Squirrels, Sharks, and Eagles, oh my!

While teaching STS, I was recently talking to my students about what constitutes an “internet attack.” The students arrived with clear examples in mind (and in hand, which was part of the assignment). The answers were primarily in the form of human-based hacking projects, and, as most of you know, they are abound. Giving the timing of the assignment, most of the cases had something to do with hacks against the US, hacks against power production facilities, and financial institutions.

shark.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlarge

However, one student brought this: Sharks, replete with jokes about Sharknado as evidence of the prowess of the shark. Seeing as how a previous lesson was about ANT, with an emphasis on non-human agents as not-to-be-ignored agents in understanding social order, broadly speaking, this was a sign that at least one student “really got it.”

Another student brought in this: an eagle hitting a drone, hard.

Not a few days pass, and the blog’s oldest friend, dmf, sends me to a great website, half-serious, half-satire, CyberSquirrel1. The site is a terrific description of how our critical infrastructure is seemingly the most danger from other nation-states; however, the empirical materials do not seem to suss-out such an explanation; in fact, squirrels and other non-humans are responsible for more “attacks” than anyone else.

Makes for a great lesson if you want to find a fresh new way to bring infrastructure and the agentic role of nonhumans into the classroom in a way that is, to my mind, far better to the early discussions that Latour made about stop signs or door hinges.

This May Be the Best “Acknowledgments” Section of All Time

Most Honest Acknowledgements Section I’ve Seen

the way of improvement leads home

This morning I finally made it to the book exhibit at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Atlanta.  (More on that in a later post). While browsing at the Oxford University Press booth I came across Brendan Pietsch‘s Dispensational Modernism.   

I met the author of this new intellectual history of American Protestant fundamentalism a few years ago at an event sponsored by the Louisville Institute.  At the time I think he was still working on his dissertation at Duke University.

When I picked up his book and turned to the Acknowledgments this is what I found:

Pietsch

View original post

A river’s journey

A river’s journey

“Rising along the eastern slopes of the Agasthyamalai range of the Western Ghats, the Tamirabarani river travels a short 125 kilometres before reaching the Gulf of Mannar near Punnaikayal. Passing through Tirunelveli and Thoothukkudi districts in Tamil Nadu, it spells life for those in the dry and arid plains along this part of the south-eastern coast of India. …”

 

Continuing from my last post on the forests of KMTR, in India’s southern western ghats, here is a feature on the River Tamabarani that originates in these mountains – the journey of a river from source to the sea, from the canopy to the coast and the many things that happen along the way…This feature appeared in The Hindu Sunday Magazine on October 18, 2015, and really really underlines the nature’s infrastructure theme for me in more ways than one. For the full text and more pics click here

 

NEW BOOK: Assembling Policy

Portada final

I am Sebastian Ureta and Nicholas has invited me to discuss my new (November 2015) book Assembling Policy.

Also, I owe a big thank you to MIT Press for publishing Assembling Policy!

For readers of the blog: Given past interest in Foucault, the origins of governmentality, and hybrid infrastructures, I thought the book would be of interest, seeing as how I mix classic STS with governmentality studies (among other things). I’ve published in The Information Society, Social Studies of Science, Organization, Public Understanding of Science, Urban Studies, and a few other places, if you’re curious about other work.

The case: I analyze the Transantiago, a mayor infrastructural policy carried out in Santiago, Chile in 2007 with utterly disastrous results. You can see the publisher’s overview bellow.

*I am happy to expand/comment on any of the book’s contents — please ask in the comments!

Publisher’s Overview:

Policymakers are regularly confronted by complaints that ordinary people are left out of the planning and managing of complex infrastructure projects. In this book, Sebastián Ureta argues that humans, both individually and collectively, are always at the heart of infrastructure policy; the issue is how they are brought into it. Ureta develops his argument through the case of Transantiago, a massive public transportation project in the city of Santiago, proposed in 2000, launched in 2007, and in 2012 called “the worst public policy ever implemented in our country” by a Chilean government spokesman.

