What is STS?

Science and Technology Studies: A Dynamic Discipline at York

Science and Technology Studies (STS) is a discipline focused on the complex relationship between science, technology, and society. STS uses the methods and theories of the social sciences, humanities, and cultural studies to examine technology and scientific knowledge and practice. Although there are a range of different theoretical and methodological approaches in STS, there are still a number of core analytical assumptions that are often used to define it. Here are some of them that underpin the York approach to STS:

  1. Scientific knowledge is collectively produced, constituted, and legitimated, meaning that there is no inherent logic to the progress of science.
  2. We can and should analyse ‘true’ and ‘false’ scientific claims symmetrically, using the same analytical tools to understand both.
  3. Any understanding of science and technology must pay attention to both the social and the material context, meaning that we have to pay attention to how physical objects and technological systems shape societal choices and actions.
  4. Science and technology are not necessarily distinguishable so that we can understand them analytically as ‘technoscience’.
  5. Technoscience is socially and culturally configured and is not, therefore, free from social bias and prejudice (e.g. sexism, racism).
  6. Technoscientific knowledge is socially and culturally powerful, representing a specific form of authority and expertise; however, other forms of ‘lay’ expertise or ‘citizen science’ can also be valid when considering both technoscientific and political actions and choices.
  7. Technoscience and society are often co-produced in that our social orders are shaped by technoscience, and vice versa.
  8. There is a political economy of technoscience requiring us to understand how the allocation of financial resources to research and innovation comes to shape that research and innovation in certain ways, which can be inequitable and unjust.

This brief outline of STS does not do justice to the complex ways that STS scholars have explored the relationship between science, technology, and society. As such, it can only be a starting point for you to take further in your own studies and research.