[aLeXandEr i. sTinGl]


                      Description of my attitude towards research 



Q: What are three books on your coffee table?
A:  A teapot, a cactus, and the recipe for my bolognese. Three things that embody different layers of agency, ecology, and becoming before and beyond the text.



Research Overview





Current Research

My current research main-frame is The historical and political ontology of biodigital belonging.


Much of my ongoing research focuses on the one hand on biodigitalization, in particular within the fields of health care and biomedicine in relation to the production of (in)justice; on the other hand, I began to work on the emergence of bioeconomy and the question what this programmatic notion means outside the Western referent. A basic conceptual and methodological question I also ask is ‘What is the techno-scientific object?’




The following are projects I am currently working on intensively (with frequent publications):


1.     Biodigital Citizenship and Agency in a ScienceCraft Era
In less jargony terms: Attention is the cultural and political capital of our times, but there are also attention pathologies. I want to understand how children/adolescents come to understand and (re)describe these, and how these descriptions change when they participate in clinical treatments,  in martial arts, and/or in the digital realm. Picking up from a book and articles I (co-)wrote, where we/I (a) was introducing the concepts biodigital citizenship, ScienceCraft (and ScienCivics), and a new sociological concept of solidarity and (b) in my reconceptualizing the history of attention/abstraction and  ADHD as a social pathology and adolescents' understanding of self-agency, health, and power in different motivational contexts (clinical interactions, taekwondo/aikido dojos, and digital culture), I now aim to develop the possibility (i) for understanding how the social cognition of power develops in different 'techno-somatic' (biomedicalized, haptic-intensive, and digitalized) environments, (ii) to reconceptualize the clinical encounter from doctor-parent to doctor-parent-child, and (iii) for agent-based models for future democratic political participation and project these results towards outcome oriented policy-reforms (e.g. in public health) that require active participation. For this project, I develop a novel, mixed (quantitative-qualitative) methodology. (An NSF proposal had a first round)


2.     The assemblage of 'Braining your life/Living your Brain': In a nutshell, 'governance' in general depends on the social imaginary, i.e. the ideas, concepts, metaphors people have available. The social imaginary depends a lot on  techno-scientific images, and 'the brain' is a strong image. Based on my talks and book-chapters on the use of medical imaging in terms of broad social imaginary, I aim to analyze the role the 'brain' and 'the science of the brain' nowadays plays in politicized discourses. I want to investigate lay-people's discourses on brain science, as well as clinical psychiatrists/neurologists, researchers, and, in particular, how 'brain-talk'  (assuming that there are [only the two] male and female versions of the brain) changes the discourses on intersex children and transgender people. Recent studies on the use of brain-images to 'persuade people' have focused on court-room procedures and were by far too concrete in their design. I am interested not in their concrete but in their more abstract persuasive power (Lakoff/Johnson: Metaphors we live by) over how people project life-course decisions of their own and of others.


3.     ’Appetites: Food, Sex, and Gender as Transformative Technologies’

Following the common wisdom that ‘eating well and eating plenty are different things’, we propose to expand a research program into the American political, historical and cultural field of pleasure, that Judith Farquhar conducted over a decade ago on the subject of China to challenge ‘the assumption that the mundane enjoyments of bodily life are natural and unvarying’. We will utilize the potentials of both feminist science studies and the sociological study of embodied culture and cognition, in unveiling the technological condition (1) of food, sexuality, and gender in American society: The designing of edibles, the techno-aesthetics of food production and consumption, sexual technologies from augmentations, enhancements, and prostheses reshape sexual subjectivities (Preciado, Proben; Bourcier; Rosenberg; Halberstam) and gender options become available not only in the virtual but also in the real world. The (2) plasticity of bodies and brains (Pitts-Taylor; Malabou) appears to render the boundaries of cultural embodied cognition (Cerulo; Noë; Stingl/Weiss) in food and beverage consumption, the techno-social construction of gender, and the performance of sex equally plastic. This allows us (3) to uncover the rarely investigated aspects of the technologocial condition of the new commons (Charlotte Hess), which are characterized by their lack of pre-existing rules or clear institutional arrangements: The appetites and pleasures of the new commons allow us to identify the ethical plateau of this figuration, which we call pornocopian.  We investigate (5) the empirical arenas of food design, high class restaurants, mixology, sex toy discourses, disability and sex, kink sex, transgender, intersex, cross-dressing discourses, genderbending and romantic options in role-playing videogames (RPGs). All of which feature conceptual empirical dimensions of hybridized techno-scientific practices of research about bodies and the (neuro)cognition of pleasure, health, safety and hygiene regimes, heteronormative and queer constructions. These empirical arenas have become increasingly subject of public formation in the 21st century, while the hybridization of the aspects of techno-science and subjectivity formation have remained largely in the dark.


