Spring: “No, Really, What Percentage are You?”: Genomics, Race, and Genetic Ancestry Testing

“No, Really, What Percentage are You?”:
Genomics, Race, and Genetic Ancestry Testing

Science & Justice Training Program Graduate Fellows Jon Akutagawa (Biomolecular Engineering), Dennis Browe (Sociology), Maggie Edge (Literature), Dorothy R. Santos (Film & Digital Media) and Caroline Spurgin (Education) with undergraduate fellow Diana Sernas (Pure Mathematics) will organize a public event exploring the promise and the problems of personal genetic testing services, under the broader umbrella of racial justice and genomics. The event will explore questions of personal identity around race and ethnicity, genetic essentialism and determinism, the ethics of having one’s genome sequenced and data collected, and the legal issues of what companies can do with DNA.

Aimed at developing a public conversation on genomics in society, the event will provide space for thinking through and speaking about how both science and art grapple with questions of race and ethnicity. Especially, in this age of data-driven identities that are so prevalent today. As science seeks to better understand the implications of the sequenced genome, and how it might provide further insights into our personal and ancestral identities, we ask how might science and art provide us with useful interpretive frameworks?

Within the backdrop of the postgenomic era, during winter we will work with an interdisciplinary model of engaging each other: we will bring together social scientists, scientists, and artists, as well as undergraduate docents, to offer a number of avenues through which these questions will be explored in spring with the public. A triadic model of education, particularly science communication; art; and science & technology studies (STS) will provide the foundation for this event. Models of science communication and studies of interdisciplinarity will set the framing of our event paying particular attention to: how can an event centered on personal genomics and race/ancestry best communicate and teach complex social and scientific concepts to the public, asking profound questions without easy answers, during the span of only a few hours?

If you are interested in being a part of the public conversation in spring or the interdisciplinary engagement in winter or feel that genetic ancestry testing has benefited or impacted you in some way, please inquire and send anecdotes to Dennis Browe.

Spring: The Futures of Critical Food Studies: Cross-Disciplinary Possibilities & Coalition Building

The Futures of Critical Food Studies:
Cross-Disciplinary Possibilities & Coalition Building

Science & Justice Training Program Graduate Fellows Halie Kampman (Environmental Studies) and Erica Zurawski (Sociology) will organize a campus-wide event on the futures of critical food studies. The event encourages previously unconsidered connections and relationships across the social sciences, arts, science and technical studies, humanities, and beyond, through addressing ongoing conversations around food and agriculture.

In the spirit of the UCSC Strategic Academic Planning and UCSC’s profound contributions in the field, this event will support generative interdisciplinary conversations to consider how to further important research within food studies, and to imagine what it would look like to reach across disciplinary boundaries towards the multiple futures of critical food and agriculture studies.

If you are interested in or considering planning an event addressing food studies, please contact Erica Zurawski.

Mar 14 | Reflexivity Isn’t Enough: (Re)Making ‘Place’ in Ethnographic Practices

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 | 4:00-5:30 PM | SJRC Common Room

This presentation consists of two parts. First, Hernández will present a talk that draws on their forthcoming journal publication which narrates an embodied and experiential ethnographic approach, one that reimagines ethnography and ethnographic practices, and works to contribute to healing and Indigenous survivance.

Second, Hernández, who is a Society for Visual Anthropology awardee, will conduct a reading of their ethnographic poetry while inviting bees into the space with the help of photo-ethnography. Hernández’s dissertation work is a relational collaboration with bees, among many more-than-human beings, in and with the borderlands of California and Arizona. Thus, bees and the Indigenous lands from where they live and from which they come will be present and honored through both visual and poetic engagements.

Krisha J. Hernández (Mexica/Aztec, Yaqui (Yoeme), & Bisayan), is an Indígena Ph.D. Candidate and Teaching Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). Hernández is the recipient of fellowships from the National Science Foundation, UCSC Graduate Division, UCSC Science and Justice Research Center, and is a Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate and Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar. She is a researcher in the Indigenous Science, Technology, and Society (Indigenous STS) international research and teaching hub lab chaired by Canada’s Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience, and Environment, Dr. Kim TallBear. Her forthcoming dissertation, “Agents of Pollination: Indigenous Bodies & Lives, and U.S. Agriculture Technosciences,” is concerned with Indigeneity and materialisms, (de)colonization and settler colonialism, and collaboration (with more-than-(but including)-human beings) as healing. Hernández researches human-insect relations in food and agricultural systems, more-than-human socialites, foodways, and environmental change in which they employ a critical Indigenous feminist lens toward more-than-human personhood.  Hernández has had the privilege of working as an invited guest on Kānaka Maoli land, and currently works and thinks with desert lands and pollinators in the southern ‘borderlands’ of California and Arizona— primarily in relational collaboration with bees and moths.

