Conference: The State of Science and Justice: Conversations in Honor of Susan Leigh Star

The conference will broadly discuss the role of justice in the topics and methods of Science & Technology Studies. The themes of the conference are organized around the work of Leigh Star, a friend and mentor to many members of the UCSC Science & Justice community. Geoffrey Bowker (Professor and Senior Scholar in Cyberscholarship, University of Pittsburgh), Leigh’s partner, will give the keynote presentation.

June 2-3, 2011 | UCSC University Center

The State of Science & Justice: Conversations in Honor of Susan Leigh Star
SJWG Rapporteur Report
2-3 June 2011
This year-end conference brought together members of the extended Science & Justice
community to discuss how justice informs the study of scientific practices and
knowledge production. The conference was held in part to honor Susan Leigh Star, an
intellectual mentor and friend to many in the UCSC community, who passed away
unexpectedly in March 2010. Star’s work is often noted for insisting that justice play a
central topical and methodological role in the field of science and technology studies
(STS). Organized around several major themes of her work, the presentations and
discussions focused on how scientific practices can be reworked around concern for
lives that are routinely marginalized, opening the possibility of forms of science and
engineering that are both more just and epistemically robust. The first day of the
conference memorialized Star’s life and contributions to STS. The second day of the
conference was structured around two major themes of her work—Cui Bono? and
Values in Infrastructure and Design—and included a presentation of graduate research
sponsored by the Science and Justice Training Program.

Thursday, June 2
Keynote: Geoffrey Bowker (University of Pittsburgh)
“Working the Boundaries: Justice in a Distributed World”
Geoffrey Bowker was Leigh Star’s long time partner, collaborator, and co-author for
numerous books and articles. In concert with Star’s insistence on weaving together
one’s biography and intellectual work, Bowker’s keynote discussed how Star’s
experiences informed her intellectual labor. Bowker explained that Star had grown up in
a working class family in Rhode Island, where her family had once owned a painting
supplies store. Her father evinced a number of racial biases, with a particular animus
toward Jews. It was only late in life that Star learned that she was in fact Jewish through
her maternal family. She was bookish from the beginning of her life, often finding in
reading a type of solace from the constrained sorts of life that were available to working
class women in rural New England at the time. Not realizing the Leland Stanford Junior
University was the full name of elite Stanford University, she turned down a full
undergraduate fellowship offer from them. She eventually found her way to an organic
farming commune in Venezuela where she would hungrily read any English language
literature and philosophy she could cart in on the back of a donkey. One piece in
particular, pragmatist philosopher and social theorist Arthur Bentley’s essay “The
Human Skin: Philosophy's Last Line of Defense,” drew her back to formal education.
She left Venezuela enrolled in the Sociology doctorate program at the University of
Chicago, working under the pragmatist sociologists Anselm Strauss and Howard
Becker. Bowker also discussed other components of Star’s personal and political
identities: her bisexuality and her struggles with coming out to her family; her spiritual
curiosity that took the form of commitments to Judaism, Buddhism, and Wicca; her long
term illnesses and struggles with severe pain; and their deep intellectual and romantic
relationship that began while they were both studying in France.

Bowker used these biographical details to explore the way in which Star’s personal
experiences shaped her intellectual work, in particular her methodological commitment
to following the marginalized and silenced people whose lives are often a better
illustration of how work actually gets done in social and epistemological systems.
Contrary to the commitments of the Actor Network Theory that has been highly
influential in STS for the past 20 years, Bowker argued that Star’s oeuvre demonstrates
that the worst thing a sociologist of science can do is to follow the actors because they
are all equally blind to what happens in the system. Instead one must “listen forth” for
the silences that can better demonstrate the structures that shape knowledge
production. Done appropriately, tracking the knowledge production of the marginalized
members of society is both compassionate and empirically robust.

Bowker summarized Star’s major contributions to the field in this context. Boundary
objects, first formulated in collaboration with Jim Griesemer, describe objects that are
plastic enough to be used by multiple communities with divergent and locally tailored
purposes, while stable enough to maintain integrity and meaning across their multiple
usages. The weakly structured nature of boundary objects allows them to be coherent
across multiple social worlds. Torque describes the pressure exerted on the aspects of
lived lives that do not fit the categories assigned to them by infrastructures and
bureaucracies. Described at length in Bowker’s and Star’s study of South African
apartheid racial classification bureaucracy, torque is identified with the contortions that
one must undertake to make themselves function within categories that they did not
choose—all people do not fit some categories, but maldistributions of power place far
more torque on some people than others. Having studied the damage wrought by unjust
infrastructures, social engineering was a significant focus later in Star’s career when
she focused on how to build more flexible infrastructures that would allow people to
work in the world in rich and full ways. The core problematic for her was how to flip
social values by designing and manipulating infrastructures.

Bowker concluded by arguing that those who study scientific and engineering practices
do not adequately learn how to read and play with values within our work. However, by
not learning how to read and play with values, we become unable to read and play with
infrastructures. In order to study infrastructures of knowledge it has become obligatory
for scholars to develop a poetics of infrastructure that would enable more of the
marginalized and silenced public to stay alive in a rich and full way by navigating the
standards built into our lives. It has become necessary to listen forth to science and
technology and hear it’s silences.

Keynote Respondents
Maria Puig de la Bellacasa (Leicester University, UK)
Puig de la Bellacasa began her response by noting that Leigh Star inhabits the
infrastructure of her soul. Most importantly, Star’s influence had taught her to consider
the modes of attention that are at play in the sociology and philosophy of science. Star’s
commitments to social justice taught her ask “who will see the spaces between?” The
notion of “spaces between” in technoscientific systems comes from a poem Star
included in one of her edited books:

“oh seductive metaphor
network flung over reality
filaments spun from the body
connections of magic
extend
extend
extend
who will see the spaces between?”
 

        - From The Net, Ecologies of Knowledge, 1995

Star’s work asked us to attend to the forgotten and to see the violence in forgetting.
Doing so requires making space for others and engaging creatively with justice.
Puig de la Bellacasa noted that Star’s work demonstrated that adopting justice as a
methodological commitment does not require a simplistic analysis that would reject all
infrastructures as oppressive. She identified several complicating themes from within
Star’s studies of infrastructures:

1) Engaging in justice is not limited to insisting on one’s fair share of technology for
everybody. Such an assumption gives way to the addictive power of technoscience.

2) There can be no condemnation of standardization. We can try to make distinctions in
how categories work. Not all silences are malign or benevolent, and we all
productively occupy problematic and residual categories in some circumstances.

3) Making visible the invisible has a price. It is not beneficial in all circumstances to be
visible, despite the habits of justice advocates to insist on knowing and showing.
These themes fit with Star’s pragmatist philosophy: resisting all absolutisms, any
commitment to justice must be thick, and avoid righteousness. Importantly, it is
necessary to dwell with speculative commitments and remain loyal to attachment and
situatedness. There is a force in reminding ourselves that some things are just not right.
However, there is also a value in remaining speculative—in not defining in advance
what we should do in response to what is wrong, as we don’t know what the “spaces
between” can become.

Puig de la Bellacasa closed with a discussion of why Star chose the metaphors of
ecology over the metaphors of networks. In Star’s introductory chapter to the collection
Ecologies of Knowledge, she writes, “A web is composed of filaments, and a seamless
web should be an oxymoronic term. There is no empty space in a seamless web, but
our image of network is that it is filaments with space between. For this reason I prefer
ecology” (27). In contrast to the infinite extension evoked by network metaphors, Star
preferred the stabilizing and seamless aspects of ecology because it encourages
material and grounded connections. In this vein, Puig de la Bellacasa encouraged the
audience to be open to discussions that couple spirituality, ecology, and technology in
honor of Star’s efforts to integrate all such components of a full life.

Donna Haraway (UCSC)
“Living in Torque and Staying with the Trouble: Playing Cat’s Cradle with Leigh
Star”
Haraway opened her response by noting the importance of being re-formed by each
other, and acknowledging the ways in which Star’s work interpolated the members of
Science & Justice. She then discussed what she sees as the primary theme of her
recent work: “staying with the trouble.” She evoked the metaphor of the cat’s cradle to
describe what scholarship that stays with the trouble might look like. Playing cat’s cradle
(a children’s string game) can be done on many sorts of limbs as long as rhythms of
accepting and giving are sustained. Cat’s cradle scholarship as a form of relaying and
thinking-with involves “particular sorts of materialist, naturalcultural entanglements,
patterning, dropping threads, knotting, storying-making-thinking intra-action and intrapatience.
... A game of relaying patterns, of one hand, or pair of hands, or mouths and
feet, or other sorts of tentacular things, holding still to receive something from another,
and then relaying by adding something new, by proposing another knot, another web.”
In this way, scholarship is not really about the “hands” that do the gesturing, but rather
the patterning that is done through the collaborative game. In order to move the
patterning along, the players require passion and action, holding still and moving,
anchoring, and launching.

Haraway discussed the ways in which the game of cat’s cradle can be a materialization
of ontologies and mythologies. A particular variation of cat’s cradle played in Navajo
communities illustrates the creation story in which the trickster coyote disrupts the sun
god’s orderly creation of stars in the heavens. As the story is told, time is kept through
the complex gestures used to make a string model of the Dilyéhé/Pleiades constellation.
Riffing on Marilyn Strathern’s claim that “It matters what ideas we use to think other
ideas (with),” Harway stated: “It matters what matters we use to think other matters with;
it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots,
what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories.” She
described several case studies from her recent work on the human-sheep
naturecultures of the Navajo Southwest that are maintained and reworked in
contemporary worlds by ancient storytelling practices such as the Dilyéhé/Pleiades cat’s
cradle

Haraway cited the many cat’s cradles enabled by Star’s persistent staying with the
trouble and descriptions of people who live with torque. She described Star’s
contributions as stories that tell stories that are not finished. In this sense, Star’s model
of science studies operates as speculative science fiction. She closed by offering a
fictional multiple integral equation that models what an intersectional/intra-actional
theory would look like in Terrapolis. She desribed this as a formalism of sf mathematics,
where sf means not only science fiction, but also “so far,” such that we can open up
what is yet-to-come in pasts, presents and futures.

