About Nicholas

Associate Professor of Sociology, Environmental Studies, and Science and Technology Studies at Penn State, Nicholas mainly writes about understanding the scientific study of states and, thus, it is namely about state theory. Given his training in sociology and STS, he takes a decidedly STS-oriented approach to state theory and issues of governance.

Blade Runner is 2017?

 

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‘Blade Runner’s’ chillingly prescient vision of the future” offers a (brief) review of the 1982 Ridley Scott film and how much 2017 appears to reflect Scott’s portrayal of the human-machine interface. With ‘Blade Runner 2049‘ coming out soon (today, I think), the short piece is a nice opportunity to return to the 1982 now-classic film.

As a sidebar: In terms of visions of the future, it is always interesting to me that “vision of the future” is characterized here as “look, Scott got it more right than he might have known;” however, his view of the future, a strict prognostication or even foresight, is not really consistent with the academic study of the future (not that the author of this piece should be held to that standard). On balance, there are “ethnographers of the future” looking into science fiction too, but there is also a growing linkage between STS and a small world called futures studies, ontological research on the character of the future as a concept, and even scholars that do not owe much of their intellectual heritage to either tradition making serious headway into managing multiple futures. Getting past “visions of the future made in the past were right or wrong” as a framework might make for some interesting discussion in the public media realm, provided readers want something past the all-too-easy “they got it right!” or “ha! They botched it” critiques leveled safely from the sidelines in retrospect.

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On Retracting Papers

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It is bad to demand the retraction non-fraudulent papers. But why? I think the argument rests on three intuitions. First, there is a legal reason. When an editor and publisher accept a paper, they enter into a legal contract. The authors produces the paper and the publisher agrees to publish. To rescind publication of a […]

Dovetails with concerns over peer review in general, related horror stories, and even the outer limits of the practice.

via why is it bad to retract non-fraudulent and non-erroneous papers? — orgtheory.net

* image from here.

Pickering Review … in 2017!?

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25 years after Andrew Pickering’s “Science as Practice and Culture”* was published, it was just reviewed. Helen Verran (History and Philosophy of Science, University of Melbourne) just wrote a retrospective on the book that is worth the time to read and, even better, it is free to one and all: https://sciencetechnologystudies.journal.fi/article/view/65250 

* Casper Bruun Jensen noticed on Twitter that I wrote “Mangle of Practice” in the previous version of this post rather than “Science as Practice and Culture.” I guess I was showing my cards there in terms of preference.

ANT Multiple!?

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Just out:Mapping “the ANT multiple”: A comparative, critical and reflexive analysis” by Laur Kanger (University of Sussex Science Policy Research Unit Brighton UK; University of Tartu Institute of Social Studies Tartu Estonia) in The Theory of Social Behavior.

Abstract
Despite decades of development, ActorNetwork Theory
(ANT) continues to be characterized by a good deal of
ambiguities and internal tensions. This situation has
led to a suggestion that instead of one ANT it may be
meaningful to speak of the ANT multiple. Following
this line of reasoning, this article aims to create a map
of the variety of positions riding under the ANT banner.
Based on an indepth reading of ANT literature, seven
different interpretations of ANT are identified and sub-
jected to critical analysis; it also accommodates for the
concerns of ANT proponents about the way ANT has
been previously criticized. The results of the analysis
serve to increase the reflexivity of both sides of the
debate about their underlying assumptions, and provide
suggestions how ANT could be employed, developed
and criticized more productively in the future.
This is one of many times we have mentioned and discussed good old ANT and good old Bruno Latour: reflexivity, ANT and Foucaultpost-ANT, even the ANT of ANThow forest think, the Paris attacks.

Movement in Body Parts

See this terrific review of the interesting book, and there is a free introductory chapter for those interested:

Bronwyn Parry, Beth Greenhough, Tim Brown and Isabel Dyck (eds.) Bodies Across Borders: The Global Circulation of Body Parts, Medical Tourists and Professionals, 2015, 248 pp., Routledge, New York, paper $109.95 ISBN 978-1409457176.

