Skip to main content

2021-2022 Colloquium Series

The Science Studies Colloquium Series takes place on Mondays from 12:15pm-1:45pm by Zoom virtual meetings. A meeting ID will be sent out prior to the start time.

Fall Quarter 2021

September 27, 2021

Science Studies Program Meeting
SSP faculty and students only 

October 4, 2021 (zoom lecture)

Vera Khovanskaya

NSF/CRA Computing Innovations Fellow
UC San Diego

Reorganizing Organizing: How Data Collection Centralizes Knowledge and Decision-Making in Worker Advocacy Organizations

Despite widespread efforts to use information technologies for social good, fundamental questions remain about how data representations reorganize power relations within organizations seeking to collect and operationalize data. Drawing on ethnographic research with union organizers and historical research on the role of industrial engineers in the labor movement, this talk examines how workplace data collection reshapes organizational relationships between union members, organizers, and union leadership. I will use two cases to show how the collection of data results in the centralization of both knowledge and procedural decision-making within the union. I describe the disenfranchising effects of data collection and draw implications for how these effects could be mitigated by worker advocacy organizations in the future.


October 11, 2021

Stuart Geiger

Assistant Professor
Communication & Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute
UC San Diego

The Domains of Data Science

Academia is a complex assemblage of different institutionalized forms of expertise, which we variously call disciplines, fields, subjects, specializations, and so on. In our attempts to make sense of this messy morass, we often rely on category systems that slice up expertise into a more manageable and defined set. For example, currently in the U.S., the most prominent and dominant of these is likely the binary between “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and its usually-unnamed corollary “non-STEM.”

However, a new version of a longstanding distinction has become dominant in discussions of data science and artificial intelligence; one which cleaves expertise into quite different opposing sets. On the one hand, this distinction posits a set of “domain-specific” disciplines, such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, ecology, psychology, or sociology. On the other hand are the “domain-independent” disciplines, such as math, statistics, and computer science and engineering, which are increasingly relied-upon by those on the domain-specific side. As Ribes et al (2019) discuss, this “logic of domains” has been particularly influential in U.S. research funding policy, where various pots of money are earmarked for collaborations between the two halves.

In this talk, I first introduce this emic distinction as it has become adopted within both academic and corporate data science efforts. I then trace this binary as it was articulated in the history of educational and credentialing institutions, from Plato’s academy to mid-20th century efforts in the first wave of artificial intelligence. This distinction is constantly being re-invented over the centuries, often invoked as a way to address issues that can arise with other ways of categorizing and institutionalizing the disciplines. However, the distinction can also bring tensions and issues of its own, both for those whose expertise does not fit neatly inside one of these two boxes, as well as for those who fully identify with being on one side or the other. I conclude by discussing the implications of this distinction for those concerned with ethical issues of data science applications: where and how do the roles of preventing such negative impacts fit in this grand binary of expertise?

October 18, 2021 (Zoom)

Center for Interdisciplinary Environmental Justice Roundtable

Guest Speakers:

Jessica Ng, PhD Student, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego 

Leslie Quintanilla, Professor of Women and Gender Studies, San Francisco State University

"Decolonize4Climate: Decolonial Feminist Science Visions Beyond an Extractive Energy Transition"

Grounded in solidarity with Indigenous water defenders, we question the framework of a jobs- and energy-centered “just transition” that leaves colonial/capitalist extractivism intact. As natural and social scientists, we critique the axiomatic use of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and its ahistorical focus on carbon dioxide and temperature to motivate large-scale—but not truly radical—climate action. We turn instead to decolonization and abolition as methods for climate scientists, activists, and educators responding to the long disaster of climate colonialism.

October 25, 2021 (Zoom)

Science Studies Alumni Career Workshop

Alumni Panelists:

Dr. Katrina Petersen, Associate Research Manager, Trilateral Research '14

Dr. Cindy Schairer, Project Scientist, School of Public Health, UC San Diego '14

Dr. Matt Shindell, Curator, Planetary Science and Exploration, Smithsonian, National Air and Space Museum '11

November 1, 2021 (zoom lecture)

Christina Dunbar-Hester

Associate Professor of Communication
Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
University of Southern California

Including Difference, Including Tension: The Politics of "Hacking Diversity" 

Since the early 2000s, hacking and free/libre/open source (FLOSS) circles have paid increasing attention to matters of representation in their communities, which grappled with the contradictions of being “open” on the one hand yet often fairly monolithic demographically on the other. Once-controversial practices like introducing “codes of conduct” in spaces and communities have become more routine. Based on ethnographic fieldwork with hacking/FLOSS communities in Europe and North America who have agitated for increased “diversity” in their communities, this talk follows diversity advocacy as it intersects with political stances that relate to but are broader than diversity advocacy: social justice activism, antimilitarism, and anticolonialism. Feminist hackers in particular often articulate connections to broader values that can inform hacking. To what extent are the projects of “increasing diversity” and wider emancipatory politics in FLOSS and hacking the same, and to what extent do they diverge? 