Ω
∫ Terra [X]n = ∫∫∫∫…∫∫Terra(X1,X2,X3,X4,…,Xn,t) dX1 dX2 dX3 dX4…dXn dt = Terrapolis
α
X1 = stuff/physis, X2 = capacity, X3 = sociality, X4 = materiality, Xn = ??
α (alpha) = not zoë, but ecoevodevo’s multispecies epigenesis
Ω (omega) = not bios, but recuperating terra’s pluriverse
t = multi-scalar times, entangled times of past/present/yet-to-come, worlding times, not
container time
Terrapolis is a fictional integral equation, a speculative fabulation.
Terrapolis is an n-dimensional hyper volume; in ecological theory, a niche space.
Terrapolis is a niche space for multispecies becoming-with.
Terrapolis is a n-dimensional volume in naturecultures.
Terrapolis is the semiotic material worlding of EcoEvoDevo in multi-scalar times and
places.
Terrapolis is the cat’s cradling set of string figures tied in intra-action and intra-patience.
Terrapolis is networked re-enactments for flourishing in mortal terrain living and dying.
Terrapolis is multispecies story telling, multispecies worlding in sf modes.
Terrapolis is open, not poor in world, full of connections and networked re-enactments.
Terrapolis is a chimera of materials, languages, histories; a mongrel of Greek and Latin.
Terrapolis is playing cat’s cradle with Isabelle Stengers’ cosmopolitics, tugging at the
threads of coherence in the interests of co-habitation.
Terrapolis is the home of transdisciplinarities that are at risk of becoming-with.
Terrapolis is at risk of dropping threads and missing dimensions in the action and
passion of caring.
Terrapolis is full of companion species — not “post-human” but “com-post.”
Terrapolis is of and for humus, the stuff of guman, an old earthy Indoeuropean word for
workers of the soil, not the stuff of homo, that figure of the bright and airy sacred image
of the same.
Terrapolis is not a system, not even a hopeful 3rd-order or nth-order cybernetic system;
but its values are determinable, locatable, accountable, and open to change.
Terrapolis is abstract and concrete.
Terrapolis is sf.

Jacob Metcalf (UCSC)
“Traces of Justice, or Love as an Ontology”
Metcalf began his response by discussing how he came to know Star better through her
absence than he had in life. However, her absence is not straightforward—the traces of
care and love that she manifested through friendships and scholarship remain strong. In
Star’s introduction to Ecologies of Knowledge, she discusses the pragmatist philosopher
John Dewey’s critique of reflex psychology. Prescient in 1986, Dewey notes that there is
a common image in psychology that a stimulus would happen, ‘go in’ the brain, stop
there, be processed, and something would come back out as a reaction. This was
complete nonsense according to Dewey. Stimuli don’t ‘go in’ through nothingness,
bridging the philosophical gap that representationalism posits must be there. There is
an event that changes the air, interacts with skin, with nerves, spinning electrons
through the brain, and capacitating response. Whatever we might identify as ‘the event’
is actually continuous, and there is never a time when it ‘stops’. Metcalf claimed that the
arc of stimuli just leaping into the brain is a convenient notation for a dualist, reductionist
psychology, and makes certain things amenable to quantification.

Writing in the context of destabilizing and decentering the knowing subject, particularly
it’s cognitive and linguistic processes, Star writes: “I reiterate Dewey’s critique with
respect to cognition and the individual, and recommend it to researchers in STS.
Learning ... is a series of continuous events, of changes, rearrangements in the spacetime
of your body. Once the process gets going it keeps on going, given constant
interactions with other people and all kinds of humans and nonhumans in the world. I
don’t know enough about death to know whether or in exactly what forms it might keep
going afterwards, except that the ongoing actions we leave embedded in the world
constitute one such action; for example, the books we write may be read after our
deaths.” Why, in the middle of a clear and straightforward introduction to the
philosophical and moral issues of STS, did Leigh discuss her death?

Metcalf stated that it is in this spirit that we should understand Star’s presence:
life as a form of work, of ongoing actions that rearrange bodies in timespace, with
constant interactions in a world of multiplicity and partiality. The point of discussing
Star’s traces and evoking her ghost is not to show that the world is traces all the way
down, although she might agree with that. Instead, these are pragmatist traces: they
exist because they do work in a lived world full of existing bodies, bodies that are full of
pain and pleasure, happiness and mourning. Metcalf posed the question: What do
Star’s ongoing actions that she left embedded in this world do to us?

He followed with a discussion of Star’s contribution to the volume 5 Questions:
Philosophy of Technology, a collection of responses to the same five questions from
different theorists of technoscience. Whereas almost all of the other respondents
focused on professionalized concerns about whom they studied with, or what
abstractions grabbed their attention, Star gave a lengthy biography and emphasized the
need to attend to the experience of the neglected and silenced members of society:

Q: “With respect to present and future inquiry, how can the most important philosophical
problems concerning technology be identified and explored?”
A:“If we begin to refuse the types of walls alluded to above, we could stop using
technology to sequester people and their experiences. If we begin with those who are
excluded, shamed, and silenced, their lives will become the most important
philosophical questions to be answered.”

The notion that the most important philosophical questions could be illuminated by
attending to the marginalized is heretical to the philosophy of science and technology.
Yet this served as a core commitment of Star’s research topics and methodologies,
especially her efforts to keep grand ideas grounded in lived lives.

Friday, June 3
Opening Comments
Jenny Reardon
Reardon opened with a discussion of how and why she came to UCSC and how the
environment here has sustained the Science & Justice community. Honoring Star’s
commitment to acknowledging spirituality in academic work, Reardon said that it0 was
her soul that drew her here. She was attracted by the unique constellation of faculty
here at Santa Cruz―a faculty that had managed to resist the rote routinization that
institutions can too easily fall prey to, and had managed to always ask after the most
important questions: why and how to live?

Reardon suggested it is important to reflect on how we come to combine these rather
lofty, powerful words like science and justice. Given justice’s strong historical ties to
divine and natural law, in some senses it is surprising that in conjunction with science, it
gathers so many of us and why Star and others have found this hitching together
inspiring.

While the figure of ethics did a lot of work in the early years of conjoining science and
society, for many of us the infrastructural work of building institutional routes, habits and
practices around “ethics” fell flat because it became an administrative hoop to jump
through. In that same 10-20 years, justice emerged as something different—as 0that
which 0inspired, and 0was0 not punitive.

Reardon suggested that justice inspires because it moves oneself out of the space of
thinking yet again about the self, and the conduct of the self, in this age of the self and
orients us around the collective. 0Historically, this0 collectivizing component of justice
contained a transcendent note, an ‘elsewhere’ from which to proceed. Recently, the
figure of humanity has emerged as a secular ground for those who are powerless to
make justice claims. This ground is of increased salience in a world that seeks to build
binding relations among humans and non-humans in spaces beyond the nation-state.
Rather than God, nature, humanity―gathering points of the highest order―Reardon
thinks we seek something more speculative: an embrace and an opening all at once;
holding together while always offering up the space of freedom; the space of
speculative fictions.

Reardon asked if science has the same dynamic as justice: a higher power that claims
to represent all humans. Technoscientific figures, like genomics, suggest this. In a
moment where the global and the universals that facilitate it are on the rise, genomics
and justice appear likely pairs. Articulating technoscientific figures to justice feels
already written into the script of contemporary technoscientific dramas, from Facebook
and Google to personal genomics. The very predictability and power of this script,
Reardon suggested, should give us pause. While it is compelling, where is it leading
us? Is this somewhere we all really want to go?

Reardon thinks answering that question will depend on us “keeping with the trouble.” As
Puig de la Bellacasa outlined yesterday, a particular kind of trouble is created if we allow
justice to be figured as just getting our fair share of a universal good—the project of
justice then just becomes a matter of better practices of inclusion. But inclusion is not
sufficient for understanding how justice intersects with science—providing genomic
science to communities that remain severely economically disadvantaged cannot be the
entire scope of scientific responsibility. If we instead cede this critical problem, questions
about whose interests and problems are addressed with ever-limited resources fall out
of view. A too easy embrace of a justice frame, with its tendency to frame things in
terms of universals, hides these issues.

Reardon argued that if we are to embrace justice, then we must move towards a critical
embrace that moderates justice’s feverish pitch with sober interrogations of its
underlying assumptions. We require a thick commitment to justice that questions the
upholder of the law, steers clear of righteousness, and keeps us passionately with the
trouble and with the loss. The loss, as Puig de la Bellacasa described in her talk the
previous day, that comes when we don’t see the other possible worlds. This requires a
justice that embraces speculative commitment, and a loyal attachment to situated
visions.

Reardon concluded by suggesting that despite its dangers, we should embrace justice,
for whenever we are able to claim justice we have found an open, a fissure between the
world as it is and the world as we want it to be. That open we should not cede.

Panel: Cui Bono?
Chair: Karen Barad (UCSC)
In one of her most influential essays, Star discusses the uneven distribution of costs for
those who cannot fit within infrastrucutres. She writes that it is necessary to always ask
“cui bono?,” or who benefits, when examining technoscientific systems. This panel was
organized to explore the central role of cui bono in feminist science studies. Karen
Barad, chair of the panel, discussed the need for building spaces that are welcoming to
the arts, humanities, engineering, and social sciences in order to keep questions of
justice at the center of our research projects. Because of the hunger for research that
can get at the rich complexities of technoscientific systems, feminist science studies
should not be considered a mere subfield of STS, but rather a model for how to
intervene in those systems without a pretense that such interventions can be clean.