*image: http://www.bioethics.com/medical-tourism

Prosthetic-War Nexus

Jennifer TerryAttachments to War: biomedical logics and violence in twenty-first century America, looks into the nexus of war, medical treatment, and prosthetics — looks promising.

And in lockstep with my last post and my continuing interest in the prosthetics of military violence… A new book from Jennifer Terry, Attachments to War: biomedical logics and violence in twenty-first century America, also due from Duke University Press in November: In Attachments to War Jennifer Terry traces how biomedical logics entangle Americans […]

via Attachments to War — geographical imaginations

Doomsday Arks

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With a trillion-ton iceberg cleaving from Antartica, and debate over the exact causes seems never to end, I wonder “what is the infrastructural equivalent of it?” 

One immediate answer is found the giant, offshore seed vault Svalbard (Norway), which was colorfully referred to as one of the “Arks of the Apocalypse” in the New York Times Magazine. The anthropocene stirs, no matter what the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) suggests, and seed banks are a fascinating reflection of this transition for so many reasons. 

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US: D+

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We have written about this previously, the state of American infrastructure and the problem that is not appealing to the masses, and we can report that not a lot has changed. According to ASCE, the US got a 2017 report card for infrastructure and the outcome is pretty static … D+ (same as it has been for the past half-decade or more). Part of that story has to do with the grading system in the first place, but most (near all) has to do with the dwindling state of infrastructure in the past decade of austerity policy that effectively kicks the proverbial can down the road such that the next generation inherits suboptimal infrastructure in the US.

Ruinphobia, the New Ruins and the anti-ruination reflex – my newly published chapter is out

“Ruinphobia” and the anti-ruination reflex — worth a look.

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1988 ruined shop

“The problems associated with empty properties are considerable. They attract vandalism and increase insecurity and fear. And this all reduces the value of surrounding businesses and homes. So the decision to leave a property empty is not just a private matter for the landlord. It affects us all.”

Mary Portas, The Portas Review: The Future of Our High Streets, 2011, p 35.

Portas here reveals that any discussion of transience and permanence in urban development engages deeply embedded cultural assumptions about utility and progress. I explore the origins and effects of this anxiety in a contribution to a recently published collection of essays on the theme of temporary re-uses of vacant urban property. In my chapter I show how an underlying ruinphobia quitely but powerfully shapes the fate of abandoned buildings, regardless of how some might more loudly valorise them through a ruinphiliac (or ruin lusty) gaze.

In my chapter I place recent…

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Ahhh…Seriously again? On “How French Postmodernism ‘Ruined the West'”

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We are living in a time of intellectual fights. As STSers, we sometimes feel like being pushed back into the 1990s, only that the strange debates we had back then on “Science as Practice and Culture” have made it onto the streets and into mainstream media. Sure, we have expressed many times that we love science and love technology and today we join (and even practically and intellectually lead) the “march for science”. But the shortcut “post…” -> “relativism” -> “danger” seems to be still in place. A recent piece on HOW FRENCH “INTELLECTUALS” RUINED THE WEST: POSTMODERNISM AND ITS IMPACT, EXPLAINED argued for that – again. We’ve written about postmodernism many times, even in a 1, 2, 3 set of posts, so there is – intellectually – not a lot to add to that nonsense. But maybe it is time to take that, well, personal again: If that attitude is still a guidance for the modern, for the west, maybe we should have ruined it when we had the chance. Or, if that sounds too offended, why we obviously never had the chance to do so.

Teaching Disasters

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With some success, I have been teaching Charles Perrow’s “Normal Accident” concept with “Engineering Disasters.” It is a show on the History Channel, which is itself an offshoot of Modern Marvels). Each show is broken-down into usually four or five vignettes that are essentially “case studies” in engineering accidents and disasters.