4.     The Rural Imaginary and the Necro-Political Economy and BioEconomy of Late Liberalism.

This research introduces the notion of the “rural imaginary” in terms of the images we have of rurality, which intersect with and co-produce other practice regimes of BioEconomies. I am predominately interested in “techno-social imaginaries of the rural”: Technological change deeply affects folk and academic imaginaries of the rural and the urban, and the interrelations between practices and the subjectitives as the intersecting standpoints that enable and constrain experience. Imaginaries may be described as kinds of fluid, semi-stable reservoirs of meaning that are conceptualized in images. Using three examples - rural imagery in Digital Culture, the Robitification of agriculture (specifically dairy farming), and the neo-Ruralization of urban Foodie-Culture – I show how ‘imaginaries’ can be deployed as an effective means for studying (social) phenomena that concern rural sociologists, and allow participation in genuinenly integrative interdisciplinarity. My main focus is, therefore, not so much the rich theoretical context nor a comprehensive account of the three examples, which are cited for the purpose of illustration, but (a) showing how the “rural imaginary” can be considered an interdisciplinary methodological innovation, functioning as a “conceptual-empirical laboratory” and (b) emphasizing that by deploying the “rural imaginary” as a methodological means, rural sociology can unfolds its unique critical potential towards the urban-centric focus of the political economy that characterizes Late Liberalism. (one proposal focused on “extractivism” with Cristina Blohm)


5.     'The transatlantic media-archeology of the human body and its information architecture in  science and culture'. Focusing on the scientific exchange between Germany and the US, American art history, and the emergence new public media from the era 1846 – 1898. Studying how the conception of the 'human body' changed in this half-century and why.


6.     Nomadic Statehood: The proliferation of forms of techno-scientific governance into all areas of political and social practices has resulted in the  question whether the form of the territorial nation-state can (still) be considered the only form of statehood, whether we are not required to rethink statehood entirely:  Corporate entities that operate inter- and trans-nationally institute different legal strategies in their interactions with national governments and non-state interlocutors, as well as adopt state functions internally (provide health care, education, child care for high-skill workers); FIFA, the global Football Association has created a framework that supersedes national laws of their host countries; the Syrian-Iraqi terror-organization ISIS originally established  governance via web-technologies (digital governance of terror); and so on. This project aims to uncover new statist regimes based on non-national forms of techno-scientific governance by conducting institutional ethnographies, including interviews and semantic qualifying-based tests, of trans-nationally operating organizations. The aim is to describe a new form of statehood as it is emerging. [Collaboration on grant proposal with Nicholas Rowland, Penn State]

7.     'Digital Health Care Capital and Generative Justice'. Based on my recent article "Digital FairGround" and a course I taught a few times 'Care, Power, Information' [book contract for course content currently under negotiation], I study the effects of digitalization of health care and virtualization of patienthood as a problem  of social justice and inequality, based on recent research that suggests that material access to digital Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is not sufficient, that besides competence, motivation is a main factor - which I conceptualize as rooted in possible experiences (Foucault/Merleau-Ponty: 'subjectivities'). (Multiple collaborations in the works; NSF proposal had a in first round)


8.     Narrative Dialectics of Techno-Scientific Practices: Based on Ron Eglash's very complex conceptual distinction of analog and digital practices (which subverts the common sense and information theory definitions of those two terms) and my recent publications on ADHD and on medical imaging, I investigate how different practices and imaginaries exist in narrative structures (narrative empathy) that mutually influence one another (double-bind). In this incarnation of the project, I am interested in how people learn in embodied narratives. For example, medical students of surgery learn their craft by using images and texts as well as haptic practice exercises on expensive body-models, whereas recent research suggested that inexpensive objects (like oranges) might be more suitable for training. I aim at an investigation how techno-scientific practices and narratives of this kind interact, how understanding the narrative dialectical  can lead to improvements of applied practices, e.g. in surgical training, which is a main but not the only one, of our research sites. I also aim to level the distinction between high-tech and low-tech (as we, i.e. Restivo, Weiss, and myself suggested in our book, Worlds of ScienceCraft [2014]) by using Eglash's analog/digital framework to redescribe technology. I have been working on two grant proposals for Liselotte Hermes da Fonseca from Leuphana University and University Halle-Wittenberg, regarding “body-self”-subjectivations of patients shown either images or plastinates, and on children with diabetes becoming biomedicalized cyborgs; and there are conversations about writing a grant propsoal with Cristian A. Linte from RIT regarding US, German and Western African practices for imaging-based evaluation and pre-clinical integration of image guidance environments for surgical navigation of minimally invasive cardiac interventions, specifically for cardiac lesion ablation therapy.


9.     ‘The Legitimacy of the Digital Age’

Expanding on the conclusions of my forthcoming book trilogy on Decolonial Social Science (Epistemic Disobedience and the Legitimacy of the Digital Age Parts 1-3 [2015-2016, Lexington, Routledge, Palgrave]) and planned edited collection (in planning and negotiation), I will be applying analoguous questions as were asked in the famous studies by Hans Blumenberg in Legitimacy of the Modern Age and by Reinhart Koselleck in Critique and Crisis to Digital Culture and ‘digitalization’.


