Recent Posts

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 […]

Photo from The Commons archive at Flickr here.

Weekend Reading

James Scott reviews Jared Diamond’s latest in the LRB.  [Via Savage Minds.] Kevin Drum  on the debate between economists about why fiscal stimulus works.  How is New Keynesianism different from Old Keynesianism? Using Google Docs in the higher education classroom. On meta-games and containers.  (You should definitely click on this!) An essay on academics hired by Wall Street published in The Nation. Upworthy is just the new mutation of the Internet Chain Letter. Have a good weekend!      

Big Data, Boundary Work and Computer Science

Big Data, Boundary Work and Computer Science

4S 2013 was full of “big data” panels (Tom Boellstorff has convinced me to not capitalize the term).  Many of these talks were critiques; the authors saw big data as a new form of positivism, and the rhetoric of big data as a sort of false consciousness that was sweeping the sciences. 1 But what do scientists think of big data? In a blog-post titled “The Big Data Brain Drain: Why Science is in Trouble,”  physicist Jake VanderPlas (his CV lists his interests as “Astronomy” and “Machine Learning”) makes the argument that the real reason big data is dangerous is because […]