CANCELLED: TIK Seminar with Steve Woolgar

In his talk Professor Steve Woolgar will discuss the limits of the use of the slogan “It could be otherwise” in “hard cases” within STS by drawing on the case of Jimmy Savile.

Professor Steve Woolgar

Photo: University of Linköping

It could be otherwise (ICBO)

The slogan "It could be otherwise" (ICBO) characterises a large and varied range of provocations in social sciences and humanities both within and beyond Science and Technology Studies (STS). It is the basis for disturbing, unsettling, troubling, destabilising, and deflating pretensions to certainty, grandiose theorising, abstractions and conceptual complacency.

STS scholars have applies this maxim in numerous inventive ways to a huge variety of claims both within and beyond scientific knowledge and technical capacity. STS has a distinguished history of tackling "hard cases", showing the contingency of seemingly fixed and entrenched attributes. ICBO has also been worked in relation to beliefs, politics, culture and other non technical arenas, as the impetus for reconsidering normative practices and how they might be done differently.

But what are the limits of this provocation? Can anything, any circumstance, action or outcome be otherwise? This paper considers the case of Jimmy Savile, the British TV personality and charity fund raiser, a revered, honoured and beknighted "national treasure", who after his death was revealed to have been an extreme and persistent paedophile.

Savile presents an especially "hard case", in that his revelation as a paedophile monster is so entrenched that any further application of ICBO appears impossible. To cast doubt on the widespread public perception of his actions, to even hint at his possible rehabilitation, seems morally questionable. Is this where ICBO gets stuck? Are highly ethically/morally charged cases immune to the further application of ICBO? Do ethical/moral considerations trump the sceptical impulse of ICBO? How and to what extent? This paper attempts to address these questions by examining how the work of revelation - especially the situated dynamics of audience performance and temporal organisation - builds resistance to ICBO.

About the lecturer

Steve Woolgar is a Professor at the Department of Thematic Studies - Technology and Social Change, Linköping University, and a Senior Research Fellow (part-time) at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

Register for the seminar

To register for the seminar: please send an e-mail to with the title "Seminar Woolgar".


Published Apr. 29, 2016 9:47 AM - Last modified Oct. 27, 2017 1:08 PM