Peer review of “The Energy Walk: Experimenting with Aesthetic Methods in STS?” by Line Marie Thorsen

This review intends to focus on critiquing not the content, but rather the style, language and structure of the text; the writing in short.

To determine the intention of her text, we must look at the end of it. In her concluding remarks, L. M. Thorsen draws on Dewey to explain why it can be categorized as an aesthetic experience. She states her hopes for the future of STS in the very final statement: “If we are serious about methodological cross-pollination among disciplines, then STS needs to be sensitised towards aesthetics in order to grapple with these engagements.” This could be indicative of her intention with the text – one could assume that she wants this “cross-pollination” to happen. She believes that “the Energy Walk thus seems to me to open up an interesting space for further experimenting with the relevance of aesthetic method and thinking to STS research and practice – and visa versa.” This is why she makes such an effort to ensure that the reader emphasizes with the experience and understands it: she believes it to have potential for STS as a whole. In short, in better understanding aesthetics STS would also be better able to understand other disciplines as well.

The language is advanced, but not overly complex. The writer uses words and terms native to Science and Technology Studies(STS), making it more difficult, but not impossible, for outsiders to the research field to follow. The primary intended audience, considering the publication, is then quite clear: researchers in the field of STS. Due to the nature of her text, it being a review of someone else’s research, she cannot directly bring in the supporting data and analysis work that the original researchers might have done. This could mean that some researchers would not be convinced merely by reading her review.

Style-wise, L.M. Thorsen uses long explicatory statements such as “Leading up on the wooden stairway through the dunes overlooking the harbour; around the electrical mast on top; through a small grass-covered path; through a meadow with grazing cows overlooking the adjacent National Park; up a gravelled path to the old lighthouse and the town church; onto the paved road leading back to the overview of the harbour.” The elaborate description helps the reader imagine and immerse themselves in the situation. The author even refers to “you” when explaining the Energy Walk, as if the reader is being enticed to participate. The intent here could be to give the reader the opportunity to understand the experience, even if they were never actually to visit Hanstholm and partake in the Energy Walk themselves. Likely, this was done due to the nature of the research being discussed – the experience itself is a critical component without which the research becomes pointless. It is consequently crucial that the reader is made to believe that the experience is interesting and worthwhile, the two things that the author wants to emphasize that it is; thus supporting her intention well.

Perhaps in spite of the capabilities of the audience, or perhaps signifying a targeted sub-audience, L. M. Thorsen employs a simple structure throughout the text, using summary statements at the end of sections to guide the reader through it. Arguably, it even follows the standard successive format of: introduction, analysis, discussion and conclusion. This helps the reader follow the argument easily, building their own understanding and consequently supports her intention well.

In conclusion, the language, style and structure seems to support L.M. Thorsen’s intention well, though some of the readers may find the text lacking due to its very nature. These would need to consult the original research articles to make their final judgement.



Critical questions for Big Data

Provocations for a cultural, technological and scholarly phenomenon (Danah Boyd & Kate Crawford)

Peer Review


The article is an attempt to highlight some of the main provocations that might emerge for diverse categories of researchers in the case of mishandling big data sets.

There are a series of studies at the moment around the Big Data phenomenon that are meant to translate the questions that arose with it, providing experts, researchers and scholars with insights of handling the phenomenon. Discourses and conversations on this topic are spread with assumptions and biases across multiple

disciplines, which is why, the authors suggests new incentives and considerations when engaging with Big Data.

As a new social technical phenomenon, Big Data challenges researchers and scholars to new debates. The article provides new provocations that scholars should consider in their discussion that change how knowledge, objectivity, access, quantity and ethics are perceived.


  1. Does the structure support the argument that the authors are trying to make?

The authors are raising a number of questions about Big Data in the structure of a scientific article, and by using a particular terminology that would raise the validity of the arguments made. However, the sentences appear long and in some cases, leading to confusion.