 

Ureta examines Transantiago as a policy assemblage formed by an array of heterogeneous elements—including, crucially, “human devices,” or artifacts and practices through which humans were brought into infrastructure planning and implementation. Ureta traces the design and operation of Transantiago through four configurations: crisis, infrastructuration, disruption, and normalization. In the crisis phase, humans were enacted both as consumers and as participants in the transformation of Santiago into a “world-class” city, but during infrastructuration the “active citizen” went missing. The launch of Transantiago caused huge disruptions, in part because users challenged their role as mere consumers and instead enacted unexpected human devices. Resisting calls for radical reform, policymakers insisted on normalizing Transantiago, transforming it into a permanent failing system. Drawing on Chile’s experience, Ureta argues that if we understand policy as a series of heterogeneous assemblages, infrastructure policymaking would be more inclusive, reflexive, and responsible.

KMTR’s one-mile corridor

KMTR’s one-mile corridor

The story of how a small patch of forest in India’s southern-western ghats (a global biodiversity hotspot) was saved in the 1970s…at it’s heart is the work in the decade of the 70s of two American primatologists, who were studying the rare and endemic Lion-tailed macaque, the enimatic, canopy dwelling primate of these forests…These forests are also the source of much of the water security of the region (a key point in the natural infrastructure’s that I’ve been discussing a bit on this blog!!)

For the full story including some incredible 1970s pics of the region by the primatologists see http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/conservation/field-reports/10169-kmtrs-one-mile-corridor

 

 

 

 

Threads of tenacity

Threads of tenacity

Continuing here from my last post – on the magic of indigo and the master Yellappa –  here is another older story of another such tradition and master-craftsman from the same part of the country…This is a feature on the technique of ikkat (tie-and-dye) weaving in the southern Indian state of Telangana; the story of K Narasimha…

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blink/article6488781.ece#im-image-001 chitiki Business line02chitiki Business line2

Pankaj Sekhsaria is Joining Us!

DSC_0409

Pankaj Sekhsaria, our most recent guest blogger, has agreed to join us for the long-term. 

Pankaj is a doctoral candidate from Maastricht University Science and Technology Studies. He just gave us a great piece on indigo, cotton, and dying infrastructure. You might recall mention of research on jugaad, but Pankaj’s work is so much more than that. If you review the academia.edu page, then you’ll see a substantial amount more about jugaad, including an engaging and well-read newspaper piece about the topic,  along with a piece in Current Science, India’s leading science journal, and there is also a chapter is an edited volume that is worth the read. Pankaj is also author of The Last Wave, a novel that is engrossing — I’m learning — and that was well-received on the topic of deforestation and, I think, finding meaning in a world ravened by capitalism’s insufferable appetite.

Welcome aboard, Pankaj!

Co-opting Participation Infrastructure?

DDD

Kenny Cuppers has a cool set of papers on the rise of shared “cultural centers” in major Postwar European cities. His is the first substantive chapter in a not-yet published book, which seems tailor-made for his research line, and which acts as a kind of companion piece for his published article “The Cultural Center: Architecture as Cultural Policy in Postwar Europe.”

Continue reading

Last of the blues

Last of the Blues

Remembering the exceptional Yellappa, a man who carried the knowledge, skill and practice of colouring cotton yarn with natural indigo as part of a rich tradition in the Indian sub-continent.

In The Hindu Sunday Magazine, December 13, 2015

 

 

 

Infrastructural Lives, Reviewed

Add this one to your reading list: Steve Graham and Colin McFarlane have edited a book, which has just come out, Infrastructural Lives

Contributors include AbdouMaliq Simone, Maria Kaika, Vyjayanthi Rao, Mariana Cavalcanti, Stephanie Terrani-Brown, Omar Jabary Salamanca, Rob Shaw, Harriet Bulkeley, Vanesa Caston-Broto, Simon Marvin, Mike Hodson, Renu Desai, Steve Graham, and myself.  Arjun Appaduria kindly provided a thoughtful foreword for the book.