Astrid Schrader (Sarah Lawrence)
Resituating “Cui bono?” — Exploring Conceptions of Time as Infrastructure in
Harmful Algae Research
This paper is inspired by Leigh Star’s often quoted assertion that “it is both more
analytically interesting and more politically just to begin with the question cui bono, than
to begin with a celebration of the fact of human/non-human mingling” (1991: 43).
Schrader stated being challenged by Star’s question of where to begin. How does one
avoid leveling human/nonhuman differences that Star finds at work in Latour and
Callon’s version of actor network theory, and remain attentive to relations of power,
without re-affirming a political epistemology that—in Latour’s terms—g rants historicity
only to humans and artifacts, and denies it to nonhumans. Schrader is interested here in
the relationship of specific kinds of ‘human/nonhuman mingling,’ and the very possibility
to pose the question ‘cui bono?’ from within in scientific practices. In other words, she
seeks to understand how can the question cui bono can become a necessary part of the
common referent of scientific knowledge across communities, and how epistemological
and ontological assumptions about human/nonhuman differences may foreclose the
very possibility to ask this question. In particular, she is curious what happens to the
construction of boundary objects when the objects of scientific investigations are lively
things that may have their ‘own points of view,’ by which she means things that have
their own ecologies, ‘technologies’ and historicities.

Schrader pursued these questions with the help of dinoflagellates – marine unicellular
microorganism - that are categorized as Harmful Algae. In recent years, Harmful Algal
Blooms (HABs) have become a major environmental concern, and the increased
frequency of their occurrences affects costal water around the globe. HABs endanger
the livelihood of sea mammals, birds, and fish and also adversely affect human health
and can destroy entire ecosystems. What renders some dinoflagellate species part of a
boundary object endowed with the capacity to unify a diverse community of practice is a
particular judgment: namely, that they are harmful to specific human economies. She
further argued that the notion of ‘harmful algae’ becomes a boundary object whose
common identity is constituted as a threat to specific economies. The technologies used
to detect HABs materialize a notion of ‘our’ time as an unalterable and continuously
acceleration movement of Homo Economicus.

Detection technologies that seek to approach ‘real-time’ demonstrate a profound
complicity with short-term economic calculations. Relying on the assumption that there
once was a nature all by itself unpolluted by technological deferrals and accelerations,
‘real-time’ technologies seek their own disappearance as technology through the detemporalization
of time. At the same time, they can be directly linked to an acceleration
of human time that is fundamentally distinct from the genetically or informationally
programmed rhythms of the rest of nature.

Harmful dinoflagellates, however, don’t pre-exist our technoscientific intervention, nor
are they produced by them. Who the harmful dinoflagellates are, and how they act, can
only be determined in the context of specific matters of concern. Their historicity
requires the re-construction of a shared time, which is only possible when cui bono—or
who benefits and suffers—becomes part of the referent that determines their harmful
being. In this way, humans are no longer the only actors, and scientific knowledge
production can no longer hide it’s relation to utility.

Harmful microbes thus may provide an opportunity to reconfigure our time – that is, now
- and ask anew to whom the ecological transformations of the oceans matter. Her point
is not a specific answer, but the very possibility to pose the question that has been
effaced by assumptions about the unalterable movement of the global economy of ‘our’
time. An assessment of harmfulness in terms of cost-benefit calculations can no longer
follow automatically as an expression of ‘our’ time.

Maria Puig de la Bellacasa (Leicester University, UK)
Encountering the Infrastructure of Bios: Ecological Struggles and the Science of
Soil
Puig de la Bellacasa proposed a new path into the discussion of infrastructure by
proposing soil as a metaphor for it. As soil is often neglected and mistreated, yet overtly
present, it also opens questions that are consonant with Star’s attention to the silenced.
Puig de la Bellacasa encouraged a shift in our modes of attention to the soil, with
glimpses of transformative relationships between the sciences, ecological struggles at
the level of everyday practices. Such a shift would enable us to confront the destruction
of this mistreated living ecosystem and contribute to the renewal of humans'
relationships with their fellow Earthlings. This is contrary to the imaginary common to
soil science of soil as a layer of earth rather than a living ecosystem. She discussed
how soil is both a repository of the earth’s material memories, and cultural site for horror
about the decay of life. It is where most residues end up: all the unclassifiable in the
everyday ‘sorting out’ of things; ‘non recyclable’ materials that gather in categories such
as ‘organic waste.’ But from the perspective of ecological living, waste that cannot
decay has become a highly ethically charged category of matter: if it cannot become
soil, we have a problem.

Soil is an infrastructure in the senses articluted by Star and Rudheler (Star and
Rudheler 1999). It is relational as a background for other kinds of work, and it is
embedded because it is successful if nobody notices it. Yet in ecological and political
moments, soil is not always silent and we are required to ask, ‘For whom are we trying
to save the soil.?’ As the infrastructure of Bios, soil is supported by many invisible
workers, and we are required to consider who gives voice to those workers.

Puig de la Bellacasa discussed some of her experiences with Earthactivist collectives
that work on permaculture projects. What these movements have in common is that all
are calling for planetary awareness starting from the local level in a way that also
reveals another characteristic of infrastructure: its particular ‘reach or scope’ always
‘goes beyond a single event or one-site practice’ (Star, 381). Infrastructure manifests its
existence locally, through our material everyday relationships with it. Here she is
interested in how ecological movements are calling upon the knowledge of scientists of
soil for this task. She also insisted that we keep in mind the spiritual aspect of soil, and
recognize workers who maintain it. Soil radically puts the spiritual/material into question.
Soil is not seen as dust to receive humans after death, nor is it a soulless inert matter
shaped by god and infused with spirit to create a soulful form (humans). Soil is in itself
part of a living organic web of being of which many creatures, including humans, are
part. Putting the spiritual and scientific together, in the tradition of Star’s work, we can
avoid separating the material practices and what trascends them. In so doing, we can
create an infranatural dimension: something that exceeds us individually and
collectively, but from within.

Katie King (University of Maryland): Growing Boundary Objects: Among
Transcontextual Feminisms
The sudden, unexpected death of Susan Leigh Star has made us all conscious of her
vibrant contributions to feminist methods across many knowledge worlds. In this talk,
King emulated and reflected upon Star’s ability to “grow boundary objects” by refusing,
as she puts it, “to strip away the ambiguity of the objects of learning and impose or
ignore membership categories.” (Bowker and Star 1999: 305). With this practice in
mind, she considered how feminists' "tacking back-and-forth" in the layered
restructurings of pivotal boundary objects register affects of affiliation and
disidentification as kinds of boundary labor (Star 2010: 613). The “rigor” of
transcontextual feminist methods comes into play when we welcome that “People often
cannot see what they take for granted until they encounter someone who does not take
it for granted” (Bowker and Star 1999: 291), and work for an exquisite sensitivity to each
horizon of possible resources and infrastructures, local exigencies, and differential
memberships. Transcontextual feminisms, as King has come to understand them,
inspired by Star’s investigations among cognitive infrastructures, have to scope and
scale among Ecologies of Knowledge (the title of Star’s 1995 edited collection). They
work to remain curious about the passionate affiliations that intensive knowledge work
require and produce.

A full version of King’s talk is available at: http://growbobjects.blogspot.com/

Panel: Experiments in Collaboration: The Science & Justice Training Program
Chair: Andrew Matthews (UCSC)
The UCSC Science & Justice Training Program is an NSF-sponsored affiliate of the
Science & Justice Working Group that trains graduate students in interdisciplinary,
collaborative research projects at the intersection of science and society. Echoing Leigh
Star’s efforts to continually mentor younger scholars and recognize their contributions,
members of the Training Program were invited to present their research projects at the
conference.

Jennie Liss Ohayon (UCSC)
Restoring Justice? Public Participation in the Environmental Restoration of
Military Superfund Sites
While no longer commissioned for battle, former military lands around the United States
have become sites of struggles over environmental remediation. Since 1988,
approximately one hundred major military installations have been closed under the
direction of the federal government. In most cases, a legacy of toxic contamination is
left behind, with many of these installations being listed among the nation’s worst
hazardous waste sites. This has serious implications for public and ecological health.
As a result of the adoption of several statutes and regulations, incorporating meaningful
public participation into decisions on environmental remediation has become a key goal
for several government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
and Department of Defense. This has been implemented in the form of citizen advisory
committees, public hearings and workshops, and funding for communities to hire
independent experts for scientific consultation. The implementation of these programs,
however, has had mixed results ranging from long-functioning citizen advisory
committees to the disbanding of committees and strained relationships. Ohayon’s
research analyzes citizen participation in decision-making processes on cleanup and
reuse in three decommissioned military bases in California. All three of the case studies
were approved for closure in 1991 and are listed under the National Priority List (NPL),
which includes the most polluted sites in the U.S. Despite similarities in region and
policy backdrop, there are differences across sites in how communities have accessed,
engaged, produced and interpreted scientific information, and the influence that these
processes have had on restoration and reuse opportunities. Her research analyzes
these efforts to democratize scientific knowledge production in environmental
remediation, pay attention in particular to the following three themes:

Participatory Structure: What is community participation meant to accomplish according
to different stakeholders? What methods are used to involve participants? Who
participates?

Knowledge Production: How is scientific information transferred among participants in
these programs and what information is deemed credible? How is uncertain and
contested scientific knowledge addressed?

Outcomes: Does public participation in decision making change remedial activities and
restoration outcomes?

The broader impacts of the proposed area of inquiry lie in its contribution to research on
how to improve public participation processes in decision-making that relates to the
protection of human health and the environment. Furthermore, Ohayon assess how
participation processes have been carried out across different sociopolitical contexts.
This includes marginalized communities that have suffered disproportionately from local
environmental risks and hazards, with the EPA underscoring that “equal access to the
decision-making process” is a matter of environmental justice.