In some paragraphs, they might consider eliminating some of the unnecessary sentences, to clean the text and to remain within context. 

  1. Is the goal/point of the paper clear?

Since the very beginning the authors introduce the context, Big Data, and some of the problems that emerged with the phenomenon. The amount of information becomes heavy to follow, due to references that need to be visited to comprehend the overall context in some cases.


 Properly introducing the context of the references and make clearer transitions to a new topic in the debate.


Peer review of The Energy Walk: Experimenting with Aesthetic Methods in STS?

The Energy Walk is a guided tour of Hanstholm, one of three major focal points for the alternative energy research project Alien Energy. The walk is meant to be an artistic introduction to the often unseen energy infrastructure of our modern world, as well as an educational look at future energy sources.

Thorsen’s paper argues that the Energy Walk is a prime case study of the importance of aesthetics in STS (Science, Technology and Society) research. The walk invokes John Dewey’s “aesthetic experience”, Thorsen argues, making it an example of aesthetics’ crucial role when science and art is merged.

The first issue I find in Thorsen’s text is an overuse of repetitions. Repetition might be used to tie a text together or emphasize an argument. Unfortunately Thorsen’s excessive use of repetition has the opposite effect, making the text homogenous, less engaging and harder to navigate. For example:

[The walk] guides the participant through the tensions of knowing and not-knowing, seeing and not-seeing, the energy topographies of Hanstholm harbour.

… but by offering the tensions and frictions between the visible and the invisible, the known and the unknown, the close and the faraway, as a momentarily coherent experience.

Though the exact phrasing has been changed, the two sentences (which are part of one paragraph) are so alike that the repetition feels needless. An easy fix would be to omit or change the word “tension” and the phrase “the known and the unknown” in the second paragraph.

The second critique is Thorsen’s needlessly detailed description of the Energy Walk. The objective of the text is not an introduction or overview of the walk, nor a detailed analysis of its design. As such the following seems overly detailed:

…one of four walking sticks, each fitted with a small round wooden shell from where a long cord stretches out, attached at the other end to a set of headphones. The wooden shell conceals a device that plays the audio guiding the participant. […]

This citation exemplifies a large part of the text describing the walk. These descriptions, though interesting and thorough, do not seem to inform the analysis of the walk. I would advice Thorsen to shorten her description of the walk, or present Dewey’s theory earlier in the text and use it to reflect on the walk throughout.

The final critique I will bring up concerns anecdotes and anecdotal descriptions. Anecdotes can have their place in an academic text. E.g. the introduction to the text helps to ground it in something concrete, evocative and relatable. Unfortunately, not all of Thorsen’s anecdotes manage to strike an academic tone. For example:

The four walking sticks are mounted on a wall behind the ice-cream counter…

Though this is an evocative image, the emotional response an ice cream counter elicits weakens the scientific validity of Thorsen’s argument. I would urge Thorsen to avoid descriptions that serve only to garner an emotional response, unless said descriptions are crucial to her analysis.


The Energy Walk: Experimenting with Aesthetic Methods in STS? By Line Marie Thorsen

Line Marie Thorsen is describing an artistic intervention used as an ethnographic method in the research project Alien Energy. She explains how the use of an aesthetic method is appropriated to convey to the public the potential of wave and tide energy sources.

The project is diverse, being an STS research project with an artistic intervention as experimental factor.

Thorsen’s main argument is: “that the walk manoeuvres a layered landscape of energetic and infrastructural visibility and invisibility, hereby sensitizing the participant to the manifold energy forms constantly present in our daily lives” (LMT pp.1). Thorsen’s description of the artistic intervention, being the audio guided walk, is thorough and precise, enabling the reader to understand what kind of experience the walk offers. The main objective of the article is to elaborate on the usefulness of aesthetic methods in STS research. To do so Thorsen analyses the aesthetic quality of The Energy Walk, based on the aesthetic philosophy of John Dewey and his understanding of an “aesthetic experience”, as well as referring to the artwork of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller as initial inspiration for the development of The Energy Walk.


