Tag: science

When You Can’t Look Away: Seeing and Difference in American Medicine

When I interviewed her, Juliet was a third-year medical student and a dedicated member of her medical school’s interest groups on social justice. I interviewed her because her name came up in conversations with other medical students at her university, participating in anti-racist work in medicine. She had helped tally the results for her school’s racial justice report card the year I visited, and she cared deeply about issues of racial justice in medicine. She demonstrated in-depth knowledge and interest in our interviews as she discussed just how people of color were disadvantaged in medicine. (read more...)

Pain-Free Mouse, being ‘human,’ and more-than-human ethics

In the opening scene of Blade Runner, a fictional diagnostic called the Voigt-Kampff test distinguishes human from android. The test, as imagined in Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel and later adapted into the film adaptation, exploits a primary autonomic response: the so-called ‘shame’ or ‘blushing’ reaction to a “morally shocking stimulus.” In the novel, the ‘moral shock’ stimulus invariably involves nonhuman animals: (read more...)

Rocket Scientists and Their Games: A Little-Known Slice of History

In the 21st century, game companies are expanding what can be done with 3D interactive tools and virtual spaces. Companies like Epic Games are increasing blurring the lines between industries as diverse as simulation, film production, and a wide range of XR experiences (virtual reality, mixed reality, and augmented reality). In a recent example, an estimated 10.7 million people simultaneously logged on to Epic’s Fortnite for a live, in-game music experience(1). Over 30 years ago, the game industry was in its infancy, the Apple II personal computer had been introduced with little available software, and motivated people wrote their own programs. In 1986, a small Los Angeles game publisher called Electric Transit, Inc. released one of the first 3D games designed for a personal computer. Wilderness: A Survival Adventure, was a first-person, simulation/resource management game that could run under DOS or on an Apple II. (read more...)

Happy Pride Month!

In support and solidarity with LGBTQIA+/Queer people around the world, we’re celebrating Pride Month with a collection of some of our most popular queer content from the blog. We take this moment to recognize the valuable contributions LGBTQIA+/Queer people make to our fields, our society, and our lives. Check out six of our favorites below! (read more...)

[Author Interview] Tom Gieryn and “Truth Spots”

Ilana Gershon interviews Tom Gieryn about his new book, Truth Spots: How Places Make People Believe (University of Chicago, 2018). Gieryn is Rudy Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Indiana University. Truth Spots began with a hunch that places matter in under-appreciated ways, and, in particular, with the question: In what ways does place matter for doing science? To understand this, however, one needs to understand the ways places become authoritative sites because they enable interactive orders that are locatable. Laboratories are counterpoised with sites seen as sparking political movements, sites that become the evidence for scientific classifications, sites that connect one to larger religious movements, and sites in which the future is predicted.​ (read more...)

The Strange Journeys of Otherworldly Artifacts

The list of objects on offer is intriguing: flags that were carried, but never raised on a flagpole; stamps that traveled thousands of miles without being posted; a meal tightly sealed in a plastic pouch, returned uneaten from the journey. These artifacts, and many others like them, are listed for sale on Bonhams’ auction site—under the “Space History” category. Popular items include commemorative medallions, pins, flags, mission patches, and postal issues, authorized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The auctioneers’ specialized language includes terms of location, movement and possession: objects are listed as “carried,” “flown,”  “signed,” and “rare.” Collectors prepare their bids based on the details of object histories—where they have traveled and with whom—as recounted in accompanying letters of authenticity or fixed in time and place by a photograph. Bonhams’ vivid descriptions and NASA’s authenticating control create a fascination and demand among collectors and the public for objects circulating on Earth that have been to space—and an invitation to support future journeys. (read more...)

Animal Sex Work

Crouched beneath a stallion’s hot undercarriage, bearing the weight of a two-foot long sterile tube on my shoulder as the horse thrusts into it, I vocally encouraged him to ejaculate along with a team of human handlers dedicated to the business of equine sperm. “Come on, boy,” we all chirp, “don’t stop now!” This particular kind of human-assisted animal sex is repeated all spring and summer long at equine breeding facilities across the globe. The proliferation of Artificial Insemination (AI) techniques and technologies over the past two decades has revolutionized the equine breeding shed, making it possible to produce offspring from two horses with no physical, or even geographical, proximity. As recently as fifteen years ago, performance horse breeders imported actual horses from Europe, Russia, or South America to improve the American strains of particular breeds. Now it is possible to breed American mares to international stallions without either party leaving home. New industries and technologies have been created to collect, package, freeze, and transport equine semen; state, federal, and international laws govern the movement of semen across political borders; and a whole branch of equine veterinary medicine concerned with reproduction—theriogenology—has swelled to accommodate the growing need for professionals to supervise encounters like the one I described above. (read more...)

An Anthropologist Visits the Classroom: On teaching science (and religion)

Although I’ve never taught the book cover-to-cover, my copy of Latour and Woolgar’s (1986[1979]) Laboratory Life has been unpacked four times since I finished my Ph.D., six years ago during a final sweltry Florida summer. Their re-inscription of the Salk Institute has moved with me through the planned communities of D.C.’s suburbs, the tech-ifying Research Triangle of central North Carolina, and the cotton-cultivating arid flatland of west Texas. Now, Lab Life and I cohabitate—more peacefully than we used to—at one of New England’s dark-brick collegiate beauties. I’ve offered courses on the anthropology of science, in different iterations and incarnations, at George Mason University, North Carolina State University, Texas Tech University, and now Mount Holyoke College. As my nomadism gives way to more permanent settlement, I’m pausing to reflect on the modest successes (and felt frustrations) of sharing my passion for anthropology through attention to its liaison with science and technology studies. (read more...)