. Integrative researchers tend to be positioned as either adversarial outsiders or co-opted insiders. In an attempt to navigate these dynamics, we show that attending to affective disturbances can open up possibilities for productive engagements across disciplinary divides. Drawing on the work of Helen Verran, we analyze “disconcertment” in three sociotechnical integration research studies. We develop a heuristic that weaves together disconcertment, affective labor, and responsivity to analyze the role of the body in interdisciplinary collaborations. We draw out how bodies do affective labor when generating responsivity between collaborators in moments of disconcertment. Responsive bodies can function as sensors, sources, and processors of disconcerting experiences of difference. We further show how attending to disconcertment can stimulate methodological choices to recognize, amplify, or minimize the difference between collaborators. Although these choices are context-dependent, each one examined generates responsivity that supports collaborators to readjust the technical in terms of the social. This analysis contributes to science and technology studies scholarship on the role of affect in successes and failures of interdisciplinary collaboration.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0162243920974088
Pages (from-to)1076-1103
Number of pages28
JournalScience Technology & Human Values
Issue number5
Early online date25 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • affect
  • care
  • disconcertment
  • interdisciplinary collaboration
  • intervention
  • sociotechnical integration research
  • CARE


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