Vibeke Pihl: Modeling pigs and humans

Modelling pigs and humans: Exploring the practices of models across sciences

Wednesday October 19, 2011

Engineering 2, Room 499

PhD Fellow Vibeke Pihl, Medical Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen.

Vibeke Pihl’s research addresses how connections between humans and animals are shaped in contemporary biomedical research on human health. During an ethnographic multi-sited fieldwork, Vibeke has followed a group of Danish biomedical researchers working to establish a pig model for human obesity surgery. In biomedicine, the pig is increasingly established as a preferred model organism in biomedical research on human obesity due to an argued biological resemblance between pigs and human anatomy and physiology. The topic of the SJWG event concerns an analysis of how the use of pigs as models for humans does not rest solely on biological connections, but requires social, moral, economical and cultural connections to support the choice of the pig as the appropriate model for obese human bodies. In addition, the presentation will address how models are practised in biomedical science and social science. Drawing upon fieldwork, the presentation will focus on how the analysis of the biomedical researchers’ establishment of a pig model prompt a simultaneous crafting of a social scientific model of human-animal relations. Vibeke asks which connections between humans and pigs are included and excluded in the research practices of biomedical scientists’ and the practices of social scientists like her own. With this presentation, Vibeke wants to provide an opening for a stronger mutual engagement between researchers across sciences working with animals as models of humans.

Comparative Tinkerings: A Roundtable

Comparative Tinkering: A Roundtable

Tuesday, October 25th, 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

UCSC Campus, Social Sciences 1, Room 261 (Anthropology’s Colloquium Series room)

Speakers: Karen Barad (UCSC, Feminist Studies), Alan Christy (UCSC, History), Lawrence Cohen (UC-Berkeley, Anthropology), Andrew Matthews (UCSC, Anthropology), Danilyn Rutherford (UCSC, Anthropology), Warren Sack (UCSC, Film & Digital Media), Anna Tsing (UCSC, Anthropology)

Facilitators: Peter Lutz (IT University of Copenhagen, Technologies in Practice) and Heather Swanson (UCSC, Anthropology)

Abstract:

Comparisons are utterly pervasive in anthropology and its neighboring disciplines, including science studies and the sciences more broadly. We compare incessantly, yet we rarely theorize explicitly about our comparative practices. For instance, how do we determine the whats and the whos of our comparisons? At this roundtable we hope to unfold these practices by exploring the risks and virtues of comparison, especially those emerging in empirical travels like ethnographic fieldwork. What are the analytical detours of our comparative ventures? What work is required to render objects stable and comparable? What are the natures of the comparable beings we evoke and harness? Stability is arguably one of the most once deeply problematic yet virtually inescapable aspects of scientific comparison. Yet how might we make do with comparisons – themselves knots of relations – to reveal their underlying messy travel from desk to field and back again? Here we are particularly eager to explore the possibilities of tinkering with comparisons so that they might destabilize and move.

Sponsored by: SJWG and the Anthropology Department

John Kadvany: A Very Brief Introduction to Risk

Wednesday, October 5, at our normal time and place (Eng 2 599. 4:15-6:15).

John Kadvany will join us to discuss the concept of risk. Oxford University Press recently published John’s book on risk, entitled Risk: A Very Short Introduction. Given that so many of us in the group are interested in thinking well about risk–whether in the context of genomics or the climate or engineering design–we are particularly pleased to have John kick the year off.

Click here for an introduction to some of John’s ideas about risk.

Kadvany often works on project teams organized by an engineering company in charge of a large public works project. His role is to design and help implement a decision process in which engineers, external stakeholders, lawyers and regulators work their collective way through multiple competing options in an efficient, democratic and cooperative manner. He will design an analytical framework that’s useful all around including the measurement techniques which can be used to accommodate relevant models, data, and professional or lay judgment of various qualities. Often these processes lead to a group “opinion survey”, a combined technical-policy document which summarizes stakeholder perspectives. His methods combine the analytical techniques of multiple values decision analysis with the approaches developed in the last two decades through the public participation movement.

