2015 Message from the Co-Chairs

January 27th, 2015, by § 1 Comment

As the co-chairs of CASTAC, we’re taking this opportunity to thank you for visiting The CASTAC Blog and to share our plans for 2015 and beyond! But first, we’d like to introduce ourselves.

I’m Jenny Carlson, continuing co-chair of CASTAC. For those new to CASTAC and its blog, I’m a visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Southwestern University, as well as a visiting research fellow at Rice University’s Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences. I work on the everyday, affective dimensions of energy transitions in Germany and, more recently, in the United States. I focus on ordinary structures of feeling at sites of small-scale energy development, exploring how sentiments shape infrastructures for producing energy and engaging in politics. My aim is to theorize how the politics of energy unfolds among those who live at sites of energy development but don’t formally participate in these projects and, going from this vernacular politics, to better understand how site-specific dynamics push back against policy projections, offering a more nuanced perspective on the social underpinnings of participation in areas of rapid technoscientific development.

And I’m Nick Seaver, writing from UC Irvine, where I’m a PhD candidate in anthropology and a researcher with the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing. I succeeded longtime co-chair Jennifer Cool, whose hard work has enabled our interest group to not only survive, but thrive as part of the AAA’s General Anthropology Division. I research the development of algorithmic recommender systems for music — yes, like Pandora — among a broad network of academic and corporate researchers, engineers, and scientists in the US. I’m very interested in the resonances between these algorithmic approaches to “culture” and those from anthropology’s past, so I am also researching the history of computing in sociocultural anthropology. My goal is to gain some analytical purchase for anthropologists on those things we call “big data” or “algorithms” — to enhance our ability to make critiques that are informed and have impact, and to recognize the continuities between these “new” phenomena and older technologies we are more familiar with.

« Read the rest of this entry »

2014 in Review: Re-locating the Human

January 20th, 2015, by § Leave a Comment

In retrospect, 2014 may appear a pivotal year for technological change. It was the year that “wearable” technologies began shifting from geek gadget to mass-market consumer good (including the announcement of the Apple Watch and the rising popularity of fitness trackers), that smartphone and tablet usage outstripped that of desktop PCs for accessing the Internet, along with concurrent interest in home automation and increasingly viable models for pervasive computing (such as Google’s purchase of smart thermostat Nest), and that computer algorithms, machine learning, and recommendation engines came increasingly to the fore of public awareness and debate (from Apple buying streaming service Beats to the effects of Facebook’s algorithms). Many of these shifts have been playing out world-wide, or at least, in diverse contexts, such as Chinese online retailer Alibaba going public and Xiaomi smartphone maker speedily surpassing most rivals. It also proved to be an exciting year on The CASTAC Blog, where our team of Associate Editors and contributors brought our attention to this rapidly shifting technological landscape, and to pressing questions and debates driving anthropological inquiry into science and technology.

In today’s post, I continue my predecessor Patricia Lange’s tradition of reviewing themes and highlights on the blog from the past year. Some of these are topical, and included energy, the environment, and infrastructure, crowdsourcing and the “sharing” economy, wearables, algorithms and the “Internet of Things,” science communication, science’s publics, and citizen science, while others were more conceptual or even experimental—reflections on longterm ethnographic engagement with technology, broader issues of scientific (and ethnographic) authority, technological infrastructures as social infrastructures and tacit knowledges (such as Jenny Cool’s co-chair report), and broadly, how to make anthropological research into science and technology relevant within and beyond academic circles.

« Read the rest of this entry »

New Year, New Team: Welcome from the Editor

January 13th, 2015, by § Leave a Comment

The year has gotten off to a contentious start, with recent events triggering lively debates on social (and other) media, notably the deadly attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7. Ensuing discussions about free speech, religion, and extremism at times reiterate old tropes about Islam and the Muslim world, yet other responses call attention to larger social and historical contexts, such as postcolonialism in Europe and elsewhere. My Facebook and Twitter feeds last week were dominated first by those proclaiming #JeSuisCharlie, and then followed by others countering #JeNeSuisPasCharlie. But of course, social media feeds are increasingly determined by opaque algorithms, raising further questions about the intersection of technology, politics, and corporate power in social life.

