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Spring Course | UCSC FDM 225: Software Studies

This coming spring term at UCSC, Science & Justice affiliate Warren Sack, Professor of Film & Digital Media and Digital Arts & New Media, will offer FDM 225: Software Studies, predominantly a history and theory graduate seminar. The course will meet in the Communications Building, Room 139 on Wednesdays from 3pm-6pm.
FDM 225 will incorporate a fairly extensive, hands-on project that deals with the artificial intelligence software used to generate stories automatically (akin to the engine in the Sims game that propels the characters).
The syllabus from my last offering of the course which is different from the coming spring offering in four respects:
  1. A number of new texts have been published on the topic since my last offering (spring of 2014), so several of those will be integrated into the readings (e.g., Federica Frabetti, Software Theory: A Cultural and Philosophical Study (2014)).
  2. I have a book manuscript for the MIT Press “Software Studies” book series that will be integrated into the readings.
  3. The hands-on, maker project described above involves modifying, extending and/or analyzing some software I have written.  You can get a preview of that software, a story generator, here (narrated by FDM PhD student Fabiola Hanna): http://fdm.ucsc.edu/~wsack/DecodingDemocracy/index.html
  4. On the first day of class (April 5th), I have two luminaries in the world of software studies and software art coming to speak.  They will both come to class to speak with us, but also be giving separate talks on campus:
    1. Matthew Fuller (Goldsmiths College, University of London) will speak at the Cultural Studies Colloquium on April 5th at noon in Humanities Room 210.
    2. Olga Goriunova (Royal Holloway, University of London) will speak at our Visual and Media Cultures Colloquium in Porter 245 at 4:00pm on April 5th(http://havc.ucsc.edu/news_events/2016/11/08/visual-media-cultures-colloquium-olga-goriunova)
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Jenny Reardon receives Humboldt Foundation award

(Originally posted on Sociology@UCSC)

Jenny Reardon, professor of sociology and director of the Science & Justice Research Center at UC Santa Cruz, is the winner of the 2017 Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award.

The award recognizes scholars who have earned lifetime achievements in research. In addition, award recipients are invited to spend a year collaborating with specialist colleagues in Germany to carry out their proposed research projects.

The project Reardon and her collaborators will embark on will explore how the rise of big data’ is changing interpretive practices in the life sciences and life scientists’ understandings of and relationships to life.  While centered on the life sciences, and in particular on genomics, the research aims to produce insights about how the rise of informatics and big data are changing what it means and entails to produce knowledge across the natural and social sciences, and how those changes also entail shifts in what it means to act in an ethical and democratic manner.

The bi-national collaboration will allow for historical and comparative studies that promise novel insights into these fundamental processes. In the United States, the norm of openness powerfully shapes practices of interpreting genomes. In Germany, the privacy of genetic and genomic data still is considered paramount, although under mounting pressure. The study will investigate how different legal and scientific approaches to the management and governance of genomic data create different practices of interpretation that entail different conceptions of knowledge and justice.

Veronika Lipphardt, Reardon’s collaborator at the University of Freiburg, notes the timeliness of the research. “German politicians are currently discussing whether or not the German Law should allow for DNA Phenotyping and the determination of biogeographical ancestry in cri­mi­nal investigation”, she says. “Interpreting the results will be a major challenge for foren­sicists, investigators and judges.” Lipphardt belongs to a small group of scholars invited to a central expert hearing by the State Department of Justice.

Reardon plans to disseminate the research through published articles, public talks, and online media.

The Humboldt Foundation was founded by the German government and strives to promote exchange of knowledge between scientists and scholars all over the world.

A small farm in the Andean-Amazonian foothills of Colombia. Photo by Kristina Lyons.

The Anthropology and Environment Society has awarded its Junior Scholar Prize to Kristina Lyons

Congratulations to Science & Justice Professor Kristina Lyons!

Lyons, Assistant Professor of Feminist Science Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz was awarded the 2016 AES Junior Scholar award for the article “Decomposition as Life Politics: Soils, Selva, and Small Farmers under the Gun of the U.S.- Colombia War on Drugs” is published in Cultural Anthropology (Volume 31, Number 1: 55-80) and accompanied in an interview.

The award is given annually to early-career scholars for an exemplary article in the area of environmental anthropology.

Abstract: How is life in a criminalized ecology in the Andean-Amazonian foothills of south- western Colombia? In what way does antinarcotics policy that aims to eradicate la mata que mata (the plant that kills) pursue peace through poison? Relatedly, how do people keep on cultivating a garden, caring for forest, or growing food when at any moment a crop-duster plane may pass overhead, indiscriminately spraying herbicides over entire landscapes? Since 2000, the U.S.–Colombian War on Drugs has relied on the militarized aerial fumigation of coca plants, coupled with alternative development interventions that aim to forcibly eradicate illicit livelihoods. Through ethnographic engagement with small farmers in the frontier department of Putumayo, the gateway to the country’s Amazon and a region that has been the focus of counternarcotic operations, this article explores the different possibilities and foreclosures for life and death that emerge in a tropical forest ecology under military duress. By following farmers, their material practices, and their life philosophies, I trace the ways in which human-soil relations come to potentiate forms of resistance to the violence and criminalization produced by militarized, growth-oriented development. Rather than productivity—one of the central elements of modern capitalist growth— the regenerative capacity of these ecologies relies on organic decay, impermanence, decomposition, and even fragility that complicates modernist bifurcations of living and dying, allowing, I argue, for ecological imaginaries and life processes that do not rely on productivity or growth to strive into existence.

(Image note: A small farm in the Andean-Amazonian foothills of Colombia. Photo by Kristina Lyons.)