Monthly Archives: November 2012

Rene Almeling, Winner of the 2012 Forsythe Prize, on Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm

I am deeply honored to be the recipient of the 2012 Diana Forsythe Prize for Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm (University of California Press, 2011).  It is a thrill to be considered to be working in the tradition of Forsythe herself, as well as the list of distinguished scholars who have received this prize since 1999, which includes many of my academic heroes!  In what follows, I provide a short synopsis of the book, and for those who are interested in reading more, there is a link to the Introduction on my website: Unimaginable until the twentieth century, the clinical practice of transferring eggs and sperm from body to body is now the basis of a bustling market. In Sex Cells, I provide an inside look at how egg agencies and sperm banks do business. Although both men and women are usually drawn to donation (More...)

Opening Political Opportunities for a Green Transition

During the first year of the Obama administration, there was considerable optimism that the United States might finally catch up with other industrialized countries by developing a national renewable portfolio standard and carbon regulation. However, the hope was dashed by the compromises of the Kerry-Lieberman bill in the Senate and its eventual defeat. Likewise, the rise of the Tea Party movement and influence of fossil-fuel money in the Republican Party has made green-energy policy an increasingly partisan issue. It is hard to believe that in 2008 both McCain and Obama agreed that climate change was real and needed policy attention. By 2012, the pervasive influence of fossil-fuel money and the Republican Party’s anti-green strategy had led even the president who promised five million green jobs to adopt a strategic silence on the issue. In the Arctic in 2012, the planet passed a significant milestone: the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (More...)

On Building Social Robustness

by David Hakken, Information Ethnographer, Indiana University Bloomington As many of you know, I am now directing a Social Informatics (SI) Group in a School of Informatics and Computing (SoIC) at Indiana University Bloomington. The SI group is quite unique in Informatics/Computer Science/Information Studies, it that is has chosen to oriented itself explicitly to the field of Science, Technology, and Society (STS, also referred to as Science and Technology Studies). I am also thinking about retirement in the next 3-5 years. Being in these situations has shaped the research agenda that follows. My current research is all framed generally within Socially Robust and Enduring Computing. SREC is based on the notion that developing a notion of social robustness, comparable to the technical notion of robustness in Computer Science, is a goal worth pursuing. I have developed SREC with colleagues in Trento, Italy. My main research time commitment at the moment (More...)

Inaugural Post from the Editor

Greetings! Welcome to the CASTAC Blog, an exchange for ideas and information about science and technology as social phenomena. We hope to build on a thriving community of scholars from around the world who are concerned about the implications of technologized products and worldviews that are impacting human beings and other forms of life. Our focus is interdisciplinary and welcoming to a variety of scholars interested in a diverse set of research issues, ethics, and impacts of technology on increasingly blended forms of humans and machines in contemporary life. The CASTAC Blog was created by Patricia G. Lange, Jennifer Cool, and Jordan Kraemer, who are all members of the Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC). CASTAC is a sub-committee of the General Anthropology Division (GAD) of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). For more than 20 years, CASTAC has had a thriving presence at AAA, as researchers (More...)

Anthropological investigations of MIME-NET

As a new year’s resolution for 2012, I started a wordpress blog titled Robot Futures (see The idea was to do some writing that could be more timely and critical than journal publications allow (though the deadlines of the latter and the rest of academic life have limited my posts!) about developments in robotics and artificial intelligence, particularly in the area of remotely-controlled war fighting. Increasingly distressed by the use of armed drones (see Medea Benjamin’s brilliant new book Drone Warfare: Killing by remote control, 2012, OR Books) and the arming of robots (including the 710 Warrior by Boston-based iRobot, makers of the Roomba vacuum cleaner), I’ve begun to focus my research on what James der Derian (Virtuous War, 2009) has identified as the military-industrial-media-entertainment network (MIME-NET), particularly as it has emerged over the past twenty years within the United States and Britain. As someone who has made a (More...)

On Tools & Techniques

We all know that robust tools can help facilitate research, but we do not always have the time to test the latest products and processes. Here’s a place to offer advice, suggestions, and ask for help on how to tackle specific problems. What software have you found helpful for capturing data, transcribing interaction, conducting research, or analyzing findings? What problems tend to come up? Are there techniques in conceptualization, mapping, coding or other stages of the research process that you have identified as particularly helpful? Feel free to share information about what worked and what didn’t when using technology to gain insight into your projects.