Tag: DIY

What Educates in DIYbio?

The Pedagogical Paradox Two human inventions can be regarded as the most difficult, — namely, the art of government and that of education; and yet we are still contending among ourselves as to their fundamental nature. – Immanuel Kant Kant here is referring to the pedagogical paradox presented by education. This paradox of moral authority most often occurs in the context of schooling: How does education, in the sense of external regulation), lead to the internally regulated autonomy of thought and action? Stated more generally, the pedagogical paradox is assuming the existence of something for which education is the precondition. For example, can someone declare oneself to be a biologist and launch an independent course of inquiry without recognized credentials? The pedagogical paradox is also a question of legitimate knowledge; in this case, who may speak the truth of biology? (read more...)

Rhetorical Studies of Science and Technology

The following discussion was co-authored with Elizabeth Pitts, a PhD student in Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media program and NSF IGERT Fellow in Genetic Engineering & Society at North Carolina State University. — An ethos of expertise—that is, an ethos grounded not in moral values or goodwill, or even in practical judgment, but rather in a narrow technical knowledge—addresses its audience only in terms of what it knows or does not know. The diminution of arete and eunoia in an ethos of expertise has a specifically rhetorical effect, because these qualities are relational in a way that expertise is not; similarly, the transformation of phronesis to episteme diminishes the practical, or relational, dimensions of knowledge. Without arete and eunoia, there is no basis for agreement on values or for belief in the good intentions of a rhetorical agent; the rhetorical relationship becomes impersonal. … The impersonality of an ethos of expertise runs the risk of being persuasive to no one. – Carolyn R. Miller, pp. 201–202 To discuss the limitations of persuasive appeals that rely solely on technical expertise, Miller draws on terms from ancient rhetoric. If experts fail to demonstrate that they are people of virtue (arete) and goodwill (eunioa), she argues, then others have little reasons to trust that they possess not only knowledge (episteme), but also practical wisdom (phronesis) that is fundamental to democratic deliberation. Rhetorical theory is an ancient tradition that thrives today in Communication and English departments in the United States. Across these two traditions, one that has been primarily concerned with rhetorical speech and the other with rhetorical compositions, there is a subfield often referred to as the Rhetoric of Science and Technology and Medicine. Rhetorical studies offer a rich body of literature and, we believe, several profitable sites of intersection with anthropological studies of science and technology. In this short discussion we look to the emerging spheres of do-it-yourself science to articulate some possible conversations between rhetorical and anthropological inquiry. We take our warrant from Carrithers (2005), who argues for the importance of rhetorical scholarship to Anthropology, saying that the “mark of distinctly human sociality is not the possession of one culture or another as such but the capacity to change and create new cultures” (pp. 580). Rhetoric is concerned with how these strategies of change and creation occur through processes of persuasion and argument. What Miller’s quote above reminds us is that these processes are not only messy, but situated in specific discursive choices. Rhetoric, which considers how we make such choices, and what choices are available to us in a particular context, then seems a profitable realm for Anthropology to engage. (read more...)

Steampunk: Reimagining Trash and Technology

It begins with a question. What if? What if Napoleon had won the Battle of Waterloo, if the Hindenburg hadn’t crashed, or if Thomas Edison had never been born? What might the world be like if history had been different? Steampunk is an expressive genre that explores the possibilities of a past that never was, but might have been. Inspired by the steam-powered and mechanistic imagery of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells’ novels and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ethos of cyberpunk art and literature, steampunk combines the aesthetics and materials of the nineteenth century with the technological developments and sensibilities of the twenty-first. It is a style defined by anachronism and guided by an impulse to explore and interrogate the role of technology in everyday life. Although the genre began as a form of speculative literature in the 1980s and 1990s, it took on new life during the first decade of (read more...)

A 3-D Future: A Response to Chris Anderson’s “Makers”

3-d printers have garnered much public attention lately. You may have heard about how you can print out a plastic gun, or saw the Gigabot large-format 3-d printer on Kickstarter. Or perhaps you heard Obama mention them in his 2013 state of the union address as having “the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.” But where did they come from? On a macro level, why do they matter? One answer comes from Makers: the New Industrial Revolution, where outgoing WIRED editor Chris Anderson sees 3-d printers as driving a wave of small-scale manufacturing. Recent advances have dropped the price of additive printing systems, which delicately squeeze out plastic that hardens to make nearly any shape, to the $500-1000 range. Anderson takes Negroponte’s famous statement of working with “bits not atoms” and turns it on its head: bits can now lead to change in atoms. He sees this as the natural application of his “long tail” thesis to (read more...)