2021: Limits

Good morning to you and welcome to the first letter of 2021! We start the year by introducing our new theme: ‘Limits’. As usual, you will find a letter from the Heads of Lab reviewing what the theme means to us, and reviewing the year just gone (!). 


In this newsletter, you’ll find that we’ll be hosting a remote resident Luísa Reis Castro, and have a blog post by former guest researcher Benedict Lang about What makes a lab a lab?. Last year we started with the best wishes for a fabulous and very deep 2020. This time around, humbled by the challenges of last year, the current lock-down, and uncertainty about the future a different theme is needed.


The theme of Limits acknowledges 2021 as a time of restrictions instead of boundless possibilities. We’ll be taking the time to look at the limits that shape our world and that bind us together. Limits to growth, privacy, to our technology and its future and capabilities contest a dream of modernity that promised to save all. Furthermore, we are shaped by curbed mobility, human contact, and other regenerative activities. Our personal limits become accentuated while we’re trying to maintain our mental health while navigating our lives in the space we have with the people around us. At the same time, there’s uncertainty about the limits to vaccine efficacy, covid mutations, and a changing political landscape: Who dares predict what the year will bring? Limitless is given such inherent goodness (inexhaustible!) we want to pause at its opposite. As researchers interested in the temporalities of knowledge, academic life, and data itself, we look forward to using Limits to come together, continuing to ask critical questions of technological changes.


We’re looking forward to seeing you at the events in the year to come, virtual or in-depth. To stay up to date on ETHOS Lab activities, sign up to our mailing list here and follow us on twitter, facebook or instagram.

With all the best in a restricted 2021,



Co-heads of Lab: Marisa Cohn & Rachel Douglas-Jones

Assistant Professor: Katrine Meldgaard Kjær

Lab Assistant & Newsletter Editor: Luuk Blum



Letter from Heads of Lab

Rachel Douglas-Jones and Marissa Cohn present our thematic emphasis for this coming year: Limits We look back on the year just gone, from the 5th anniversary of the Lab to our first alt.chi publication, first PhD Course and more!



Remote Residency Luísa Reis-Castro


When COVID-19 closed borders, moved conferences online and made travel for visits and talks impossible, we realised how many alternative opportunities for conversation needed to be generated. Luísa Reis-Castro had been planning to visit in the autumn of 2020, but instead we have converted her stay into a Remote Residency. Luisa, a PhD candidate in the History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States, will be “remotely resident” with us for the month of February. 


Luisa’s dissertation is focused on new technologies for controlling mosquito-borne diseases, as a window into the politics of science, health, and the environment. Combining theoretical and methodological tools from anthropology, science and technology studies, history, and environmental humanities, her research focuses on different vector control projects being researched, tested, and implemented in Brazil, which attempt to use the Aedes aegypti mosquito as a means of controlling the pathogens it is known to transmit. 

During her time as an ETHOS remote resident she will work on Chapter 4 of her thesis. It investigates public health officials transforming the mosquito Aedes aegypti, vector for viruses such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya, into indicators—or environmental sensors and sentinels—by collecting and testing these insects for viruses to identify where an outbreak could start in Foz do Iguaçu, at the Brazilian border with Argentina and Paraguay. Read more about Luisa’s project and the residency here.

Python Study Group: Corona Edition

Python Study Group

Thanks to Lab TA Veronika Skotting, our ever popular Python study group will continue across a range of digital spaces this semester. From Discord to the logistics of distributed snacks and pizza, students from across ITU’s study programs will get together to work on their programming skills, figuring out what Python can do. Keep an eye out for the announcement of start date and sign-up sheet across ETHOS social media!


Blog Post

What makes a Lab a Lab?

Blogpost by Benedict Lang who visited the Lab in Autumn 2020, as a visiting student from the Munich Centre for Technology and Society at TU Munich. 

During his time at ITU, Benedict reflected on what a lab in the social sciences was - in practice. In his blogpost about his experience as a visiting student, he draws on examples of STS training and critical laboratory studies to examine the power that the idea of a lab has over our imaginations. To read about ETHOS from his point of view, see here!

Read more of Benedict’s reflections on the analysis and writing he was doing in the Lab, “mastering disaster”, a research diary accompanying the process of writing his masters thesis.


Other News & Info

Twitter is opening up its full tweet archive to academic research for free, read more here

Listen to this event about Decolonising the Curriculum? Which Curriculum? How? And by Whom? Wed, 24 February 2021 18:00 - 20:30

Read about rustlab’s theme on Data and Experimentation

Participate in the events by The Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology: Playing with method: Game design as ethnographic research are a series of live-streamed events on 28.1.2021 & 11.2.2021.


Call for papers

Special issue, call for papers - Digital Mistrust: Rethinking Trust in Digitalizing Societies

Abstract deadline 1st February 2021

The aim of this special issue is to gather a collective––anthropologists, STS scholars, and researchers from cognate disciplines––who are actively working with questions of (mis)trust in digitalizing contexts. We invite contributions that have been developed through research on trust from among topics such as: 

• Coding, software, and algorithms. 

• Digital infrastructures. 

• Social credit systems. 

• Surveillance, cryptography, Distributed ledger technologies.

• Fake news and disinformation.

• Predictive technologies.

• Big Tech regulation. 

• Data governance.

• The digitalization of the public sector and corporate organizations.

• Digital methods and quali-quant mixed methods approaches.

• Anti-digitalization movements.

• Attention and digital distractions. 


LAB opening hours 

During continued Lockdown, we will continue to hold virtual opening hours. These will still be on Tuesday and Thursday, 12.30-16:00. To find us in digital space, for all your Lab related questions, the opening hours take place on Zoom, meeting ID 687 7876 9045 and passcode 585338.