November 8, 2021


November 15, 2021 (Zoom Meeting) 

IHPST / UCSD SSP Publishing workshop with Cathy Gere

Science Studies Faculty and Graduate Students only

This workshop will use the paper 'Beyond the Royal Way: Two Case Studies Map the Hidden Scientific Climb' by Cathy Gere and collaborators as the focal point for a discussion of the perils and prospects of publishing work in the field of STS.  Arising out of an ongoing collaboration between Science Studies and the Science Communication Program at UCSD, this paper is co-authored by a historian of science (Gere), a science communication expert (Sherry Seethaler), a neuroscientist (Nick Spitzer) and a molecular biologist (Partho Ghosh). The latter two had kindly hosted UCSD Science Studies students in their labs, and at some point in the course of conversations about this experience, the authors began to focus on the differences between the process of discovery as it unfolds in real time and the narrative of discovery as it is reported in the published paper in a scientific journal. The paper is both an analysis and a defense of this kind of rational reconstruction. It has been desk-rejected three times, and is for now on hold. Reading the introduction (five pages or so), should give participants an idea of what we were trying to do.

November 22, 2021

Caroline Jack

Assistant Professor
UC San Diego

Public service disinformation: “Economic education” media and corporate economic imaginaries in the twentieth-century United States

Sponsored "economic education" media—a genre of pamphlets, advertisements, films, and other media ephemera that touted private enterprise as intrinsically democratic and quintessentially American—emerged in the 1930s, flourished after World War II, and endured into the 1970s. Recently, scholars have begun to examine mid-century corporate-sponsored media campaigns to promote private enterprise itself, and the ideologies these media promoted, as the predecessors of present-day disinformation campaigns. This talk asks, how did economic education media come to be understood (by some, at least) as non-partisan public service information? It examines the archival evidence of economic education media campaigns, drawing out the techniques by which business interests in the twentieth century framed their enterprise-friendly narratives as public service and attempted to exclude their critics’ objections from the public discourse.

November 29, 2021

Science Studies Program Review

Science Studies Faculty and Graduate Students only


December 6, 2021

No Colloquium

Finals Week

Winter 2022

January 2, 2022

Science Studies Program Meeting
SSP faculty and students only 

January 10, 2022 (Zoom Meeting)

Dissertation To Book Workshop


Eric Schwartz

Editorial Director
Columbia University Press

January 17, 2022

No Colloquium
Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday 

January 24, 2022 (Zoom Lecture co-sponsored by the Institute for Practical Ethics)

Maya J. Goldenberg 

Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
University of Guelph

A War on Science? Rethinking Vaccine Hesitancy and Refusal

Because vaccine hesitancy has been framed as a problem of public misunderstanding of science, vaccine outreach has focused on educating the misguided publics. Where efforts to change vaccine attitudes have failed, cynicism has bred the harsher view that the publics are anti-science and anti-expertise. This ‘othering’ of vaccine refusers as anti-science is part of the scaffolding of the ‘war on science’, a common refrain in American media and popular science writing to characterize public resistance to science. 
Yet research into science and the publics lends strong support to the view that public attitudes regarding scientific claims turn crucially on epistemic trust rather than engagement with science itself. It follows that it is poor trust in the expert sources that engender vaccine hesitancy. This consideration redraws the lines of responsibility, where vaccine hesitancy signals a problem with scientific governance rather than a problem with the wayward publics. In order to improve vaccine communications, we should focus on building that trust rather than educating the misinformed publics or puzzling over the moral and epistemic failings of the publics. Doing this does not discount that public health agencies have the science on their sides. It does mean recognizing that the best science is not enough to ensure public uptake of health recommendations.