These debates illustrate once again the value of scholarly blogs and research on emerging technologies and their imbrication in everyday life – concerns that motivate much of what we do here at the CASTAC Blog. With that in mind, I’m pleased to announce some changes in the Blog’s team for the upcoming year. « Read the rest of this entry »

Aaron’s Call

August 11th, 2014, by § 1 Comment

On the morning of January 11th, 2013, the Internet entrepreneur and political activist Aaron Swartz was found dead in his apartment in Brooklyn, New York. Soon after the news reached the Internet, manifestos and hackathons were organized to celebrate Aaron’s political and technical work. In a matter of weeks, parallel events were organized across the United States, finding solidarity with Internet technologists and activists abroad. This collective effervescence elaborated on a narrative to evaluate the present, help to frame the past and project the future in relation to Aaron’s accomplishments and indictment for computer crime.

One year after Aaron’s passing, Brian Knappenberger‘s documentary “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” was screened at the Sundance Festival and publicly released this past June. As far as the narrative goes, the spectator is offered a reconstruction of Aaron’s life with key elements for debate regarding legal overreach in his case. Knappenberger’s work was very careful in attending to the details. Despite the familiarity of most of us with the succession of events, there is much to be gained from the documentary if its depiction of Aaron’s trajectory is to be interpreted vis-à-vis broader, transnational battles on the grounds of intellectual property enforcement and expansion.
« Read the rest of this entry »

4S Meeting Preview!

October 9th, 2013, by § Leave a Comment

The forthcoming meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) is packed with exciting panels, papers, and activities that advance classic STS topics while exploring new themes that are emerging on the horizon. We hope to see many of you there, and we encourage in-person connections while we are all in the same place!

Of course, one can never adequately cover a whole conference in a single blog post, but it is safe to say that this year’s 4S is chock full of exciting papers—and for the first time, stand-alone films—that tackle a dazzling array of 4S topics. The conference offers numerous panels that update the discipline’s understanding of long-term issues of interest including: scientific communities in action, risk, environmental crises, sustainability, epistemologies, religion, and food.

Yet, new dimensions of these topics are also being explored. For example, although food has been of scholarly interest for quite some time, I was interested to see several papers that analyze new forms of food and eating. Papers will be discussing practices and products on the horizon such as laboratory cultured meat, nanofood, and food risk analysis. Themes include exploring how these foods impact health, the economy, the family, and culture. Heather Paxson, recent winner of CASTAC’s Diana Forsythe Prize will be the discussant for one such panel, held in Garden Salon One (8:30 to 10:00 am) on Thursday.

The conference also offers numerous panels on hot topics in STS including: emotion, sound, DIY science, the spatial turn in STS, interspecies investigations, curiosity, Big Data, and cloud computing. Big Data and cloud computing have certainly been on the minds of CASTAC readers, with several posts appearing on these topics over the past year. Be sure to check out the numerous panels on these topics at the conference. Let us know how they compare to the findings that have been reported here on The CASTAC Blog.

Panels will also be exploring the “spatial turn in STS” which explores a variety of fascinating topics, including the relationships between conceptions of place, mapping technologies, and spatial control. Several papers are investigating how people and non-human entities form networks that articulate and give rise to particular forms of environmental interventions. Lisa Messeri, who has contributed posts on her work on how scientific discourse turns space into place on other planets, will be chairing several of these panels.

In anthropology and other social sciences, scholars are increasingly interested to move beyond the human-centric focus of their disciplines. The 4S conference offers several papers that explore interspecies dynamics as important loci of STS analysis. For instance, Meredith Tromble’s paper, “A Longing in Our Hearts: Interspecies Communication in Contemporary Art” offers a particularly fascinating and artistic exploration of these themes. She explores the desire for interspecies communication and the ramifications of incomprehension. Expect to see more papers exploring interspeciality in STS conferences to come.

Staffan Bergwik and Helena Pettersson are chairing an intriguing panel on “The Cultural Construction of Curiosity in Science” which is being presented in the Hampton room (8:30 to 10:00 am) on Friday. Curiosity is surely a central point of departure shared by many researchers across disciplines. STS scholars of different stripes as well as the scientists and technologists whom they study all strive to satisfy a need to know. A colleague of mine once stated that “The most interesting people are curious people.” Yet, we also know that curiosity killed the cat.

