SPECIAL: TESTING

Special

Have You Been Tested?

COVID-19 and the sociology of testing

“Have You Been Tested?” That is the opening sentence of the introductory essay for a Special Issue on the Sociology of Testing in the British Journal of Sociology, for which I and my University of Warwick colleague, Noortje Marres, are guest co-editors. We wrote that sentence prior to the winter holidays. It is uncanny.

Noortje and I are producing video content to inform a broader public about how our research findings hold lessons in this moment when so much attention is directed to the technological, social, and political challenges of testing. In interviews and conversations with other contributors to the debate, we are discussing how the crisis puts the sociology of testing to the test.



David Stark, “Testing and Being Tested in Pandemic Times,” article in Sociologica, Vol. 14, No.1 (2020), pp.67-94.

“Is the tester competent?”

Trevor Pinch (Cornell University) in conversation with David Stark.

“(Mis-)trust and the proliferation of testing”

Trevor Pinch (Cornell University) in conversation with David Stark.

“Projection and the temporalities of testing”

Trevor Pinch (Cornell University) in conversation with David Stark.

“Edison’s Tone Test”

Trevor Pinch (Cornell University) in conversation with David Stark.

“The semantic field: testing, checking, experimenting”

Trevor Pinch (Cornell University) in conversation with David Stark.

“Competent Testing and the Certainty Trough”

Donald McKenzie (University of Edinburgh) in conversation with David Stark.

“Politics is Permanently Beta”

Donald McKenzie (University of Edinburgh) in conversation with David Stark.

“Putting the ‘Natural Order’ to the Test”

Donald McKenzie (University of Edinburgh) in conversation with David Stark.

“Experts are being tested”

Gil Eyal (Columbia University) in conversation with David Stark. A discussion of the numerous ways in which society is both testing and being tested as the world responds to – and is tested by the 2020 coronavirus crisis. Gil Eyal is the author of The Crisis of Expertise (Polity Press, 2019).

“For the social credit system, it’s a test of the system as a whole and a test of each individual within that system – to see whether they can learn or whether they can comply”

Jonathan Bach (The New School) in conversation with David Stark. Bach provides an expansion of his article in the British Journal of Sociology, “The Red and the Black: China’s Social Credit Experiment as a Total Test Environment.” The conversation also touches on the response to the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan province in relation to China’s social credit system.

“Is this current situation a stress test?”

Nathan Coombs (University of Edinburgh) in conversation with David Stark. Coombs provides an expansion of his article in the British Journal of Sociology, “What do stress tests test?” The conversation focuses on the stress testing of the banking industry in the twenty-first century and the potential for the coronavirus crisis as a real-time stress test.

David Stark introduces Put to the Test.

This Special Issue is based on the international workshop, Put to the Test: Critical Evaluations of Testing which took place in Warwick in London in December 2018, with the support of the ERC project BLINDSPOT, The Sociological Review, the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies (University of Warwick) and the Center on Organizational Innovation (Columbia University).

“Societies are increasingly governed, known and organised by way of tests”

Noortje Marres, (University of Warwick) introduces “Put to the Test: The Sociology of Testing” in the British Journal of Sociology.



Noortje Marres and David Stark, “Put to the Test: For a new sociology of testing,” article in the British Journal of Sociology.

Have you been tested?

Silent lecture to accompany “Put to the Test”



Presentation by David Stark for the Thinking the Virus colloquium, Wissenschaftskolleg (Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin), April 2, 2020.

“What are the consequences of experimenting on the poor?”

Luciana de Souza Leão (University of Michigan) presents an introduction to her article in the British Journal of Sociology,
“What’s on Trial? The Making of Field Experiments in International Development.”

“What is ‘self’ in isolation?”

Giovanni Formilan (University of Edinburgh)  presents an introduction to his article, co-authored with David Stark, in the British Journal of Sociology, “Underground Testing: Name-Altering Practices as Probes in Electronic Music.”

“These are fundamental questions about liberty, equality and society that have been asked of women ever since the pregnancy test was invented”

Joan H. Robinson (CUNY) presents an introduction to her article in the British Journal of Sociology“What the pregnancy test is testing?”

“These objects become even more unknowable and un-co-operative in the face of institutional breakdowns”

Janet Vertesi (Princeton University) introduces her British Journal of Sociology article, “Testing planets: Institutions tested in an era of uncertainty” in the context of the current coronavirus crisis and her research with NASA.