1998-1999 Writing Science Sessions


Wednesday, Sept. 30, 98: Introduction.

Wednesday, Oct. 14: Organizational meeting.

Wednesday, Oct. 28, 6:00 p.m.: Andrew Pickering discussed his recent book, The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). Pickering's first chapter, "The Mangle of Practice," provides an important introduction to the issues we will be addressing throughout the workshop, including: scientific practice and culture; semiotics, representation, and performativity; and intentionality, agency, and posthumanism. Pickering outlines future directions for science studies in his final chapter, "Through the Mangle."

Wednesday, Nov. 18th at 6:00 p.m.: Tim Lenoir and Sha Xin Wei, "'Isn't It About Time for a Pentium-II Processor?': The Virtual Surgeon as Agent" with comments by John Bender. Abstract: "Our aim in this presentation is to explore the shift taking place in medical ontologies resulting from computer mediated presence in the surgical domain, a shift registered by the insertion of computational artifacts at all levels in the production of the medically relevant object and simultaneously by the surgeons' new computer-generated ability to engage those objects as their primary mode of observing, diagnosing, and physically handling them. Reflections on the new technologies for representing, writing, and rewriting the body in contemporary medicine will provide a frame for discussing the shift in ontology and agency going on around us." Readings: Timothy Lenoir, "Inscription Practices and Materialities of Communication" (introductory chapter to Inscribing Science: Scientific Texts and the Materiality of Communication,ed. Tim Lenoir [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998]); Lenoir, "Was the Last Turn The Right Turn? The Semiotic Turn and A.J. Greimas" (Configurations2 [1994]: 119-136); and John Bender, "Opening Up a Few Corpses, 1795-1995" (unpublished manuscript).

Monday, Nov. 23, 6:00 p.m.: Steven Shapin, "Who is a Scientist? Towards a Social and Cultural History of the Scientist's Role." Abstract: "I introduce work-in-progress dealing with both persistent and changing appreciations of the scientist's identity. Over a broad sweep of history, I think it may be useful to think about three things together: the object of the scientist's (or philosopher's) knowledge, the nature of that knowledge and the means of securing it, and the identity of the knower. I will draw attention to understandings of the scientist's skill, virtue, expertise, and physical constitution." Readings: Steven Shapin and Christopher Lawrence, "Introduction: The Body of Knowledge," and Shapin, "The Philosopher and the Chicken: On the Dietetics of Disembodied Knowledge," in Science Incarnate: Historical Embodiments of Natural Knowledge,ed. Lawrence and Shapin (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998).

Wednesday, January 20, 6:00 p.m.: Katherine Hayles, "Intelligent Agent Systems and the Subversion of the Liberal Subject." Abstract: "Intelligent agent systems have now advanced so that it is possible to build them using both evolvable software and evolvable hardware. The 'Amaelthea' system developed at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, for example, is an information-gathering system whose preferences evolve in coordination with the user's selections, thus creating the equivalent for the system of an ideology, a set of presuppositions that have sunk deep into the system's structure and that subtly co-evolve in coordination with the system's social context. This talk will focus on anticipated uses for such intelligent agent systems and their implications for the assumption that humans interacting with them are classical liberal subjects. The contradictions and paradoxes that arise through this conjunction of intelligent agent systems and liberal subjectivity will be further explored through David Foster Wallace's massive and brilliant contemporary novel, 'Infinite Jest.'" Readings: Hayles, "The Power of Simulation: What Virtual Creatures Can Teach Us"; and chapter 9, "Narratives of Artificial Life" from Hayles, How We Became Posthuman.

Wednesday, February 3, 6:00 p.m.: Ann Weinstone, "On the Junk Beam." Response from Haun Saussy. Abstract: "'On the Junk Beam'" considers the proliferation in cultural theory and science studies of rhetorics of inscription. I look at the adequation of "writing" and "making" that has resulted from intersections of cybernetics, molecular biology, and poststructuralism. I propose that despite anti-metaphysical declarations, a kind of theory is emerging from the general application of rhetorics of inscription that shares many urges with metaphysical thinking. I ask how the adequation of writing and making entrains theory in advance, cicumscribing what can be asked of and said about lived experience, especially about human-technology interactions."

