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Quantum Arms Race

An image of a version of D-Wave’s quantum computer

A lot has been said and written about the impending unleashing of quantum technology in the world. Whereas many sing paeans to the potential of the technology to better the world, many a soothsayers forebode a much grimmer reality. While the future might sound alien, it evokes, frankly, familiar feelings in the minds of those who imagine. We’ve all witnessed the world transform in front of our eyes in the past century, from this tech revolution to that, from nuclear promises of infinite power to laser-sharp visions of cameras better than the human eye; such is the oxymoronic, remarkable mundaneness of technological progress that the more the world changes, the more it remains the same. One might even be forgiven for feeling a sense of security at the thought of a world run by quantum technology. After all, the great leaps forward have all served us well and promise more. (read more...)

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Mara Rita sits in a park holding her book, Tropico Mio. She is wearing a black bowler hat, dark rimmed glasses, a printed button down shirt, and a white sweater over it. She is simling.

The Networked Animita: Transgender Remembrance on Social Media

Tomorrow, November 20th, the world will commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to collectively mourn and remember those who have died as a result of transphobia. Started in 1999 by US trans woman Gwendolyn Ann Smith, Transgender Day of Remembrance is now observed in countries around the world, including my primary field site, Chile. In this post, I explore how social media might be understood as a technology of memorialization and mourning, especially for marginalized groups. Inspired by informal roadside shrines called animitas, popular in Chile and elsewhere in Latin America, I propose the ‘networked animita’ as a useful analytic for understanding trans remembrance online. I do so through an exploration of the digital afterlife of Chilean trans activist, educator, interlocutor, and friend Mara Rita Villaroel Oñate. (read more...)

Album cover art from Janelle Monáe's hit track Pynk. The image shows Janelle Monáe, a black woman, wearing a pink outfit standing in a desert beneath a blue sky.

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...)

A Jamaican street with a few vendors sand a leaning telephone pole

The ICT Poverty Trap: How Technology Disparities Exacerbate the Spread of Disease and Division in Jamaica

  In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, social life has gone digital in new ways. People the world over are being urged to work remotely from home. Virtual get-togethers have replaced in-person gatherings as global mental health takes a tailspin. All the while, governments are being forced to switch to online platforms to deliver its services, such as welfare and various social programs. Perhaps more than at any time in human history, the ability to effectively participate economically, socially and even politically hinges on being able to harness Information Communication Technology (ICT) and its offerings. (read more...)

A graphic titled "Scientist without a lab? A PhD researcher guide to Covid-19" shows many possibilities for productive work extending out from a simple icon representing a scientist. The possibilities include making figures, learning to code, and writing papers.

The Work it Takes to Stop Working: Productivity in Labs and Sugarcane

In spring of 2020, thousands of scientific labs across several continents shut down. What was deemed “non-essential” research was ramped down and/or paused in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and in some cases direct resources to Covid-19 research instead. Speaking with scientist friends and interlocutors in both Brazil, where I was carrying out research, and the US, where I’m from and have worked in labs myself, there was much discussion about what work to do in the meantime to continue progressing theses, dissertations, and research projects—in other words, to maintain productivity. On Twitter, numerous threads under the hashtag #phdlife offered advice and encouragement to “scientists without a lab,” as one graphic put it: (read more...)

An IUS model

A Technology of Empowerment and Governance: The IUD/IUS and Sexual Health Care in Toronto, Canada

The intrauterine device (IUD) and the intrauterine system (IUS) have a long and complicated history. The IUD is a contraceptive device inserted into the uterus, which serves as a physical barrier to prevent sperm from fertilizing the egg. Its earliest form can be linked to the work of Ernst Gräfenberg[1], who in 1929 created the ring IUD (Thiery 1997). Over the course of several decades, the IUD was constructed and re-constructed in terms of the materials used, its physical shape, and its promotion to women. Through the development process, some devices, such as the Dalkon Shield, caused irreparable damage. In 1969, the first copper IUD was created by Jaime Zipper and Howard J. Tatum, which took the now easily recognizable T-shape form. While the copper IUD was considered successful in terms of its ability to prevent pregnancy, women commonly had it removed due to increased bleeding during menstruation. Subsequently, the intrauterine system (IUS) was created, first by Antonio Scommegna in the 1960s using progesterone and later by Tapani Luukkainen in 1976 using levonorgestrel; this shift increased its effectiveness from a duration of one year to five years. After over a decade of testing, the Mirena IUS was released in Finland – it would not be approved for sale in the United States until 2001. (read more...)

A list of 24 voice options arranged in a table of 3 columns and 8 lines. Each cell contains a name for the voice option and a description that specifies whether it's an adult or child voice, as well as the gender.

“Doing Being a Latina,” or Performing Identities Through a Computer Voice

The ability to communicate is often taken-for-granted and imperceptible, despite being vital to everyday life. It defines our social performances as family members, professionals, and neighbors. Moreover, institutions as well as identities need to be “talked into being” (Heritage and Clayman, 2010). Although in many mundane situations we get by with meaningful bodily gestures (Goodwin, 1986) such as nodding, shaking the head, waving, and pointing, other interactions require us to use complex language processing skills and muscular control over the vocal organs and hands. (read more...)

A black and white frame of a teacher holding guiding a child's hands as the child opens a russian doll. The teacher is sitting to the left from the child and is wearing a white medical coat.

Elements of disability inclusion in Soviet disability pedagogy

For someone interested in the genealogy of disability inclusion in Russia, Soviet disability pedagogy, known at the time under the name of defektologia, may seem to be a somewhat unexpected place to turn to. On the one hand, the Soviet system of korrektsionnoye [corrective] education for children with disabilities embodied isolationism and paternalism, the features which characterized Soviet disability governance more broadly (Shek 2005): schools for students with disabilities were built at a significant distance from the heart of urban life; they functioned predominantly as boarding schools, de facto exerting control over children’s mobility and public appearance; they often had little contact or interaction with mainstream schools and communities. On the other hand, Soviet disability pedagogy also produced moments when disability exclusion, otherwise naturalized across various domains of life, had been problematized and questioned. To them, I turn in this post. (read more...)