These shows can easily be harnessed to walk students through the normal accident concept by analyzing each of the case studies using a worksheet (I could share this with anyone that wants it njr12 at psu.edu) that distills normal accidents into a few component parts. See below. I use Modern Marvels Engineering Disasters 7 in my course and in the image you see the final two cases — Northridge Earthquakes in CA and the Underground Mine Fires in Centralia, PA — and they are cross-referenced with the three criteria that I use from normal accidents, namely,

  1. That there is a techno-human-nature interaction that is detectable;
  2. That the relational interaction is sufficiently complex (and/or tightly-coupled);
  3. That, with regard to the resulting engineering accident or disaster, it is not reasonable to expect the designing engineers to have anticipated (i.e., predicted) the issues that lead to the engineering accident or disaster in advance.

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The students, from what I can gather, enjoy doing this sort of detective work. After four or five case studies, the students typically know how to apply the criteria and, thus, the concept of normal disasters.

Infrastructure Field-trip

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Just thought I would mention that I am working on a field-trip project on infrastructure that takes students on a hunt for “signals” of infrastructure in New York based on a book we discussed on the blog a couple years ago. The book is finally for sale, and if you go to the purchasing site, you’ll find a new option to purchase a walking tour that accompanies a copy of the book. It is marvelous.

If you’re on the East Coast, and can get to NYC without a ton of trouble, this is a fascinating look at what the internet infrastructure “looks like,” illustrated with visual examples of what to look for to decode infrastructure cues.

e-Key: Security Infrastructure

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A new piece from The Conversation about security infrastructure investigating security options, including going back to the physical key as an alternative to password overload in online platforms.

The age of hacking brings a return to the physical keyby Jungwoo Ryoo, Pennsylvania State University

 

New Zealand Grants River Personhood

Installing (Social) Order

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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?

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New infrastructure paper

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Introduction: Infrastructural Complications

Penny Harvey, Casper Bruun Jensen & Atsuro Morita

Over the past decade, infrastructures have emerged as compelling sites for qualitative social research. This occurs in a general situation where the race for infrastructural investment has become quite frenzied, as world superpowers compete for the most effective means to circulate energy, goods and money. At the same time, millions of people disenfranchised by trade corridors, securitized production sites, and privatized service provision seek to establish their own possibilities that intersect, disrupt or otherwise engage the high level investments that now routinely re-configure their worlds. The projects of the powerful and the engagements of the poor are thus thoroughly entangled in this contemporary drive to “leverage the future.”

Read the rest here.

Do search engines make cultural capital less valuable? 

A student of mine said something last week that gave me déjà vu. We completed our lessons on “social class” and the student was having difficulty with the notion of cultural capital.

In class, waving an iPhone in the air, s/he said:

“Why would anybody need to know this when you have the whole world’s knowledge in your pocket?”

The student was referring to the ability to command cultural knowledge (i.e., cultural capital).

Reminded me of this immediately: And a student said “Ah, so like, people with cultural capital don’t need Google…ohhhh, I get it”

Growing link between STS and Futures Studies

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There is a growing connection between a small research area in the business school literature called “futures studies” (wherein forecasting, scenario planning, etc.) and STS. Early thinkers in (what is now) this area are folks like Toffler; you might remember his books Future Shock or the Third Wave. In the link to STS, foundational thinkers that readers might recall are folks like Cynthia Selin (who I wrote about back in 2011).

Since then, I spent some time reading in “the sociology of the future” and we had a guest that spoke about forecasting (related to weather, Phaedra Daipha), although we have had some other perspectives, namely, some commentary about the future and rubbish.

Well, inspired by this, I started writing with a colleague at Roskilde University (Denmark) named Matthew Spaniol. Our first paper linked STS and futures studies through the notion of multiplicity in “The Future Multiple.” Our new paper, which is nearly out now, deepens this linkage, drawing upon some STS insights to address issues voiced from within futures studies about scenario planning, a process that unfolds, in the standard account, through a series of stages, phases, and steps. We offer a much more tentative understand of that process in “Social Foundations of Scenario Planning.”