Continue reading

3:1 — Post-Neutrality –Post 3 of 3

I sat down to finish this third post in our three part series on “post-neutrality” and realized that while I am an informed citizen on the issues around net neutrality, I wasn’t sure what I could add to the excellent conversation happening this week (the first two here and here). I signed the petitions and sent my testimony to the relevant government agencies. I told them of the importance of protecting our access to the Internet from corporate control. I keep up on the issue as it disappears and reappears in the news.

I decided the direction to go for my addition was to look more closely at the idea of neutrality itself and how it works. How does neutrality function when discussing politics? As Nicholas pointed out, “neutrality” often works as a grand narrative like those of human emancipation: neutrality as a modern dream hid our biases and prejudices. And, as I would like to highlight in this blog, neutrality as a “hypothetical political position” often works to sustain the status quo.

It seems in many cases neutrality is a privilege and often not neutral at all, but rather blind to its privileged position. Neutrality means being able to have an absence of views or expression; a neutral party would have to have enough power to stand apart from a situation. One could argue that this is ideology working at its most efficient and powerful. Most of us are subject to forces that make us take a position in political and social contexts. Poland couldn’t be neutral in WWII, a black man faced with a cop’s aggression and drawn weapon, or a woman defending herself against her abusive husband can’t be neutral. Neutrality is not afforded to the oppressed. A stand is forced upon you. Sometimes it is personal violence and other times it is the pressure of racist or sexist institutions, unequal economic systems, and more often than not, it is that power that declares its neutrality. “I am the law: the law works equally for all. ” Continue reading

3:1 — Post-Neutrality — Post 2 of 3

neutrality

Neutrality is under fire, or, at minimum, “not finalized” (whatever that means), possibly, even dead. I am surprised, in light of discussions of postmodernism over the intervening decades, that we humor the metanarrative of human emancipation embedded in “net neutrality” in the first place. Continue reading

3:1 — Post-Neutrality — Post 1 of 3

melvin-kranzberg-technology

Thirty years ago, in 1985, the historian Mel Kranzberg proposed a “series of truisms” starting with Kranzberg’s first law: “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.”

Eighteen years later, in 2003, the law professor Timothy Wu coined the term “network neutrality” to refer to a “a system of beliefs about innovation.” Wu characterized defenders of this system of beliefs as “Internet Darwinians.” He approved of their theory of innovation—namely, that the Internet should be “indifferent both to the physical communications medium ‘below’ it, and the applications running ‘above’ it.” As a result, Wu argued, network neutrality was an “attractive” and “suitable goal of Internet communications policy.”

The simple version of my argument here is: listen to Kranzberg, and be wary of Internet Darwinians. Technologies aren’t neutral, so we shouldn’t defend norms or make laws that pretend they are.

Continue reading

Our final 3:1 on “Post-Neutrality”

Untitled

Is neutrality over? If you’re talking about “net neutrality,” at least in the US, that case is going to appeals court (so maybe Tim Wu’s concept will not last long). If you’re talking about “political neutrality” amidst news outlets, again in the US, that bird also appears to have flown the coop (that, or the bias is so deep we cannot even tell anymore). Maybe neutrality was always something of a modern dream. Maybe it was always just a hypothetical philosophical position. Maybe only “neutral countries” Switzerland have it figured out.

A case can be made for post-neutrality, and this week, joining us, is Andrew L. Russell (Stevens Institute of Technology, arussell@stevens.edu | @RussellProf | http://www.arussell.org).

 

Latour on Paris Attacks

Latour

Latour on Paris Attacks: 

What is so discouraging about the terrorist acts is that our discussion of what motivated the operations is as insane as the acts themselves. With each attack of this nature, we restage the grand war drama, the nation in peril and the protector-state purporting to rise up against barbarity. This is what states do, we say: we should have a basic expectation of security, and the state should have the means to provide it. End of story.

But what makes the current situation so much more dismaying is that the crimes committed on 13 November have occurred within a few days of another event about to take place that involves tragedies of a different kind, ones that will require that we come up with very different answers to wholly different threats that have nothing to do with ISIS/Daech. I am referring, of course, to the World Climate Change Conference in Paris, the COP21, which we are now liable to deem less serious, less urgent than the police response to the bloody escapades of those machinegun-toting lunatics.