 

Feb 07 | Academic (Re)Considerations: “Non-Humans” and/as Research Objects, Subjects, and Co-laborers

Academic researchers across disciplines have long utilized animals, plants, rocks, and a range of non-human others, yet historically this research has been grounded in a foundational distinction between nature and culture, non-human and human. In this round table discussion with Laurie Palmer (UCSC Art) and Felicity Schaeffer (UCSC Feminist Studies), we will collaboratively discuss methodological approaches to research on and with animals, plants, rocks, and a range of non-human others with the hope of developing more concrete, nuanced vocabularies, engagements and practices. Participants are invited to submit brief works in progress in advance, which will serve as the foundation for the discussion. Palmer and Schaeffer will briefly discuss their theoretical interests as well as their methodological approaches to both the category of the non-human itself, as they define it, and non-human beings themselves. Subsequently, all participants will engage in a collaborative discussion around their experiences of, questions around, or hopes for engagement with nonhuman as subjects and collaborators. Rather than asking participants to present polished work, our intention is for the discussion to be a space in which to surface the questions and tensions that each of us grapples with in our scholarship.

To this round table, we invite decolonial and anticolonial thinkers and scholars who strive to work in deeply caring and collaborative ways across multiple boundaries, including but not limited to the boundaries of discipline, hierarchy, and anthropocentrically driven engagements. At the same time, we frame this discussion as one that acknowledges and engages with lived realities and histories of environmental violence and injustice of many peoples. Drawing on the theory of ethnographic refusal, as articulated by Audra Simpson, we seek to engage with folks who refuse to reproduce settler colonial violence on and with non-human others in their work. As Eve Tuck and Marcia McKenzie elaborate, a refusal is not only a no, but a redirection to ideas otherwise unacknowledged or unquestioned: “A generative stance situated in a critical understanding of settler colonialism and its regimes of representation.”*

We invite thinkers and scholars who insist on working in ways that actively build relationships, fostered through personal responsibility and collective accountability, to and with more than (but including) human beings. In so doing, we hope to hold decolonial, justice-oriented forms of engagements with more than human beings in every stage of our work.

Participants will submit a piece of work or work in progress by January 22, 2018, which will be circulated to their fellow participants for reading ahead of the workshop. We are looking for messy and promising provocations, not polished manuscripts. In addition, folks who work in the arts or who feel their methodological engagements may be best communicated in non-text forms are encouraged to participate. Finally, the discussion is not limited to research phases of our work. Rather, we also hope to (re)consider the products of our work (i.e., text-based literature, film, image, etc.). Vegan and vegetarian food will be provided.

To participate: please submit a 250-350-word abstract, and/or up to 2 pages of thought from a work in progress, about specific ways in which you (imagine and/or practice) methodological engagements with non-human kin and/or collaborators during in and all phases of your work, to nonhuman.workshop@gmail.com by January 22, 2018.

Convened by Science and Justice Training Program Fellows: Krisha Hernández (Anthropology, PhD candidate) and Vivian Underhill (Feminist Studies, PhD student). In collaboration with Taylor Wondergem (Feminist Studies, PhD student)

 

*Tuck, Eve and Marcia McKenzie. Place in Research: Theory, Methodology and Methods. P 148

 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018 | Humanities/Social Sciences, Room 359

Rapporteur Report

By: Taylor Wondergem

On February 7th, 2018, an interdisciplinary group of scholars gathered on UC Santa Cruz’ campus to discuss their methodological and theoretical engagements with nonhumans as research subjects, objects, and co-laborers. Organized by Krisha Hernández, Vivian Underhill, and Taylor Wondergem, the event included faculty panelists Laurie Palmer (Art) and Felicity Schaeffer (Feminist Studies) as well as 16 graduate student participants.