Martha Kenney (UCSC) and Ruth Müller (University of Vienna)
“Relating Within Research Apparatuses”
Ruth Müller dissertation research focuses on the lives and careers of postdoctoral
fellows in the life sciences in Austria. In this paper, Müller explored how current career
rationales in the academic life sciences, which emphasize mobility, short-term
employment and competition influence how young scientists engage with the concrete
local collective contexts of their work, such as research teams. Building on interviews
conducted in the framework of a larger research project called “Living Changes in the
Life Sciences,” she argued that we are currently witnessing a trend towards an
institutionalization of highly fragile and exploitative social relations in such academic
settings, which encourage a “devil-may-care” mentality towards colleagues, groups and
institutions. Young scientists increasingly feel that individualism and tieless-ness are
necessary for making an academic career in the life sciences, which has substantial
consequences for both their personal and epistemic choices. Müller asked how we
might begin to make micro-shifts towards a system that would be more livable for
scientists, while at the same time cultivating a kind of research contributes to building a
more livable world.

Martha Kenney considered how the “reflexive peer-to-peer interviews” conducted by
Müller and her colleagues are already participating in creating spaces that allow for
micro-shifts in the system. Instead of understanding these interviews as simply an
information-gathering exercise, she argues that we might also think of this innovative
interview technique as a kind of STS apparatus that has the potential to materialize
different ways of living in the academy, for both the life scientists (interviewees) and
STS scholars (interviewers). By characterizing interviews as a dynamic interpersonal
practices, Kenney shows how they can be an important sites where the concerns of
struggling scientists are brought into relation with the commitments of STS scholars.
Bringing out the relational quality of Müller’s interviews allows us to open broader
questions about how STS scholars can contribute to changing the conditions of
scientific knowledge production, not only through policy recommendations but through a
careful attention to our own mundane but consequential research practices.

Alexis Mourenza (UCSC)
Potentialities and the Indeterminacy of Nonhuman Animal Minds
Potentialities can only be identified when the appropriate conditions that elicit them have
been provided, when they are expressed in functioning form. That is, potentials cannot
be observed, only expressions of those potentials can. Refocusing attention on the
potentialities rather than the competencies of nonhuman animal minds changes the
debate, and the implications for responsibility in scientific practice. Recognizing the
plasticity of minds and role of interactions between experimenter and subject in the
emergence of complex cognition raises problems for assumptions about the necessity
of ecological validity in Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC) research as well as for
claims of the uniqueness of human cognition by calling into question not only the status
but also the content of such claims of ‘human uniqueness.’ By examining the process
by which an experimental program seeks to demonstrate the possession or absence of
a given cognitive capacity by an animal subject Mourenza seeks to show that cognitive
competencies demonstrated experimentally are the product of the interaction of the
organism’s physiological potentials with the training and testing procedures they
undergo in the lab.

Experimental work coming out of the pinniped lab at the Long Marine Laboratory at the
University of California, Santa Cruz offers an informing example of indeterminacy in
nonhuman animal cognition. The sea lion subject Rio is the first nonhuman animal to
demonstrate the formation of equivalence relations between perceptually disparate
stimuli. In other words, she understands some basic rules of deductive logic. The UCSC
researchers attribute her success to the nature of the training and testing procedure
they utilized, which provided Rio with experience with a sufficient number of exemplars
to grasp the interrelated concepts of reflexivity, symmetry, and transitivity. After being
taught that a number of samples and comparisons are interchangeable, Rio rapidly
learned to respond to novel equivalence relations the first time she encountered them.
The particular sequence of tests conducted were designed to maximize Rio’s correct
performance on test trials by ensuring that she had demonstrated all of the prerequisites
for a given test before that test was given. This provides a concrete case in which even
the experimenters themselves acknowledge that they are not investigating an observer-independent
object but phenomena that come into being only within the interaction of
researcher and experimental subject. The interface of the experimental procedure and
the subject’s mind provides the evidence of her formation of equivalence relations and
is exactly where (in time and space) that the object (phenomena) itself emerges.

Mourenza advocated a shift of focus from the sole emphasis on epistemological
uncertainties (questions of species-typical traits and our failure to elicit them in a
laboratory setting) of nonhuman animal cognition to include an exploration of the
ontological indeterminacy (potentialities and plasticity) of what their minds can do and
the joint role played by both the human experimenters and the animal subjects in the
experimental processes of demonstrating complex cognition in nonhuman animals.

Panel: Values in Infrastructure and Design
Chair: Ellen Balka (Simon Frasier University)
Although questions of values in infrastructure were preeminent throughout Star’s career,
her later work was marked by a move toward an interrogation of design practices in a
similar light. In particular, she became more interested in how design processes that
attended to values could contribute to a reworking the values of society at large, and
open new degrees of freedom for those whose lives were negatively impacted within
technoscientific systems. The following discussion considered the need for design labs
that can figure out the value levers and can pose questions about what we aren’t seeing
in technoscientific systems. Because of the direction of consumer-oriented design that
emphasizes individual uniqueness, it has become challenging to build objects and
systems that elicit visions of a common good.

Cory Knobel (University of Pittsburgh): Unpacking Justice {by | through} Design
Knobel discussed where Star’s work was headed when she died. She had come to the
realization that a focus on silence and suffering wrought from residual categories can
come from an ultimately authoritarian perspective. She instead wanted to explore how
entire worlds of robust processes, routines, encounters, and systems could exist inside
the residual categories. Within residual categories are infrastructures as robust and
functional as those in the legitimated categories. These systems – designed, enacted,
and lived by the silent, the suffering, the citizens of the residual – serve (at least) two
purposes. First, as all infrastructures do, they accommodate the conduct of everyday
activities and work. Additionally, they often serve to perpetuate the categorical
boundaries that establish the residual, the other, the uncategorizable. Infrastructures
make specific systems that underlie the conduct of our lives invisible. These
“infrastructures of neglect” render the residual category itself impenetrable, and quite
often invisible beyond its hardened shell. Once inside, though, the categories become
lived lives; the ways of knowing become ways of being in the world. Knobel argued it
was necessary to understand Star’s work on infrastructures in light of her pragmatist
and phenomenological commitments. She always interpreted the world through the
confluence of intellect, body, sexuality, spirituality, politics, and loves – and gently, yet
fiercely, pushed back against the Transcendental Walls of Shame that would delegitimate
explicating the world from a place of Being and Becoming.

Knobel discussed the emerging themes from Star’s work of listening forth, falling forth,
and designing forth. Listening forth is what we do for each other: developing modes of
attention that are a form of care. Falling forth is what we do with each other: a way to
find meaning and joy in the physicality and viscerality of our relationships with each
other, with objects, with knowledges and knowings, and with discovering that there is
silence and suffering in the world. Designing forth is what we are enabled to do because
of each other: making the world more livable by flipping infrastructural values through
design practices. Knobel referenced the phrase “I shall not remain insignificant” from
Ann Frank’s diary as an inspiration to Star as she thought about designing forth. She
had also been inspired by Freek Vermeulen’s statement in the Journal of the Academy
of Management that we cannot, should not design and manage systems without the
active engagement of the populations who engage and live with them.

Katie Shilton (UCLA)
Building Values Into the Design of Pervasive Mobile Technologies
Shilton discussed methods for promoting social values as design criteria within
technology engineering labs. It focused on how social values get designed into
technologies, and ways that ethicists and social scientists can encourage social justice
values as part of design. The paper presented results from an ethnographic study of a
lab that builds data collection software for mobile phones to track participants' locations,
habits, and behaviors. This technical work raised a number of social justice challenges,
particularly around privacy, consent, equity, and forgetting. The study suggested that
there are activities within design that can encourage engineers to agree on social
values as design criteria. It describes these design activities as values levers: practices
that open new conversations about social values, and encourage consensus around
those values as design criteria. Laboratory leaders and outside values advocates can
enable and strengthen these levers to make social justice values an explicit part of
design practice.

Fred Turner (Stanford University)
Image and Infrastructure: Multi-screen Propaganda in World War II
In the early 1940s, many Americans believed that the fate of the Western world hinged
on questions of communication and aesthetics. Turner’s presentation trace the rise of
that belief and argued for a new historical analysis of the politics of attention and of the
media infrastructures that emerged to shape it. The talk returned first to the 1930s,
where it outlined the ubiquitous fear that mass media might create the sort of “mass
men” then coming to power in Nazi Germany. Such fears depended on a Freudian
model of the self and a sender-message-receiver model of communication. The
presentation then showed how Bauhaus refugees working in New York and Chicago
drew on Gestalt psychology to develop an immersive, multi-screen aesthetic that they
hoped would help create “democratic personalities.” The talk concluded by arguing that
this turn represented a tap root of contemporary multimedia aesthetics and a powerful
lens with which to explore the politics of attention and of media infrastructures today.

Collective Reflection at end of conference
Several themes emerged during the collective reflections at the conference’s close.

Where are opportunities for justice located?

Jenny Reardon noted that it is extraordinarily important to think about how we move
values out of the individual, and to value the public. This issue has many levels of
resonance, especially in a public schools at this time. How do we create the
infrastructures that relate us to the collective? Katie King noted an interest in agency not
located at the same level of the unit of control, the private individual. She is nterested in
sensations of agency that are not about being determined, but are also infrastructural
and relational. To work on justice and values at a level other than the individual requires
notions of agency that are more processual, and thus we should always looking for
examples where the units of agency are different from the unit of control or unit of
individual consciousness. Often, the politics of justice that have moved our technologies
have been about reshaping individual agency rather than building more expansive
notions of agency. Sometimes we don’t know how to value new technologies in this
manner, but sometimes we want to be part of things we don’t yet understand.

How do we inherit Star’s work?

Donna Haraway stated that the conference was like experiencing the ritual space in
which a friend is becoming an ancestor. Star’s work and life are transformed through her
ongoing agency. The deeply personal and profoundly collective rituals that have
followed after her death produce Star as our ancestor in a way that has to do with living
forth. Her ideas of cui bono, standardization and torque can become the collectivizing of
people through a shared ancestor. Reardon echoed this experience, stating that it felt
as if Star was becoming even more a member of our community as a figure that we
return to and thus newly know.