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Teaching STS: Construction of Time and Daylight Savings

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In the “Teaching STS” collection, we’ve discussed teaching lessons (with some resources) about the social construction of time a number of times related to whether or not time exists at all (with research from the Max Planck Institute), reflections on the notion of aberrant time such as “leap seconds” (students are bothered by this one), and, even though when we write about the olympics, it is usually about derelict stadiums, it occurs to me that when the atomic clock was adopted and the length of the second transformed, “timing” at the Olympic games might have been an interesting topic to think about for students who imagine that the length of the second back in 1936 should be identical to the length of the second that Michael Phelps was swimming in 2008 (in Beijing).

Source: Teaching STS: Construction of Time and Daylight Savings

Map of Science

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This is cool. Click here for a map of science as we know it. Reminds me of a number of topics we have discussed here, namely, digital methods, maps of submarine cables, and cartographic narratives from the past.

The above image is just a snippet of the original, which is only one of numerous maps to help make sense of massive amounts of data at Places & Spaces, Curated by the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center.

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thesinkhole.org

130301151745-02-sinkholes-0301-horizontal-large-gallery*from: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/28/asia/japan-sinkhole-fukuoka/

There is an odd combination of care and mockery with regard to infrastructure devoted entirely to sinkholes. Please, please go to thesinkhole.org and check them out. It is not a complex blog, but it is dead serious (for example, note that a number of the stories covered by the blog record casualties). A curious resource and one to keep your eye on.

High-Tech Nickel and Dime

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Hourly wages are being calculated in new ways, often, new ways that employees do not know about, thanks to human resources software changes over the past few decades. The punchline (no pun intended): of course, businesses nickel and dime hourly workers through the use of algorithms, and, because of the complex nature of pay stubs and direct deposit — and also that most employees do not calculate their time worked against their pay “by hand” — employers are getting away with a modest amount of earned income from any employee that stamps the time-clock.

This also has legal implications, but not the ones you’d think: the law is so antiquated — referring to time cards and time-keeping practices that go back a generation — almost nothing can be legally done to reverse it or even curb it.

That is a gist of a new, short piece on The Conversation by Elizabeth C. Tippett (University of Oregon) who:

In collaboration with fellow researchers Charlotte Alexander and Zev Eigen, I examined 13 different timekeeping software programs by reviewing software tutorials, technical support materials and promotional information. This gave us some insight into the features available through the software. Our findings were recently published in the Yale Journal of Law and Technology.

The piece is called How timekeeping software helps companies nickel and dime their workers.

* Image is cropped from the original article.

End of Year Reflection

… while the topics associated with infrastructure were plentiful this year, one of them sticks-out and consistently lingers in my mind’s eye. It is a topic implied in what I saw again just today while scrolling through my facebook and twitter feed.

It is called a number of things, although, apparently, “ruin porn” is term that has come to encapsulate the phenomenon. For example, I saw it today: an abandoned Wizard of Oz theme park that “will haunt you.”

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CfP: Science, Technology, and the Politics of Knowledge in Global Affairs

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CALL FOR PAPERS

Science, Technology, and the Politics of Knowledge in Global Affairs

An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference at the Buffett Institute for Global Studies

Northwestern University, Evanston IL 

March 30-31, 2017

Keynote: Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard Kennedy School

Organizing Committee: Kevin Baker, Savina Balasubramanian, and Omri Tubi

Scientists, state actors, international institutions, and lay activists vie for credibility and legitimacy to both frame and control global issues. Science and technology are routinely cast into a supporting role to bolster their claims. From nuclear energy in the battle against climate change to the politicization of “big data;” from new information technologies in emerging regimes of global surveillance to the use of randomized controlled trials in international development research – scientific and technological expertise operate as instruments of power and authority, which can serve to legitimate or contest new forms of global governance and intervention.

