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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...
July 1, 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...
July 1, 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...
June 1, 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...
May 1, 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
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
Marianne Ryghaug, Tomas Moe Skjølsvold, Sara Heidenreich
Transitions towards low-carbon energy systems will be comprehensive and demanding, requiring substantial public support. One important contribution from STS is to highlight the roles of citizens and public engagement. Until recently, energy users have often been treated as customers and passive market actors, or as recipients of technology at the margins of centralized systems. With respect to the latter role, critical or hesitant public action has been explained in terms of NIMBYism and knowledge deficits...
April 2018: Social Studies of Science
Brad Bolman
Cold War curiosities about the dangers of radiation generated significant funding for an array of biomedical projects as enticing as they were unpredictable, introducing newly standardized experimental animals into laboratories and a novel merging of scientific disciplines. The desire to understand radiation's effects on human longevity spurred a multi-sited, multi-decade project that subjected beagle dogs to varying degrees of irradiation. One of those laboratories, located at the southern tip of the campus of the University of California, Davis, eventually hosted an elaborate experimental breeding kennel and a population of 'control' dogs that set new milestones for canine longevity...
April 2018: Social Studies of Science
Meritxell Ramírez-I-Ollé
Early Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholars recognized that the social construction of knowledge depends on skepticism's parasitic relationship to background expectations and trust. Subsequent generations have paid less empirical attention to skepticism in science and its relationship with trust. I seek to rehabilitate skepticism in STS - particularly, Merton's view of skepticism as a scientific norm sustained by trust among status peers - with a study of what I call 'civil skepticism'. The empirical grounding is a case in contemporary dendroclimatology and the development of a method ('Blue Intensity') for generating knowledge about climate change from trees...
March 1, 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...
March 1, 2018: Social Studies of Science
David Andrew Griffiths
The 2006 'Consensus statement on management of intersex disorders' recommended moving to a new classification of intersex variations, framed in terms of 'disorders of sex development' or DSD. Part of the rationale for this change was to move away from associations with gender, and to increase clarity by grounding the classification system in genetics. While the medical community has largely accepted the move, some individuals from intersex activist communities have condemned it. In addition, people both inside and outside the medical community have disagreed about what should be covered by the classification system, in particular whether sex chromosome variations and the related diagnoses of Turner and Klinefelter's syndromes should be included...
February 2018: Social Studies of Science
Alison T Wynn, Shelley J Correll
A 'chilly' environment limits women's advancement through the educational pipeline leading to jobs in science and technology. However, we know relatively little about the environment women encounter after making it through the educational pipeline. Do technology companies create environments that may dampen women's interest at the juncture when they are launching their careers? Using original observational data from 84 recruiting sessions hosted by technology companies at a prominent university on the US West Coast, we find that company representatives often engage in behaviors that are known to create a chilly environment for women...
February 2018: Social Studies of Science
Emmanuel Didier, Catherine Guaspare-Cartron
On March 3rd, 2016, the authors of this note hosted a conference entitled 'Destabilized Science' at the University of California, Los Angeles, to which we invited two representatives of core actors within the new science watchdog pack: Ivan Oransky, co-founder in 2010 of Retraction Watch, and Brandon Stell, co-founder in 2012 of PubPeer. After the formal conference, we organized a roundtable to discuss these invitees' experience and their vision of contemporary science. Mario Biagioli (University of California, Davis), Michael Chwe (UCLA) and Aaron Panofsky (UCLA) participated to the conversation...
February 2018: Social Studies of Science
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