April 8, 2013
Regents' Professor and Professor of Cognitive Science, Schools of Interactive Computing and Public Policy, Georgia Intitute of Technology
Modeling to discover: Creative strategies in the bioengineering sciences
The philosophical literature on modeling tends to focus on modeling in the context of established theory. This talk will address how models are constructed and used in discovery processes that lack this resource. My analysis draws from twelve years of empirical research on modeling practices in pioneering bioengineering sciences research laboratories, where basic biological research is conducted in the context of application problems. An interesting feature of research in these domains is that because ethical issues or control considerations rule out the possibility of experimenting on the target phenomena, a major creative strategy involves researchers building physical and computational simulation models to serve as analogical source domains for target problems. The standard notion of analogy assumes a source domain from which one retrieves a ready-to-hand solution that can serve as the basis of inference. However, in these (and many other ) areas of creative research, the base representation itself needs to be constructed. Information from a source domain is not mapped directly to the target problem; rather, constraints drawn from both domains are used for constructing intermediary hybrid models, which possess their own model constraints. The problem solver thinks and reasons through these intermediary models. I will examine in depth a two-year episode in an interdisciplinary neural engineering lab where the cross-breeding of two simulation models – one bio-engineered and one computational – that involved the interaction of three graduate student researchers, led to significant conceptual innovations that enabled interventions in physical systems. I consider implications of this “modeling to discover” practice for the philosophy of science and cognitive science more broadly.
April 16, 2013
2011-12 Student's Choice Speaker
Distinguished Professor Emerita, Departments of History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies, UC Santa Cruz
Cosmopolitical Critters: Companion Species, SF, and Staying with the Trouble
Doing STS through SF (string figures, science fact, speculative fabulation, speculative feminism, science fiction, so far), "Cosmopolitical Critters" asks how and why the Anthropocene and Multispecies Becoming-with emerge as foci of attention at the same time and for many different knowledge communities. Working in close contact with artists, scholars, and biologists, the lecture argues for sympoesis and multispecies cosmopolitics as critical approaches to staying with the trouble of rampant extinctions and exterminations and to working toward modest recuperation and flourishing on terra.
April 22, 2013
Associate Professor, Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, UC San Francisco
The Optics of Homogeneity-Heterogeneity: Genes, Environment, and Etiologic Complexity in the Post-Genomic Era
This talk explores the current thinking and practices around the logic of difference in gene-environment interaction (GEI) research in the post-genomic era. Shim argues that homogeneity-heterogeneity act as optics for GEI scientists and are therefore useful ways to analyze how attention to difference is changing in U.S.-based contemporary genomic research. Rather than conceiving populations to be strictly or inherently homogeneous or heterogeneous, and only in terms of race and ethnicity, GEI scientists think about and use these qualities as situational properties, in prismatic and kaleidoscopic ways, that are held in dynamic tension and relationship with one another. Much like a prism or kaleidoscope can be held in different ways to reveal new patterns, researchers refract their data across many dimensions of difference and similarity, holding homogeneity along one dimension in order to productively reveal heterogeneity along another dimension. There are two main ways in which they do so: first, homogeneity and heterogeneity are properties to be leveraged and as empirical questions in and of themselves; and second, they are qualities to be produced—and therefore objects of extensive social and scientific work in order to produce them. This paper shows how homogeneity and heterogeneity are being re-conceived and re-worked in the shifting terrain of 21st century genomic science, highlighting the growing acknowledgement of tensions among population diversity, etiologic complexity, and the continued scientific need for data integrity, replication, and validity.
April 29, 2013
Marianne de Laet
Associate Professor, Departments of Anthropology and Science, Technology, and Society
Harvey Mudd College
Counting Calories: Calculatory Logics at Work
What is a calorie? One might say, following physics (and Wikipedia), that a calorie is 4.18400 Joules, or the amount of energy necessary to heat a gram of water by one degree Celsius. It is a big step from this description to the calorie that circulates in our daily lives – where, after all, it holds much more than this tiny amount of energy. And yet, it is precisely this step this paper takes: from the notion that, because we know how to define it, we know what a calorie is, to the exploration of what a calorie does – all in support of the claim that a thing is what it performs. This lecture proposes praxiographical set of questions to find out what comes with, what is in, and what comes out of, the calorie, to get a handle on what it is.