The Buffett Institute’s second annual graduate student conference will investigate expert knowledge in contemporary global affairs, looking at the ways this knowledge is created, invoked, circulated, and contested in the international political arena. We invite graduate students to present work that explores questions such as: How do various international actors attempt to position themselves as credible participants in global politics? Under what conditions does expert knowledge come to be seen as legitimate on the global stage? How and why do global issues become understood as primarily technical, rather than political? In what ways do international actors frame these issues and what must be done about them? How is scientific and technological expertise marshaled or ignored in processes of claims making and action to structure interventions into global “problems?” And, finally, how do these practices organize, sustain, or challenge structures of global inequality and power?

 

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • The politics of climate change, climate science, and environmental security
  • The rise of actuarial and genetic approaches to global crime
  • Biosecurity, global health, and the regulation of infectious disease
  • Globalized technologies of risk and quantification
  • The technologization of global finance and economic markets
  • The politicization of social and computational science in an age of “big data”
  • New regimes of information and global surveillance
  • The changing nature of international development interventions
  • The constitution of transnational lay expertise in global social movements

We invite graduate students across the humanities and social sciences to submit abstracts of no more than 250 words by December 15, 2016using the submission link on the conference webpagehttp://buffett.northwestern.edu/programs/grad-conference/. There will be no deadline extensions. Accepted presenters will be notified by January 5 and papers are due to faculty discussants by March 7. The Buffett Institute will provide hotel accommodations and will subsidize travel costs (fully for US-based graduate students and partially for international students). Please direct all queries to the Graduate Organizing Committee at: buffettgradconference@northwestern.edu.

Call for papers

Dear STS Colleagues:

The Society for Social Studies of Science is soliciting proposals for ‘open panels’ for its 2017 meeting, August 30 – September 2, 2017 in Boston.

The purpose of open panels is to stimulate the formation of new networks around topics of interest and to facilitate the organization of robust paper sessions. Open panel topics, once accepted by the Program Committee, will be included in the call for papers, and authors may nominate their papers for one or more panels. An open panel may extend across up to three sessions of five papers each (i.e. a total of maximum 15 papers).

Conference theme: STS (In)Sensibilities

If sensibility is the ability to grasp and to respond, how might we articulate the (in)sensibilities of contemporary technoscience?  How, similarly, can we reflect on the extent and limits of our own sensibilities as STS scholars, teachers, and activists?  The conference theme invites an open reading and exploration of how the world is made differently sense-able through multiple discourses and practices of knowledge-making, as well as that which evades the sensoria of technoscience and STS.  Our aim is that the sense of ‘sense’ be read broadly, from mediating technologies of perception and apprehension to the discursive and material practices that render worlds familiar and strange, real and imagined, actual and possible, politically (in)sensitive and ethically sensible.

Submitting an Open Panel Proposal

Please note, in submitting a proposal, you are volunteering to chair a session of papers related to your topic. Open panel chairs will be consulted in regards to the selection of papers, but because of the need to distribute paper submissions over many sessions, the Program Committee has final authority over which papers will be included in each panel.

Submit here: http://www.4sonline.org/openpanelsubmit

Sincerely,

Heather Paxson, 2017 Program Chair

The Lives Trees Live

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In September this oddly haunting book came out that I can’t stop thinking about, for both good and bad reasons, and it is called “The Hidden Lives of Trees” (by Peter Wohlleben). 

Here is some background on the piece, including the “trees communicate” bit.

We’ve talked about trees, but only occasionally, on the blog, which also reminds me of a piece in the NYT about social networks of trees (although that terminology might irk some).

“Unresolved Controversies”

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I need your help: anybody know a few research papers or a book specifically about unresolved controversies? It would be terrific if there was some conceptualization, or even a functional analysis of the manifest and latent consequences of unresolved controversies. In fact, it would be amazing to see research on “intentionally unresolved controversies.”

