Recent Posts

Weekend Reading

This weekend is the HASTS 25th anniversary.  But just in case, you have time, some interesting links to browse through on the weekend. Historian David A. Bell asks if global history can be done better, without over-using the “network” metaphor. Susan Faludi on “Facebook feminism” and the Lean In movement. Annette Markham writes about what it means to do ethnography online. An interesting article, with results from a group of MIT neuro-scientists about how we perceive subway maps. Post in the comments if you love/hate any of them.

Supplementary Tips (prior to fieldwork)

Supplementary Tips (prior to fieldwork)

My disclaimer: many of you are probably more organized than me, and maybe less foolhardy. 1. Prepare the logistics of oh-so-boring but necessary things to keep you healthy and safe preferably before you embark on your fieldwork. Everyone talks about setting up your fieldwork to make it viable, and that’s important. But there’s something many of you might overlook. I did. Healthcare. Ah yes, most of us are unlikely to consider it, given that the worse we get down with is a flu/cough. As Amah said, no prizes for getting mono…and it’ll set you back financially, research time wise, and […]

The Zuckerberg Files

The Zuckerberg Files

Anthony Hoffmann writes: Over the weekend, Michael Zimmer (my advisor!) launchedThe Zuckerberg Files – “a digital archive of all public utterances of Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.” The archive contains “over 100 full-text transcripts and nearly 50 video files are available for researchers to download, analyze, and scrutinize.” The project grew out of a conversation Michael, Kate Raynes-Goldie, and I had (over drinks, of course) during the Association of Internet Researchers annual meeting in Gothenberg, Sweden in 2010. At the time, Michael was embroiled in writing about privacy and social networks, Kate was critically engaging with “the Californian ideology”, […]

Is “open source” in 2011 different from what it was in 2001?

Is “open source” in 2011 different from what it was in 2001?

HASTS alum Chris Kelty has a nice “Afterword“[pdf] for a new special issue of the journal Criticism titled “Open Source Culture and Aesthetics.”  His key point is that while discussing “open source software,” it needs to be studied as something concrete, not just an instantiation of some wider cultural phenomenon.  Thus, he suggests, “open source” means something very different today than it did in 2001: There are concrete, empirically specifiable, and material realities to open source and the rush to replace them with a label like peer productioncan only obscure that there is something called open source software production, that […]

Philip Mirowski on the Nobel (or Swedish Central Bank) prize in Economics

Philip Mirowski on the Nobel (or Swedish Central Bank) prize in Economics

Philip Mirowski in a free-flowing dialogue talks a little bit about his latest research: a history of the Nobel Prize in Economics (or rather, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel).  In his capsule summary, he suggests that the Nobel Prize was instituted at a time when the Swedish Central Bank was trying to free itself of democratic accountability, and that therefore, the Prize served to legitimate the Central Bank itself as a technical rather than a political body.  [The Central Bank is certainly one of the most politically puzzling institutions in modern capitalist democracies.  […]

5 Tips for Surviving Your Fieldwork Year

5 Tips for Surviving Your Fieldwork Year

Disclaimer: my fieldwork is all outside of the US, and primarily ethnographic. Staying local or doing archival research are bound to come with their own, unique demands. And/or you may be a better-adjusted individual than I am, and have had totally different experiences. So please do us all a favor and supplement this post with your own tips and tidbits on how to make your advisor proud and do fieldwork year right.   So you’ve survived your general exams. The dissertation proposal is done (well, almost…), and you’re finally ready to get out there and do what it is you came […]

A Theory of Key Points: What Tennis can tell us about Technological Change

A Theory of Key Points: What Tennis can tell us about Technological Change

One of the reasons for this blog is that it allows me to write speculative posts that no self-respecting journal would publish.  Consider this one of them.  I love watching tennis matches — and rewatching them on YouTube (typically when I have a deadline and I feel like doing anything but working on it).  And I often spend time thinking about technological determinism — or rather, how to avoid it in one’s work.  How can one tell stories of change without emphasizing the technological?  Or by folding the technological into the institutional?  It struck me once that telling a story […]

The problem with physicists

The problem with physicists

xkcd gets STS-ey:

Fun piece on the second coming of scurvy

Fun piece on the second coming of scurvy

There’s a good chance that, like me, you get a kick out of reading about explorers. There is probably less chance, however, that you share my opinion—my generals committee is sick of hearing this—that late 19th/early 20th century explorations, including those that ended in the deaths of some or all of the protagonists, are best understood as farce, rather than as tragedy.* My opinion has only been strengthened by learning that scurvy—far from being “conquered” at the end of the eighteenth century—had a “second coming” at the end of the nineteenth. A post on a blog called “Idle Words” has […]

More on severed heads

More on severed heads

My friend Josh, in the History & Philosophy of Science Department at Cambridge, directs me to this footage of Soviet experiments on reviving animals from an informational/propoganda film for Americans in 1940. (I tried to embed it but couldn’t. Not sure why.)