Metaphors for thinking about science and justice

Geoffrey Bowker noted an appreciation for the wealth of metaphors at play throughout
the conference, and the resultant expansion of a conceptual toolkit that helps you think
the world differently. He found Puig de la Bellacasa’s use of soil a striking example,
particularly in light of how much of our metaphoric space is dedicated to space and
water. Whitney Boesel reflected on the power of thinking about the spaces in between
for understanding science and justice, particularly in contrast with the networkedness.
Sha Labare noted metaphors of ecology is showing up in a number of places. He noted
that its easy when thinking of environment to focus on networks, but such a focus
misses some beautiful things to be said about the thickness of life.

The state of the academy, and the possibility of hope for the future

Reardon reflected on how the conference moved between the beautiful and the
concrete issues in how we make up our world. The ability to do so is something unique
about the space created by the Science & Justice Working Group, and is especially the
contributions of the humanities of the arts. Warren Sack noted that there is a lot of
gathering of people in humanities worlds that don’t explicitly think about making, but a
lot of the conversation at this conference had been about analyzing and designing.

Donna Haraway argued we need to foreground the current wave of academic
restructuring. She had been thinking about the vulnerability of people in the room who
are barely holding on in early academic careers, but were nonetheless committing
ongoing scholarship. She challenged members of the community to articulate what
would count as responsibility toward the people who are disappearing at a remarkable
level of intensity. Its present as a community sensation. Reardon related this challenge
to the shrinking of the public, and what can be funded by the public. How to make what
is going on legible and articulable to resources to make this stuff come alive. I for one
will be spending time thinking about it, and want help in engaging in the practical
project.

Bowker recalled conversations with Star in which they wondered “when is a disaster?”
Society seems to know how to deal with acute disasters, but we do not know at what
point you say something like “Southern California cannot continue?” For instance, how
might we use the number of asthma cases as a measure of disaster and livability?
Similarly, we have a lot of vulnerability in the academy, and the university has become a
disaster. We need way so thinking about disaster without counting causalities. Reardon
stated that the celebratory moment of technoscience attends to a very small range of
things, and we need to understand it in a broader sense so we can make sense of such
slow disasters.

Fred Turner suggested that he wanted to be hopeful because he was raised in an
intellectual tradition in the academy to resist and change and intervene. Given that, he
wanted to pause to remember that Star was a tremendous teacher; she would just sit
down and be with you a certain way and was very powerful. We have been teaching
each other, demonstrating the value of doing this in a public space. As academics, we
can’t save the whole world, but we can teach hundred in our classes. Ben Roome
seconded the message of hope, and connected to Katie King’s discussion of occupying
multiple reality tracks and occupying multiple futures. If we can occupy those tracks, we
can produce one that is livable.

Jenny Reardon closed with a reflection on the sense of renewal with Star and a belief in
the space created by the Science & Justice Working Group. Despite the disasters and
cuts, this space continues to let us think we can pull off things we never imagined; Star
pulls us into that feeling.

Sponsorship
The following organizations co-sponsored this event:
The UCSC Science & Justice Working Group, Science & Justice Training Program, The
National Science Foundation, the UCSC Center for Biomolecular Science &
Engineering, the UCSC Division of Graduate Studies, Department of Sociology,
Department of Anthropology, Department of Environmental Studies, History of
Consciousness Department, College 8, and the Digital Arts and New Media
Department.

Climate Cluster III: Climate Science Communication and Skepticism

Why is climate change a hot button issue? Through an interdisciplinary conversation, this panel will explore the heated dynamics of climate politics. We will discuss many dimensions of climate science and politics and their relation to one another, e.g.: ideological polarization, climate ontology and epistemology, climate communication and scientific literacy.

Panelists:

Ronnie Lipschutz, Professor of Politics, UCSC

Chaone Mallory, Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Villanova University

Mark Snyder, Ph.D., Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC, Assistant Project Earth Scientist and Lecturer

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | 4:30-6:30 PM | Engineering 2, Room 599

 

Climate Cluster III: Climate Science Communication and Skepticism
SJWG Rapporteur Report
25 May 2011
Moderator: Licia Peck
Panelists:
Ronnie Lipschutz, Professor, Politics, UCSC
Chaone Mallory, Assistant Prof, Philosophy, Villanova University
Mark Snyder, Lecturer, Earth & Planetary Sciences, UCSC

Q1: What do you know and how do you know it?

Mark: Studies climate systems using climate models. Fundamental question is how do greenhouse gasses enter atmosphere and how do we know it? We can use paleontological historical records to infer what past climates were like. We can also use isotopic tracking to determine a range of past carbon dioxide levels. How do we look to the future? We look to climate models. There are uncertainties associated with such models because we do not understand these processes completely, for example representation of clouds. We deal with these uncertainties through parameterizations, using expert judgment. Though there is uncertainty, we do know that temperature is indeed increasing. Question then becomes narrowing uncertainty.

Chaone: As an interdisciplinary-trained environmental philosopher, the kind of data we draw on and how we do it is different than natural and social scientists by thinking about the relation of bodies in place, i.e. the phenomenological experience in addition to empirical observations. Part of what counts also include what counts as knowledge, stories and narratives. In her work, she interrogates the knowledge and power, and who is included. Specifically, she explores TEK, traditional ecological knowledge, in native American cultures.

Ronnie: He is originally a trained in physics and energy but now his research has more to do with ontology. What are the assumptions that people bring to the table when they hear and process knowledge? How do we understand this process that we call science and what it generates. What do people bring to the table as foundational beliefs?

Q2: Why is the consensus of most scientists accepted in some arenas and discounted in others?

Ronnie: Politicizing is not a bad thing as it points to the fact that shape of politics is strange and gets back to foundational beliefs. Do you believe in God or something transcendental? Science becomes somewhat transcendentalist in that if you don’t subscribe and act, you die! Rather than life or death it is really a matter of deep seeded belief and meaning. For some reason climate change has become one of the ideological splits broadly, similar to how communism/capitalism were a split in past, perhaps much more than it deserves. What kind of role is it becoming?

Mark: To take Ronnie’s analogy of science as a religion, skeptics play the role of the heretic, by attacking small points that the average person doesn’t know. Skeptics might come from science background but not climate science and don’t usually conduct research but rather scrutinize science that is published.

Chaone: What material interests or psychological investments are threatened by accepting that climate change is real and we know it is happening? Agrees with Ronnie that if climate policy is political, that’s not a bad thing as it forces us to become explicit about the fate of the planet. If we acknowledge this, we can talk about the kinds of values we want to come down on.

Ronnie follow up: Using the term “interests” is problematic, because there are two sides. Secondly, he thinks more is stake than interests as we are talking about the long term benefits to people if we address this problem now. The problem lies at the level of meanings. Not just a question if it’s good for me or not but draws on the question of why am I here?

Chaone: Clarifies her thoughts on “interests.” Deeply invested in anthroprocentrism. Ronnie feels a worldview of anthropocentrism is very valid since we are the only species that can cause such destruction.

Mark: Belief in God or religion allows people to not be concerned about this. Are skeptics and deniers preventing some research from being conducted? Very difficult to justify validity of research in light of this.

Q3: How do you think your work might influence politics?

Mark: From a funding perspective, what we research is somewhat politically driven (i.e. NSF). Something that will be useful with politicians requires some dialogue. Long term projections of 30, 40 and 50 years are not aligned with politicians term cycles so thus they kick the can down the road. California has initiated this kind of
long-term thinking.

Chaone: Recognizing the politics in our knowledge process is important. References Val Plumwood, ecofeminist, perspective on care and respect of research in politics. Suggests that the role of non-natural sciences in influencing politics is less clear. What can philosophers contribute to this debate? Part of this is taking voices seriously, especially those outside of the traditionally authoritative powers.

Ronnie: “Why are academics so eager to give advice to politics when there is no indication that politicians listen?” Has to do with politics of research enterprise and retail politics (i.e. what goes on in DC). The kind of research that has impact is likely research that fits one or another proclivity out there and is used for political ends. With respect to philosophers, if he gets into debate with economist, he cannot debate solidly. However, if he debates an economist about ethics, he will have a leg up over the economist. This is where the argument needs to take place and there is a role for it. Simply, he does not think his work has an influence on politics. If we lived for 1000 years, we would have a very different perspective on this topic. There is a disconnect between time frames and valuation. Especially since people say, “the future never does anything for me.”

Q4: How does time come into play in your thoughts on climate change and science?

Chaone: Do we need to accept the fact that the future is always discounted? Is that the essence of being an economist or politician? Do we have a moral obligation to future generations? What are the properties and characteristics of a right holder? Presenting other scenarios than “politicians are never going to get on board.” Can we train the next set of politicians to consider this?

Ronnie: Very pessimistic. Politics as we understand it in democratic societies are driven purely by the next election. Public policy has a longer view but as a rule is rooted in economic terms and is constrained by the election cycle. An example: the best thing the president could do would be a $6/gallon tax on gasoline. He assures us that no one that did that would stand a chance of winning the next election. He has trouble seeing the way out of this. Time does play an important role. Our material interests play a big role also. We violate our biocentric beliefs hundreds of times every day. Must be deeply embedded in the norms of everyday life such that we don’t do those bad acts anymore.

Mark: He thinks of timescales of models and conditions in the future. Based on how economics, politics, technology transfer effect the world and thus the future world. Interesting that these more social science fields will influence the material and natural world.

Q5: In what ways does it matter if the public trusts the institution of climate science?

Mark: Believe in the public ranges from deniers to believers. In looking at those in between, those that are open to convincing, the trust is very important. For example, IPCC climate gate was a very specific way to create distrust in science. Clever and targeted way to do so. His climate change media training says that we should project a positive image going forward and that there are things we can do to improve the situation. Frame climate science to address the issues important to the target audience, i.e. jobs. Then you enter the role of advocate. Do we want to cross into that world and should we cross into that world?

