Welcome to our grad student profile! We are excited to highlight the research of grad students working in science and technology studies, history of science, and philosophy of science. Know someone whose work you’d like to support? Let us know!
Yana Boeva is a PhD candidate in Science & Technology Studies at York University in Toronto. We appreciate her taking the time to answer a few questions about her work while she finishes her dissertation.
Yana’s journey to York has included what she calls “the ultimate mix-bag of a science and technology background.” She completed high school in Bulgaria, dedicating her class time to math, physics, and other sciences before moving on to Germany to complete a diploma degree in media and information engineering design. She then pursued an MA in Media Studies from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. For her MA, she focused on the histories and philosophies of the Web and computer technology informed by future visions of digital technologies. In addition to her academic studies, Yana worked for a few years as a curator in the digital sector and cultural industry in Berlin.
Now at York University, Yana has become interested in issues surrounding digital fabrication. Her current research “examines how the recent practices, technologies, and communities of making and digital fabrication (i.e., 3D printing also called additive manufacturing, laser cutting, CNC processes, electronics) are transforming the access to technology production, work, and notions of expertise and skill.” A significant part of this work involves charting “how these categories have been defined and redefined over time, which stories get told, and which omitted, and this all along the boundary of the professional and the amateur perspective.”
Her project takes her to a variety of spaces and open labs such as makerspaces, hackerspaces, fab labs, and other smaller communal workshops via her multi-sited fieldwork. She remarks that these sites “are often publicly accessible and provide technical and social infrastructure” and has involved her attending to “the different processes related to these specific machines” to help understand these “communities and their ethos.” It’s an important issue right now as “[t]he topic is evolving as much as digital fabrication keeps moving along trending discussions on the future of work, digitalization, as well as urban development.”
Yana’s first encounter with the field of science and technology studies (STS) was during her MA degree, when she read the work of Marshall McLuhan and material on computing and computational technologies. She found that in her work the medium disappeared. Instead, it became technology. The more research she did, the more she found unfulfilling the application of media studies to “topics such as technology assessment.” Yana realized that “almost every theory or literature about that was borrowed from sociology, in particular, sociology of science, anthropology, and then, philosophy and the political theory of technology.”
The interdisciplinarity of STS was attractive to her and was notable at events such as the annual meeting of 4S (Society for the Social Studies of Science). At 4S, she noticed that “[o]ften one panel on a specific topic or issue would include a person trained in anthropology, another one in sociology, somebody else from arts or design, or philosophy and history. You leave with lots and lots of new insights outside your realm of focus, well, and ideally new friends.”
There have been a number of other aspects Yana has enjoyed about working in STS. She says that “[f]or me, that is the way a research question develops over time as I begin to explore it, get exposed to new materials, other research, interactions, then revise the initial problem, and so forth. It just means that the learning never stops and ideally you get a second chance to confront it or perhaps, maybe a third, etc. That allows you to explore it up-and-down, horizontally, spirally, diametrically, etc.”
While not the central focus of her research, Yana’s “dissertation project is a lot about keeping up with the cosmopolitan, while retaining the local.” Her project, she describes, “is a multi-sited, and thus ‘cosmopolitan’ ethnography, but [her] approach has been to capture the local factors, practices, and histories that have shaped the understanding of work, expertise, and design of [her] interlocutors.” She emphasizes her belief that “only through their cultural situatedness…will [it] be possible to avoid a complete uniformity that is intrinsic in a lot of today’s digital technologies.”
We wish Yana all the best on her doctoral defence this summer!