Recent Posts

“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, […]

Facebook’s New Gender Options

Facebook’s New Gender Options

On Thursday, Facebook announced the launch of 50+ gender identifier options that users can select from, as well as three preferred pronoun choices (her, him, or them). This change to user preferences made official what many users had been previously experimenting with or “working around” on the site. Alex Schultz, director of growth at Facebook, was quoted stating “Really, there was no debate within Facebook about the social implications at all. It was simple: Not allowing people to express something so fundamental is not really cool so we did something. Hopefully a more open and connected world will, by extension, […]

Image credit: Nathan Ensmenger.

Nobro Computing

In a blog-post on Difference Engines week ago, Lilly Irani wrote: By analogy, maybe there’s a feminist STS project that could take similar form [to the People of Color in European Art History Tumblr that she'd been reading] . Women in computing advocates (e.g. Anita Borg Institute) often use the presence of women in computing history as the exception that proves the possibility. I’ve been frustrated for a while about the way well-meaning computing institutions deal with gender in computing by simply attempting to include women (future, present, and past) in the already gendered mold of the contemporary computer programmer. Here’s […]

under the Darjeeling fog

under the Darjeeling fog

Here’s an initial effort to add some content on food production to the blog. This post is a departure from my usual myco-centrism. I visited the tea plantation in 2012 (I was also researching wild mushroom production in the region). This was written for a small newspaper in Kolkata, but never saw the light of day.  So now you get to enjoy it!     As we descended the hill covered in waist-high shrubs, factory workers wasted no time in questioning our motive. “Tea tourism,” we replied. We were, in fact, not only at the tea estate in the interest of learning […]

Actually, Alan Turing Did Not Invent the Computer

Actually, Alan Turing Did Not Invent the Computer

  That’s the bracing headline of Thomas Haigh’s article on Alan Turing that appears, appropriately enough, in the latest Communications of the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery, the premier organization of computer scientists). Since the article is under a paywall, I want to bring out some of its best points.  The first is that the pioneers of the then-emerging discipline of computer science did not want their science to be about building computers (which was seen as the task of electrical engineers), but rather about something more.  And therefore they  reached out into the past and extracted Turing’s first 1936 […]

What is performativity?  What is hegemony?

What is performativity? What is hegemony?

The concept of performativity in STS and the social studies of finance is a powerful one but I’ve also found it problematic, in at least one big way, which is establishing its validity, which has always seemed difficult to me.  Sometimes it just seems like a new term for good, old-fashioned theories of constructivism1.   At other times, itseems like a powerful idea but finding data that demonstrates that something is “performed” seems really, really difficult. For example, Donald Mackenzie’s case for the performativity of the BSM equation [pdf] consists of showing that (a) it was not a good predictor […]

Whatsapp, GPS and the art of urban navigation

Whatsapp, GPS and the art of urban navigation

Jared McCormick from Harvard Anthropology has an interesting piece on the uses that Whatsapp, a messaging application for smart-phones (which I know some of us at HASTS use!) , is put to in Lebanon.  The whole thing is worth a read but what really got my interest was this paragraph (my emphasis): While we all tacitly understand that by carrying a phone we are trackable, this becomes clearer as smartphones allow for a tactile interaction with GPS. What is baffling, often times across class divides, are the ways in which our actual physical location becomes rendered on digital interpretations of […]

Exams, Generally

Exams, Generally

General exams are meant to test a graduate student’s comprehensive knowledge of fields related to her research and qualify her for a PhD candidacy.  Or, so I’m told.  After nine months of reading 285 books and articles, scheduling 60 hours of meetings, writing 261 pages of responses (roughly 117,450 words), I’ve finally made it to exam week. Three fields, three written exams, and one oral exam.  No problem.  Below is a photoblog recounting the process of exam week. 11/17 The Day Before the Exam Discovered some notes on Mumford from my first year!  I’m not really sure how to decipher […]

Queer STS: Part 2

Queer STS: Part 2

 This is a two-part blog post, the first part focusing on provocations, and the second on assembling a “reading list” for STS students interested in queer studies. Jose Esteban Muñoz passed away today, and these posts are inspired by his work.      Start Here, Then Iterate: An STS student interested in the theme of “Queer STS” might start by reading Catharina Landstrom’s critique of Feminist STS, “Queering Feminist Technology Studies” (2007). Landstrom critiques the heteronormativity of feminist constructivist technology studies, which she argues reinforces gendered binaries in its focus on masculinist regimes and assumption of what qualifies as masculine. Her main […]

Queer STS: Part 1

Queer STS: Part 1

 This is a two-part blog post, the first part focusing on provocations, and the second part on assembling a “reading list” for STS students interested in queer studies. Jose Esteban Muñoz passed away today, and these posts are inspired by his work.  [Image credit]  “Queer is not yet here…we are not yet queer…We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future…Queerness is a structuring and educating mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present. The here […]