Recent Posts

Cross-STS Launched—- Probing the Genealogies

Cross-STS Launched—- Probing the Genealogies

The new working group at HASTS, Cross-STS, had a great start last week, 9/24/2014, with over twenty people from varied disciplinary backgrounds like Anthropology, Architecture, Medicine, STS and Public Policy joining us. “STS” was dissected and reconfigured on several planes in this first meeting. Under the broad umbrella theme of “crossing” disciplinary, regional, transnational boundaries to discuss the emergent forms of STS, the meeting focused on the most recent 4S (Society of Social Studies of Science) conference held at Buenos Aires in August 2014, as well as, STS syllabi from schools across three different continents: Ecole des Hautes Etudes en […]

The Shanghai Sanatorium

The Shanghai Sanatorium

In 1949, my grandmother started working as a nurse at the largest sanatorium in Shanghai.  It had been founded by French Jesuit missionaries who were forced to abandon the city once the Republic of China dissolved.  My grandma had entered along with twenty other newly trained nurses to work with four doctors and care for eight hundred patients.  Yes, four doctors for eight hundred patients. Below is an excerpt of an interview I had with my grandma about her early years at the sanatorium. GM: When we first started working at the hospital, there were four types of patients.  But before the Liberation, they were all bound and tied up.  So, […]

Science vs. Politics: A pragmatic argument for why this distinction doesn’t work

Science vs. Politics: A pragmatic argument for why this distinction doesn’t work

Recently, I talked to a doctor and public health professional about the relationship between science and policy; he told me, in a vivid metaphor, of how things work, and should work, in the regulatory process. The science produces the facts, which then get funneled through our values through the process of politics.  What comes out of this machine, he said, are policies. It was quite a beguiling vision, but as an STS person, I couldn’t help asking: did he really believe in it? Yes, he said.  I pressed on.  How, I asked, would he explain the controversy over global warming? […]

Engineering Taste: IBM’s Chef Watson and Technologies of Heteromation

Engineering Taste: IBM’s Chef Watson and Technologies of Heteromation

In the documentary El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, Chef Ferran Adria can be seen painstakingly testing new flavors and recipes for the now-shuttered El Bulli restaurant. The menu theme is “water, ” and over the course of weeks, even months, single dishes are perfected with a new flavor addition, a sprinkling of green matcha powder here or an injection of mint-flavored sugar there. The recipes are always distinguished by Adria’s unique flair for new gastronomic devices and technologies. In the film we can see that Chef Adria’s process is a craft combing tacit taste and exacting discipline not uncommon among […]

Light Fieldwork: Lytro Cameras, Open Research & the Partial

Light Fieldwork: Lytro Cameras, Open Research & the Partial

Lytro markets the images from its light field cameras as “living pictures.” This makes me think of the magical portraits from Harry Potter, their subjects managing door security and popping from frame to frame. (Not the photographs. Harry Potter photographs are pretty much anigifs.) “Living picture” is certainly evocative marketspeak, but it obscures what a fascinating methodological tool light field images can be—and the fresh questions about openness and participation in research such cameras provoke. The following images were taken in Japan during the summer of 2013 with a first generation Lytro camera. They’re products of my first explorations with […]

Dissertation Review: Mathematical Professionalization in Mid-Century America

Dissertation Review: Mathematical Professionalization in Mid-Century America

Historical studies on scientists in the Cold War university have surged in recent years. Perhaps more significantly, research on this topic has diversified. Recently described by Steven Shapin in one instance, “it was immediately understood that it was the natural scientists and engineers who had departed the Ivory Tower en masse, leaving the humanities and most of the human sciences behind” during the Cold War. The options of federal contracts and grants implied an alternative to university support to which scientists could turn. But whereas many twentieth-century treatments were content to leave conclusions at that, more recent scholars—such as David […]

Where did the flying cars go?

Where did the flying cars go?

Today, I read this remarkable David Graeber essay from 2012, titled provocatively, “Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit.”  It asks: why did the flying cars, which we thought would be here by the turn of the millennium, not materialize?  Graeber’s answer, which will not surprise anyone who has read him, is that this is all about capital.  Capital decided that flying cars and robots would actually empower the working class, and therefore switched their energies to other, more frivolous matters (the Internet, say), that give us the illusion of technological progress but are nothing of the kind.  […]

The Proposal

The Proposal

Last week, I presented my dissertation proposal.   Like other presentations, visualizing the content helped to outline and organize my ideas.  Unlike other presentations, my ideas were significantly shifting day to day.  Throughout the semester, I cut off more than half of my potential sources and expanded on a smaller section that I had initially written about for my first year paper.  This decision happened on a night bus to New York.  A week before my presentation, I decided to frame the project as body maps and scrambled to find The Greatest Hits on visualization and representation.  Special thanks to Grace […]

The Presentation of Self in Job Applications: Lessons Learned

Recently I gave my first job talk. I didn’t get the job. However, I did get some valuable insight into professionalization, aspects that I had not encountered before as a grad student. Many excellent academic professionalization blogs offer helpful advice on the dos and don’ts of the campus visit and the job talk. But, rarely as novices in the academe, do we get tips on how to present our scholarship to a hiring committee that is as interested in our work as testing the rigor of our thinking. I want to share some lessons I learned that might be helpful […]

“The Matriculating Indian and the Uneducated Negro: The Curse of Ham on Campus” – Craig Wilder’s Black History Month talk

“The Matriculating Indian and the Uneducated Negro: The Curse of Ham on Campus” – Craig Wilder’s Black History Month talk

On Wednesday, February 26, 2014, the MIT Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE) held a Black History Month reception with a talk by Craig Wilder based on his new book, Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities.  His talk, titled “The Matriculating Indian and the Uneducated Negro: The Curse of Ham on Campus,” started with the story of the Curse of Ham and what it represents in American colonial history.  His book, which was originally intended to be a short article from a 2 month research project but turned into an 11 year, […]