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Social studies of science

Social Studies of Science has recently published a new article by Professor Tom Scott-Smith on ‘Sticky technologies: Plumpy’nut®, emergency feeding and the viscosity of humanitarian design’. This article argues that many humanitarian technologies are characterized not so much by fluidity as by stickiness.

“Sticky technologies,” writes Scott-Smith, “lie somewhere between fluid technologies and Latourian immutable mobiles: they work precisely because they are mobile and not overly adaptable, yet they retain some flexibility by reaching out to shape and be shaped by their users.”

The article presents a detailed study of Plumpy’nut®, a peanut paste for therapeutic feeding that is materially sticky – much firmer than a fluid, yet still mutable – as well as conceptually sticky.

‘Stickiness’, it is argued, can have wide utility for thinking through technology and humanitarianism.

The article is available to subscribers here >>

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