Values – cultivating STS sensibilities since 2011

Lucy Suchman at Tema T Exchange 2018.
Charlotte Perhammar

The Values group is part of Tema T (Technology and Social Change) – one of the oldest University departments dedicated to researching the role of science and technology in society, even predating STS (Science and Technology Studies) as a multidiscipline.

STS is a hugely influential field devoted to researching the social dimensions of science and technology. Yet one of its major strengths is STS’s capacity to question and challenge profound assumptions in scholarship across the humanities and social sciences. So in addition to addressing questions about the role of (scientific) knowledge in society and the impact of technology, our research grapples with key theoretical questions.

Valuation as practice and as impetus

Values was initially set up in 2011 (by CF Helgesson) to focus on valuation practices. This includes metrics, audits, ratings, rankings and expert and non-expert appraisals of various kinds. STS research then examines the practices that give rise to (expert) judgement, facts, economic appraisals, moral and ethical positions and asks how these become taken for granted, mundane.

Our work today builds on this legacy but more broadly addresses key problems in STS (around politics, normativity, subjectivity, method and intervention). In 2014, a large grant from VR (‘Recruitment of Leading International Researchers’) helped assemble a lively, active, high quality research group of international STS scholars, variously trained in anthropology, business studies, psychology and sociology.

Values = STS, provocation, otherwise 

Reflexively engaging with some of the political and normative concerns of our time, we sustain an interest in the theoretical by following and contributing to STS themes. We try to develop STS sensibilities for reinvigorating research in social sciences and humanities by thinking with generative notions such as provocation, pushing boundaries, and ‘the otherwise’. Values research is about the development of innovative theory.

Our work can be playful, with a wonderment at some of the absurdity of life, and with an interest in the empirical as it emerges from sustained fieldwork.

A general flavour of our research might be characterized as post ANT (actor network theory) and material semiotics. The strength of our work lies in combining empirical analysis with theoretical work, working with exemplary cases to interrogate, enrich, shape and reconfigure key debates around agency, enactment, multiplicity, relationality and materiality.


To realise our theoretical ambitions our group works with a broad range of empirical topics including: accounting the future; care and transformations of the self; digital data visualization; fakes and forgery appraisals; governance and accountability; HIV detection and treatment; impact and intervention; limits and provocation; migration and integration; mundane technologies; politics of nature; values and valuing practices.

The group is active in organizing international workshops and conferences around, for example, Revelation!;  Interventions with Data;  In Theory;  Imposters and Gatecrashers; Infrastructuring Migration; and (Re)Assessing Impact.


Examples of research projects

Our group works with a broad range of empirical topics. Here are some examples.
Man with helmet taking a shovel
Lab tubes with blood
Sign with the text Reinvent yourself
T-shirt with the text Otherwise




Technology and Social Change