Recent Posts

Collapse of a Horse: Prosthetics and Experimentality in a Critical Public Event

Collapse of a Horse: Prosthetics and Experimentality in a Critical Public Event

A note to my readers: I wrote the following essay exactly a year ago, as a horse lay attacked in India. Many political fortunes have changed since, and perpetrators of the attack on the horse have returned to social life. What I wrote then I share here, cognisant of the cynicism of party-politics, mindful of the power of remembrance and the archive in the world, and hopeful that the story of those that sought to reclaim this damaged animal exhibited practices of transcendence that merits recording–even if such recording is by way of an anthropology from a distance. ~~~ The meaning of life is […]

Your Surveillance Fortune . . .

As part of the MIT Day of Action, Michelle Spektor and I came up with some facts, tips, and “fortunes” about surveillance and privacy to give out to passers by. The fortunes are, I think, the most interesting and thought provoking, so I am putting those up here. They range from the anodyne to the genuinely disturbing, but I think do a good job to capture some of the potential problems of a culture of pervasive surveillance by a wide variety of private, as well as governmental, actors. If you have your own idea for a surveillance fortune, add it […]

Science and Society Carnival @ MIT Day of Action

Provocation: Is science political? Scholars who study the practice of science and the social impacts of science and technology have long recognized that science does have political dimensions. Research in biology impacts how we define and value people. Basic research in physics and chemistry has led both to helpful new products and serious threats to human health and wellbeing. The findings of climate science may contribute to the reshaping of economies and day to day life for billions globally. On the technical side, Melvin Kranzberg’s enigmatic statement highlights a key problem for our times: “Technology is neither good nor bad; […]

The Relevance of STS in Industry, Part 1: On Critique

In conversations with several people in the general STS field, I have informally provided my perspective on the importance of philosophies from STS (and H and A, for that matter, our other component disciplines here) to the production of new technological artifacts. Among these sometimes unwitting interlocutors is Shreeharsh Kelkar, who suggested, perhaps a year ago, that I might post about these ideas. And it seems like it may be useful for myself and for others to put them into writing in a rather more concrete, if still informal, way. Figuring out how to achieve this fusion of technological research […]

Bugs, Drugs, Documents.

Bugs, Drugs, Documents.

  What a fortnight it’s been for (anti)microbials! A fortnight presaging an emergent summer of action, discontent and alarm. First up, there’s the final report from the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, a body commissioned by the British Government to delve into the “global problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and propose concrete actions to tackle it internationally”. Released on May 19th, 2016, the final report’s warnings couldn’t be starker: if things carry on as they are with the uptake of antimicrobials and a simultaneous diminishment in the new development of antibiotics, then by 2050, 10 million—yes, that’s correct, ten million—people will […]

The Image Series: Link Rot, Guantánamo, and the Department of Defense

The Image Series: Link Rot, Guantánamo, and the Department of Defense

A Beinecke Scholar and former Turkey Fulbrighter, Muira McCammon (@muira_mccammon) has written about Guantánamo for Slate’s Future Tense, The Kenyon Review Online and a few other publications. She will soon graduate from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with an M.A. in Comparative Literature/Translation Studies and received her B.A. in International Relations and French from Carleton College. Her thesis probes the stories that have been told about the Guantánamo Bay Detainee Library. Muira enjoys talking to the journalists, artists, veterans, lawyers, and others whose paths have intersected with GiTMO. She also works part-time for the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society. […]

Precarity and its discontents

This morning, as I was going through my RSS feeds, I encountered this sentence on Vox in their summary of recent news about Uber: To liberals and labor lawyers — including the woman who represented Uber’s drivers in these suits, profiled in January by Mother Jones — Uber was one of many companies that have prospered in the “gig economy” by keeping their employees in precarity. [Mother Jones / Hannah Levintova] What jumped out (let’s leave Uber out for the time being) was the use of the word “precarity,” which is used by the Vox authors, but isn’t really in the Mother […]

Populists as Political Outsiders in the U.S Presidential Election

Populists as Political Outsiders in the U.S Presidential Election

Against all pundits’ bets, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders each stand a chance of winning their parties’ nominations. Writing in disbelief, media analysts and scholars have attempted to explain the allure of both candidates to the disenchanted masses. Some analysts write about the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, and the increasing disconnect between party elites and their constituents to explain the rise of political outsiders; others write about racial backlash against President Obama.  And still others write about how years of merciless and cynical political manipulation within the parties has polarized political discourse in the U.S. “Populism!” […]

Historical Twitter: On Twitter, Telephony & India

Historical Twitter: On Twitter, Telephony & India

Ten years ago, on 21 March 2006, the first Twitter message—what would come to be called a tweet, but at the time was described as a status update—was sent. Four months later, on July 15, Twitter opened to the public as a messaging service. This is the first in a series of posts that explores Twitter through a historical lens. At least, it may become a series. We’ll see. The image above, satisfyingly opaque with its mysterious number block and bevy of well-regulated golden pigeons, appeared on the Twitter blog on 17 January 2008. That blog post announced a short […]

On the Promise of AlphaGo

On the Promise of AlphaGo

  Games are an old venue for the development of AI programs, and have been part of the AI repertoire since the beginnings of the field. Turing wrote about games in his 1948 paper “Intelligent Machinery,” in which he suggested chess, noughts and crosses, bridge, and poker as among the games to teach machines. Why the focus on games that foreground disembodied mental activity? Because a “thinking machine” constructed in the image of a man would be “a tremendous undertaking” and therefore would be “altogether too slow and impractical” a research project (p. 39). Minksy, in the introduction to the […]