It will be interesting to see how the papers on this panel handle historical and contemporary forms of curiosity, and how its emotional expression shapes scientific practice. The economic and institutional forms of science may actually be killing curiosity. One paper overtly asks whether scientists actually have time given project and budget cycles to really be curious. In her paper, “Do We Have Time to Be Curious? The Permutations of Science Values in the 21st Century,” Izabela Wagner asks whether or not scientific curiosity is still vital or possible in contemporary scientific research.

Folks who bring you The CASTAC Blog are also excited to be participating this year. Our own Jennifer Cool will be presenting her paper, “Speaking History to Technopower,” on a panel discussing Revolutionary Digital Rhetorics. The panel will be held in Windsor West (2:00 to 3:30 pm) on Saturday. Cool traces the social construction of personal publishing practices and advocates working to reinscribe histories of single inventors and inventions to include the collaborative aspects of the rise and current use of social media.

Jordan Kraemer will be tackling the infamous topic of cloud computing in her paper, “Locating Clouds and Crowds: Berlin’s Mobile Publics,” which is part of the panel: The Cloud and the Crowd, which will be presented in Pacific Salon Two (10:30 to 12:00 pm) on Friday. Drawing on fieldwork in Berlin, Kraemer analyzes the relationship between mobile devices, cultural mobilities, and public spaces, and explores the production of online publics through language practices.

Also, for the first time, 4S will be screening several stand-alone films. I am happy to announce that I will be screening my recently released ethnographic film, Hey Watch This! Sharing the Self Through Media. The film’s unique diachronic approach documents the rise (and some say fall) of YouTube as a social media site. Interviews and observations with YouTubers at meet-ups across the United States revealed their diverse perspective on topics such as reasons for making public media, digital migration, and video as digital memoria. The film will be screened in Golden Ballroom One (2:00 to 3:30 pm) on Saturday.

The 4S Meeting will be held at the San Diego Town and Country Resort and Convention Center, October 9-12. For more information, see the 4S meeting website. A copy of the program with abstracts is found here.

If you are attending these or other interesting panels and wish to write a blog post about them, please contact Patricia G. Lange, at plange@cca.edu.

See you in San Diego!

Below is a list of CASTAC presenters sorted by date:

Jenny Carlson (University of Texas, Austin)
Dirt: Thinking with and about Soil
Scheduled Time: Thu Oct 10 2013, 8:30 to 10:00am
Building/Room: Town and Country / Pacific Salon Seven
Presenter: Beyond Blood and Soil: Dirt Ontology and Germany?s Clean Energy

Ron Eglash (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
Critical Making: Material Practices, Design, and STS II: Practices,
Methods, Tactics, and Strategies
Scheduled Time: Thu Oct 10 2013, 10:30 to 12:00pm
Building/Room: Town and Country / Pacific Salon Four
Presenter: Fractal Flows in Upstream Engagement: Symmetric Innovation
between Technoscience and Social Justice

Luis Felipe R. Murillo (UCLA)
From Hobby to Science Work III: The Culture & Politics of
Professionalized DIY Making
Scheduled Time: Thu Oct 10 2013, 2:00 to 3:30pm
Building/Room: Town and Country / Windsor West
Presenter: “Hacking and/as Bricolage”

Sharon Traweek (UCLA)
Experts-in-Training: Professional Socialization in Medicine & STEM: I
Scheduled Time: Thu Oct 10 2013, 2:00 to 3:30pm
Building/Room: Town and Country / Pacific Salon Two
Non-Presenter: Co-Producing Knowledge: Basic Research Data Practices and

Nicholas Seaver (University of California, Irvine)
‘Big Data': Symbols, Practices, and Epistemic Uncertainties: I
Scheduled Time: Fri Oct 11 2013, 8:30 to 10:00am
Building/Room: Town and Country / Garden Salon One
Presenter : Big Data in Action: Inclusion and Negotiation in Algorithmic
Music Recommendation

Sharon Traweek (UCLA)
Technoscience Epistemologies: What?s Next?
Scheduled Time: Fri Oct 11 2013, 10:30 to 12:00pm
Building/Room: Town and Country / Eaton
Presenter: Revisiting Embodiment and Materiality in Ethnography of
Sciences and Technologies: II