See the rest here and here.

Presentation: 4S, 2015

DSC05482

4S 2015 Denver is our (Jan-H and I’s) presentation from, unsurprisingly, 4S 2015 (Denver), wherein we reflect on the trends and recurrent themes in our five years of organizing panels around STS, governance, and the state, which we are now calling simply “Social Studies of Politics.” We have a chapter summarizing a bit of this in “Knowing Governance,” but the paywall is steep, steep!

CfP: “The Platform Society”

CSUPiOUW0AAuLZ-.jpg-large

Call for Papers: IPP2016 “The Platform Society”

Location: Thursday 22 – Friday 23 September 2016, University of Oxford.
Convenors: Helen Margetts (OII), Vili Lehdonvirta (OII), Jonathan Bright (OII), David Sutcliffe (OII), Andrea Calderaro (EUI / ECPR).
Abstract deadline: 14 March 2016.
Contact: policyandinternet@oii.ox.ac.uk

This conference is convened by the Oxford Internet Institute for the OII-edited academic journal Policy and Internet, in collaboration with the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR) standing group on Internet and Politics.

See full call here: http://ipp.oii.ox.ac.uk/2016/call-for-papers

Smart Fitness Infrastructure

DSC05482

Report from 4S in Denver

In a session “The Reflexive Turn in Art and Science Studies: Art and Science 1: Power Relations in Art and Science Studies: Methods of Analysis” (long title, right?), Paula Gardner (OCAD University) gave a fascinating talk about smart fitness infrastructure titled “Pull, Process, Print: Aesthetic Interventions in Biodata.”

DSC05489

Gardner talked about the, for lack of a better phrase for me as a sociologist, the McDonaldization (or rationalization) of personal activity and the tracking of voluntary self-care activities such as step-counting with pedometers, distances-estimates for biking, calorie-burning for running, and so on. Think: any infrastructure for health as manifested in stuff like Fitbit.

simple.b-cssdisabled-png.h11c3478afde855edb58859f6429cce3a.pack

Topics discussed included data fetichism, that data are not raw but always appear already processed for the user, that they assume a base-line, for example, size or step, that we are quantifying the self ourselves, that it is important for us to compare one another in this fitness architecture, that our activity levels may be used against us at work where we need to appear like active and productive employees (or else), and that there may be forms of “interference” (among other things) that these trackers impose upon our lives, our work-outs, and our health that are yet unknown. In all, a fascinating piece.

The Future Multiple

6c3a5e4c-4e63-481f-8389-30ccc16a2ad9*

New paper out that tackles a few issues about the ontological character of the future as it is enacted in practices of planning for it. Co-authored with Matthew Spaniol (see him here and here), an Industrial Ph.D. Fellow at Danish Maritime, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark. The paper is “The Future Multiple.”

*http://cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/e4acc771-e904-4efd-b626-16eee9b95e19/6c3a5e4c-4e63-481f-8389-30ccc16a2ad9.jpg

Frugal and Reverse Innovations – Quo Vadis?

*Frugal and Reverse Innovations – Quo Vadis?*
by Henri Simula, Mokter Hossain and Minna Halme
*Current Science*, 10 November 2015, 109(9), 1567-1572.
*Abstract*: The concepts of frugal and reverse innovations are recent
entrants to the innovation literature. Frugal innovation conveys the
important idea of innovating under circumstances of resource scarcity.
Reverse innovation refers to another significant turn in thinking and
practice – innovations from low-income contexts can enter wealthier markets,
a major shift from the previous innovation paradigm. There are some
hallmark examples of these types of innovations but the current academic
literature is still limited. The purpose of this article is to study these
concepts and present a conceptual framework that combines underlying
drivers. We also present ideas for future research avenues.

*Download Full-Text PDF*:
http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/109/09/1567.pdf

History of Technology: Call for Papers

shot_logo_r

Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), Annual Meeting – Singapore, 22-26 June 2016

Formed in 1958, SHOT is an interdisciplinary and international organization concerned not only with the history of technological devices and processes but also with technology in history, the development of technology, and its relations with society and culture –that is, the relationship of technology to politics, economics, science, the arts, and the organization of production, and with the role it plays in the differentiation of individuals in society.