She offers quotes form the audio guide as well as from participating researchers, fx. Susan Leigh Star.


The concluding part of the article is somewhat weary. In stead of drawing a clear conclusion, Thorsen makes a point out of saying that the experimental nature of appropriating aesthetic experience into an STS research project, is a new and unexplored merge of academic fields. Hence, its difficult to pinpoint what is at stake.


The authors introduce an overview of Internet of Things (IoT) and the concept of Ethical Design which is used to strengthen user interaction with IoT environments. The authors also present the contemporary challenges when dealing with IoT and suggest an implementation of Ethical Design framework called SecKit which can address these current challenges. Moreover, the article analyzes the benefits and limitations of the proposed Ethical Design model and the future development of this model.


The introduction of the article is too long and it is hard to summarize all the mentioned points. It should be split into smaller subtopics. One subtopic could be an introduction to IoT. One subtopic for declaring several aspects of IoT like privacy protection, Digital Divide, controlling flow of data and one subtopic discussing the need of Ethical Design to IoT. Each subtopic will have the title, for example: “Introduction to IoT”, “IoT key aspects”, and “Ethical Design for IoT”.


There is one redundant paragraph “The concept of Ethical Design could be implemented using different technologies. In  ‘‘Policy-Based Approach for Ethical Design” section, we describe a potential implementation of the Ethical Design concept using a policy-based framework” – (Baldini et al. – p.9). This paragraph is stated at the end of Ethical Design and Human Agency section and it is redundant because the author already mentioned the content of this section (“Section ‘‘Policy-Based Approach for Ethical Design” describes the proposed technical implementation of the ‘‘Ethical   Design’’ through a policy-based framework ”) in the introduction part so there is no need to state it again.


The authors defined the term Internet of Things (IoT) as: “The Internet of Things allows people and things to be connected Anytime, Anyplace, with Anything and Anyone, ideally using Any path/network and Any service” and “a world  where physical objects are seamlessly integrated into  the  information  network,  and  where  the  physical  objects  can  become  active participants in business processes” – (Baldini et al. – p.2). For “Ethical design” term, the author defined as “we  use  the  term  ‘ethical  design’  from  an engineering point of view to highlight that the IoT engineers promote a design of the IoT, which is respectful of the rights of the citizens instead of being only driven by economic considerations” – (Baldini et al. – p.2).  However, the author did not provide definition for “big data” even though it was mentioned in the article. By this way, the authors assume that the audience have some basic knowledge about big data and its related fields.


The “Main Concepts” section does not describe the concepts in SecKit clearly. Specifically, the authors describe “enforcement” and “configuration” like: “For  example,  a  profile  can  be specified  to  restrict  the  amount  of  user  information  accessible  to  the  IoT  devices (enforcement)     when    the  user   is in  a  public   space   that  is  considered  to  be a potentially unsafe situation (configuration)” – (Baldini et al. – p.12). The author should spend one or two sentences to explain the definition of concepts “enforcement” and “configuration” more clearly.
The article has good structure consisting of three main parts: the problem formulation (abstract, introduction), the solution to the problem (Policy-Based approach for Ethical Design)  as well as the evaluation of the solution (Analysis  and comparison with other frameworks). This structure helps the audience to easily follow the article’s content.


Peer review of: The Energy Walk: Experimenting with Aesthetic Methods in STS?

With point of departure in the STS infused ITU research project, Alien Energy, The Energy Walk, the article argues how aesthetics is important for experiences such as The Energy Walk. It also analyses how the walk fulfils the requirements of aesthetics, based on philosopher John Dewey’s work, Art as an Experience from 1934.