Casey O’Donnell (Michigan State University)
Getting Played: Gameification and the Rise of Algorithmic Surveillance
In Session Submission: Surveillance and the Mediation of Big Data: II
Scheduled Time: Fri Oct 11 2013, 10:30 to 12:00pm
Building/Room: Town and Country / Pacific Salon Three

Jordan Kraemer (UC Irvine)
The Cloud and the Crowd
Scheduled Time: Fri Oct 11 2013, 10:30 to 12:00pm
Building/Room: Town and Country / Pacific Salon Two
Presenter: Locating Clouds and Crowds: Berlin?s Mobile Publics

Barbara Herr Harthorn (UC Santa Barbara)
The Politics of Risk & Perception: The Nanotechnology Case
Scheduled Time: Fri Oct 11 2013, 10:30 to 12:00pm
Building/Room: Town and Country / Pacific Salon Seven
Chair: Ecotypes, Risk Perception, and New Technologies: The Effect of
Environmental Context on Public Risk Perception
Presenter: The Politics of Risk in Deliberative Debates on Nanotechnologies
for Health & Enhancement

Christo Sims (UC San Diego)
Information and Communication Technologies, Aspiration and Identity
Schedule Time: Fri Oct 11 2013, 4:00 to 5:30pm
Building/Room: Town and Country, 2 – Pacific Salon Seven
Presenter: Technological Legitimacy in Processes of Collaboration and

Lilly Irani (UC San Diego)
Information and Communication Technologies, Aspiration and Identity
Schedule Time: Fri Oct 11 2013, 4:00 to 5:30pm
Building/Room: Town and Country, 2 – Pacific Salon Seven
Presenter: The Infrastructures of Design Aspiration

Sharon Traweek (UCLA)
Roundtable: Disaster-STS
Scheduled Time: Sat Oct 12 2013, 8:30 to 10:00am
Building/Room: Town and Country / Golden Ballroom Two

Gwen Ottinger (University of Washington-Bothell)
Not Just Participation, Influence: Rethinking the Power Relations between
Academic and Extramural Science
Scheduled Time: Sat Oct 12 2013, 10:30 to 12:00pm
Building/Room: Town and Country / Sheffield
Chair & Presenter: Categorically Social: Expert Authority and the
Re-interpretation of Citizen Participation in Science

Patricia G. Lange (California College of the Arts),
Film Screening: “Hey Watch This: Sharing the Self Through Media”
Scheduled Time: Sat Oct 12 2013, 2:00 to 3:30pm
Building/Room: Town and Country / Golden Ballroom One

Jennifer Cool (University of Southern California)
Revolutionary Digital Rhetorics
Scheduled Time: Sat Oct 12 2013, 2:00 to 3:30pm
Building/Room: Town and Country / Windsor West
Presenter: Speaking History to Technopower

EPIC 2013 Preview

August 12th, 2013, by § Leave a Comment

The Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference is being held 15-18 September in London. EPIC is an important international conference for sharing insight on current and future practices of ethnography in industry.

Next month’s conference promises to be very exciting and productive. The program boasts a wide variety of topics, including a number of papers that will quite likely be of interest to CASTAC and STS practitioners and scholars. Many of the themes in the program, such as big data, MOOCs, and energy have been hot topics for The CASTAC Blog in recent months.

Several papers at EPIC will be discussing “Big Data,” which is a topic that is heating up and is germane for anthropological theory and practice. Big Data, which has been discussed in a prior post by David Hakken, has been designated as a new asset class akin to oil and has consequently sparked a kind of “gold rush.” Papers on this subject are tackling this seemingly unchecked, and at times unreflective, stampede over exactly what kind of “data” is being collected. Researchers will explore whether whatever-it-is that is being collected can be called “data,” given the term’s disparate connotations. (Does anyone want to have a go at what to call these large-scale information streams?)

The discussion will quite likely be quite interesting because it promises to dive into the epistemological, methodological, and practical boundaries over what this term constitutes. It will discuss what role ethnography will play, not just in terms of data collection, but investigating what data really means in everyday contexts. Abby Margolis’s paper, in particular, reminds us that the “fundamental role of innovation” starts with “the person,” which of course is a particular strength of ethnography. Her paper plans to address common misconceptions about personal data, and will offer principles to “bring a human-centered, small data perspective to life.”