On Wednesday, February 24th at 6:00PM, W. Bernard Carlson, Visiting Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society, will discuss "Banishing Prometheus? Edison, Invention, and Representation." Abstract: "In this paper, I will discuss the problems of studying the processes oftechnological innovation and scientific discovery. Drawing on Latour, I will suggest that invention may be seen as a process of creating and managing a "cascade of representations," and I will focus on the particular problems of interpreting the sketches produced by Edison. I will describe both the computer techniques and the cognitive science concepts that Mike Gorman and I have used to make sense of the sketches. I will close by raising the question of whether or not science studies has effectively banished Prometheus from the realm of scholarship." Reading: "Banishing Prometheus? Edison, Invention, and Representation"

Wednesday, March 10: James Bono, "Figuring Science: Metaphor, Narrative, and Science." Abstract: "In my presentation I shall emphasize the utility of understanding practice as discursive and metaphor as practice, through regarding both as performative. Arguing that the work of metaphor and narrative is simultaneously scientific and cultural work, I shall touch upon such issues as borders/boundaries and the possibility of translations in science, cognitive approaches to science and cultural studies of science, and problems of agency and change. I hope at the very least to allude to an example: the metaphorics of immunology." Readings: James Bono, "Narrating Science: Toward a Performative Metaphorics of 'Practice' and the Cultural History of Science"; idem, "The Word of God, the Book of Nature, and the Eclipse of the 'Emblematic World View.'"

Wednesday, April 7: Haun Saussy, "In the Workshop of Equivalences: or, What Science Studies Taught Me About Translation" and Roger Hart, "The Problem of 'Culture' in Cultural Studies of Science." Abstract: "Against histories in the early twentieth century that viewed universal science as radically transcending particular cultures, studies in the 1960s and 70s attempted to re-place science in its cultural context. These studies applied various models of culture to the history of science, including incommensurability, paradigms, the anthropology of science, and gender studies. As science studies moved toward cultural studies, the question arose what the term "culture" in cultural studies of science meant, and what explanatory power it was supposed to have. In this session we will examine some of the theories of culture that have too often been uncritically adopted in science studies. To do so we will return to one of the most important examples of the interaction between cultures--China and the West in the seventeenth century--to suggest new ways to conceptualize the relationship between culture and science." Readings: Haun Saussy, "In the Workshop of Equivalences: Seventeenth-Century Globalism and the Comparative Pursuit"; Roger Hart, "Translating the Untranslatable: From Copula to Incommensurable Worlds" and "Beyond Science and Civilization: A Post-Needham Critique."

Friday, April 16 at 4:00: Samuel Weber, "Uses of Repetition in Science and Philosophy." Readings: Samuel Weber, "Religion, Repetition, Media"; Samuel Weber with Terry Smith, "Repetition: Kierkegaard, Artaud, Pollock and the theatre of the image."

Wednesday, April 21 at 6:00: Marcos Novak. Marcos Novak is an architect who builds cyberspaces rather than buildings of concrete. He will speak to us about building architecture for communities on the web. See http://www.aud.ucla.edu/~marcos and http://www.centrifuge.org/marcos/.

Thursday, April 22 at 6:00: Brian Rotman, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing -- some gestural thoughts." Rotman is the author of Taking God Out of Mathematics and Putting the Body Back In: An Essay in Corporeal Semiotics (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993) and Signifying Nothing: The Semiotics of Zero (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1987; rpt. Stanford University Press, 1993). He will discuss the role of gesture in the constitution of knowledge. Reading: Brian Rotman, "Becoming Beside Oneself."

Wednesday, May 5 at 6:00. Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, "Discourses of Circumstance." Rheinberger's works include Toward a History of Epistemic Things: Synthesizing Proteins in the Test Tube (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), Raume des wissens: Reprasentation, Codierung, Spur (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1997), and Kurze Geschichte der Molekularbiologie (Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut fur Wissenschaftsgeschichte, 1995).

Monday, May 10 at 6:00. Natalie Jeremijenko, "Technological Interventions - Some Small and Contrary Things." Natalie Jeremijenko is a design engineer and technoartist interested in the sociotechnical aspects of product design. Her works include electomechanical and interactive systems that have most recently been included in the Whitney Biennial '97, Documenta '97, Ars Electronic Prix '96 and presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been working at Stanford University towards her Ph.D. in Design Engineering, and is currently teaching in Engineering in the Yale Design Studio.

May 21-23, 1999. "Rethinking Science and Civilization: The Ideologies, Disciplines, and Rhetorics of World History"