Tag: Science and Technology Studies

On Drones and Ectoplasms: Breath of Gaia

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) How do concepts such as the human condition, human mind, or collectivity transform in a technologically enmeshed world? And how is our understanding of relationality and agency changed in the context of hybrid tech and built infrastructures, networked systems of control? This ongoing project constitutes an artistic performative reflection on the entanglement between human agency and technological advances. In this project, the artist[1] focuses on aerial multicopter technological systems—also known as drones—emphasizing the idea of interdependency and control within human-nonhuman systems, which are capable of informing the sustainable and collective futures of our world. (read more...)

Fugitive Science: Beer Brewing & Experiments with Pharmaceuticals in Tanzania

When I originally arrived to start fieldwork in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, I set out to observe the scientific practices through which counterfeit drugs were identified at the regional hospital.[1] I knew, from previous fieldwork, that the hospital had a mini-lab for conducting a Thin-Layer Chromatographic Test. Two years passed before I was finally able to observe this test; one of the reasons was that the hospital was out of the iodine detection reagent needed to carry it out. During the ensuing years, I came to learn that science was happening elsewhere; not always in the laboratory or hospital, but—perhaps even more frequently—in the home, marketplace, and workshop.[2] (read more...)

The Spectrum of Research and Practice in Guatemalan Science Studies

On November 21, 2020, protestors flooded the historic and political center of Guatemala City over the congressional approval of a  budget bill of nearly twelve billion dollars (or ninety-nine billion Quetzales). The proposed budget not only significantly decreased aid to dire and already underfunded public health initiatives but allocated money to ministries known for robbing and vacating government funds. While protestors gathered in the capital’s Parque Central, youth on the frontlines cathartically set fire to the Congressional building only several blocks away and confronted the National Civilian Police (PNC) in order to limit their advancement onto the much larger, peaceful crowd. Guatemala’s recently elected president and former director of the Guatemalan penitentiary system, Alejandro Giammattei, and his administration stood by as the PNC threw tear-gas, harassed, and arrested protestors in sight on charges of illegal protest and public disorder. (read more...)

Quantum Arms Race

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...)

Connectedness in a Time of Pandemic

Right now, many of us are reevaluating what it means to be connected. In the United States, we often think of connectivity as having wireless broadband service, or 5G mobile access. Our minds might conjure up images of Big Tech and Silicon Valley, where I teach. That’s especially understandable in a time of quarantines, social distancing, virtual schooling, and working from home. But the coronavirus pandemic has also prompted reflection on the salience of humanconnections, as we find ourselves suddenly separated from those we love—or else cooped up at home with them, day in and day out. (read more...)

Transgression as the Life-World

That Sunday morning the words came from my colleague José, secretary of the Q’eqchi’ Council of Elders Releb’aal Saq’e’(ACGERS), located in Poptun, Petén… “Tata Mingo is dead, he was lit on fire by his own neighbors a few minutes ago… He was accused of witchcraft.”  My knees succumbed, unable to let sink in the story José kept repeating over the phone, as if to make sure I was grasping the full gravity of what happened. Domingo Choc Che, a gentle soul and wise Ajilonel, expert on medicinal plants and practitioner of Maya Spirituality, and my research colleague, had been murdered.  “The others are afraid,” José went on, “what if they start coming after all of us?”  At that moment, the weight of my academic decisions felt like a punch in the stomach. I told myself we had been careful; we knew the area and had researched the risks extensively. Yet my ignorance of the subjacent complex local dynamics seemed unequivocal. The ACGERS Council was pushing the boundaries of a new type of research, in full trust of our partnership. That day changed me as an anthropologist and as transdisciplinarian. In this article I reflect on what it means to push and transgress the boundaries of collaborative research and how we may be asked to become a new species of social scientist. (read more...)

From Law in Action to Law in Computation: Preparing PhD Students for Technology, Law and Society

Editor’s Note: This is the inaugural post for the Law in Computation series, a collection of blog posts from faculty and graduate student fellows at UC Irvine’s Technology, Law and Society Institute. Leading up to a summer institute in 2018, the series provides examples of research and thinking from this interdisciplinary group and elaborates how sociolegal scholars might address new computing technologies, like artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning, autonomous vehicles, and more.  In 2015, a robot buying illicit items off the “dark web” was confiscated by the Swiss authorities along with its haul of Ecstasy pills, a Hungarian passport, counterfeit designer clothing, and other items. Dubbed Random Darknet Shopper it was a bot programmed to shop on the dark web using Bitcoin, the pseudo-anonymous cryptocurrency that, at the time of my writing, is experiencing an enormous bubble. Previously assumed to be the domain of criminals or drug dealers, the Bitcoin bubble has made it more mainstream, even on popular television shows like The Daily Show and is being discussed at policy forums worldwide. It increased in value from just over $1000 to over $8000 between February 2017 and February 2018, with a peak at over $19,000 in mid-December 2017. While it was pretty obscure just a few months ago, you probably have a cousin or uncle currently “mining” Bitcoin or trading in similar digital tokens whether you know it or not. (read more...)

No Limits

Many people panic the first time they are hooked up to an underwater breathing machine; to inhale below the chop of the waves feels like the pinnacle of self-destruction, and sometimes, it is. The rush of adrenaline can cause novice scuba divers to blow through a whole tank of gas in what feels like minutes, sucking down breath after unassured breath. The deeper you are, the faster the tank empties: at 30 meters, the pressure is equivalent to four of earth’s atmospheres and you need four times the air to fill your lungs. For every 10 meters, add the weight of another sky. (read more...)