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48.2 - Sleep, Knowledge, Technology

Special Issue – Hannah Ahlheim, Dariuš Zifonun & Nicole Zillien (Eds.): Sleep, Knowledge, Technology. Studies of the sleep lab, sleep tracking and beyond.

We all sleep; sleep is a biological necessity. Sleep is therefore all too often described as a purely physiological phenomenon – and thus understood as quite limited in its susceptibility to being shaped by social and cultural factors. Sleep habits and sleep disturbances vary, however, sometimes considerably, across centuries, social classes, and cultures. Accordingly, sleep can be shaped, which in the so-called knowledge society happens in particular through scientific knowledge and technologies.

In our HSR Special Issue, “Sleep, Knowledge, Technology,” we analyse the ways in which scientists, experts, and laypeople as well as mere sleepers are “doing sleep.” We bring together nine contributions that explore how knowledge about sleep is produced, what role scientific knowledge and technologies play in this process, which forms of sleep knowledge people view as valid, and how such attributions of validity are legitimized.

The first cluster of articles in our special issue analyses practices of knowledge fabrication in the sleep lab, the second explores the extent to which sleep knowledge depends on the context in which it is produced (e.g., experimental spaces, exhibitions, arctic nights), and the third cluster studies sleep-tracking devices and practices. With this special issue, we want to contribute not least to a better understanding of a society that is massively shaped by scientific knowledge and digital technologies.