January 31, 2022 (Zoom Lecture)

Sara Shostak

Professor of Sociology and Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP)
Brandeis University

“How Do We Measure Justice?”: Missions and Metrics in Urban Agriculture

This paper offers a critical analysis of program evaluation in contemporary urban agriculture. Drawing on data from an exploratory study designed at the request of and in collaboration with urban agriculture practitioners in Massachusetts, it describes both their critiques of extant practices of program evaluation and their visions for alternative ways of telling the story of their work. Related, it explores practitioners’ interest in building capacity for policy advocacy, working collectively to create transformative social change, and, related, establishing new kinds of relationships with state and philanthropic funders. Building on scholarship that has observed that urban agriculture is characterized by an internal contradiction – i.e., its simultaneous orientation to “neoliberal” (social service) and “radical” (social justice) agendas (McClintock 2014) – the analysis calls attention, especially, to the complex role of metrics, which may not only entrench neoliberalism in UA organizations, but also provide a mechanism for challenging its assumptions and advancing the radical project of food justice. Reflecting on this project, and the collaborative research that followed it, highlights new opportunities for a community engaged approach to STS.

February 7, 2022 (Zoom meeting)

CV workshop with Giulia Hoffman, PhD

Senior  Associate Director
Career Center
UC San Diego


February 14, 2022 (Zoom Lecture)

Jade Sasser

Associate Professor
Gender and Sexuality Studies
UC Riverside

On Populationism: Ecological Problems, Eugenic Solutions

A history of ecological thought and practice in California reveals a close affinity between ecologists and eugenicists. In this context, population growth is positioned as a biological problem with a technological solution: contraceptives. This paper explores the history of these debates, as well as the ongoing production and circulation of populationist ideas, even in the face of reduced fertility rates and long term population reduction. It concludes with an exploration of how the sciences of temporality, particularly in the context of population and climate projections, offer opportunities for productive ruptures of longstanding assumptions linking population, contraception, eugenics, and ecological and climate stability. 

February 21, 2022

No Colloquium
Presidents' Day Holiday 

February 28, 2022



March 7, 2022 (Zoom Lecture)

Chad Valasek

PhD Candidate
Sociology and Science Studies 
UC San Diego

Political Trajectories of Behavioral Economics: From Carceral Institutions to ‘Nudge’ Policies

After Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein wrote Nudge in 2008, many researchers, policymakers, designers, and think tanks have developed behavioral economics applications to various economic and policy markets. The historical trajectories of behavioral economics have largely been absent from contemporary controversies around digital nudges and behavioral policy. In contrast, my work, which includes archival documents from the Russell Sage Foundation on the first behavioral economics working group, shows how certain behavioral models and experimental devices in behavioral economics relied on specific groups of people in confined institutions, such as prisons and psychiatric clinics. For example, early behavioral economics experiments in the 1960s and 1970s included people incarcerated in US prisons as research subjects to test economic theories on expected utility with gambling games. In the 1980s, behavioral economists looked toward theories of addiction in an attempt to create a more accurate descriptive model of consumer behavior compared to the rational actor model of orthodox economics. In particular, George Ainslie and other early behavioral economists showed how behavioral models of impatience (displayed as hyperbolic discount curves) initially applied to people in substance use treatment, could be applied to other forms of consumer behavior. While Ainslie’s lab advisor, Richard Herrnstein, applied these findings and models to argue for both behavioral modification interventions (including, what would become known as “nudges”) and more restrictive carceral policies against people who use drugs. I conclude my talk by putting these “irrational” models of the confined subject in conversation with current work on harm reduction and decarceration.

March 9, 2022 (Zoom meeting)

IHPST Publishing workshop with Dr. Adrien Zakar

Assistant Professor
Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations
Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
University of Toronto



March 14, 2022

No Colloquium
Finals Week

Spring 2022

March 28, 2022

Science Studies Program Meeting
SSP faculty and students only  

April 4, 2022 (Zoom Lecture)

Frank Pasquale

Professor of Law
Brooklyn Law School

The Generative Potential of Rights to Information Access in an Era of Digitized Judgment

Individuals’ rights to access information held about them by corporations are a long-standing feature of privacy law and fair information practices. Jurisdictions around the world are now expanding those rights in response to the increasing number of digitized judgments now affecting persons in their roles as consumers, workers, borrowers, and internet users. As agencies and courts interpret and apply these rights, they face a growing backlash from business interests which emphasize costs of compliance and minimize individual benefits. As policymakers weigh the costs and benefits of rights to information access, they also need to bear in mind their social and long-term benefits, to fairly recognize their generative potential going forward.