May 6, 2013
Professor, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University
Bio-bullies in Our Midst: Does Fat Shaming Work?
For the last decade, America has been in the midst of a national War on Fat to save the nation from an “epidemic of obesity” that, according to obesity science, public health, and government authorities, is undermining America’s competitiveness by harming health, boosting health care costs, and eroding economic productivity. Failure to win the War on Fat has led to renewed debate about fat shaming, with prominent bio-ethicists calling for intensified stigmatizing of fat people to force them to lose weight. Will more fat shaming finally work to reduce the weight of Americans? In this talk, anthropologist Susan Greenhalgh uncovers the convoluted scientific and ethical controversies over fat shaming. Drawing on the voices of those with no voice in the debates –- the heavyset people who are the targets of the War on Fat -- she shows that not only does fat shaming not work to reduce weight, but it is imposing terrible human costs on these people, consigning them to virtual social death. She argues that the War on Fat itself -- which pathologizes two-thirds of adults and one-third of young people – is unjust and that human scientists have an obligation to add their critical voices to the conversations about fat in America today.
May 13, 2013
PhD Candidate, History and Science Studies, UC San Diego
Science in Extremis: Portrait of a Himalayan Expedition
Underwritten by federal Cold War institutions, the 1963 American Mount Everest Expedition sought to climb Earth’s tallest mountain and leverage its extreme environment for scientific research. This talk examines the varied fortunes of these performances, and illustrates why the conduct of AMEE’s geoscientific, physiological, sociological, and psychological research programs were shaped by local circumstances. Battling physiological, psychological, and logistical stressors inherent to the
extreme Himalayan environment, AMEE scientists, their Sherpa assistants, and alpinist test subjects, were forced to deviate from their normal disciplinary practices, and formulate on-the-fly solutions to
unpredictable variables which destabilized normal data-collection methods. Analysis of these sometimes-harrowing events reveals the power that an extreme locale can have over the conduct of research, which raises questions about the universality of scientific knowledge produced in such field conditions.
May 20, 2013
PhD Candidate, Communication and Science Studies, UC San Diego
What do you mean by disaster? Mapping the 2007 San Diego Wildfires
This talk presents a study of the materiality of disaster politics that focuses on the production and use of maps to understand, and differentially constitute, the 2007 San Diego Wildfires. It explores the politics and technicalities of map-making to explain how different mapping practices put forward very different disasters. There were two different mapping efforts of these fires: one by the county government using GIS and the other by an ad-hoc coalition of media and academic institutions using Google My Maps. The first was focused on jurisdictional boundaries and responsibility, the second focused on where the flames went and what was affected. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including interviews, official documents, media communications, and mapping technologies, this discussion traces the networks of production for each map. By exploring the interplay of diverse data needs, gathering techniques, and technologies of representation it becomes possible to see a range of definitions of disaster at play. Even within the same disaster response, these maps enact different delimitations of what counts as part of a disaster, different notions of the burning space, and different disaster timing, with consequences for the epistemology of wildfire as well as the conceptualization of disaster preparedness and response.
May 27, 2013
June 3, 2013
Assistant Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
2013 Ritter Fellow, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
What is an author, and how did Darwin become one?
The geologist Charles Lyell's greatest claim to fame is that his theories of gradual change are supposed to have been the model for Charles Darwin's geological and evolutionary theories. This influence is primarily seen as a consequence of Darwin having read Lyell’s three-volume Principles of Geology (1830-1833) during his voyage on the Beagle. This lecture has two aims: the first is to argue that historians have failed to recognize how the structure of the personal relationship between Lyell and Darwin after the voyage resulted in the younger man’s work being presented explicitly as subsidiary to Lyell’s. Second, it examines how Darwin sought to transcend this relationship by establishing himself as the author of his own ideas.
* No Colloquium on May 27, 2013 (University Holiday)