Banu Subramaniam – Tracking Ghosts: Hauntings from a Eugenic Past

Tracking Ghosts: Hauntings from a eugenic past

Banu Subramaniam (UMass Amherst)

May 11, 2011, 4:30-6:30

Engineering 2, 599

What do morning glory flowers or exotic plant and animal species have to do with the history of race or eugenics? In this talk, I trace the genealogies of ecology and evolutionary biology to explore how histories of gender and race shape contemporary biological theories and what lessons we can learn about the relationships between natures and cultures.

Banu Subramaniam is associate professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is coeditor of Feminist Science Studies: A New Generation (Routledge, 2001) and Making Threats: Biofears and Environmental Anxieties (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005). Trained as a plant evolutionary biologist, she seeks to engage the social and cultural studies of science in the practice of science. Spanning the humanities, social sciences, and the biological sciences, her research is located at the intersections of biology, women’s studies, ethnic studies and postcolonial studies. Her current work focuses on the genealogies of variation in evolutionary biology, the xenophobia and nativism that accompany frameworks on invasive plant species, and the relationship of science and religious nationalism in India.

Michael Mateas: Gaming and the Sociological Imagination

Wednesday, March 9, 4:15-6:15 pm
599 Engineering 2

Michael Mateas runs the Expressive Intelligence Studio at UC Santa Cruz, which explores the intersection of artificial intelligence, art, and design. Their goal is to create compelling new forms of interactive art and entertainment that provide more deeply autonomous, generative, and dynamic responses to interaction. A major thrust of this work is advanced artificial intelligence (AI) for video agames, including autonomous characters and interactive story telling. By viewing AI as an expressive medium, their work raises and answers novel AI research questions while pushing the boundaries of the conceivable and possible in interactive experiences. Current projects in the group include automated support for game generation, automatic generation of autonomous character conversations, story management, and authoring tools for interactive storytelling.

Scout Calvert: Standardization on the Hoof

Standardization on the Hoof: Pedigrees, Genetic Disease, and Genomic-Enhanced EPDs

Scout Calvert (Wayne State University)

April 13, 2011

Engineering 2 599, 4:30-6:30

The SJWG is very pleased to welcome back Scout Calvert, who was one of our original members and earned her PhD from History of Consciousness.

Abstract: For decades, beef breed associations have been gathering performance data on registered animals that have become the basis for “expected progeny differences,” calculations made by comparing the cattle in electronic pedigrees, or herdbooks. The American Angus Association began digitizing its herdbook in the 1960s. In 1978, it launched the Certified Angus Beef branding program, a marketing promotion that has successfully made the Angus breed co-extensive with succulent beef through a voluntary certification process, and which enables small but important premiums for beef growers. As EPDs became popular tools for the selection of artificial insemination sires, three genetic diseases reached frequencies of 10% or more in the pure-bred population. EPDs coordinated a shared quest for Angus certification that also resulted in a catastrophic narrowing of the Angus gene pool. Still reeling from the identification of these three diseases since 2008, in 2010, the Angus Association introduced Genomic-Enhanced EPDs. These pedigrees now include data from genetic markers for desirable phenotype characteristics, an innovation with ramifications for animal breeders and human genealogists alike.

Authority, Expertise and Power in Mexican Forests: A Discussion with Andrew Mathews

Tuesday May 22, 2012

4-6:00 PM

Engineering 2, 599

Join us for a discussion of Science & Justice member Andrew Matthew’s recently released book, Instituting Nature: Authority, Expertise and Power in Mexican Forests (MIT Press).

Greater knowledge and transparency are often promoted as the keys to solving a wide array of governance problems. In Instituting Nature, Andrew Mathews describes Mexico’s efforts over the past hundred years to manage its forests through forestry science and biodiversity conservation. He shows that transparent knowledge was produced not by official declarations or scientists’ expertise but by encounters between the relatively weak forestry bureaucracy and the indigenous people who manage and own the pine forests of Mexico. Mathews charts the performances, collusions, complicities, and evasions that characterize the forestry bureaucracy. He shows that the authority of forestry officials is undermined by the tension between local realities and national policy; officials must juggle sweeping knowledge claims and mundane concealments, ambitious regulations and routine rule breaking.
Moving from government offices in Mexico City to forests in the state of Oaxaca, Mathews describes how the science of forestry and bureaucratic practices came to Oaxaca in the 1930s and how local environmental and political contexts set the stage for local resistance. He tells how the indigenous Zapotec people learned the theory and practice of industrial forestry as employees and then put these skills to use when they become the owners and managers of the area’s pine forests–eventually incorporating forestry into their successful claims for autonomy from the state. Despite the apparently small scale and local contexts of this balancing act between the power of forestry regulations and the resistance of indigenous communities, Mathews shows that it has large implications–for how we understand the modern state, scientific knowledge, and power and for the global carbon markets for which Mexican forests might become valuable.