Dr. Palmer discussed her work on fracking in the Monterey Shale formation as a sculptor and visual artist of materiality and place. In thinking about how oil’s intractable embeddedness in some ways belies its extraction, she discussed her approach to focusing on formations – such as shale – that are not present to first-person sensory experience. Using data and images from geological productions, she raised questions around how scientists and scholars do, could, or should render the underground visible while attending to the violence of the illusion of transparency. Her discussion of the ways in which representations objectify and separate one from their object of representation – and how she engages with that dynamic – echoed other participants’ concerns around representations of a range of other nonhuman beings.

Dr. Schaeffer discussed her recent work engaging with Gloria Anzaldúa and recentering the role of spirituality as a deeply material way of knowing. Working beyond feminist science studies’ largely secular ways of thinking about matter, she asked questions around how to enact ways of knowing in ways that don’t reproduce Western frameworks. The audience asked how she defined the terms wild science, erotic science, and sacred science, and what work those terms did for her, and Dr. Schaeffer responded by situating the importance of calling knowledge science because of the power that those disciplinary boundaries hold.

Participants’ work centered around themes of disrupting settler colonialism, extraction and disaster in the Anthropocene, and similar questions of representation and intervention. One group of works centered around practices and values of care and relationality, and the discussion focused on questions raised about how ‘the other’ speaks when ‘speech’ is already problematic. Participants’ definitions of listening as methodology differed, depending on the genealogies of teachers and thought they draw on. Another group of works centered around methodological experimentation beyond writing as a mode of representation: for instance, photography, film, and wood cuttings. Participant Melody Overstreet’s artwork took up space in the room and affirmed the blur between multiple assumed boundaries, as she discussed her sense of quiet presence as method. Krisha Hernández rearticulated that for her, this sort of work is about relations and relationships, not embodying or speaking for more-than-humans.

Another cluster of works thought about the absences, impossibilities, and misrecognitions enacted by settler colonialism, late liberalism, and/or racial capitalism. Participants discussed the ways in which nonhuman and more than human beings relate and are intertwined within these frameworks, and a key point of discussion was on how to relate to/with the role that science and scientific discourse plays: the tensions around the legibility granted by scientific epistemologies to regulatory and other processes, but the exclusions and violences that it simultaneously enacts.

Jan 31 | Research Justice 101: Tools for Feminist Science

How do we practice a socially just science? Join Free Radicals, a Los Angeles-based feminist and anti-racist community organization of scientists, that aims to incorporate a critical social justice lens into science, for an interactive workshop on feminist practices and socially conscious frameworks for building feminist research and engineering practices. Justice provides a framework for scientists to think through the hidden assumptions in their methodological approaches, and challenges researchers to think more deeply about the political implications of their work.

Participants will be challenged to apply principles and practices of justice to their own work, interrogating questions such as: Who benefits? Who is harmed? Who is most vulnerable?

In our communities of practice and beyond, whose well-being are we responsible for? How do our individual and collective identities affect the questions we ask? And ultimately, who do we do science for, and why? The workshop will conclude with practical skills and resources for participants to push their research communities to be more inclusive, equitable and attentive to social justice.

Free Radicals is a collective that envisions an open and responsible science that works toward progressive social change. Our work focuses on creating resources for political education through workshops and our blog: freerads.org.

Paloma Medina is a second year Ph.D. student in Biomolecular Engineering and Bioinformatics (UCSC) studying genetic ancestry and the evolution of sex. She has worked with the science of de-extinction, developmental biology, and animal behavior. As part of the Science and Justice Research Center Training Program, she helped initiate the Queer Ecologies Research Cluster and is continually seeking new creative ways to promote biodiversity. More information about Queer Ecologies can be found at: https://users.soe.ucsc.edu/~pmedina/queer_ecology_reading_list.html.

 

Co-Sponsored by the UC Santa Cruz Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD), Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators (ISEE), Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE)

 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 | 4:00-6:00 PM |Engineering 2, room 599

Event Description

Event description by Bradley Jin

Research Justice 101 participants

Paloma Medina and Free Radicals pose with SJRC's Jenny Reardon and Karen Barad. Photo credit: Bradley Jin.