The struggle over energy, which was recently discussed in a fascinating post by Phillip Vannini, surfaces again in several ways at the EPIC conference. Researchers presenting on Private Energy Users and Smart Grid Design will explore the new relationship between energy providers and users. Despite the intention to create a more bidirectional relationship between companies and customers, familiar unidirectional patterns are continually repeated. Researchers will be proposing a model that reframes the relationship between energy companies and private end users. These themes suggest that people can derive a sense of personal power through shaping the design and delivery of their energy. According to researchers, providing energy is not about a delivering a resource, but rather aims to solve particular problems, including meeting human needs for “comfort, light, food, cleaning, and entertainment.” Using an anthropological lens, it is contended, will provide a deeper understanding of the interrelationship between supply and use of energy products and services.

EPIC participants will be discussing research on student perceptions of MOOCs, a theme which echoes concerns of many CASTAC readers and academics. A CASTAC series exploring MOOCs from a student’s perspective found that they may not be serving the college-age constituents that were originally (and fearfully) envisioned by MOOC promoters and concerned scholars. It will be interesting to hear the results of an ethnography of MOOCs that seriously challenges their effectiveness and pedagogical sustainability.

In addition to traditional panels, thought-provoking PechaKucha style provocations, salons, and town halls, the conference is also holding a TechnoTheory DeathMatch! The organizers tell us to “think Bruno Latour meets Fight Club.” Revamping dynamics of theory and practice, this novel approach will be a round-robin type of tournament in which participants represent leading theorists and duke it out to arrive at winning insights.

In addition to the examples noted above, EPIC will be discussing many other interesting topics, including complexity, mobile technologies, clinical trials, healthcare, and emerging markets in information and communication technologies in rural China and India. More details about the conference program can be found on the EPIC Conference Program website.

What’s Up in the Cloud(s)?

July 16th, 2013, by § Leave a Comment

In May, Adobe prompted me reflect on the “Cloud.” Adobe announced that it’s widely used “Creative Suite,” which includes things like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat and many other software products would be transitioning to a subscription-based, web-based and cloud-based product, the “Creative Cloud.” My first (and clearly cynical) thought was, “Well, at least I don’t have to install their bloated [explicative] software anymore or have Acrobat update every other day.”

At the same time, the reality of what that would mean for people who use these products for their jobs, encouraged me to consider it further. It also prompted me to return to a 2008 discussion between Richard Stallman and Bobbie Johnson of the Guardian.

I should also disaggregate the cloud infrastructure from products that deliver their services via the cloud. These are often conflated in accounts of the trend. The cloud infrastructure is/are computers and the networks that connect them and them to the world (and lots of people, power, buildings, …). Amazon Web Services is such an infrastructure. Amazon developed it to meet their own needs and now sells those services. Google, Apple, Microsoft and many others have their own data centers that house this physical infrastructure. Cloud-based services, like the Creative Cloud are delivered via cloud infrastructure. They are related, but not the same. You’d be surprised how many services a single web-page or video view triggers.

I use the cloud for my research. I’m writing this in Evernote, which I pay for a premium subscription. I keep files synchronized between machines via a paid DropBox account. In some ways I suspect that my yearly use of TurboTax online makes my use of it a cloud-based service. I use GMail for all non-institutional email. According to Stallman, I’m stupid, and maybe I am. But why am I stupid and how did I get there?

Gmail was the first cloud-based service I came in contact with. I managed an invite in June of 2004. At the time I was a graduate student and in-between computers after having lost my computer due to its proximity to a liquid beverage. My writing and my email were critically important to me. At the time, my email constituted about 700MB of computer storage and when I joined, Gmail provided each user with 1GB of email storage for free. Gmail was a place to store my email that I could access from any computer. It was a place that in all likelihood was less likely to crash and take my data with it than my computer. At this time, typical space allowed to people using institutional email addresses was somewhere around 100MB.