Chaone: Who is the public? What are the spaces of the public sphere? The norms of social behavior are part of that space. We need multiple angles in approach.

Ronnie: Says Steve Schneider was trying to straddle the science/public advocate roles and it was a challenge. Once you cross the boundary into public advocacy you face rules. Communicating the bad stuff seems to work i.e. opportunity does not gain as much traction as fear. It’s about framing and telling persuasive stories people will accept, which sounds a lot like social engineering and propaganda. He points out that we are subjected to this everyday through advertisements, etc.

Q6: Can you make a recommendation as to how your discipline can help?

Mark: Physical science needs to focus on communication

Ronnie: He’d like his field to stop studying climate change and start focusing on environmental justice.

Chaone: Wants more study in philosophy and wants it taken seriously. Wants voices to be heard.

The panel was followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

The Science and Politics of Psychedelic Research

Rap Report > The Politics and Science of Psychedelic Research: A Conversation with MAPS

 

Hosted by Ben Roome (Philosophy)

The development of new pharmacological therapies for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental disorders requires an intricate lattice of practices. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has pursued the application of various compounds for therapeutic use for over 20 years. The group’s recent success in carrying out clinical drug trials for the use of MDMA in the treatment of PTSD is the result of careful scientific and political collaboration. In order for these and other trials to be approved by the FDA a complex set of engagements has been developed through painstaking research, careful argument and deep commitment. Bringing key members of MAPS into the space of the Science and Justice Working Group, we will consider unprecedented collaborations and the delicate consensus needed to bring this science more fully into mainstream medicine.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 | 4:15-6:15 PM | Engineering 2, Room 599

The Science and Politics of Psychedelic Research
SJWG Rapporteur Report
2 March 2011
MAPS engages with the Science and Justice Working Group
Four key members of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies joined
the space of the Science and Justice working group to focus on the practices involved
with bringing the psychedelic compound MDMA (more commonly known as ‘ecstasy’) to
phase III drug trials for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The meeting opened with a brief history of the MAPS mission in relation to MDMA
related by by Josh Sonstroem (MAPS Director of Finance and IT). A tremendous
controversy around MDMA emerged in the mid eighties. As therapists explored
potential applications for the compound in therapeutic use, MDMA was also discovered
by the party community, causing a political backlash that would ultimately lead to the
drug becoming a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it would be classified as
having no medical use and a high potential for abuse. MAPS founder and director Rick
Doblin thus began a 20 year battle to reassert the medical uses of MDMA. His efforts to
bring therapists who had used the drug with therapeutic success were waylaid by
studies funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) claiming that MDMA
caused brain damage after only one use. Although these studies were later shown to
be scientifically inaccurate in several ways, a tremendous amount of ground would have
to be regained in order to reclassify the drug as medically valuable.

Valerie Mojeiko (MAPS Deputy Director and Leader of the Psychedelic Harm-Reduction
Program) thus picked up the thread at this point to explain MAPS early positioning as a
non-profit focused on public education. Beyond publishing and disseminating
information about psychedelic research, MAPS began the Psychedelic Harm-Reduction
Program with the Black Rock City Rangers, a volunteer group at the Burning Man
Festival that focuses on mediating difficult situations, including uncomfortable
psychedelic experiences. It was in this context that MAPS was first able to develop a
form of psychedelic therapeutic practices.

Brad Burge (MAPS Communication and Education Associate) brought the discussion
further along in history by explaining how the early Ricardi study, the one that claimed to
show that MDMA has only-adverse effects, was ultimately overturned by later research.
Burge also helped to explain how early NIDA-funded studies actually contained a
tremendous amount of data that would be used to support MAPS’s argument that
MDMA was safe for human use. While the presentational tone of these studies focused
on the dangers of MDMA, the actual data they contained showed that MDMA did not
carry any lasting adverse effects. This elegant re-appropriation of scientific data
produced by anti-MDMA groups would typify the MAPS strategy in future engagements.

Berra Yazar-Klosinksi (MAPS Clinical Research Associate followed up by providing an
in-depth explanation of clinical practices employed in MAPS funded studies being
carried out in North Carolina, Switzerland, Israel and Jordan. The crux of this
explanation was to demonstrate that the measurement techniques employed by the
FDA to test other compounds for the treatment of PTSD are tremendously well suited to
MDMA therapy. In particular, the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) very
successfully demonstrates the value of three MDMA assisted therapy sessions for the
treatment of PTSD. It is primarily these successes that have led MAPS to recently
rebrand itself as a non-profit drug development organization. Berra also discussed the
difficulties of applying the CAPS in the various languages and social milieus in which
MDMA trials are being carried out. A tremendous amount of work still needs to be done
to bring MDMA into mainstream medicine. Every year MAPS becomes more successful
at addressing what needs to be accomplished and finding creative new ways to achieve
their goals.

Members of the Science and Justice Workgroup then contributed comments,
suggestions and critiques that might help MAPS members explore new possibilities for
successful scientific practices. Jake Metcalf opened with questions about MAPS
branding practices associated with their prospectus. In particular, Metcalf discussed the
imagery used in the prospectus; the prospectus shows a variety of stock photos of
‘mainstream’ people such as soldiers and housewives and assiduously avoids
counterculture tropes. The ensuing discussion about MAPS’ branding practices
considered the challenges of simultaneously appealing to funders, adopting a pose of
objective scientific research practices, and maintaining some connection to MAPS’
countercultural roots. Jenny Reardon followed this thread with a series of questions
focused on considering how MAPS might challenge the scientific practices employed by
the FDA while still moving towards their goal of mainstream medical acceptance. She
suggested that while MAPS may be trying to take the drugs out of the counterculture
and take the counterculture out of the drugs, there may be useful epistemic insights in
countercultural science. She noted that particularly in Northern California there is a long
history of important technoscience endeavors initiated by members of the
counterculture as a countercultural effort. Martha Kenney focused on concerns
surrounding the translations issues of the CAPS, and suggested a moved towards
critically considering these issues as part of the measurement practices, rather than as
a mere veil to objective understanding. This sparked discussion from the MAPS guests
about the various challenges of testing for PTSD in different cultures—if the tests are
translated from English on the fly by the tester then there is no consistency in the test.
But even translating in advance poses a challenge because PTSD is articulated through
a culture’s psycho-social constructs. Natalie Purcell also posed a valuable question
about how MDMA treatment might be producing a certain conception of the
phenomenon of PTSD across cultures that deserves critical attention. Karen Barad
posed a question about the expression of side-effects to MDMA therapy, and how they
might be addressed through good scientific practices.

MAPS representatives took these considerations in the spirit of collaboration and
expressed their excitement at exploring them further, both within MAPS itself, and as
part of future meetings of the Science and Justice Working Group.

Climate Cluster II Panel Discussion: Climate Change Scientists in the Trenches

Climate change science is attracting an exceptional amount of public interest, yet debates over the merit and implications of climate change research seldom unpack the complex set of practices and networks that make up this field. This panel will explore the multiple realities of conducting climate change science at a time of heightened skepticism and media attention. Panelists:

Jason Box, Associate Professor of Geography Atmospheric Sciences & Program Researcher at Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University

Jeffrey Bury, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, UCSC

Ken Mankoff, Ph.D. Student, Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC

Lisa Sloan, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences & Director of the Climate Change and Impacts Laboratory, UCSC

Click here or more information on the Climate Cluster.

 

Thursday, February 24, 2011 | 12:00 p.m. | E2 Room 599

Climate Cluster II: Climate Researchers in the Trenches
SJWG Rapporteur Report
24 February 2011
Panelists:
Lisa Sloan - Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences & Director of the Climate Change and Impacts Laboratory, UCSC
Jason Box - Associate Professor of Geography Atmospheric Sciences & Program Researcher at Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University
Jeff Bury - Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, UCSC
Ken Mankoff - Ph.D. Student, Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC
Moderator: Costanza Rampini

Rampini began by showing a cover of Rolling Stone, noting that the fact that climate change has made it to the same cover as Lil Dwayne shows how popular this topic has become. Rampini continued that most discussions of climate change don’t take the time to unpack for us for it means to conduct climate change science. The four panelists were introduced as scholars who could help the audience understand what it means to be a climate change scientist.

Rampini then asked the panelists to introduce themselves, briefly explain their work, and say whether they identify as a climate change scientist. (panelists' answers are paraphrased below)

Sloan: Emphatically, yes, I a am a climate scientist and I work on paleo climate. People on an airplance want to change their seat if you tell them you are a climate scientist. Knowing about the past can help you understand the envelope
of behavior the future might bring.

Box: I am a physical climatologist and geographer. I work in Greenland and technically yes I am a climate change scientist because I study climate and the climate is always changing. I want to make the physical science matter and so always want to bring it back to the human impacts. Otherwise the science is just for the science.

Bury: I identify as a social scientist, not a climate change scientist, but 3:1 is a good ratio for this conversation. I work on the Andes.

Mankoff: I am a climate change scientist to be. I am a computer scientist by training and I study how oceans warm Antarctica, and used to be a climate modeler before returning to school. I also volunteered for Al Gore’s group and gave custom live versions of An Inconvenient Truth, and the motivation was to get people to do behavioral change.

Rampini’s next question was about collaboration. She prefaced that, because climate change science generally involves transboundary collaboration whether over disciplinary boundaries or national boundaries. Collaboration can be very
fruitful and very challenging, and asked the panelists to share their experience with transboundary collaboration, especially and instances that were particularly successful or difficult.

Sloan: Not sure what you mean by disciplinary boundaries. Interdisciplinarity on this campus is pretty good and this campus is a good incubator for crossdisciplinary work. Last night I gave a talk to a senior center and this town is
pretty good at breaking down boundaries too.

