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.
The past few years have been very exciting for CASTAC, as we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in STS from diverse corners of the discipline, from medicine and environment to the “ontological turn.” Remember that, back in the early 1990s when CASTAC got its start, we were just CAC — the Committee on the Anthropology of Computing! This resurgence of interest has manifested as new faces at the CASTAC business meetings, but also in new panels and books and other academic productions popping up all over the place.
Building on this broad interest, our main goal for CASTAC is to support work at the intersection of STS and anthropology, wherever it is happening, and to build up an institutional infrastructure that people at various points in their careers can take and make use of. We have some exciting plans for the next year that grow from the groundbreaking work done by former co-chairs Jenny Cool and Rachel Prentice, and founding blog editor Patricia Lange over the last several years: We’re going to grow our collaborations with other groups working in the STS/Anthro space, from the Science, Technology, and Medicine interest group in the Society for Medical Anthropology, to DANG, the Digital Anthropology Interest Group, to the many anthropologists and ethnographers who make their academic home at the Society for Social Studies of Science meetings. We will be continuing the Mentor Program, which pairs junior and senior scholars for informal conversations at the AAAs, with the goal of seeding some long-lasting, cross-institutional mentoring relationships. Soon, we will be unveiling a website redesign that integrates the look of the blog and the main CASTAC pages (check out our mission statement and information about the Diana Forsythe Prize, which we award annually), improving our accessibility and readability on different platforms. And, of course, the blog will continue to thrive under the expert care of our new Editor-in-Chief Jordan Kraemer and our crack team of Associate Editors.
There are also a bunch of other projects in the pipe that we’ll announce as they go live. We are very excited to use CASTAC’s resources (which are primarily institutional location, an extraordinary network of scholars, and enthusiasm) to support a wide range of projects, so if you have a great idea for us to work on, please drop us a line.
Jenny Carlson and Nick Seaver,