I knew I was trading access to my data for a free service. I’d have paid to protect it if I could. But, that wasn’t what Google wanted. They were playing a different game. The potential of Gmail for me was it’s portability and storage space. Google was responding to a need that many users have, email storage space and the ability to access it from nearly anywhere. Now, however, many of us are worried about the power that we’ve handed over to companies providing cloud-based services. Maybe it is stupid. But where were the alternatives? Why weren’t there efforts made to make data access, portability and reliability in other ways? I don’t like carrying hard-drives or computers from work to home. I’ve tried. Synchronization is always slow and clunky.

But let’s come back to Adobe for a moment. The Creative Cloud isn’t about responding to a need. New moves are being made in the cloud-based services space that are about something different. Like so many things, it’s less about responding to user’s needs and instead corporate needs. The game industry loves to pioneer this stuff and this is more about ensuring that users are licensed and paying than about providing new capabilities that make the lives and work of users easier.

It's a Trap!

What users are really balking at is the enforcement of what has always been the case. We already fell for the trap. We don’t own our software. We license it. The same increasingly applies to “our” devices. The rules that have been at play for years are only now being enforced and it is shifting our relationship with computers and software companies. The cloud is about the browser as well. Increasingly our work occurs within one of many tabs in Chrome, Safari or Firefox. The browser is a powerful platform that removes the complexity that made the battles over Mac vs. PC desktop software so salient from 1990 through 2010. Even desktop software frequently requires the web-based services provided by a network. Code can be instantly updated to patch “holes,” that users slip through, for good and bad. The cloud is another piece of “society made malleable.”

2013 Diana Forsythe Prize Winner: Heather Paxson for The Life of Cheese

July 8th, 2013, by § 1 Comment

From Marcia Inhorn, Chair, 2013 Forsythe Prize Committee

The Society for the Anthropology of Work (SAW) and the Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC), a committee of the General Anthropology Division (GAD), announce Heather Paxson as the winner of the 2013 Diana Forsythe Prize for her book, The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America (University of California Press, 2012)

Paxson’s book is a true exemplar of an award made “in the spirit of Diana Forsythe’s feminist anthropological research on work, science and/or technology, including biomedicine.” The Life of Cheese is a stunning ethnographic foray into the emergence of the artisanal cheese-making movement in America, based on in-depth ethnography in three states (Vermont, Wisconsin, and California). It shows clearly how craft cheese-making has always been a part of Swiss and German immigrant food histories in the US, but how the 1960s emergence of an artisanal cheese culture is very much tied to the feminist movement, women’s changing marital and family constellations, and the desire for many baby boomers to get “back to the land,” including women who raise their own animals and make raw-milk cheese products.

The science (and medicine) of cheese-making is vividly detailed in the ethnography, including the debates about the necessity of pasteurization, the safety of raw milk, the “life” of yeasts and other microorganisms necessary to cheese production, and issues of food-borne illness. The ethnography is also conceptually rich, providing a new theoretical lexicon for understanding ecologies of production, craft practice, the post-pastoral ethos in America, and American attempts to cultivate terroir, or tastes tied to specific territories of production. Beautifully written, the book is accessible to those who know little about the science, gendered labor, and political economy of cheese-making. This topic is also utterly unique within American anthropology, and will be used widely in classes on the anthropology of work, science and technology studies, food studies, gender studies, and American studies, particularly the anthropology of rural America.

The 2013 Diana Forsythe Prize will be awarded at the annual American Anthropological Association meetings, prior to the GAD Distinguished Lecture on Friday, November 22, 12:15-1:30 pm.

The Diana Forsythe Prize was created in 1998 to celebrate the best book or series of published articles in the spirit of Diana Forsythe’s feminist anthropological research on work, science, and technology, including biomedicine. Each year the committee, composed of members of CASTAC and SAW, chooses the book that best exemplifies Diana Forsythe’s creative work on the cultural production and consumption of science and technology. This year’s Forsythe Prize Committee—Marcia Inhorn (Chair), João Biehl, and Susanne Cohen—selected Paxson’s work from a remarkable set of nominated volumes. Nominations for the 2014 prize can be sent to João Biehl at jbiehl@princeton.edu. Self-nominations are welcomed. To be eligible, books must have been published in the last five years (copyright 2009 or later).

Big Data Panel at 4S Conference [CFP]

February 25th, 2013, by § 1 Comment

We are looking for people who are interested in presenting a paper at this year’s 4S Annual Meeting (October 9-12, 2013, San Diego, California) in a session we are organising on Big Data: Symbols, Practices, and Epistemic Uncertainties (see details below).