Andrew Mathews, "Authority, Expertise and Power in Mexican Forests"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
22 May 2012
Rapporteur: Martha Kenney, History of Consciousness
Andrew Mathews , Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UCSC, spoke to us about his new
book, Instituting Nature: Authority, Expertise and Power in Mexican Forests. Drawing on his
background in forest ecology, Mathews investigated the uses of and discourses around fire in
Mexican forests using historical, ethnographic, and scientific methods. Although pine forests
need fire for growth and regeneration, the Mexican state has demonized the use of fire,
characterizing it as destructive, catastrophic, and abnormal. For officials, who are tasked with
the responsibility of maintaining orderly landscapes, the practice of using fire to maintain the
forest seems messy and incomprehensible. Because of the dominance of this official discourse
and because of the illegality of burning many of the people Mathews spoke to claimed that fire
was not used to maintain the surrounding forests (even though there was evidence of fire
histories). Although there is an official form to apply for permission to burn, no one has ever
applied. Mathews argued that these “official channels” prevent agricultural practices from
becoming official knowledge, silences multiple knowledges, and prevents people from
understanding the agricultural uses for fire. His ethnographic work, for example, shows that the
younger generation only had negative views of fire as something that needed to be fought and
controlled. Older people, on the other hand, tended to see fire as a kind of ally in growing crops,
not a dangerous force outside of human sociality. As fire is made illegal, agricultural history is
forgotten. The government’s demands for legibility and transparency are producing doubt and
confusion. Overall, Mathews showed how looking at fire helps us to think about “The State” in
a concrete way and opens up important questions about which forest management practices can
survive and in what form.

During the Q&A Jenny Reardon asked about how Mathews’ hybrid methods articulated different
forms of evidence. Mathews said that he looked for resistances and uncertainty in his methods.
He was interested in surprise and the limits of method. Multiple knowledges destabilize each
other in productive ways. Anna Tsing picked up the question of science and justice and wanted
to know if there was such a thing as “justice for pines.” Mathews talked about the agencies of
pines and how they have memory and imagination build into their structure. Matthias wanted to
know what nations have against fire. Mathews said that the distrust of fire stems from
imaginaries of rural disorder and power of fire to transform landscapes in unpredictable ways.
Transformation is difficult for governments to deal with, since they strive to create order. These
and other questions helped to further draw out the stakes of Mathews’ project and connect them
to larger S&J questions about interdisciplinary knowledge, more-than-human justice, and the role
of discourse and state regulation in shaping technoscientific practices.

Slow Science? Fast Science? How Pace Matters in Science

October 6th, 2010
Slow Science? Fast Science? How Pace Matters in Science
October 6, 2010, 4:30-6:30
Engineering 2, 599
A brief perusal of key scientific journals and science policy documents reveals that questions about how fast science can produce new knowledge and innovation has become a widely acknowledged concern. Scientists promise to be close to breakthroughs, policy makers argue that “we”

Are You My Data? Symposium

Conference hosted by the Science & Justice Working Group Conference
sponsored by the UCSC Office of Research, and the UCSC Cancer Genomic Hub

With a human genome sequenced and a map of variable sites in that genome created, governments and many other public and private actors now seek to make genomic data relevant to health, medicine and the society. However, to do so they must navigate the conjunction of two different approaches to data. Within the biomedical domain there are important, well-articulated infrastructures and commitments arising out of concerns about individual rights, patient privacy and the doctor-patient relationship that limit access to biomedical data. This stands in stark contrast to the culture of open access forged by those who worked on the Human Genome Project, and that has continued to be a central commitment of ongoing Human Genome research. Thus, architects of the genomic revolution face competing, complex technical and ethical challenges that arise from this meeting of these domains with substantially different ethos. Additionally, the rise of social media has led to a broad and contested discussion about the proper relationship between persons and data and who profits through access to it.

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