Box: I want my department to have more impact and give back to society and not just do science for the sake of science. I am between physical and social science boundaries and I have talked with a social scientist in my Geography department
who sees climate change as the biggest issue out there, which is encouraging.

Mankoff: I have been warned against doing interdisciplinary work, for example I am discouraged from doing field work, but I am doing interdisciplinary work anyway.

Bury: I come at this from an International Relations perspective, and also see where I am coming from as transdisciplinarity. I work a lot with Peruvian scientists and have seen the Balkanization of the snow and ice people, i.e. different research teams who sneak in and out of the field and don’t want to talk to each other.

Box: I can confirm that I’ve similarly seen epistemological differences with the scientists in Peru as well, whereas in Greenland things are much friendlier.

Rampini then asked about how uncertainty manifests in the panelists’ work and how they deal with it.

Bury: uncertainty is one of the primary things we try to deal with in our work. The challenge is how to devise the right methods that get the confidence of scientific colleagues when measuring what goes on in Peruvian communities. There is
deep uncertainty about what future costs will be.

Sloan: uncertainty comes with science. The classic problem is that when we hear about the climate change debate people speak in absolutes, but scientists can’t do that. That’s a tough one to me.

Mankoff: I try to explain that a scientist doesn’t have to say that gravity is just a theory, but that doesn’t mean we don't think it’s happening when I talk to nonscientists. The other way I deal with it is with an error bar that gets spit out of a
software program.

Box: Science is only a tool, a way of knowing, and a quantitative statement should always be accompanied by an uncertainty measurement. The IPCC does an excellent job by qualifying each of its statements about uncertainty with a word (e.g. unequivocal, likely, very likely, etc.). Weather forecasters shouldn’t way “it’s going to rain tomorrow,” they should say “there’s a 95% chance it’s going to rain tomorrow.”

Mankoff: I will go so far as to say that species going extinct is bad, and I think this is more compelling, though subjective, than saying “we have observed a 90% decline”

Box: without a value system we are unable to make decisions, and perhaps the wall between left and right is that they simply have different value structures. This is a problem we need to consider if we want to get beyond it.

Rampini then noted how the ‘climategate’ scandal has been compared to the OJ Simpson trial. In the case of OJ Simpson, the large amount of evidence helped lawyers in finding flaws in the police procedures. Rampini then suggested the possibility that more information (or in the case of climate change, data) doesn’t make uncertainty go away but that it can make it worse. Rampini asked if the panelists thought the debate over climate change had left the scientific lab and
entered the political arena. She also asked what kind of role, if any, do scientists still have in these political debates.

Box: Sea level rise will have wider error bars in the 5th IPCC assessment and that will cause confusion for the public.

Sloan: Not sure that outside skepticism makes the science better. What is going on with Inhoffe is ugly, what is going on with the political side of things makes me think the scientists aren’t playing a decent role in the political arena so I feel
pessimistic.

Bury: The scandals have taught me not to leave emails on the server. USAID’s whole program is now all about climate change and I brought them together with people from the World Bank. This story shows how the politicization of science in Washington has consequences for development.

Rampini then asked about audience, and whether the panelists had any experiences communicating their research to a general public or policy-makers.

Bury: I have been very impressed by how Box has communicated his findings about Greenland with lots of internet resources and being on a Greenpeace ship. What I’m working on is developing new formats for communicating findings to visually demonstrate glacier repression in the Andes. I won’t take USAID’s money but I do give them free advice. We have no skepticism in Peru, everyone there believes that climate change is taking place.

Mankoff: I have had people walk out of the room and say I am trying to poison them with CFL lightbulbs.

Box: Know your audience. I was sponsored by the UCC to talk with my congressperson about climate science. To speak with conservatives I couldn’t rely on the typical environmental message. Instead, it is wise to make appeals to patriotism, and ask them what we are leaving for our kids, speak in terms of stewardship and to speak of economic competitiveness, e.g. with solar manufacturers in China.
! !

Sloan: Make it local, that gives your audience a stake in what climate change might mean. E.g. say that Beach Hill in Santa Cruz may become Beach Island. The audience also asked a number of questions of the panelists. One participant asked whether the way the panelists conducted their work had changed in response to the skeptic movement, e.g. if there was more pressure for transparency.

Box: The more transparency the better.

Sloan: The NSF now wants a data management plan that includes how it will be archived so that anyone can access it, but this causing issues about how to pay for and manage the data management.

Bury: I also need a data management plan that will be public, which is difficult since I work with human subjects.

Other conversations that were prompted by comments from the audience included: the problem of translating knowledge into action (where even in environmental education one participant had noted substantial gaps between awareness and action); whether tackling the effects and causes of climate change were competing policy priorities; and whether scientists are invested in changing values and perhaps should think more about values. Mankoff commented that it is important to make both causes and effects policy priorities and that values do not come into the science, as that would not be science. Box noted that more than nine out of ten climate scientists come from a liberal perspective, and discussion on what should be done about climate change politically included references to “psychological warfare.” Bury noted that he studies the scientists and asks them to come to policy meetings with him, and that he also brings ethicists into the field with him. Discussion turned to the notion of objectivity as itself a value and the possibility of valuing objectivity.

Science & Justice Training Program Information Session

New date and place: Tuesday, 1/25/11, 12:00-1:30 PM, Humanities I room 320

The second cohort of our Science & Justice Training Program begins in Spring 2011! We are hosting an information session on January 25 in Humanities I 320, 12:00-1:30 PM. A pizza lunch will be provided. Graduate students from all campus departments are welcome in the Training Program and are encouraged to attend the information session.Continue Reading Science & Justice Training Program Information Session

Climate Cluster I: Thinking Through the Technical Fix

The scope of climate change science has expanded from projections of long-term weather trends to include proposals to technically “fix” the climate, such as geoengineering and carbon mitigation strategies.  Like climate modeling, proposals for technical remediation contain scientific uncertainties that translate awkwardly in the political sphere.  This situation compounds the difficulties in planning for future climate conditions.  The Climate Cluster’s fall panel discussion will explore several interrelated themes that arise in discussions of technical approaches to climate change including consensus, uncertainty, indeterminacy and model downscaling.  We will also focus on the possibilities of creating, integrating and communicating climate change research through mechanisms such as climate modeling and geographical information systems (GIS).

Panelists:
Andrew Mathews, Assistant Professor, Anthropology (Technopolitics & Environmental Institutions)
Michael Loik, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies (Plant & Ecosystem Responses to Climate Change)
Barry Nickel, Lecturer & Director of the Center for Intergrated Spatial Research, Environmental Studies (Spatial Ecology & Geospatial Tool Development)
Bruce Daniels, PhD Candidate, Earth & Planetary Science (Science of Climatology & Hydrology)

Moderated by Tiffany Wise-West, Ph.D. Student, Environmental Studies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | 4:15 p.m. | E2 Room 599

“Thinking Through the Technical Fix”
A Panel Discussion Presented by the Climate Cluster
SJWG Rapporteur Report
10 November 2010
Uncertainty
The panelists began by discussing ways to improve the predictive power of climate models and other tools that scientists use to predict the impacts of climate change in habitats and species. Some of the challenges that were identified by Barry Nickel, Michael Loik and Bruce Daniels for improving climate change predictions were 1) improving the resolution of climate models which at the moment fail to capture important local variability 2) capturing variables in dynamic systems. Andrew Matthews raised the concern that “more knowledge doesn’t necessarily make the uncertainty go away, sometimes it makes even worse.” With this comment, Prof. Matthews is referring to the political uncertainty that surrounds scientific issues such as climate change that have widespread implications for a variety of stakeholders.

The panelists proceeded by discussing some of the sources of uncertainty and how they affect their respective work.

Barry Nickel stressed the distinction between uncertainty in measurements and uncertainty in understanding. He referred to the chain of uncertainty that is created when GIS models incorporate and combine various global climate models (GMCs). He concluded by saying that “his world is filled with uncertainty.” He also stated that that uncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing as it can lead to new forms of knowledge.

Michael Loik explained how the biogeochemical models, which he uses in his work are driven in part by GCMS to which they incorporate biological functions to find out, for example, whether changes in precipitation would lead to increased vegetations in a specific area. In his work, one of the great challenges stems from matching the ‘simple’ results of the biogeochemical models with the complex matrix of biological and ecological found in-situ. Loik stated that him and his lab embrace uncertainty in their field design by often testing opposing hypotheses as they relate to climate change
predictions.

Bruce Daniels discussed how most models are parameterized (i.e. averaged) to reality. He also reframed the conversation by emphasizing the importance of trust over that of scientific certainty. He explained that trust has a lot to do with knowing what scientists are actually doing and developing relationships over time.

Andrew Matthews then asked about the credibility of trust and whether we can trust a scientists based on their academic accomplishments and affiliations. He concluded by saying that modeling is concerned with the technical side of imagining futures, but not concerned enough with how these futures are taken up by politics and social system.

Collaboration & Communication
Tiffany Wise-West asked the panelists to talk about the type of collaborations that they have been involved in and the publics with whom they communicate.

Bruce Daniels, Michael Loik and Barry Nickel all talked about collaborating with and communicating their findings to professors in various departments on the UCSC campus and other non-academic groups in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area.

Bruce Daniels talked about the importance of seeing the needs of our surrounding communities, even needs that they don’t know they will have yet.

Andrew Matthews talked about the importance of using ways to communicate findings that the public can use in the way they use information (e.g. a poster can be better than an article). Andrew Matthews expressed his opinion that social scientists are sometimes “poorly socialized” and don’t cooperate as much as natural scientists. He spoke of forced collaborations and the ethical questions they raise.

IPCC Scandals & Consensus
Tiffany Wise-West asked the panelists their opinions regarding the recent IPCC scandals dubbed ‘climategate.’

The panelists talked about how politics play an important role in the IPCC.