10.  'The poetics and politics of tangible objects', wherein I address the current debate on the role of ontology in STS, studying the production of objects in medical imaging (maybe brain-images in intersex and transgender discourses), chemical laboratories (how lab workers use and understand water), digital avatar design, the concept Qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine and QiGong, and culinary arts. [Book proposal recently pitched to a publisher]


Potential Student Projects


a.      ‘In the zoo of objects: The epistemic objects of citizen science and “maker spaces”.’

For the past fifteen years, citizen science has become an important asset for scientific progress and a subject of interest for Science & Technology Studies (STS). That ‘ordinary people’ and ‘private citizens’ would actively contribute to the scientific process in various forms is in and of itself not a historical novelty. And yet, the emergence of the Internet has made it easier for people to have access to scientific knowledge and discourse on the one hand, and to be able to enter and contribute to this discourse. STS has conducted research into this phenomenon, its consequences and potentials for science and society, including politics, Big Data, social movements, etc. However, important questions remain, that need to be sufficiently answered to evaluate any generalizable potential of citizen science and design future projects more efficiently. Most prominent among these are two misleadingly simple questions: ‘How do citizens produce and understand the scientific object?’ and ‘Do scientists and citizen scientists talk about the same things, when they talk about specific objects?’  We will investigate four empirical arenas of citizen science: Astronomy (Zooniverse and Galaxy Zoo), actual zoos, and genetics (Tastelab Denver, Pieris Project), and, finally, these will be compared these with the constitution of epistemic objects in hackerspaces, fab labs and maker culture. Another part of this project studies the parallel, synchronous emergence of similar objects in different places on the example of the use of crocheting and hyperbole mathematics in Petra Maitz project Lady Musgrave Reef and the Crochet Coral Reef project by Margaret and Christine Wertheim. (This is a project frame I aim to develop along with a group of students).

b.     The Two Courts: An inquiry in various dimensions of the difference between law and justice, culminating in an investigation in institutionalizing a court of law and a court of justice.

c.     Play, an integrated perspective. The concept of 'Play' is used in philosophy, game studies, cognitive sciences, social psychology, developmental biology, cultural anthropology, and pedagogy, each in different ways and definitions. Nonetheless, the concept seems largely universal and a foundation for pro-social behavior. I aim to develop an integrated perspective by studying play at various levels, which is primarily labeled 'A Sociology of Play', because it can be located in terms of a sociology of culture and embodied cognition. This is an interdisciplinary venture on conceptual, empirical and methodological levels, that will also account for the shift in gaming with ‘digital games’. (Using archives at Museum of Play in Rochester and Toy Museum in Nuremberg, as well as interviews/collaborations with cognitive and education researchers)

d.     The Social Ecology of Teeth: An exploratory research effort.

STS, sociology, and anthropology have neglected the study of dentistry. What dentist and dental technicians do, how patients conduct mouth hygiene, and what the socio-economic factors playing into dental health are has not been on the agenda of either discipline, and yet this is an important intersection of various socio-economic, generational, cultural, and other dimensions. We do not even have the most fundamental research basics in sociology, anthropology, and STS to design empirical research projects. This project intends to canvas this field to make further research possible; research that is quite necessary (given the recent developments of advanced tooth decay in children)

e.     The technological practices and affective ecologies of rectal hygiene and health.

The social sciences have spend more time in the bedroom than in the bathroom. While sex(ualitites) are an important part of social life, a lot of action happens in the bathroom before sex. Before anything, really. However, the topic of what happens not just ‘down there’, but ‘down-back-there’ seems to be an even greater taboo. From a medical sociological and anthropological, as well as an STS point of view, I argue that we must overcome this taboo. For example, it is difficult to estimate the number of hemorrhoid sufferers in the US or the EU, different medial statistics provide numbers ranging from 50 % to 90 %. The difference as well as the suspected number of unreported/untreated cases (resulting from the taboo) is enormous; however, it is clear that the number of people suffering from hemorrhoids is substantial. And so are the various medical as well as sham practices. Rectal hygiene plays a major role in this area, but very little is known in social scientific terms. There are, of course, correlative effects with obesity factors as well as with colon cancer. In fact, the latter is often not diagnosed, because it is mistaken for hemorrhoids. Proctologists and gastro-entorologist have received little to no attention in the social sciences that study medicine and health care. This is a new and unexplored sub-field in medical sociology/anthropology and STS that has great consequences in terms of general health and well-being, among others impacts. I propose that we must make an initial foray into opening this research territory.

Older Research Descriptions

·       A Heterotopology of the Body in Science and Culture in New England 1846- 1898   [Link to Outline]

·       The Persuasive Biopower of Digitalization and Medical Imaging in Doctor- Patient Interactions  [Link to Outline]

·       Decision-Making and Narrative Empathy in Health, Illness and Lifestyle:     Trinary Doctor-Parent-‘Underage Patient” Interactions, ADHD and Martial Arts in Patient Empowerment  [Link to Outline]

·       Nomadic States: Bio-Medicalization, Techno-Scientific Governance & the Political Imagination  [Link to Outline] 

·       Agency between Ecologies, Vital Materialities, Radical Historicities. (with Sabrina M. Weiss)  [Link to Outline]



Previous Drafts for Research Reports and Research Designs