See more at the website: http://www.historyoftechnology.org/call_for_papers/index.html

IO: Infrastructure Observatory

Untitled

Infrastructure Observatory (IO) is a “community devoted to exploring and celebrating the infrastructural landscape.”

Their mission: “to render visible the oft-invisible guts of modern life, and foster chapters of enthusiasts around these structures throughout the world.”

The group recently came out with this pocket-sized waterproof book about “shipping containers and the corporations that own them” (The Container Guide, 2015). They also held MacroCity, a cool-looking group of critical panels and city infrastructure tours wrapped into one conference.

Their main page is a little with interesting photographs of urban infrastructure — check it out. As of right now (late 2015), they are — somewhat obviously — set in major metropolitan areas: San Francisco, New York, and London. However, I’d love to see, in the future, groups like this China, India, or elsewhere.

Patterns of COMMONING

PatternsCOver*

Promises to be very interesting….
—-
Patterns of COMMONING
What accounts for the persistence and spread of “commoning,” the irrepressible desire of people to collaborate and share to meet everyday needs? How are the more successful projects governed? And why are so many people embracing the commons as a powerful strategy for building a fair, humane and Earth-respecting social order? Continue reading

Decoloniality Mini-Conference

we-stand-for-decoloniality

CONFERENCE OPPORTUNITY: Decolonialty mini-conference (9 panels) at the Eastern Sociological Society Meeting, Boston March 17-20, 2015. Panels on a number of topics including “Decoloniality and the State” and “Beyond the ‘Human'”. If you do non-human/post-human, postmodern state theory or state modeling, and can connect to decolonial options/epistemic disobedience get in touch asap (submission is on Oct 30) (write me at: njr12@psu.edu).

We are happy to host newcomers to decoloniality as well as seasoned/experienced scholars. Please consider this an open invitation to join the important discussion about decoloniality and the social sciences. There may also be opportunities to Skype into the meeting so please do keep that in mind.

A Jugaad reading list

Since it was jugaad that got Nicholas to get me to blog on Installing (Social) Order, here’s a ‘jugaad reading list’ that I’ve used in the writing of my doctoral dissertation. It’s reasonably comprehensive and is a combination of newspaper articles, Journal publications and also books. Some of these are accessible online and I do have pdfs of many of the journal publications – so if anyone is looking for the full text please email me at psekhsaria@gmail.com


A Jugaad reading list

Birtchnell, T. (2011). Jugaad as systemic risk and disruptive innovation in India. Contemporary South Asia, 19(4), 357–372.

Bound, K., & Thornton, I. (2012). Our Frugal Future: Lessons from India’s Innovation System. London: Nesta.

Cappelli, P., Singh, H., Singh, J., & Useem, M. (2011). The India Way – How India’s Top Business Leaders are Revolutionizing Management. Boston, Massachusets: Harvard Business Press.

Datta, P. (2010). A Case Study Special on Innovation – Making Aspirations Count (Editorial). In P. Datta (Ed.), (p. 4). New Delhi: BusinessWorld.

Continue reading

2016 Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) Annual Meeting – Singapore

SHOT ANNUAL MEETING 2016
http://www.historyoftechnology.org/call_for_papers/index.html

Formed in 1958, SHOT is an interdisciplinary and international organization concerned not only with the history of technological devices and processes but also with technology in history, the development of technology, and its relations with society and culture –that is, the relationship of technology to politics, economics, science, the arts, and the organization of production, and with the role it plays in the differentiation of individuals in society.

Continue reading

NatureCulture, Casper Bruun Jensen (Free On-line)

Untitled

NatureCulture is a new journal that is free on-line, which features articles from landmark STS scholars (Casper Bruun Jensen, Annamarie Mol, Christopher Gad, Marilyn Strathern, etc.), well-known in the networks of the Global North, alongside a fascinating group of STS scholars primarily in Japan (Mohácsi Gergely, Merit Atsuro, Miho Ishii, etc.).

