The stories behind the Green Glittery Sheep
University of Edinburgh
If you’re here, you’ve noticed all the glittery sheep scattered throughout our pages. They were created by Anaïs Moisy as part of our project on responsible innovation in the UK and Japan.
Sheep have a particularly prominent place in our field, Science and Technology Studies, because of their connection to agricultural controversies like Foot and Mouth Disease, and more importantly through the seminal work of Brian Wynne, in papers like May the Sheep Safely Graze?. Brian’s work on the place of science in public life underpins much of the work on responsible research and innovation.
Don’t ask why they’re green. It’ll take much longer to explain….
Colorado State University
Why is this site covered in green glittery sheep?
Sheep are more than one but less than many. They’re simultaneously singular and plural. Sheep are increasingly enrolled to perform environmental services, but are also worthy of consideration in their own right as sheep. Significant portions of Scotland are covered in them. One uncommonly significant sheep is embalmed, encased in plexiglass on a rotating pedestal, on permanent display in the National Museum of Scotland just next-door to the University of Edinburgh. Rotating plexiglass aside, Dolly looks just like any other sheep, yet we might call her a past-future organism and a harbinger not only of how humans might reconfigure animals, but also how humans might work with and relate to them. One lone sheep is a sad sight; a herd can be a force to be reckoned with.
These sheep are our mascot, and maybe a metaphor for how we feel about being social scientists enrolled in responsible research and innovation. Their green glittery-ness invokes an art performance that some of us involved in this hub witnessed at a formative moment during our thinking about RRI. In the repurposed auditorium of a decommissioned girl’s school in Perth, Australia, a woman publicly performed an act of mourning the death of her friend through (among other things) reading an autopsy report on an inbreath, alternately putting on and taking off a green dress, climbing in and out of a fume hood, and burying herself head-first in a pile of green glitter and ash. We witnessed this performance as a peripheral event to an art conference, organized by several of our artist-collaborators, that we attended with several synthetic biologist-collaborators. All of us walked into the auditorium with no clear protocol for what we were supposed to do. We had to improvise and figure out our relationship to the performance and each other. The usual hierarchies in interdisciplinary collaborations were turned upside-down and given a good shake.
While we didn’t approach the event with RRI in mind, we’ve realized it afterward as a place where RRI unexpectedly happened: by maintaining interdisciplinary relationships (and disrupting their hierarchies), prompting otherwise-inaccessible ways of thinking, and requiring renegotiation of things that are easy to take for granted. Now, when we think of RRI, we think of green glitter.
Green glittery sheep are mundane, fantastical creatures that have no homes. Maybe they even challenge assumptions about what sheep are, what sheep are for, or what sheep can be. They connect the places we’ve been to the places we think we’d like to go—though, who knows where walking with the herd will take us.
University of Edinburgh
Dolly the cloned sheep is probably one of the most famous sheep in science, and her stuffed remains can be found in the National Museum of Scotland which is just a few minutes walk away from the building that houses Science, Technology and Innovation Studies in Edinburgh, where several of us are based. This is one reason why sheep feel appropriate for a website that aims to think critically about science and technology. The reason the sheep are green and glittery will become clearer once we have finished writing this paper.