Co-sponsor by Institute of Practical Ethics (IPE)

April 11, 2022

Sandra Harvey

Assistant Professor African American Studies
School of Humanities
UC Irvine

Alienation in Black: Dementia, Racial Terror, and the Great Migration

This paper takes the story of Curlie Buckins, a black mother of seven, who along with her four children, her sisters, and her husband fled Mansfield, Louisiana for Los Angeles, California in 1940. Curlie lived with Alzheimer’s disease for several decades (as did her sister) before her death. While her short-term memory was all but non-existent, Buckins began anxiously retelling in great detail the story of the disappearance of Foster Harris, her father, precipitated by the threat of his lynching in Mansfield when Buckins was a child. In this paper, I ask after the relationship between anti-black terror, migration, and black desire for healing through memory when short-term memory and recognition is, biomedically-speaking, impossible. Here, what is the purchase of forgetting? I draw on black feminist writings of memory, including Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, and Hortense Spillers and theories of patriarchal genealogy in psychoanalysis to chart the ways Black calls for memory exceed History’s call for an archive and biomedicine’s material understandings of the brain. At stake here is the plethora of ways subjects of race and empire live with alienation and belonging as political practice.

April 18, 2022

Science Studies Graduate Student Conference

April 25, 2022 (Zoom Lecture)

Rajesh Veeraraghavan

Assistant Professor
Science, Technology and International Affairs
School of Foreign Service
Georgetown University

Patching Development: Information Politics and Social Change in India

How can development programs deliver benefits to marginalized citizens in ways that expand their rights and freedoms? Political will and good policy design are critical but often insufficient due to resistance from entrenched local power systems. The book is an ethnography of one of the largest development programs in the world, the Indian National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), and examines in detail NREGA’s implementation in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It finds that the local system of power is extremely difficult to transform, not because of inertia, but because of coercive counter strategy from actors at the last mile and their ability to exploit information asymmetries. Upper-level NREGA bureaucrats in Andhra Pradesh do not possess the capacity to change the power axis through direct confrontation with local elites, but instead have relied on a continuous series of responses that react to local implementation and information, a process of patching development. Patching development is a top-down, fine-grained, iterative socio-technical process that makes local information about implementation visible through technology and enlists participation from marginalized citizens through social audits. These processes are neither neat nor orderly and have led to a contentious sphere where the exercise of power over documents, institutions and technology is intricate, fluid and highly situated. The book throws new light on the challenges and benefits of using information and technology in novel ways to implement development programs. While focused on one Indian state, the implications for increasing citizen participation and government transparency have global relevance.
Rajesh Veeraraghavan is currently an assistant professor in the Science Technology and International Affairs (STIA) Program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He has a Ph.D from University of California Berkeley

Co-sponsored with South Asia Institute (SAI)

May 2, 2022

Lillian Walkover

Assistant Teaching Professor
Department of Communication
UC San Diego 

Where There Is No Doctor: Traveling Texts and the Interplay Between Technical and Political Framings of Health

Where There Is No Doctor is the most widely used community health manual in the world. Written in the 1970’s, it traveled with health social movements from the mountains of Sinaloa, Mexico to over 200 countries, and has been translated into over 80 languages. The flexibility of Where There Is No Doctor, facilitated by an open copyright, allows actors from different social worlds to take pieces of the book and the ideas it carries and use them for health projects that construct health as a technical and/or political problem to be solved. The push and pull between political and technical understandings of health – including the tension between providing individual medical treatment and changing the social, political, and economic conditions that create health and illness – is an ongoing challenge that permeates debates on the best ways to address health inequities, including those highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on data related to the translation and adaptation of this text in Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and English for use in India, I analyze how writers, translators, non-profits, care providers, and publishers position themselves in relation to larger debates about where health comes from, and resulting discourses around access to health care, government responsibility, and the right to health. I argue that Where There Is No Doctor travels as a non-human actant, as interpreted by Situational Analysis, and is constructed as a boundary object by those who interpret the book as technical and/or political and adapt and use it accordingly.

May 9, 2022 (Zoom Lecture)

Megh Marathe 

President’s Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Informatics
UC Irvine

Was that a Seizure? Diagnosis in Lived Experience and Medical Practice

This talk examines how doctors and patients distinguish between normal and pathological events through the case of epilepsy. Epilepsy is a chronic illness and disability characterized by recurrent and unpredictable seizures. Seizures are transient events during which people lose control over parts of body-mind function.

