By Maya Hey and Lukáš Senft
We have just published a new methods catalog, Methods for Co/Sensing Microbes, edited by Maya Hey, Kateřina Kolářová, Lukáš Senft, and Tereza Stöckelová. This catalog came out of a workshop titled Co/sense and Re/create, held in Prague in May 2023. The workshop brought together social scientists, humanities scholars, documentarians, multimodal artists, microbiologists, writers, composters, and fermenters based in Czechia and Helsinki. It was organized by Tereza Stöckelová, Lukáš Senft, Kateřina Kolářová and Varvara Borisova from Charles University and the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, with funding provided by the Centre for the Social Study of Microbes.
The premise of the workshop was to focus on human-microbe co-existence using social and artistic means, with emphasis on how we detect, show, and share microbes in practices such as composting, fermenting, and simply being together. But, as will become apparent, the course and outcomes of the workshop were not at all tidy—as is expected of microbes, perhaps. In the following pages, you will see how we tried to navigate microbes through our senses and how we have approached conceptual dead-ends with new interest.
Our experiments and generative failures may be of interest to scholars in STS who analyze modes of knowledge production in/through microbial worlds, in multispecies studies who struggle with methodological limits when approaching mostly-invisible organisms, and in practice-based research who think by doing. Our hope is that this catalog captures the sticky work of thinking-with microbes, and the even stickier work of doing this thinking with others from across different countries, different disciplines, and different backgrounds.