The journal, after a quick perusal, is of high-quality. Rather than dense empirical work, the journal seems to feature relatively complex essays with a tone that shifts between conversational and erudite. Consider a great piece by Christopher Gad on the post pluralist attitude, an obvious nod to a previous work on the topic, another essay-form piece (Gad, C. & C. B. Jensen 2010. ‘On the Consequences of Post-ANT’, Science Technology & Human Values 35: 1, 55–80.).

While I cannot say for sure, the seeds for this project may well have been born from the 2010 4S meeting (held jointly with Japanese Society for Science and Technology Studies) … after all, Casper Bruun Jensen presented a paper title “Techno-animism in Japan: Shinto cosmograms, actor-network theory, and the enabling powers of non-human agencies.”

More on the wildlife-infrastructure conundrum

Continuing along the lines of my earlier post, Wildlife’s Infrastructure nightmare, here are links to two very recent news-reports on this wildlife-infrastructure link, if it can be called that…
a) Cutting a rail-link through a forests cuts off the corridor for primate movement and then we construct a bridge to bridge the earlier cut…The story of a rare primate in a small forest of the North-east Indian state of Assam
Bridge to connect gibbon families

and
b) And in the same region of the country, a wild Asian elephant dies, when human negligence results in the electrocution of the pachyderm when he comes in contact with a live high-tension electric cable: The death of an elephant

Wildlife’s infrastructure nightmare

Dear Friends,

I’m very honored and excited to be invited as a guest blogger on Installing (Social) Order and am hoping I can make some interesting and valuable contributions. And I start here on the issue of infrastructure, but from a completely different vantage point – that of wilderness and wildlife. One on my key interests going back more than 2 decades is wildlife conservation in South Asia, the part of the planet I belong to and have been living in since I was born. As part of my work with the environmental NGO Kalpavriksh, I have been editing a newsletter on wildlife for over 18 years now. It is called the Protected Area Update, and one issue that comes up repeatedly is the impact on wildlife, wilderness and the environment on account of our relentless drive to create more and more and more ‘infrastructure’. It is something I keep reporting and commenting on and here is one small editorial I wrote for the February 2012 issue of the newsletter. It’s a little old if one goes by the date, but the concerns on the ground today are just as real if not actually more acute. The piece is also a little India specific, but I think it captures the challenges and that is why I’m sharing it here.

And here’s where you can access the entire 24 page newsletter in case you are interested in reading the specific newsletter or the entire set check Protected Area Update – 2012

WILDLIFE’S INFRASTRUCTURE NIGHTMARE

(Editorial, Protected Area Update Vol. XVIII, No. 1, February 2012)

More roads that penetrate deeper, railway lines that connect better and faster, dam projects for power and irrigation, coal mining for more electricity, high-tension power lines to evacuate that electricity…. This is one side of India’s infrastructure and constantly lauded growth story.

There is another side to that very story which reads something like the following: Roads that cut through rich forests, railways lines that regularly kill elephants, dam projects that drown pristine forests and wildlife habitats, coal mining that rips apart tiger corridors, high tension lines that kill elephants in Orissa and flamingoes in Gujarat…

From the Nallamalla forests of Andhra Pradesh to the valley of the Alaknanda in Uttarakhand; from the elephant forests of Orissa to the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat – the story is the same – what is unfolding is nothing short of a nightmare for India’s wildlife. The infrastructure for our automobiles, power and lifestyles is leaving nothing of the natural infrastructure that the wild denizens need. As we travel faster, longer, and deeper and as the GDP becomes the only mantra, the elephants, the tigers, the leopards and even the flamingoes are getting hemmed in more and more with every passing day.

The fate of the flamingoes in Gujarat highlights this starkly. Their only option on being disturbed at night by vehicular noise in the Great Rann was to fly into high-tension wires hanging above and get charred instantly. Between the vehicle and the wire, India’s beleaguered wildlife is getting sandwiched and slaughtered like never before.

