Wednesday, September 10, 1-2:30
Sage 3510

Becoming Parent: Affect, Materiality and Mobility

Kate Boyer is a lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Southampton.

abstract: The transition to parenthood typically marks a profound change to one’s sense of self and ways of engaging with the world. This paper examines the ‘shock’ of new parenthood by considering the work of journey-making for new parents in the first year post-birth. I approach this through an engagement with feminist/new materialist social theory (Alaimo and Hekman, 2008; Braidotti, 2002; Barad, 2008; Colebrook, 2008; Coole and Frost, 2010). Drawing on this work, I consider the material intra-actions, socio-technical assemblages and affective environments that emerge in the course of journey-making for new parents, and consider how the above-noted shape new parents’ understandings of self. Drawing on the travel experiences of 20 new parents in East London, I posit early parenthood as a state of deterritorialization in which individuals “become strange” to themselves (Ahmed, 2010: 581), having become unmoored from both established ways of engaging with the world and understandings of self; and needing to establish radically different forms of collaborations with and within the material landscape.
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Wednesday, September 17, 1-2:30
Sage 3510

Building Infrastructures for Civil Society Science:
A Case Study of the Marcellus Shale Water Monitoring Community

Kirk Jalbert is a Ph.D. candidate in the Science & Technology Studies Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as well as a visiting research scientist for the FracTracker Alliance, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that produces maps, data, and digital storytelling projects to communicate the impacts of global oil and gas extraction. His research seeks to understand how civil society groups vocalize environmental health concerns through participatory data collection and geospatial database projects – particularly in the context of communities dealing with the impacts of extraction industries. He has an MFA in new media and a BS in computer science.

abstract: Academic research in the fields of science and technology studies (STS) and political sociology have brought much attention to the ways that civic participation in environmental science can improve research in expert institutions; for example, by making science more responsive to public concerns that might otherwise be ignored. However, based on four years of research with networks of watershed protection groups in Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia responding to the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas deposits, I find that concerned citizen groups are often constrained by partnerships with academics and regulatory experts. Particularly when their collaborations are mediated through an emphasis on standardized data, databases, and geospatial mapping projects intended to communicate the objectivity of citizen science. In this presentation I argue that these technical infrastructures – dominated by a “culture of data” can have the effect of steering concerned citizens away from political advocacy, and subsequently reduces their influence in community-based decision-making. At a time when citizen science is increasingly being used to support scientific research and to mobilize citizens to solve environmental problems, there are important implications in this research. Case studies indicate that concerned citizen do not establish credibility by amassing evidential data alone – as many initiators of these projects assume. Instead, to empower communities to protect their environment, scientists and concerned citizens must co-construct technical infrastructures such that they are capable of translating collective grievances into “data narratives” that openly question the state of expert science and the work of regulatory agencies. This research therefore identifies multiple ways in which data cultures limit civic participation, and offers a series of recommendations to assist citizen groups in mobilizing their data to develop more equitable partnerships with decision-making bodies and expert institutions.

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Wednesday, October 1, 1-2:30

Sage 3510

Changing Data Practices Among Anthropologists, Astronomers, Historians and Physicists

Sharon Traweek is an (intensely interdisciplinary) anthropologist of science at University of California Los Angeles, and author of Beamtimes and Lifetimes: The World of High Energy Physics.

abstract: Since 2008 I have been engaged in historical and ethnographic studies of data practices among anthropologists, astronomers, historians, and physicists. I conduct and collaborate with others doing research about data practices in Denmark, Japan, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and the US. During my presentation I will discuss these two sets of questions:
  • What are the variations in what counts as research data and evidence across those fields?
  • What are the variations in how we collect, evaluate, interpret, and share those data/evidence?
  • What difference do location, gender, ethnicity, and immigration make in our collaborations as we work on our data/evidence?
  • What is data intensive science and when did it begin? How does it matter in those four fields?
  • What research infrastructures, pedagogies, and divisions of labor are we using in our data intensive research?
  • How have data intensive research practices been changing?
  • Are these changes reconstituting what research is and does?

Wednesday, December 10, 1-2:30

Sage 3510

Hidden Vulnerability in the Nuclear Village

Sulfikar Amir is an assistant professor in the Division of Sociology, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He completed a PhD in Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is currently working on a research project to study the origins of sociotechnical vulnerability in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. His research interests include technological politics, nationalism, risk, disaster, and resilience. He is the author of “The Technological State in Indonesia: the Co-constitution of High Technology and Authoritarian Politics” (Routledge, 2012). See Amir's recent article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

abstract: This presentation discusses how vulnerability becomes hidden in a complex sociotechnical system, namely nuclear power station. Situated in the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the presentation will examine several factors that contributed to the hidden vulnerability in Fukushima Daiichi. The focus is placed on the development of vulnerability at the micro level where human operators and technical components interact and linked to the socio-political environment at the broader level. It is posited that vulnerability is a process that unfolds over time and that the fragility of sociotechnical system is emergent in nature. Furthermore, vulnerability is likely to turn hidden due to the socio-political environment that undermines the potential risk of system accident. Integrating concepts from the sociology of disaster and STS, this presentation demonstrates the process in which the construction of vulnerability is inextricably intertwined with epistemological bias.