Session Proposal
Title: Big Data: Symbols, Practices, and Epistemic Uncertainties

Convenors: Chiara Garattini (Health Strategy & Solutions, Intel Corporation) and Dawn Nafus (Intel Labs, Intel Corporation).

Abstract: In the last couple of years “Big Data” has attracted increasing attention in academic, industrial and popular discourse. But what is being exactly referred to as Big Data and what are its implications? In images of data as a “gold mine” or “the new oil,” or even in Manovich’s (2012) notion of big data as a collapse of substance and surface, the sheer size and heterogeneity of these data bring back the analogue into the digital world in both the imagination and the practical lives of users. Practice, too, suggests its own trajectories. Keating & Cambrosio (2012) see an intensely debated shift from a hypothesis-driven to a data-driven approach in the world of medical scientific enquiry.

Our own work suggests that movements like the Quantified Self constitute sites of dialogue between those who approach big data as a panoptical stabilization of populations, and those who are devising alternatives in response to more immediate social and material contexts. This panel explores what happens when big data practice and big data discourse confront each other in a variety of domains. What socio-technical trajectories, new and old epistemics, and even forms of resistance emerge? This panel seeks paper proposals that offer perspectives on this issue from different spheres such as finance, health, entertainment, security and demographics.

Conference: Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) Annual Meeting, San Diego October 9-12, 2013.

Please write to chiara.garattini@intel.com if interested.

Best regards,

Chiara Garattini, PhD
Anthropology & UX

HSS UK Health and Life Sciences Innovation Team,
Intel Corporation

1st Floor, Faculty Building, Exhibition Road, SW7 2AZ
Imperial College London

iNet: 87776951
t: +44 (0)20 7977 6951
e: chiara.garattini@intel.com
w: www.intel.com/healthcare

Call for Papers: “Big Data, Big Questions, or, Accounting for Big Data” [Abstracts DUE October 1, 2012]

January 22nd, 2013, by § Leave a Comment

From Kate Crawford and Mary Gray at Microsoft Research, a call for papers on Big Data:

“Big Data, Big Questions, or, Accounting for Big Data”
International Journal of Communication

Guest Editors:
Kate Crawford
Microsoft Research
University of New South Wales

Mary L. Gray
Microsoft Research
Indiana University

Larry Gross
University of Southern California

Previously isolated data sets, from social media and demographic surveys to city maps and urban planning documents, are now routinely interlinked. Combining separate, often disparate, multi-terabyte sets of information reframes our capacity to see into the behaviors of – and relationships between – people, institutions and things. Researchers in fields as varied as computer science, geography, sociology, marketing, biology, economics, among many others, use the term “big data” to capture a wide range of activities revolving around accessing and analyzing these vast quantities of information. What are the implications of big data as a cultural, technological and analytic phenomenon? What are the practices of big data, the underlying assumptions, and ways of modeling the world? Who gets access to it, and what effects does this produce?

This special section will offer a range of critical engagements with the issues surrounding big data and its related models of knowledge. We seek scholarly articles from diverse fields, and a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches: including media studies, communication, anthropology, digital humanities, computational and social sciences, cultural geography, history, and critical cultural studies.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

What is the history (or histories) of big data and its related practices?
What are the epistemological ramifications of big data?
How can computational and social sciences use big data in cross-disciplinary work?
What are the strengths and pitfalls of new hybrids?
What are the ethics of big data use, be it in city management, social media research, or political campaigning?
Who gets access to big data? What are the issues of class, race, gender, sexuality, religion and geography?
What are the labour politics of big data research?

The International Journal of Communication is an open access journal. All accepted articles will be published online. The anticipated publication date for this Special Section is August 2013.

Manuscripts should conform to the IJoC author guidelines

Send your abstract, title of your paper and a list of five potential reviewers with their titles and e-mail addresses by October 1, 2012 to IJOCbigdata@gmail.com.  Your suggested reviewers will help streamline the peer-review process.

If you have any questions, please contact Kate Crawford at kate@microsoft.com or Mary L. Gray at mLg@microsoft.com.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the General section at blog.castac.org.