In a packed room in the E2 building at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Paloma Medina stood before an attentive audience. She spoke about why she loves biology. For her, biology is a way to redefine the word ‘natural.’ To many, what is ‘natural’ is the difference between right and wrong, normal and abnormal. She finds this definition lacking; it does not reflect the diversity of people and things that she sees every day. Medina wanted to find a new, better ‘natural.’ To do this, she had to take a journey of self-reflection. Through careful consideration and thought, she found what she was looking for: feminist science.

Medina wants to share feminist science with others. To help others practice feminist science, she, along with the Free Radicals, hosted Research Justice 101: Tools for Feminist Science. On a cool February afternoon, faculty, professors, and graduate and undergraduate students alike came together to learn about and discuss feminist sciencewhat it is, and why we need it. Medina focused on the uses of reflexivity, critical theory, and feminist standpoint theory in her work. She and the Free Radicals asked the audience to consider how communities, cultures, and historical locations all factor into the viewpoints from which they interpret the world. By interrogating where we stand, we can better understand what assumptions we bring to scientific inquiry. Participants divided into pairs to try to apply this to their own research, as well as to each other. Each pair discussed their current research or research aims. Attendees asked each other how, why, and for whom their research existed: Is it accessible? What will it be used for? Attendees considered these questions and more.

Each pairing then assembled together to form larger discussion groups. Each group was led by a faculty advisor as well as a member of the Free Radicals. Groups collaborated to explore ways in which they could practice feminist science. Each group produced something different. Some spoke about how to communicate feminist science to the public, while others discussed how to redefine objectivity. At the end, the groups came together and shared what they had learned.

The event concluded with a request: Medina and the Free Radicals asked the audience to not only leave with a better understanding of feminist science, but to actually commit to practicing it. In unison, the audience shouted out what they would do to to make their science better. Some pledged to talk to colleagues or friends about feminist science. Others promised to make sure that their research was accessible and not hidden behind academic paywalls, or to remain conscious of their social and economic status so that they wouldn’t undervalue their privileged positions. The attendees left with both a new set of tools for practicing feminist science and a renewed sense of purpose.

Rapporteur Report

Critical Listener and Rapporteur Report by Dennis Browe

Convener: Paloma Medina

Participants:

Free Radicals, a “Los Angeles-based feminist and anti-racist community organization of scientists, that aims to incorporate a critical social justice lens into science.”

-       Sasha Karapetrova, laboratory assistant and prospective environmental science/biochemistry graduate student

-       Alexis Takahashi, multiracial community organizer, garden educator, and writer.

-       Linus Kuo, market researcher with a background in psychology, and current Masters of education student.

-       Andy Su, aspiring science educator and seeking to translate his experiences in community organizing toward transforming science institutions.

-       Paloma Medina, Ph.D. student in Biomolecular Engineering and Bioinformatics (UCSC) studying genetic ancestry and the evolution of sex.

Overview

The overall goal of this workshop was to introduce – and collectively think through – various tools for scientists from a range of disciplines to grapple with questions of justice in their research. The Free Radicals use feminist science studies as a guiding frame to grapple with these questions. Amidst upbeat music playing overhead, the workshop began within a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Soon the room was overflowing. By the start of the welcoming commentary participants lined the back and side walls. About forty participants were gathered, and an informal audience poll showed that there was a wide mix of people in the room – professors, graduate students, undergraduates, and some staff and community members, comprising a variety of backgrounds and disciplines spanning the computer, physical, natural and social sciences and the humanities – a perfect mix for the themes of this workshop.

Jenny Reardon (UCSC Professor of Sociology and SJRC Director) gave a brief welcome, happily acknowledging, with assent from the crowd: “I think we can conclude there is an interest in research justice on this campus.” Dr. Reardon then introduced Kate Darling (former SJRC Associate Director and UCSC Sociology adjunct faculty), who helped to further set the tone of the afternoon: “We don’t necessarily want to retreat from a move where we protect science, or only critique it, but to open up conversations of justice and equity in STEM fields, in health research and care.”  Dr. Darling then introduced the Free Radicals team to begin the workshop, which took the form of an interactive presentation (using Powerpoint on a large screen) interspersed with three participatory activities – individual, pairs, and larger groups, all focusing around locating participants’ own research projects and interrogating various assumptions and power dynamics built into these projects.

POLITICAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Sasha Karapetrova, a Free Radical, began with a political acknowledgment of the context in which the event was taking place: “We are gathered here and doing this workshop on the occupied lands of the Amah mutsun Tribe.”  Sasha then asked the room: “Is research just?” Almost no one raised their hand. She then asked if people think research is unjust. To this question there was a more varied response – some thought yes, some no, and others mentioned that they have mixed answers here. This helped situate the room further, illustrating that many attending this workshop share some overlapping concerns regarding justice and injustice in research. Here the workshop was still speaking of these issues at a high level, without delving into the specifics of how each might play out in more concrete practices, i.e. what are injustices participants encounter or notice in their own research and institutions, and what strategies they have pursued to attempt to rectify these issues.

EXAMPLES OF UNJUST SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

The Free Radicals team then launched into the main presentation, each team member stepping in and out, collaboratively taking turns leading various parts of the slideshow. They began by covering ways in which research can be unjust: science employed by the State or military can damage the land (such as DDT research and use); the process of conducting unethical experiments (such as the infamous Tuskegee syphilis case); and, third, ways that science is done, such as larger budgets into research for cystic fibrosis compared to sickle cell disease[PM1] .

THE FEMINIST SCIENTIFIC METHOD

The team moved onto discussing the scientific method, stating that this method or framework does not leave much room for scientists to interrogate their own process of research. They discussed the “God trick,” one assumption of science in which scientific research creates an illusion of pure objectivity (referencing Donna Haraway’s 1988 article on “Situated Knowledges”). The team explained that to move away from this “God trick” we need to embrace a feminist science, using tools from multiple theoretical lineages including feminist standpoint theory (Smith 1997, Harding 2004, Collins 1997, Haraway 1988)  and feminist intersectionality (Crenshaw 1991). The team further cited Dr. Deboleena Roy’s “Feminist theory in science: working toward a practical transformation” as a feminist model of inquiry, helping to put theory into practice. They stated that through using these feminist frameworks, science can and should benefit marginalized communities and challenge power and knowledge dynamics: working from these different assumptions could, ideally, help result in research justice.

LOCATING YOURSELF, THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS RESEARCH JUSTICE

The Free Radicals began detailing the steps of how to do research with questions of justice remaining at the forefront, starting with locating oneself, the communities one comes from and lives in, and one’s historical and cultural locatedness. Questions of locatedness demonstrate how knowledge and knowledge-making is socially and historically situated. One participant asked for the team to distinguish between cultural and community. The team members helped each other out, answering that we can think of cultural as about broader norms in a society, versus more specific community norms we are a part of. Paloma, the Convener, helped illustrate these points by discussing her own research. She located her own background, describing her multiple identities as a queer woman of color and as a biologist. She explained how her locatedness has sparked her research goals, beginning to explore what is the “natural.” She thus applied her skills in biology to study sex chromosomes and their naturally occurring mutations in various species.

LOCATING YOUR RESEARCH

After doing an individual activity on “Locating your Research,” the Free Radicals introduced a simultaneously useful and humorous (for its overwhelming number of nodes) mindmap on the big screen – a chart borrowed from Charlotte Cooper on “Research Justice: Some Handy Questions.” They then led the room through the steps of thinking through a research project with a feminist lens: after locating one’s research, define the purpose and clarify the questions one is asking; then interrogate the hypothesis, meaning asking questions such as “how was the research done and who designed it? Who participated, and how?” The final step is to analyze power dynamics of the completed research – how was it disseminated? What was done afterwards? The relationship between the scientist and the subjects of the research must be recognized and articulated. The team mentioned the importance of turning to an interdisciplinary range of knowledge and theories for explanations and forms of evidence.

                                                                                             

GROUP ACTIVITY: TRANSFORMATION

For the final third of the workshop, the Free Radicals led a large-group activity. The activity involved participants splitting into five groups of seven with each Free Radical pairing with a professor in the room to co-lead their group. The task was to brainstorm how to transform institutions to more thoroughly include research justice and how to create strategies for social change (Figure 1). During report-back, one strategy discussed amongst the room is finding out where the momentum in funding sources currently is. One can figure out how their own research interests relate to the momentum of the already built research field/institution. Additionally, one can create a niche for their research, and build out community and ideally obtain funding toward researching this niche interest. A few participants expressed being uncomfortable letting personal passions drive their research for fear of it discrediting their research. By voicing concerns and hurdles met when applying the feminist model of inquiry, many strategies to overcome barriers to research justice were shared among the group. It is clear that discussions and events that center research justice strategies, potentially a grant writing workshop, are desired and needed to help researchers  

Research Justice 101 brainstorm

Figure 1. Photo of group activity brainstorm led by Professor Linda Werner, Computer Science, and Paloma Medina, Biomolecular Engineering.