In the following quote the author states that Færgegrillen is not the usual place for people interested in renewable energy:

 “the harbour-based cafe´ known as Færgegrillen. Whereas DanWec can be said to have obvious interests at stake, Færgegrillen is not the typical place to search for people interested or invested in renewable and wave energy issues.” Line Marie Thorsen (2016)

Taking the audience into consideration, it is difficult to assume that they by default know Færgegrillen and the context of it in relation to renewable energy. A suggestion for a different solution would be to cut out the phrase “Færgegrillen is not the typical place to search for people interested or invested in renewable and wave energy issues”.

The above also leads to another critique point, which is the wide use of emotional narration similar to the below:

For instance, as you walk up the wooden stairs leading through the dunes, the digital travelling companion tells of energy in its most ancient forms”. (page 144)

The author is being very descriptive and detailed when describing the actual Energy Walk. The end section, with the main argument, is not referring to specific parts of the walk but drawing in theory on aesthetics in an STS-perspective. Because the last section does not relate to the practicalities of the walk, figurative language can be cut down and John Dewey drawn in earlier in the article.

The article is 7 pages long, and the last section, Aesthetic Method?, is 1½ page long, without a clear conclusion. To provide a better overview of the content of the article, it is recommended to shorten down the end-section by, for example, dividing it up and separating the last paragraph starting with “Importantly, this is not to say that…” (page 147), to create a new section with its own headline, which could be “STS in the future”.

The article is split between two things, the urge to describe the actual walk with pictures and emotional expressions, and the theoretical relation to John Dewey and aesthetics, which is the main point of the analysis. It would be more concise and specific, if it was less descriptive and instead referred to John Dewey throughout.


Critical Questions for Big Data

Boyd & Crawford 2012


”Critical questions for Big Data” addresses six different questions regarding Big Data. Explaining the meaning of Big Data and addressing some of the complications of how data is collected, regulated and used. The authors try to start a debate about these six issues they found in Big Data research.


The authors use implicit knowledge in the text, and example of this one of the numerous quotes used: ‘Change the instruments, and you will change the entire social theory that goes with them’, Latour (2009). Readers with a background in STS will be able to understand these quotes, who Latour is and what an instrument is in this context, unlike reader who is not familiar with STS. Instead of using so many quotes from other authors, I would suggest explaining it with your own words with the reader in mind. This should make it easier for the reader to understand the different argument presented in the text.


The goal of the text is very clear for the reader, the title ”Critical questions for Big Data” and the sub titles such as “Just because it is accessible does not make it ethical” and “Limited access to Big Data creates new digital divides” each present several issues to be discussed in the related text fields. The goal of the authors is to share their knowledge of issues regarding Big Data and spark discussion among researchers, politicians, private companies, and the public through six provocative questions.


In the article ‘Ethical Design in the Internet of Things’, from 2016, Baldini et. al. look at how IoT can be designed to empower users in controlling and protecting their own personal data. This is specifically deemed important in a time where an increased awareness is happening towards privacy and security risks. Introducing the concept of “Ethical Design”, in addition with a practical toolkit called SecKit, Baldini et. al. argue for this to support ‘privacy by design’, in the means of a set of principles and rules to be applied within digital architectures or designs.

I will now continue to address some points for critique, complemented with both examples and suggestions for further improvement.

Lack of transition within sections

A couple of times, that they lack proper explanation and transition between their statements. For example, on p. 2 after explaining two principles in FIPP, they state “There are two key principles which will be addressed in the framework proposed in this paper”. Hereafter, they move on to refer to another author studying main challenges to guarantee data protection laws, thus something entirely different. Both beforehand, and after the statement it should be more visible why they are mentioning these two principles to be addressed, when they just leave it there.

What research is this coming from?

What actual research has resulted in this concept of “Ethical Design”? What evidence do they have for what they are stating? They do a good job of quoting and referring to other studies and authors. Is this their own concept? I would probably have provided an explanation to this, whatever the explanation might be. Empirical study or ethnographic observation etc.

No conflict of interest?

