Program details here
Testing in the Wild
University of Siegen | 19-21 September 2022
The objects, means, and situations of testing have multiplied rapidly in the digital age. Practices of testing have become ubiquitous. They have moved beyond the spatial and institutional confines of scientific laboratories (testing hypotheses), classrooms and exam halls (testing students), consumer organizations (testing products), and inspection agencies (testing systems and protocols) into the wild of everyday digital lifeworlds.
Human beings and technological systems are today both subjects and objects of continuous testing. Paradigms such as A/B testing, machine learning, and test-driven development infuse a logic of testing into the creation, construction and maintenance of digital systems. Digital devices are equipped with ever more sensors that facilitate the monitoring of our health, behavior, and performance, directing our sensibilities towards new modes of data-based sense-making, evaluation, and justification. Platforms incentivise consumers to become critics by testing and reviewing products in public. In parallel, grassroots testing through ‘unboxings’ and ‘teardowns’ have become genres of user-generated content in themselves. Away from online platforms, users grapple with products delivered with rudimentary manuals or generic support, and whose functionality is expected to be extendable, adaptable, and fixable in the wild. Variations of updates are rolled out to select publics in order to test their respective acceptance within, or across, targeted demographics. Testing and evaluating digital products and services ‘on the fly’ has not only become concurrent with ordinary use, but part of it.
Practices of testing commonly rely on data: its collection, processing, circulation, (re)presentation, justification, and analysis. In fact, datafication and testing co-evolve. The proliferation of testing in the wild and associated controversies can be observed at various levels. On the one hand the intentional organization, analysis and discussion of tests and their results based on data remains relevant and has been controversially discussed in recent years, either with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic (Schnelltests, 7-day incidence rates, intensive bed capacity etc.), climate change (ice core tests, gtCO2, RCPs etc.), or financial crises (banking ‘stress tests’, REAs, leverage ratios etc.). On the other hand the everyday, continuous, and casual capture of data through digital media has led both to practices of self-tracking as well as critiques of a growing and pervasive monitoring and exploitation of users through corporate data practices.
Countering this, initiatives and policy makers test alternative measures, platforms, and standards to develop digital services that offer enhanced and/or protected user experiences, from routing data through secure pathways, ensuring data ‘portability’, or by restricting data collection altogether. In other respects, the likes of cryptocurrencies and other cryptographic innovations face increasing scrutiny as reckless social, financial and ecological experiments. As the earth system is itself being put to the test by the sum and history of human practices and their consequences, new methods for testing, evaluating, and critiquing the impact of data practices and digital infrastructures are urgently required.
Against the background of the new ubiquity of testing the 2022 annual conference of SFB1187 Media of Cooperation invites contributions that engage with practices of testing in, of and with digital devices and digital environments in the wild.
With keynotes by
Markus Krajewski (University of Basel): Perpetual Beta: Genealogies of Permanent Testing
Noortje Marres (Warwick University): Towards the test society: On the un-doing of experimental accountability.
The conference will run as hybrid event from September 19-21 2022 in Siegen. Online participants are welcome (please email email@example.com).
MGKWalls @ Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen
Unteres Schloß 1
Conference Dinner @ Brasserie
Unteres Schloß 1
Altes Sparkasse Siegen-Weidenau
Weidenauer Str. 167