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Social Studies of Science

Lauren Richter, Alissa Cordner, Phil Brown
Understandings of environmental governance both assume and challenge the relationship between expert knowledge and corresponding action. We explore this interplay by examining the context of knowledge production pertaining to a contested class of chemicals. Per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) are widely used industrial compounds containing chemical chains of carbon and fluorine that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. Although industry and regulatory scientists have studied the exposure and toxicity concerns of these compounds for decades, and several contaminated communities have documented health concerns as a result of their high levels of exposure, PFAS use remains ubiquitous in a large range of consumer and industrial products...
September 20, 2018: Social Studies of Science
Christian Dayé
Delphi is a procedure that produces forecasts on technological and social developments. This article traces the history of Delphi's development to the early 1950s, where a group of logicians and mathematicians working at the RAND Corporation carried out experiments to assess the predictive capacities of groups of experts. While Delphi now has a rather stable methodological shape, this was not so in its early years. The vision that Delphi's creators had for their brainchild changed considerably. While they had initially seen it as a technique, a few years later they reconfigured it as a scientific method...
September 19, 2018: Social Studies of Science
Heta Tarkkala, Aaro Tupasela
Since the sequencing of the human genome, as well as the completion of the first Human Genome Diversity Project, the benefits of studying one human population over another has been an ongoing debate relating to the replicability of findings in other populations. The leveraging of specific populations into research markets has made headlines in cases such as deCode in Iceland, Quebec Founder Population, and Generation Scotland. In such cases, researchers and policy makers have used the genetic and historical uniqueness of their populations to attract scientific, commercial and political interest...
September 19, 2018: Social Studies of Science
David S Jones, Kavita Sivaramakrishnan
In 1962, surgeons at two hospitals in Bombay used heart-lung machines to perform open-heart surgery. The devices that made this work possible had been developed in Minneapolis in 1955 and commercialized by 1957. However, restrictions on currency exchange and foreign imports made it difficult for surgeons in India to acquire this new technology. The two surgeons, Kersi Dastur and PK Sen, pursued different strategies to acquire the ideas, equipment, and tacit knowledge needed to make open-heart surgery work. While Dastur tapped Parsi networks that linked him to local manufacturing expertise, Sen took advantage of opportunities offered by the Rockefeller Foundation to access international training and medical device companies...
August 2018: Social Studies of Science
Philip Olson, Christine Labuski
In 2014, the United States Federal Aviation Administration chose six sites at which to conduct research crucial to integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the nation's airspace. Analyzing data collected from five focus groups that we conducted at one of these test sites, this article centers on the gendered and racialized politics of civilian unmanned aircraft. Civilian drone use remains a relatively unchallenged space for displaying hypermasculinity via technological expertise. Focusing on the topic of surveillance, we argue that a very particular, intersectional perspective - white technomasculinity - profoundly influences how civilian unmanned aircraft are imagined, designed and deployed...
August 2018: Social Studies of Science
Vladimir Jankovic
In the summer of 1999, the Serbian Ministry of Health issued a public health warning about the environmental risks associated with the total solar eclipse to took place on 11 August. The warning contained a list of phantom symptoms unknown to medical profession. Some of these included severe itching, hypertension, cardiac palpitation and frequent urination. Despite the warning's patent absurdity, the Serbian public widely observed it by seeking indoor and underground shelter from the lunar shadow, participating in what I term a 'great public disappearing act'...
August 2018: Social Studies of Science
Jason Jean, Yixi Lu
Since the middle of the twentieth century, there has been a heated debate between evolutionists and antievolutionists regarding whether or not evolution is a 'fact'. The debate has spawned a number of court cases involving antievolutionists describing evolution as a 'theory, not a fact'. An analysis of the 'fact of biological evolution' discourse reveals several overarching agreements among its advocates, but also a contradictory morass of positions regarding how scientific theories, hypotheses and facts interrelate, how these terms are related to biological evolution, what a scientific fact is, and how science popularizers use the scientific and public vernaculars...
August 2018: Social Studies of Science
Elizabeth Hennessy
The Galápagos Islands are often called a natural laboratory of evolution. This metaphor provides a powerful way of understanding space that, through scientific research, conservation and tourism, has shaped the archipelago over the past century. Combining environmental histories of field science with political ecologies of conservation biopower, this article foregrounds the territorial production of the archipelago as a living laboratory. In the mid-twentieth century, foreign naturalists used the metaphor to make land claims as they campaigned to create the Galápagos National Park and Charles Darwin Research Station...
August 2018: Social Studies of Science
Judy Z Segal
In August, 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Addyi (flibanserin) for the treatment of Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder in premenopausal women. Ten months before that, the FDA had held a Patient-Focused Drug Development Public Meeting to address the 'unmet need' for a pharmaceutical to treat that condition. I attended that meeting as a rhetorical observer. This essay is an account of persuasive strategies used on, and then by, the FDA, as it considered approving a drug that was not convincingly either safe or effective...
August 2018: Social Studies of Science
Dick Kasperowski, Thomas Hillman
In the past decade, some areas of science have begun turning to masses of online volunteers through open calls for generating and classifying very large sets of data. The purpose of this study is to investigate the epistemic culture of a large-scale online citizen science project, the Galaxy Zoo, that turns to volunteers for the classification of images of galaxies. For this task, we chose to apply the concepts of programs and antiprograms to examine the 'essential tensions' that arise in relation to the mobilizing values of a citizen science project and the epistemic subjects and cultures that are enacted by its volunteers...