After their conclusion they briefly state “the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest” (p. 20). This make me wonder, what kind of question the authors have asked themselves? How is it possible to state this? All four of them, each have their own perspective, worldviews, ideas, beliefs – each affecting how they do research and how they experience these issues. Do they think that by stating this, it will have a certain effect on the readers? A recommendation could be to introduce a direct statement where the writers express their reasons why for choosing to declare this, to give the reader a context and reasoning.


The paper emphasizes the need for thinking innovatively in our way of handling data in regards to IoT. As we get more “things” which can collect data, concerns about user privacy have been raised. The authors suggest a new approach in order to satisfy the different user privacy needs and wants; Ethical Design. Instead of defining broad privacy settings, the individual user gets a profile, in which they can adjust their personal privacy settings. This profile is based on the user’s IT skills (and priced hereafter), and the “things” around can adjust automatically to the settings of the profile; and furthermore taking other circumstances, such as context, into account. This solution is based on an existing platform, SecKit, which is not yet integrated into the “things” or has a specific marketplace. The paper illustrates the power of the individual users, whom can provide the system with the degree of complexity it needs in order to satisfy various stakeholders (Baldini et al., 2016).

Three points of critique
1. Change in language
In the first half of the text, the authors use an easy understandable language, but throughout the text ends up using more technical terms, which are introduced, but not explained:  “The Policy Decision Point (PDP) receives event notifications from the Policy Enforcement Point (PEP) and evaluates the security policies.” (Baldini et al., 2016: 13). This could be easier understandable if they introduced PDP and PEP in terms of what they are and do, prior to explaining their connection.

2. Transition failed
On page 8 and 9, a Table 1 is introduced and used several times in the later sections. However the transition from the prior passage to the table is done without any introduction of the table. The last paragraph begins with “In summary, the IoT products based on an Ethical design should be based or have (…)” (Baldini et al., 2016: 7), and sums up four points. On the next page the table is then displayed with the headers “Challenge, Description”; thus no apparent connection or introduction. Again it would be useful to introduce it in prior, especially due to its importance in the text; thus stating what the table is about and its use in the text.

3.Lack of Research?
After describing their solution, Ethical Design, they state: “In summary, Ethical Design for developers and entrepreneurs may bring a number of advantages: (…)” (Baldini et al., 2016: 11). The word “may” indicates that these advantages are based on speculations instead of actual research. This should be backed up with some research, interviews with stakeholders, etc. in order to make the statement more convincing.


Peer Critique of Ethical design in the Internet of Things (Baldini et. al, 2015)

The article addresses the ethical dilemmas of privacy and user empowerment that occur in the usage of IoT. A framework to solve these dilemmas utilizing ethically designed IT systems is suggested based on the toolkit “SecKit” that empowers users to profile their own privacy settings.

The others do not use many divisions in the structure, which makes the article seem somewhat massive and slightly messy at times. Not dividing the text into sections also deemphasizes the important points that are made. The language is academic and professional with appropriate amount of professional terminology, however, the sentences become very long and complicated, which unfortunately again deemphasizes the focal points of the text. Splitting up the sentences or killing superfluous parts could simplify the text and emphasize the important points.

As the article moves on, the style of writing goes from essay genre to a more technical instructive text with many terms that is not understandable for a layperson. This shift in style confuses the reader and poses question of who is the intended audience. Initially the text seems to address academics of various disciplines, which then changes to mostly professional developers as the text proceeds to describe of how to model an ethical design using the “SecKit” toolkit. However, the usage of metatext between each section becomes very useful to understand the intention despite the confusion of intention.

The language of the text is clear with precise wording and well-defined terminology. Yet, the authors tend to use the same word to start many sentences in a row. An example of this is evident in the conclusion where they use the word “we” to initiate their arguments;

“We have identified…” “Then, we have described…” “We have shown…” “We have also described…” (Baldini et. al, 2015: no page numbers in article). This choice of repetitive wording as such makes the text less appealing to read. Nevertheless, the article does give a clear answer to how IT systems can empower the user by utilizing the ethical design framework.