One ‘eco’ – the economic is soaring as everything ecologic is being torn to shreds. The tragic irony is that the same system sells to us and to the world the prowling tiger, the gamboling elephant, the soaring birds and, yes, the dancing tribal as ‘Incredible India’. We at the PA Update are part of a small crowd that’s watching on with incredulity. And with despair.

Call for Papers: Technoscience and the State

Special Issue on “Science, Technology, and the State”

Nicholas J. Rowland, Govind Gopakumar, and Jan-Hendrik Passoth

Call for Papers: Editors for the journal Engaging Science, Technology and Society (ESTS) have read our proposal and encouraged us to develop papers to submit as a thematic collection (i.e., special issue) on technoscience and the state. We are accepting proposals for scholarly research articles that engage and advance a theoretical and empirical synthesis of technoscience and the state. We invite a range of scholars from advanced graduate students to more experienced faculty members to contribute to this effort.

Submissions: Please send a title and abstract (250 words) to Dr. Govind Gopakumar by December 12, 2015 (govind.gopakumar@concordia.ca). Notification of interest in paper proposals will arrive within one month (no later than January 12, 2016).

Full call: SpecialIssue-ESTS-call

Pankaj Sekhsaria: Guest Blogger

DSC_0409

Pankaj Sekhsaria (doctoral candidate from Maastricht University Science and Technology Studies) will join us for the next month on the blog. You might recall mention of research on jugaad, but Pankaj’s work is so much more than that. If you review the academia.edu page, then you’ll see a substantial amount more about jugaad, including an engaging and well-read newspaper piece about the topic,  along with a piece in Current Science, India’s leading science journal, and there is also a chapter is an edited volume that is worth the read. Pankaj is also author of The Last Wave, a novel that is engrossing — I’m learning — and that was well-received on the topic of deforestation and, I think, finding meaning in a world ravened by capitalism’s insufferable appetite.

This is truly a joy to welcome Pankaj to the blog. Please join me in welcoming our guest.

STS Summer School

unnamed

Check out this call for STS Summer School at University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Some details:

Science and Technology Studies Summer School: Disclosing/Enclosing Knowledge in the Life Sciences

July 11-15, 2016
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, Madison WI

Applications from students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, and humanities for a five-day summer school that will provide training in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) are invited. This seminar is an excellent opportunity for graduate students who are interested in incorporating social and humanistic perspectives on science and technology into their research, and require an advanced level introduction to the field.

Infrastructure Toolbox

banner-support-infrastructure *

This is a useful resource for anyone writing about or thinking about infrastructure from a big name (Gupta) and a rising star (Anand), it is the notion of an “infrastructure toolbox.”

One of the bottom-line insights appears to be that STS has had an impact on general thinking about infrastructure, in particular, legitimizing the “social” study of it (think: infrastructure ethnography, which I’ve discussed before too, especially in relationship to jugaad). Thus, we ask, what does infrastructure mean, even metaphorically, for “theory-making?”

Here is the opening passage (and it is freely available on-line): 

Continue reading

Our broken peer review system, in one saga

We’ve discussed the peer-review system in science a number of times; this time, as a saga. I’ve had this experience many, many times. If you don’t wish to review the saga, the final section has some alternatives to business-as-usual in the peer-review system.

Family Inequality

When at last Odysseus returns. When at last Odysseus returns.

Everybody’s got a story. This is the story of publishing a peer-reviewed journal article called, “The Widening Gender Gap in Opposition to Pornography, 1975–2012.” The paper has now been published, and is available here in preprint, or here if you’re on a campus that subscribes to Social Currents through Sage.

Lucia Lykke, a graduate student in our program, and I began this project in the fall of 2012. We came up with the idea together. I did the coding and she wrote the text. Over the course of two years we sent the paper to four journals – once to Gender & Society, four times to Sex Roles, once to Social Forces, and twice to Social Currents, which finally accepted it in July 2015 and published it online on September 21.*

This story illustrates some endemic problems with our system…

View original post 4,881 more words

A Yelp for People?

840*

Apparently, yes, according to the Washington Post.