GROUP ACTIVITY: SEMANTICS OF ‘FEMINIST’ SCIENCE

One question that came up during the group activity, which offers occasion for citizen-scientist groups such as the Free Radicals and SJRC to continually interrogate (because there is no final, perfect answer to arrive at) is the semantics and definitions used toward building justice in research practices. One participant commented that they understand issues of justice to be a daily concern in running a lab and research projects, yet do not understand why a specifically “feminist” lens is needed. They work in a lab led by a woman of color and see her daily handle practical issues – bureaucracy, funding stretched thin, implicit and structural issues of racism and sexism –  that tend to impede on her and her lab’s ability to more fully tackle issues of justice and inclusivity, such as training more young women of color scientists. These same practices might be termed “feminist” by some, but not by others, and a question becomes, do these semantic distinctions make a difference, and if so, what differences might they make?

GROUP ACTIVITY: SCIENTISTS NEED TO SHOW UP

The team spoke of encouraging scientists to “show up” as much as possible, to try and get communities to care and to foster citizen scientists from the community, while acknowledging that scientists need to be citizens too. A participant remarked that ethics within science is generally too narrow a framework for thinking about issues of inequality and equity; instead, questions of justice probe deeper than ethical legal frameworks for the scientific research being done. A further strategy discussed is how to diplomatically connect departments, such as life scientists, physicists, computer scientists, and/or engineers coming together with social scientists and humanities scholars. These themes clearly overlap and resonate with the mission of the Science and Justice Research Center, and this workshop proved to be a valuable encounter for furthering this mission. By bringing together a wide range of participants –in terms of both career-stage and disciplinary backgrounds – it helped foster a shared framework for thinking through concrete ways to put these goals into action.

CONCLUSIONS: FRAMEWORK OF CHANGE

The Free Radicals ended the workshop by briefly touching on the “Ecological Framework of Change” for doing feminist science and research: a diagram consisting of concentric circles, representing different levels at which change can be fostered: the individual is the innermost point or circle, surrounded by a working group, surrounded by an institution, which is lastly enveloped within a field of study. Before participants left, each person was also given an artistic postcard to take home with them, to write down an action that they could commit to taking as a result of coming to the workshop. These gestures provided a fitting linking of this ending to serve as a new point of departure for projects bringing together a range of scientists and humanists, academics and citizens, to continually build community in the interests of justice in science and research more broadly. Commonsensical in some ways, justice in research should never be a singularly taken-for-granted category, goal, or strategy for change. Through hosting future events, the Science & Justice Research Center can and will continue interrogating meanings of research justice and its promises offered of a better world, or worlds.

 

Works Cited

Collins, Patricia Hill. "Comment on Hekman's 'Truth and Method: Feminist Standpoint Theory

Revisited': Where's the Power?" Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society22.2 (1997): 375-381.

Crenshaw, Kimberle. "Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color." Stanford law review (1991): 1241-1299.

Haraway, Donna. "Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective." Feminist studies 14.3 (1988): 575-599.

Roy, Deboleena. "Feminist theory in science: working toward a practical transformation." Hypatia 19.1 (2004): 255-279.

Smith, Dorothy E. "Comment on Hekman's 'Truth and Method: Feminist Standpoint Theory Revisited'." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 22.2 (1997): 392-398.

Feb 24 | Graduate Training Program Informational Meeting

The Science and Justice Research Center will host an Informational Meeting on our internationally recognized interdisciplinary Graduate Training and Certificate Program:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

12:00 – 1:45PM

 Graduate Student Commons 204

Our Science and Justice Training Program (SJTP) is a globally unique initiative that trains doctoral students to work across the disciplinary boundaries of the natural and social sciences, engineering, humanities and the arts. Through the SJTP we at UC Santa Cruz currently teach new generations of PhD students the skills of interdisciplinary collaboration, ethical deliberation, and public communication. Students in the program design collaborative research projects oriented around questions of science and justice. These research projects not only contribute to positive outcomes in the wider world, they also become the templates for new forms of problem-based and collaborative inquiry within and beyond the university.

