Wonk out of water

So I’m in Paris at a mega academic conference, the first one like it I’ve really been to. It’s called 4S/EASST and is being held at the Ecole des Mines which is an incredibly beautiful rambling old building overlooking the Jardins du Luxembourg in the Latin quarter.

It’s all about the social study of science. The scale of the event is huge. Twelve hundred delegates, 187 sessions, over 700 papers being given. In fact, it’s all a bit too much; I’m not quite sure what to go to. And then there’s the question of language. Not the fact that this is a foreign country with its own language, but that this is academia with its own language. Take a look at these for titles of talks that people are giving:

“Social organization of access to knowledge and boundary objects: the case of repair technicians of copy machines”

“Expert generation. Franz Maria Feldhaus and the emergence of professionalized historiography of technology.”

“Deployment of intentionality: the test of subjectification of body in dialysis practice.”

You see the problem.

The president of the conference is the revered, renowned Bruno Latour. I’ve spoken with him twice so far. Once about the university’s newly installed wifi network (or weefee as he calls it) and once about whether I’ve got my apple widget for connecting my iBook to a LCD projector (I don’t). Weighty stuff.

Wednesday night was fun as it was the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Paris. Loads of dancing and music and fireworks in the parks. An American I was with muttered under their breath, ‘anybody would think they liberated themselves”. Ouch.

I’m here with colleagues to talk about the work we’re doing on public engagement in nanotechnology. We’re not on until Saturday so I’m dipping in and out of the sessions that sound, erm, interesting.

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