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 forthcoming 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.

In light of the recent unprecedented developments, the Editors of the BJS are expediting the publication of the special issue. It should be available in early April. As part of this expedited publication, 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 volume we will also be discussing how the crisis puts the sociology of testing to the 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).

Noortje Marres, University of Warwick, on the sociology of testing. Marres is guest co-editor of the special issue of the
British Journal of Sociology and co-author of “Put to the Test: The Sociology of Testing.”

Marres and Stark, “Put to the Test” article forthcoming
British Journal of Sociology

Have you been tested?

Silent lecture to accompany Put to the Test

Gil Eyal, Columbia University, in conversation with David Stark. Eyal is the author of
The Crisis of Expertise (Polity Press. 2019).

Jonathan Bach in conversation with David Stark. Bach is Professor of Global Studies, The New School, and the author of “The Red and the Black: China’s Social Credit Experiment as a Total Test Environment,” forthcoming in the Brit J of Soc. In this clip Jonathan discusses how aspects of the Social Credit System that were tested in the pandemic crisis might now be adapted in a new second phase when the purpose shifts from restricting action to enabling movement by those identifed as “less risky” by algorithmic prediction.

Nathan Coombs, University of Edinburgh, in conversation with David Stark. Coombs is the author of “What do stress tests test? Experimentation, demonstration and the sociotechnical performance of regulatory science,” forthcoming in the
British Journal of Sociology.

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

Luciana de Souza Leão, University of Michigan
“What’s on Trial? The Making of Field Experiments in International Development” forthcoming in the
British Journal of Sociology

Giovanni Formilan, Lecturer in Creative Industries, University of Edinburgh Business School.
Giovanni Formilan and David Stark, “Underground Testing: Name-Altering Practices as Probes in Electronic Music,” forthcoming
British Journal of Sociology.

Joan H. Robinson, Assistant Professor of Social Science and Law at The City College of New York, CUNY. Joan is the author of “What the pregnancy test is testing”, forthcoming in the
British Journal of Sociology.

Janet Vertesi, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Jacob Viner University Perceptor, Princeton University. Janet is the author of “Testing planets: Institutions tested in an era of uncertainty”, forthcoming in the
British Journal of Sociology.