Tag: STS

Between the Bitterness of Anonymity and Ethics is Racism: Reflections for Anthropological Research on Science in the ‘Backyard’

This essay is one of the results of a roda de conversa (a conversation circle) that took place at the University of Brasilia, Brazil, in December 2023. Professor Soraya Fleischer had the idea and invited her advisees: two men and three women. Since all of us were, in different ways, doing research with researchers that were also working at the University of Brasilia, the roda de conversa had as a guiding theme the following question: what is it like to conduct research with interlocutors who share the same “institutional house”—who work in the same “backyard”? (read more...)

“We had to rethink many, many things”: Reflexivity in Scientific Practices during the Zika Epidemic in Recife, Brazil

Luiza is a pediatrician and researcher specializing in infectious diseases who works at a teaching hospital in Recife, Brazil. Her daily routine involves treating children with congenital infectious syndromes, which can lead to various clinical conditions including microcephaly. However, in October 2015, an unprecedented situation unfolded. As she described during an interview with me, “That year, a new world entered my world.” She was referring to the surge in cases of microcephaly that puzzled Brazilian doctors and health authorities that year. In Recife, where the average number of microcephaly cases historically stood at nine cases per year, there were twelve cases registered in just one maternity ward within a month. (read more...)

Lonely Planet Looking for Connection: Citizen Science SETI Research at NASA

NASA’s homepage is as glitzy as you would expect of the U.S. Government’s sexiest administration. Glossy pictures of nebulas, astronauts, and asteroids float across the top of the page and even the ozone hole over Antarctica manages to look like a snack. A quick swipe over to the Citizen Science Page, however, and now the images give enthusiastic, low-res, DIY vibes coupled with pun-filled project titles like “Aurorasaurous” and “Spiritacular.” Each one beckons: anyone with a cellphone or a laptop can do this project. A Jacob’s Ladder of binary stretching into the blurry heavens stops my scroll with its provoking title—Are we alone in the universe? Well golly, I don’t know. Go to Project Website. So I do. (read more...)

2023 in Review

Welcome to CASTAC 2023 in review! In this post you will read about the wonderful work that our CASTAC team and community has put together. We thank you for engaging with our content this year and hope you will continue to do so in 2024. Without further ado, let’s get started with our annual review. (read more...)

Junk Anthropology: A Manifesto for Trashing and Untrashing

It is currently held, not without certain uneasiness, that 90% of human DNA is ‘junk.’ The renowned Cambridge molecular biologist, Sydney Brenner, makes a helpful distinction between ‘junk’ and ‘garbage.’ Garbage is something used up and worthless which you throw away; junk is something you store for some unspecified future use. (Rabinow, 1992, 7-8) In the bioscience lab near Tokyo where I did my ethnographic study, the researchers taught me how to do PCR experiments. This was before Covid when almost everyone came to know what PCR was, or at least, what kind of instrumental information it could be good for. The lab was working with mouse models, although I never got to see them in their cages. But the researcher I was shadowing showed me how to put the mouse tail clippings she collected into small tubes. She hated cutting tails, by the way, and preferred to take ear punches when she could. She told me that she didn’t like the way the mice wiggled under her hand, as if they just knew. But at this point anyway, the mice are alive in the animal room and she is only putting small, but vital, pieces of them into a tube to dissolve them down (mice becoming means), to get to the foundation of what she really wants. (read more...)

Transpositioning, a Hypertext-ethnography

This is a work of hypertext-ethnography. It is based on my research of a small genetics laboratory in Tokyo, Japan where I am studying the impact of the transnational circulation of scientific materials and practices (including programming) on the production of knowledge. In this piece, I draw primarily from my participant observation field notes along with interviews. I also incorporate other, maybe more atypical, materials such as research papers (mine and others), websites and email. The timeframe for this work is primarily the spring of 2020 and the setting is largely Zoom. Although I began my research in 2019 physically visiting the lab every week, in April 2020, it—and most of the institute where the lab is located—sent researchers home for seven weeks. That included me. Luckily, the lab quickly resumed its regular weekly meetings online (between the Principal Investigator (PI) and individual post-docs for example, as well as other (read more...)

Becoming the Game: Hardware Hacking, Agency, and Obsolescence

When I asked my aunt back in 2014 if my old Game Boy Color was still around, she handed it to me, but confirmed that the A and B buttons no longer worked properly. The Game Boy Color is a handheld game console that was released in 1998 as a successor to the black-and-white Game Boy (1989), though both consoles were discontinued in 2003. My grandmother had died recently, and we were clearing out my and my brother’s belongings from her newly empty house. Truthfully, I hadn’t touched this handheld console since the mid-2000s, around the time I upgraded from the family desktop computer to my own personal laptop. The title stickers on some of the cartridges had begun to wear out, but I held hope that this wasn’t an indicator of what their inside was like, or whether they had reached the end of their lives. I told my aunt I’d find a way to fix the buttons, to which she answered, “Why would you want to repair something from the past when the quality of what’s now in the present, on the market, is infinitely better?” In the mind of many people, it is indeed better to wait for a newer, more technologically advanced model to come out, a manifestation of planned obsolescence which we have learned to live with. (read more...)

Platypod, Episode One: Technologies and Politics of Accessibility

In its opening episode, Platypod presents a conversation between Cassandra Hartblay (University of Toronto) and Zihao Lin (University of Chicago). They discuss their research on accessibility cultures, politics, and technologies. This episode was created with the participation of Cassandra Hartblay (the University of Toronto, speaker) and Zihao Lin (the University of Chicago, speaker), Kim Fernandes (University of Pennsylvania, host), Svetlana Borodina (Columbia University, host), Gebby Keny (Rice University, sound editor), and Angela VandenBroek (Texas State University, CASTAC web producer). The transcript of their conversation is accessible below. (read more...)