Spring 2016 Course:
Science & Justice: Experiments in Collaboration
SOCY/BME/FMST 268A & ANTH 267A
Prof. Jenny Reardon
Wednesdays 10-1, College 8 301

Students from all disciplines are encouraged to attend
Prior graduate Fellows have come from every campus Division.

13 Represented Departments:
Anthropology, Biomolecular Engineering, Earth & Planetary Sciences, Environmental Studies, Film and Digital Arts, Digital Arts and New Media, History of Consciousness, Literature, Philosophy, Physics, Politics, Psychology, and Sociology

As SJTP students graduate they take the skills and experience they gained in the training program into the next stage of their career in universities, industry, non-profits, and government.

Opportunities include graduate Certificate Program, experience organizing and hosting colloquia series about your research, mentorship, opportunities for research funding and training in conducting interdisciplinary research at the intersections of science and society.

For more information on the Science & Justice Training Program, please see: http://scijust.ucsc.edu/training/

Dec 12 | Science & Justice Training Program Certificate Reception

4:00-5:30 PM | SJRC Common Room, Oakes 231

Please join us in congratulating the graduate fellows on their achievements in completing the Science & Justice Training Program. This certificate provides recognition to current graduate students who have developed collaborative research methods for exploring the meeting of questions of science and knowledge with questions of ethics and justice. For more pedagogical information on the nationally and internationally recognized Science & Justice Training Program, please read Experiments in Collaboration: Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Science and Justice originally published in PLOS Biology.

Graduate students interested in the Science & Justice Training Program, please visit: Science & Justice Training Program.

Faculty interested in supporting the Science & Justice Training Program or for more information on our Broader Impacts Initiative, please read: Broader Impacts.

Oct 07 | It’s About Time: How Perceptions of Time Influence Environmental Action

How do conceptions of time inform our perceptions of anthropogenic climate change and influence the political and societal will to respond? How can an appreciation for the timescales of civic policy help scientists to frame their findings for effective social change? How can we render scientific data actionable while retaining the depth of temporal knowledge? This presentation and panel discussion will provide an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the effects of human behavior on different timescales. By bringing together these different perspectives, we aim to theorize how perceptions of time can help communities, such as UCSC, implement both long- and short-range environmental goals and allow for more active engagement with environmental issues.

Elida Erickson, Sustainability Programs Manager and Interim Director, UCSC Office of Sustainability

Zoey Kroll, Internet Communications Coordinator, San Francisco Department of the Environment

Adina Paytan, Research Professor, Institute of Marine Sciences, UCSC

Organized by Science & Justice Training Program Fellows Carolyn Branecky (Earth and Planetary Sciences) and Samuael Topiary (Film + Digital Media)

Read Rap Report > It's About Time

October 7, 2015 | Physical Sciences Building, Room 305 |   4:00-6:00 PM 

It’s About Time: How Perceptions of Time Influence Environmental Action
SJWG Rapporteur Report
7 October 2015
Rapporteur Report by Carolyn Branecky & Samuael Topiary
The Panel Discussion
At this Science & Justice Training Program event, Zoey Kroll, Adina Payton, and Elida Erickson
discussed how different perceptions of time influence the ways they communicate anthropogenic climate
change to broader publics and the implications of this communication for political action. Carolyn and
Topiary moderated a discussion with the three panelists, followed by a question and answer discussion
with the audience. By focusing on the timescales that define each of the panelists’ efforts, we explored
some of the possibilities as well as the limitations on both communication and action which face the
environmental movement today.

The panel began with a presentation by Zoey Kroll, who provocatively suggested that ten seconds
was the timeframe she is most guided by in her work as the Internet Communications Coordinator at the
San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFDE). In suggesting that she has about ten seconds to
capture the attention of the average visitor to the SFDE website, Kroll stated that her work was defined by
her ability to communicate quickly and simply. Thus, she sees quickness as essential to working on the
long-term goals of municipal transformation. The SFDE provides easy to understand guidelines for
recycling and composting to help SF city dwellers and businesses to implement new city ordinances, such
as the plastic bag ban.