Researching Urban Diversity: Making the Case for Intra-Urban Comparison — cityfragment

The debate on comparative urbanism in urban studies is a lively and productive one, and over the past decade and more the whole question of comparison – as both concept and method – has been radically rethought in urban research. In a new paper just published online in Urban Geography, and co-written with Jonathan Silver (Sheffield) and Yaffa […]

via Researching Urban Diversity: Making the Case for Intra-Urban Comparison — cityfragment

Guest Blogger: Phaedra Daipha

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I am pleased to announce that Dr. Phaedra Daipha, whose first book I wrote about and enjoyed, will be a guest blogger on Installing (Social) Order this month (October, 2016). She is going to be telling us about her recent work in a new post every week or so. Personally, I am excited to learn more about her work about forecasting (weather forecasting, in this case) and especially her re-thinking of decision-making that extends in new directions previous models of “decision science” from the business school crowd, organizational analysis, and organization studies.

Dr. Daipha a cultural sociologist working at the intersection of STS, organization studies, and social theory. Her research agenda centers on the nature, practice, and institutions of knowledge and technology production, with an eye toward understanding the development and transformation of systems of expertise and the emergence of new forms of coordinated action. She has employed a number of methods and data sources to examine such diverse fields of knowledge and technology production as academic sociology, weather forecasting operations, the commercial fishing industry, and medical care.

Despite the diversity of method and empirical focus, however, her work consistently pursues the following substantive themes: decision making in complex sociotechnical systems; visualization and expertise; object-centered sociality; and professional boundary work. She has pursued these topics in a series of papers, culminating with her recent book,
Masters of Uncertainty: Weather Forecasters and the Quest for Ground Truth.

She is currently in the process of completing her forthcoming book, How Doctors Make Decisions: The Role of Prognosis in Cardiology Practice, based on two and a half years of comparative fieldwork. This book builds on her previously developed model of the process of decision making to highlight the practical, materialist, prospective, and situationist character of clinical judgment and care. But it also considerably extends her earlier conceptualization by applying it to a decision-making field that is interventionist (rather than consultative), that relies on cross-functional (rather than single-specialist) teamwork, and that operates within a significantly longer window of uncertainty.

Welcome aboard! 

Incentivizing “Repair” in Sweden

This is an idea worth reviewing — imperfect, of course, but something of this ilk should be developed, at scale. You can see reports on this all over now: the Guardian, CNN, Washington Post, BBC, and so on.

This comes on heels of much needed attention to maintenance, especially in terms of infrastructure, but with a new mechanism for incentivizing these behaviors on a wide swath of products, which re-articulates attention toward “demand” in a fresh way and away from “demand” as merely “voicing political concern” (which seems not to work, other than verbally). 

Sweden proposes tax breaks for repairing things, extra tax on unrepairable things.

Demand for Infrastructure Essential

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After reading a short piece by Christopher Jones (assistant professor of history at Arizona State University and author of Routes of Power: Energy and Modern America, 2014), I was reminded of just how essential “demand” is when it comes to actually getting politicians to invest in shared infrastructure (rather than fall back on ill-advised cost-savings measures that delay or push-back maintenance).

The basic idea is that we are focused on “game changing innovations,” rather than the day-to-day maintenance of our infrastructure. For most of us, of course, effective roadways and public transportation are at least as important as ground-breaking innovations. But Jones goes a step further in our understanding of this, effectively suggesting that innovations primarily promote/aid/help the already wealth, monied upper-class elites who can benefit socially, politically, and financially from emphasis on innovation as opposed to maintenance on, for example, roadways, subways, waterways, and all manner of other ways.

Jones’s solution: Demand it! (after all, we once did, and worked out rather well). See his new piece “New tech only benefits the elite until the people demand more,” and start demanding!