I show that the diagnostic boundary between seizure and non-seizure events is fluid, dynamic, and porous in both lived experience and medical practice. Tracing how people obtain an epilepsy diagnosis, I show that people recognize odd events as seizures only in retrospect, through unusual sociobiological and environmental interactions, and with the help of family, friends, and medical practitioners. Turning to medical practice, I show that doctors similarly account for patient-specific, social, and environmental factors that go well beyond the readings of diagnostic technologies when diagnosing seizures in practice.

Further, I show that people with epilepsy and physicians take what I call an expedient approach to classifying seizures. Calling an event a seizure has ramifications well beyond treatment, also affecting people's financial stability, social participation, and life aspirations. Hence, people with epilepsy and physicians seek to postpone or avoid severe consequences, typically by dismissing events that would otherwise be called seizures through informal workarounds that modify the very definition of seizure. By engaging in expedient classification, doctors and patients bend rigid classification schemes to suit the complex realities of people's lives.

This work makes theoretical contributions to scholarship on classification and expertise in information science, science and technology studies, and disability studies.

May 16, 2022  (Zoom Lecture)

Cat Crowder

PhD Candidate
Sociology and Science Studies 
UC San Diego

The Hydra: How Gender Essentialism Persists in Epistemology

Inequities in the institutional processes through which some people gain authority over knowledge, and others do not, have significant consequences for who can know about the world, and even what can be known. Historically, gender has been an important determinate of one’s access to authority over knowledge. I consider one case of recent gender-integration in the professional holding of authority over sacred knowledge: priestly ordination in the Episcopal Church U.S.A. (ECUSA). Since 1976, women have been ordained as priests and bishops, and have held every office in ECUSA church hierarchy. Yet, despite these gains, on average, clergy women still under-attain otherwise similar men in their careers, suggesting that some gender bias persists. I ask: When practices change, what happens to the meanings that previously justified and necessitated them?  After decades of women’s ordination, does gender essentialist logic persist in ECUSA, how?  
I find that gender essentialism persists in a three-part process that I explain using the metaphor of the Hydra from Greek mythology: Decapitation, Latency, and Regeneration. In Decapitation, gender essentialism can be undone, as is shown in new interpretations for the basis of sacred authority that emphasize institutional legitimacy and draw a moral boundary to bar from consideration the gender of an aspirant. In Latency, social actors seek to make sense of inconsistencies and contradictions that appear as a result of decapitation by employing the strategy of Gender Pragmatism, importing gender meanings from other social institutions. In Regeneration, gender essentialism, in the form of opposing emergent ideologies – Nostalgic Essentialism and Revolutionary Essentialism, spring forth and offer competing visions for the future of ECUSA as an institution.  


May 23, 2022

Melody Jue

Associate Professor of English
English Department
UC Santa Barbara

"A Seaweed Goes to War": Agar as a thermal medium in C. K. Tseng’s research at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (1943-1946)

I trace how C.K. Tseng’s wartime scientific writings during 1943-1946 at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography tell a story about agar as a thermal medium of labor in transpacific contexts. This story is framed by war and agriculture through the role agar played as a bacteriological culturing medium, vital to national security through testing and ensuring safe water and food supplies. Yet in Tseng’s writings, agar is not just a culturing medium, it is a thermal medium—a “cold food” and a gel with unique thermal properties, different across eastern and western thermal epistemes. By accounting for agar’s thermal properties from both western scientific and east Asian perspectives, I argue that Tseng avoids the fallacy of “thermal objectivity,” a term that Nicole Starosielski uses to name a sense of temperature as “independent of both culture and perception” that “offers a universal language—degrees Celsius and Fahrenheit (and Kelvin)—that can describe engines, people, and climate change alike,” an epistemic position often taken for granted by scientists (Starosielski 2021, 2). Tseng’s comparison of thermal approaches to understanding agar is cross-cultural and transnational, requiring a consideration of what I call "thermal epistemes," or systematic practices of knowing through temperature. I show how Tseng addressed both eastern and western thermal epistemes in the way he described agar as a thermal medium, a culturing medium, and finally a medium of labor. Tracing these three medial qualities enables me to show that Tseng’s personification of Gelidium as a soldier was no mere literary flourish, but rather an extension of his thinking about his own conditions of labor in the laboratory, under the shadow of WWII.

May 30, 2022

No Colloquium
Memorial Day Observance

June 6, 2022

No Colloquium
Finals Week