Upcoming STS Seminar explores turning things into assets in technoscientific capitalism

The STS Departmental Seminar Series continues on March 2 with a discussion on “Assetization: Turning Things into Assets in Technoscientific Capitalism,” presented by Kean Birch, associate professor in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change and graduate program director of Science & Technology Studies in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University.

The seminar will take place virtually via Zoom from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Kean Birch
Kean Birch

Birch’s research focuses on understanding technoscientific capitalism and draws on a range of perspectives from science and technology studies, economic geography, and economic sociology to study it. He specifically focuses on the restructuring and transformation of the economy and financial knowledges; technoscience and technoscientific innovation, and the relationship between markets and natural environments. Currently, he is researching how different things (e.g. knowledge, personality, loyalty, etc.) are turned into assets and how economic rents are then captured from those assets in processes of assetization and rentiership.

In his talk, Birch will discuss the ideas in his book Assetization: Turning Things into Assets in Technoscientific Capitalism (MIT Press, 2020), co-edited with Fabian Muniesa from the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation (CSI), a research center of Mines ParisTech. The book explores how the asset – anything that can be controlled, traded and capitalized as a revenue stream – has become the primary basis of technoscientific capitalism. An asset can be an object or an experience; a sum of money or a life form; a patent or a bodily function. A process of assetization prevails, imposing investment and return as the key rationale, and overtaking commodification and its speculative logic. Although assets can be bought and sold, the point is to get a durable economic rent from them rather than make a killing on the market. Assetization examines how assets are constructed and how a variety of things can be turned into assets, analyzing the interests, activities, skills, organizations and relations entangled in this process.

Sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology Studies and coordinated by its members, the Research Seminar Series in Science & Technology Studies features seminars on a wide range of STS-related topics. The series is now in its 27th year and has hosted over 500 speakers from Canada and around the world.

Seminars are open to the public, and STS majors are especially encouraged to attend.

To receive a Zoom link for the seminar, contact the seminar series coordinator, Conor Douglas, at cd512@yorku.ca.