University Food Fight

Classic examples of corporatization of American colleges and Universities.

This post links to one part of a three part series about colleges and universities in the US. The general topic is the high, high cost of American higher education. There are numerous reasons for this; however, the in-roads for this piece is the expensive food college students now often eat and the expansive infrastructural needs to support this transformation.

Quick Summary:

“Food Fight,” the second of the three-part Revisionist History miniseries on opening up college to poor kids, focuses on a seemingly unlikely target: how the food each school serves in its cafeteria can improve or distort the educational system.

This is part of Revisionist History (a great place for audio/podcasts/episodes).

Teaching STS with "A fist full of quarters"

Teaching this again, right now, reminded of how nice the parallels are between “verifying a world championship score” and “verifying the truth of a scientific claim,” especially for students, for whom this verification process may seem unfamiliar or altogether too abstract.

Installing (Social) Order

One way I teach students the philosophy of science is by using the documentary “The King of Kong: A fist full of quarters.”

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Storyline

In the early 1980s, legendary Billy Mitchell set a Donkey Kong record that stood for almost 25 years. This documentary follows the assault on the record by Steve Wiebe, an earnest teacher from Washington who took up the game while unemployed. The top scores are monitored by a cadre of players and fans associated with Walter Day, an Iowan who runs Funspot, an annual tournament. Wiebe breaks Mitchell’s record in public at Funspot, and Mitchell promptly mails a controversial video tape of himself setting a new record. So Wiebe travels to Florida hoping Mitchell will face him for the 2007 Guinness World Records. Will the mind-game-playing Mitchell engage; who will end up holding the record? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

The film is full of ideas from…

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Who Self-Driving Cars Should Kill

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Scholars from “MIT’s Media Lab, [in a group] called the Moral Machine,” are testing “a thought experiment that seeks answers from humans on how a driverless car with malfunctioning brakes should act in emergency situations.” Here is the piece.

These situations are bound to happen with self-driving cars. In this case, “The situations all involve the same scenario, where a self-driving car is traveling toward a crosswalk, and it needs to choose whether to swerve and crash into a barrier or plow through whoever’s at the crosswalk. The test is basically to determine what humans would do in these rare, life-or-death situations.”

 

NYC’s circulatory system and skin

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If you’re teaching infrastructure and you need some metaphors to communicate how certain kinds of infrastructure operate, consider this: Street as vein and skin. 

“Streets are both New York City’s circulatory system and its skin.”

Part of New York 101 from the New York Times, Why are the streets always under construction?” is a great short, readable resource for students about the “subterranean layer cake” underneath the streets of any major city.

 

Colin Gordon reviews the Cambridge Foucault Lexicon in History of the Human Sciences — Progressive Geographies

Originally posted on Progressive Geographies: Colin Gordon reviews The Cambridge Foucault Lexicon in History of the Human Sciences (requires subscription). I hope a preprint will appear on Colin’s academia.edu page soon. It’s a very detailed review of a huge work, covering a wide range of the entries – and briefly mentioning my entry on ‘space’…

via Colin Gordon reviews the Cambridge Foucault Lexicon in History of the Human Sciences — Progressive Geographies

Legible Street Art

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This is just a quick update on a new graffiti program in Paris (that will surely be mimicked elsewhere too): 

Artist Mathieu Tremblin recently took to the streets of France on a rather quixotic mission to improve the legibility of ugly graffiti. Mimicking the scale, color, and layering of each tag, Tremblin created his own replica in a perfectly crisp font. It’s hard to say if either version is more aesthetically pleasing, but he definitely gets an ‘A’ for effort. (via Design You Trust, thnx Nikki!)

I have been reading Pickering and Scott lately, especially on the practices associated with “legibility” (in this case, to the state, through the use of population categorization schemes, various forms of statistical analysis like the census and birth rates, and so on). This street art project almost seems like a state-sponsored translation project.