It is called Peeple, and this on-line human-rating infrastructure is more or less the equivalent of rating a meal at a restaurant or a hotel stay. Fortune calls it “truly awful,” the always balanced BBC News says the app “causes social uproar,” while the Guardian suggests that of all apps this is the app “you didn’t dare ask for.” There are also worse things ( “creepy,” “toxic,” “gender hate in a prettier package”) being said about this admittedly odd idea.

For the moment, the promotional website (forthepeeple.com) seems to be dead at the stick. Continue reading

Race in Material Culture

Some resources I use to teach a lesson about race woven into the lived material world for my STS classes:

Lorna Roth (Communications, Concordia University,  Canada) wrote a read-worthy open-access article for the Canadian Journal of Communication in 2009 “Looking at Shirley, the Ultimate Norm: Colour Balance, Image Technologies, and Cognitive Equity” wherein she documents how “light-skin bias embedded in colour film stock emulsions and digital camera design” despite attempts at correcting such matters during the 1990s. Continue reading

New Zealand Grants River Personhood

Whanganui_River_to_Dublin_Street_Bridge

Great ANT case for teaching: “New Zealand Grants River Personhood

Want to take it to the next level in the classroom? challenge students to understand how a person-like “state” (in this case, New Zealand) is apparently accorded the ability to do this!

Ask them, which is weirder, a river being a person or a state granting the personhood?

Louisiana Needs a Mud-Hose

WaterOnTheRoad

Cajun culture on the bayou in southern Louisiana is being eroded as the bayou beneath them erodes, by some estimates, a football field of land lost per day (BBC reports).

Costal restoration projects are planned long-term, over the next 50 or so years, with some palpable success. The BBC link above links Gulf oil exploration to the quickening of erosion, especially based on land mistreatment without recovery efforts. This Huffington post piece, “Oil and Cultural Genocide,” is a little less equivocal.

According to the BBC piece, another culprit is to be identified in the erosion of Cajun culture and that is the Mississippi River, in particular, the way that the mouth of the mighty Mississippi has been channelled and controlled as it flows into the Gulf. Previously, the logic goes, the Mississippi used to act like a giant land-making mud-hose spraying silt across the Bayou thereby rejuvenating the land; however, as the river became more controlled, this rejuvenating process slowed considerably, and in its place these massive land moving operations — featured in the costal restoration projects — took their place.

*The image above is from a great website about Isle de Jean Charles: http://www.isledejeancharles.com/environment

Jugaad, Siqizai, Bricolage

tumblr_inline_nc71qpZ7Gz1rl4qj8

New article about jugaad, which we’ve discussed here a bit, by Pankaj Sekhsaria (a graduate student at Maastricht’s Department of Technology and Society) is available on academia.edu (note: if you click the link, you’ll find the paper starts on page 21 of the larger PDF file — the paper is short and to the point).

Infrastructure Discourse: Poorly Regulated and Explicitly Not Sexy?

John Oliver comments on infrastructure in the news. He comments on how poorly regulated infrastructure is in the US (the low grades America receives on its infrastructure report card) and hints that one of the reasons that we are so inattentive to infrastructure is its explicit “not sexiness.” Catastrophe is apparently one of the only reasons to be attentive to infrastructure …

John Oliver on Stadium Infrastructure

In a humorous account, John Oliver explains why wealthy sports teams are ripping-off American taxpayers via expensive stadium infrastructure, which is an investment that essentially never “pay off” for tax payers in those cities. There are strong opinions about this, suggesting that benefits rarely materialize, which are supported by public research, although there are presumably intangible benefits of having a local team stay local.

Pacification of Rio’s Favelas

rio-2016-02-1411117670

Infrastructure is often seen as a pivot-point for addressing social ailments, directly or indirectly. That is what you’ll read — that assumption fully addressed — in Mariana Cavalcanti‘s “Waiting in the Ruins” a book chapter in Infrastructural Lives. What social ailments? Anything in the way of establishing Rio de Janeiro as a world Olympic city.

Questioned is the rhetoric championed by proponents of the favelas pacification programs as a form of “state intervention” — finally! Continue reading