Michael Loik emphasized that sloppiness was at the root of the scandals and that the IPCC is the best climate change science that we have. He also said that framing and portrayal are ultimately key as the scientific process must go through political filter.

Andrew Matthews asked: What kind of institutions would be able to make better use of the facts hat we do have? He also argued that really good data has often come out of really sloppy processes and that nobody would have picked up on the IPCC sloppiness if they hadn’t been looking for ways to discredit the IPCC as a knowledge-making institution.

Bruce Daniels stressed the difficulty of reaching a consensus that threatens vested interest.

The panelists concluded by suggesting that the IPCC should perhaps include a media section in their assessment reports that would facilitate communicate their findings to the public.

Michael Loik also brought up some examples of successful science-policy collaborations such as the Montreal Protocol.

When panelists were asked how each of them reached consensus with their colleagues, they spoke of comparing various models as well as comparing models to past and present climate and conditions.

Michael Loik also spoke of using synthetic meetings for people to bring their data from their field studies and use meta-analysis to quantify common themes. Andrew Matthews that in his field consensus seems to be reached when others can relate to the story you are telling.

Shadow Politics
Tiffany Wise-West asked Andrew Matthews to explain his use of the term ‘shadow politics.’ Matthews explained that when you create a model, you also create, consciously or not, an imagined institutions/actor that can use that model.

Barry Nickel added to that by remarking that the unintentional creation of the politics around “what we do” actually has ramifications for “the work that gets done.”

Science and the Public
The conversation then shifted to talking about the importance of how climate change science is presented to the public and about the dangers of the public misusing scientific tools when these become too accessible to non-experts.

A person in the public brought up the idea of multiple publics and the importance of focusing on those publics that are most worth communicating to. He also talked about the difference between ethos, logos and pathos, and about how pathos is the real challenge to tackling the challenges of global climate change.

Bruce Daniels proposed the idea of creating a public forum to take climate change science on the road and to the general public. Another member of the public brought up the importance of literacy and science literacy in particular.

In conclusion, Karen Barad asked about the kinds of uncertainty that should we care about and about the ways in which we can deconstruct the word uncertainty to make it helpful to us.

Bruce Daniels compared the uncertainty around climate change to the uncertainty of investing in market stocks – an uncertainty which doesn’t freeze people.

Dawkins Rap

Apropos of Jenny’s earlier post about Sam Harris, I felt obligated to post the famous Richard Dawkins rap animation. I still love this years later.

What would a Neanderthal think of Disneyland?

I was trolling the Internet last week, looking for articles about Neanderthal cloning, and came across a rather bizarre claim about ethics and science. Why was I looking for material about Neanderthal cloning? Ed Green, who ran the bioinformatics portion of the Neanderthal Genome Project, was hired by UCSC last year and is visiting my bioethics class next week.Continue Reading What would a Neanderthal think of Disneyland?

Best-Selling “Science and Values”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Sam Harris
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

Last week, Sam Harris, the author of the best-selling book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, appeared on the Daily Show. Not even Jon Stewart could make this stuff funny. In this country, we desperately need less impoverished imaginaries about science and religion.Continue Reading Best-Selling “Science and Values”

Troy Duster: “Criminal Justice/Genomic Justice?”

The Science and Justice Working Group Presents

A Conversation With: Troy Duster, Professor of Sociology & Director of Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge, New York University and author of Backdoor to Eugenics (Routledge, 2003)

This month, the U.K. government proposed entering into DNA databases those youths deemed “at risk” for being criminals. How can and/or should “we” respond to such proposals? DNA databases have been celebrated for exonerating those unjustly charged with crimes, and for increasing the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, but at what cost? Are DNA databases creating new classes of persons (i.e., proto-criminals)? What are the justice issues raised by these forensic databases, and how do they relate to questions about prisons and justice? Such databases intersect with and alter issues of race, class and gender, issues that already strongly shape the criminal “justice system”; it is not yet clear what we need to know in order to address these topics in science, justice, and law.

Preceding this event, Prof. Duster will present a Sociology Dept. Colloquia: “DNA Fingerprinting and Civil Liberties: The CSI Effect and the Social and Political Implications of the Ever-Expanding DNA Databases" 3:00-4:30 p.m., Interdisciplinary Sciences Building 120

Sponsored by the Science and Justice Working Group and the Sociology Department

Troy Duster, “Criminal Justice/Genomic Justice?”
SJWG Rapporteur Report
23 April 2008
This event began with Reardon recapping Duster’s previous talk about the “CSI effect” and
DNA databanks. She mentioned that there was lots of attention on DNA data when she lived in
the UK last winter. The front page of the “Observer” recently had a headline, “ ‘Put Young
Children in DNA Database,’ Police Urge.” She asked, “How do we respond to this?” In the UK,
there is now biometric scanning/storing of biological information for migration and immigration
policies … In Troy’s earlier talk, he discussed the bias of the data base being 2/3 people of color,
so Jenny raises the question, “Can we put everyone in the database?”

Duster responded that it doesn’t change the operation of race. He noted that there would be a
false sense of universal justice. That is, having everybody is in the database assumes that since
we are all in, we are all equally subject to whatever it means to be in the database. Troy
discussed a case in the late 1980s that took place at University of Virginia. There were about a
dozen white fraternity boys, mostly from privileged backgrounds, who were raided by the police
for what turned out to be a cocaine raid. The community could not believe the police would
target college-attending white boys while real “criminals” are out on the street. Duster contends
that the apparatus of state will always turn primarily to vulnerable populations, which
consequently turn out to be predominantly black and Latino arrests. He stated that if there were
a universal database, such as in Portugal since 2004, there would continue to be arrests in
targeted areas. “Cold hits” are arrested on the streets and not on privileged college campuses.
The important thing to think about is what is the context and specifics of question. That is as
long as we have the apparatus of the state, it’s fool’s gold to have universal database.

Donna Haraway turned discussion toward the question of positive harm. She agreed that racial,
class distributions are fundamental issues, especially in regards to incarceration populations.
However, Donna questions whether the current database harms and whether the universal
database would do positive harm or will it be a money issue? Would it be a waste of distribution?
Haraway questions whether bias is structured in system and whether DNA bias is irrelevant to
system or is it doing harm? Duster responded that there are both exonerations and releasing of
innocent people—it’s always about individual cases.

Discussion turned towards privacy issues and whether it would be possible to protect 4th
Amendment rights through technical solutions. For instance, it may be possible to divide
individuals’ genetic sequences in order segment control of the sequences and allow for
exonerative use without disclosing the entirety of one’s sequence at any one time. Duster
responded that having technical solutions can be misleading and assumes an amount of expertise
and standardization that is typically not available on a large scale in law enforcement. Presently,
local, state, and national law enforcement agencies have widely divergent standards for taking,
storing, and using genetic data on suspects and convicts.

In response to this, discussion moved toward how to change policing practices. Duster responds
to this by suggesting that we change the reward structure within policing and challenge the
funding priorities that favor prisons over schooling. For instance, there are overtime policies in
police departments that encourage extra arrests and the end of shifts, incentivizing officers to
make excess arrests. Similarly, the state often chooses funding law enforcement and prisons over
universities because prisons create jobs for economically depressed communities and these jobs
cannot be outsourced.

Several participants raised questions about how much biometric and genetic infrastructure feeds
into police state and how much of it can actually be used positively to release innocent prisoners.
Duster responds that DNA at best is going to handle 1-2% of all crimes. Out prisons have 2
million people. Maybe 3000 exonerates for 300,000 who are not getting it. Beatriz da Costa
mentioned her experience of being an immigrant to the US and skepticism of being subject to
laser scanning and questioned something along the lines of where that information is going or
how might it be used against her. Duster responded that it seems to depend almost entirely on
who is in control of database. The answer is going to come in context of who is asking the
question and who has got the power.

SJWG member Jake Metcalf raised the question of whether we are giving DNA too much power
and notes there are all sorts of ways of reading the genome and more subtle ways of
understanding DNA. Some the concerns over genetic databases seems to rest on sketchy science
and an incomplete understanding of exactly what types of information get stored and how they
are used. As important as it is to resist the police state, it is important to avoid reifying an overly
powerful understating of DNA because then it is reinforced, when really it should be challenged
empirically and politically. Chelsea argued that the power of DNA in criminal justice will
largely be settled by legal precedent.

Mark Diekhans made the point that there is a privilege to identifying as/with the socio-economic
class that isn’t scared of being targeted as “criminal.” Duster mentioned that there is this pushing
together of “criminals” that started off as just sexual offenders, to then violent, then, felons, then
misdemeanor, to now arrestees – there’s a long continuum that we need to be aware of. Duster
highlights importance of possible, practical solutions. The ACLU says “arrestees, no; felons,
OK…” but at level of arrestees there is potential for mobilizing.

Rebecca [politics student?] then brought up the epistemological assumption of the body. That is,
without too much science how can the body tell the truth? From a political and ethical
standpoint, is the idea of the body property? What are underlying assumptions about the body?
Reardon added, who owns the self? Whose property is it? We’ve moved from ownership of land
to the self…is it white guilt? Who owns a body? Can anybody have property of the self?
Beatrice notes that classification is issue too. We don’t have to have a good science—looking at
donor profiles online; there are spaces for “homosexual tendencies” are being pathologized.

A question was raised whether there is fear of the “criminal gene”? Is there fear that we might
use new or find new categorization by developing a universal database. Duster responded that
crime is socially defined—even murder and rape. Historically, rape could not have happened to
black women by white men or slave owners. Haraway suggested that the politics of DNA storage
need to consider the politics of where samples are taken from? There is an issue of the quality of
science here and assurance regulating and limitations of a set of samples/data. We are not
looking at DNA but more a repeat of sequences. The politics of sampling raises the question of
“who is compared to what?” Donna reminds us that DNA is not one god but is a variety of
practices—the dog genome is useful to investigate—and thus we should not let DNA stand as a
single word.