Selen Eren

Cherishing hope beyond the ‘truth’: Building a more reliable and responsible knowledge infrastructure for the naturalcultural diversity to survive

Governance and Innovation, Faculty of Campus Fryslan, University of Groningen,

Supervisor: Dr. Anne Beaulieu


I earned my Bachelor’s degree from the Galatasaray University, Istanbul in 2016 with a double major in Political Science and Sociology. In the summer of 2018, I completed my Master’s degree in Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society at the University of Twente, the Netherlands. In my master thesis, I analysed through an Arendtian understanding of politics how business-led smart city proponents like IBM and some critical urban scholars envision the concepts of politics and citizenship in the face of big data analytics used in political decision-making processes. I am a co-founder of iris, a Turkish online STS Encyclopaedia, which is a work-in-progress.

Summary of PhD Project

According to the conventional perspective, knowledge production is an isolated cognitive process happening in a few ‘brilliant’ minds, yielding universal and ahistorical truth. However in the STS literature, knowledge claims are nothing but some ever-changing historical/political products about phenomena at hand. Although some criticize STS scholars for damaging the epistemic authority of scientists, acknowledging the historical/political dimension of knowledge production processes (or knowledge infrastructures) which affirms the inevitable fallibility of humans’ decision-making processes does not mean that humans cannot participate in the becomings of their surroundings in meaningful ways.

Thus, my PhD dissertation aims to find ways to reconcile the political/historical dimension of knowledge infrastructures and the hope for more reliable and responsible knowledge claims for the survival of biodiversity. The project will particularly focus on knowledge infrastructures that are built through the combination of long-standing techniques like citizen science and emerging technologies like machine learning and big data analytics in order to sustain biodiversity, including the case of bar-tailed godwits’ survival (Piersma, 2018).

The overall aim will be addressed by answering the following sets of sub-questions:

  • How are knowledge claims produced, validated and maintained in the knowledge infrastructure in question? What are the narratives, values and practices that knowledge claims are embedded in? How are the roles in producing knowledge claims (re-)distributed among the members of this particular process in the age of new modes of access to ‘bigger’, ‘wider’, ‘faster’ and algorithmic information?
  • Why a more reliable and responsible knowledge infrastructure is needed? What is problematic with the narratives, values and practices reinforced by the current one?
  • Which socio-technical arrangements are needed to develop a more reliable and responsible knowledge infrastructure for bar-tailed godwits in particular and for naturalcultural diversity in general to survive?

To put it differently, my work addresses pressing issues of epistemology of big data/algorithms, knowledge infrastructures, as well as sustainability and governance in the so called ‘post-truth’ era.