August 2018: Social Studies of Science
Manuel Tironi
Chemical toxicity is part of everyday life in Puchuncaví. The most polluted industrial compound in Chile, Puchuncaví is home of fourteen industrial complexes, including the largest copper smelting plant in the country and four thermoelectric plants. Stories of biological mutation, corrosion and death among plants, humans, fishes and cattle are proliferate in Puchuncaví. Engaging with the growing interest in care and affective modes of attention within STS, this paper examines how ill, intoxicated or otherwise affected people in Puchuncaví act upon and know about their chronic sufferings...
June 2018: Social Studies of Science
Nerea Calvillo
In Madrid, as in many European cities, air pollution is known about and made accountable through techno-scientific monitoring processes based on data, and the toxicity of the air is defined through epidemiological studies and made political through policy. In 2009, Madrid's City Council changed the location of its air quality monitoring stations without notice, reducing the average pollution of the city and therefore provoking a public scandal. This scandal challenged the monitoring process, as the data that used to be the evidence of pollution could not be relied on anymore...
June 2018: Social Studies of Science
Max Liboiron, Manuel Tironi, Nerea Calvillo
Toxicity has become a ubiquitous, if uneven, condition. Toxicity can allow us to focus on how forms of life and their constituent relations, from the scale of cells to that of ways of life, are enabled, constrained and extinguished within broader power systems. Toxicity both disrupts existing orders and ways of life at some scales, while simultaneously enabling and maintaining ways of life at other scales. The articles in this special issue on toxic politics examine power relations and actions that have the potential for an otherwise...
June 2018: Social Studies of Science
Amelia Fiske
In September 2013, President Correa balanced himself on a felled log over an oil waste pit in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Extending a bare hand dripping with crude, he launched La Mano Sucia de Chevron campaign, demanding accountability for decades of contamination. This article explores the role of bodily knowledge in witnessing industrial contamination and struggles for environmental justice. Situating the mano sucia in the history of activism in the region, I show how the juxtaposition of different hands within the same motif reveals profoundly asymmetric relationships to the toxic entanglements that oil produces...
June 2018: Social Studies of Science
Christy Spackman, Gary A Burlingame
Sensory information signaled the acceptability of water for consumption for lay and professional people into the early twentieth century. Yet as the twentieth century progressed, professional efforts to standardize water-testing methods have increasingly excluded aesthetic information, preferring to rely on the objectivity of analytic information. Despite some highly publicized exceptions, consumer complaints remain peripheral to the making and regulating of drinking water. This exclusion is often attributed to the unreliability of the human senses in detecting danger...
June 2018: Social Studies of Science
Kristina Lyons
Between 1994 and 2015, militarized aerial fumigation was a central component of US-Colombia antidrug policy. Crop duster planes sprayed a concentrated formula of Monsanto's herbicide, glyphosate, over illicit crops, and also forests, soils, pastures, livestock, watersheds, subsistence food and human bodies. Given that a national peace agreement was signed in 2016 between FARC-EP guerrillas and the state to end Colombia's over five decades of war, certain government officials are quick to proclaim aerial fumigation of glyphosate an issue of the past...
June 2018: Social Studies of Science
Luke Stark
Recent public controversies, ranging from the 2014 Facebook 'emotional contagion' study to psychographic data profiling by Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 American presidential election, Brexit referendum and elsewhere, signal watershed moments in which the intersecting trajectories of psychology and computer science have become matters of public concern. The entangled history of these two fields grounds the application of applied psychological techniques to digital technologies, and an investment in applying calculability to human subjectivity...
April 2018: Social Studies of Science
Philip Mirowski
Almost everyone is enthusiastic that 'open science' is the wave of the future. Yet when one looks seriously at the flaws in modern science that the movement proposes to remedy, the prospect for improvement in at least four areas are unimpressive. This suggests that the agenda is effectively to re-engineer science along the lines of platform capitalism, under the misleading banner of opening up science to the masses.
April 2018: Social Studies of Science
Karen Dam Nielsen, Henriette Langstrup
The increasingly popular goal of 'patient participation' comes with a conceptual vagueness, at times rendering it an all-too flexible political trope or platitude and, in practice, resulting in unclear invitations to patients. We seek to open up the alluring yet troubling figure of patient participation, by inquiring into how patients enact participation in different ways. Based on close ethnographic engagement in a user test of the e-health system P-Record, we show how a group of heart patients shaped their participation along three lines of tactics of material participation: 'activism', 'partnership' and 'compliance'...
April 2018: Social Studies of Science
Mark R Johnson
Previous literature on cheating has focused on defining the concept, assigning responsibility to individual players, collaborative social processes or technical faults in a game's rules. By contrast, this paper applies an actor-network perspective to understanding 'cheating' in games, and explores how the concept is rhetorically effective in sociotechnical controversies. The article identifies human and nonhuman actors whose interests and properties were translated in a case study of 'edge sorting' - identifying minor but crucial differences in tessellated patterns on the backs of playing cards, and using these to estimate their values...
April 2018: Social Studies of Science
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