Dr. Adina Paytan, UCSC Earth and Planetary Sciences Research Professor, focused on the
techniques she uses to communicate the impact of human activities on the ocean environment. She
explained how her research spans a wide range of temporal scales, observing natural processes that occur
in one season to environmental change that evolves over millions of years with spatial scales that range
from the molecular to the global. Although her work explores these multitudes, she explained how she
relies upon human lifespans to communicate the gravity and relevancy of her data. Using the benchmarks
of generations within her own family, she plots the changes in ocean acidification levels, noting the wide
change between the years when she was born and when her daughter was born. Using these personal
markers in her research data graphs, Paytan suggests that in talking about long-term issues, she finds it
essential to put her data into the perspective of a human generation, stating that a 100-year lifespan is
about as much as people can really understand in terms of rates of change.

Elida Erickson, Sustainability Programs Manager and Interim Director at UCSC’s Office of
Sustainability, focused on institutional timescales at the university, stating that the Office of Sustainability was established seven years ago by students, focusing on the problems of food waste. She discussed the ways that timescales for environmental action can differ among the groups that she works with. On the one hand, college students want to see change happen within their 4-year term at the university and have been successful in some cases at catalyzing that change within their time here. Yet, from the administrative side, sometimes institutional policies, such as building permits in the case of one student project, can defer or prevent the implementation of creative solutions. In drawing a distinction between student timeframes and administrative timeframes, Erickson raised the issue of how working with committees has its own kind of timeframe and challenges, and suggested that working with administrators was the least fun part of her job. She also noted that the ambition and perspective of students wanting to achieve environmental goals on a student timeframe can help to push the administration to move faster than they might otherwise to implement environmental policy changes.

Conversation Following the Presentations
Both UCSC and the City of San Francisco have Zero Waste programs, whose shared goal is to
eliminate (in some sense of the word) waste by a given date. Kroll, representing the City of San
Francisco, and Erickson, representing UCSC’s Office of Sustainability compared the implementation of
these Zero Waste programs in a compelling way. Both of these speakers discussed the role which politics
plays in their work as well as the need to navigate institutional positions when strategizing on
communicating environmental action. Kroll suggested that she tends to think and work from a citizen
point of view, rather than from a City government's administrative perspective. Erickson suggested there
was a difficulty with fast change, suggesting that UC-wide initiatives, such as Zero Waste, which are
mandated from the top down, often leave people in the middle having to adjust.For example, UCSC is
“crawling” on a campus-wide composting due to the undesirability of a bin next to offices. She suggested
that while the voice of students can push the administration to be more responsive, it can also be pushed
aside more readily. Kroll suggested that in San Francisco, the idea of Zero Waste 2020 produces
excitement and creates a sense of a goal for people to work toward. She notes that to date, San Francisco
has achieved an 80% diversion rate and that 10% of the outlying waste has to be addressed with producer
responsibility laws.

The panel discussed the difference between achievable goals and “impossible” or aspirational
goals, such as Zero Waste, and mused about the ways in which achievable goals helps to foster personal
action, while “impossible” goals can be useful to galvanize a larger community movement. This line of
thinking was interrogated by Anthropology PhD candidate Kristin Lawson, who questioned the role of
time in relationship to differences between institutional and individual action. Kroll responded that
institutions and municipalities can affect change at the procurement level and spoke about the high
purchasing standards held by the City of San Francisco, which publishes a directory for approved sources,
which in turn, provides a pathway for industry to move in this direction. Kroll also discussed the way that
her personal experience of working on a collective urban farming project with a 2-5 year timeframe
demonstrated how working toward specific goals can head off a sense of numbness and disempowerment
that comes from doom and gloom climate change predictions. She added that, in San Francisco, one
hears is a lot of talk about “disruption” as a solution and she wonders if the feeling of urgency (about
climate change) must be combined with the experiences that help one feel one’s actions are making a
difference. Kroll focuses on how to make her work be as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Paytan picked up on the issue of “doom and gloom,” stating that she feels scientists need to be
more solution-oriented when communicating the negative consequences of their research, such as rapid
climate change, species extinction, and environmental destruction. Dr. Karen Barad (UCSC Feminist
Studies) pushed Paytan on the ways in which scientists communicate their work using standard notions of
time, questioning “the seduction of clock time” and its tie to capitalism. Barad wondered about the
temporality of urgency and its relationship to doom, questioning whether there might be a way to discuss
urgent time, which is not tied to doom, but rather allows the past and the future to carry more meaning.
Paytan countered that, although we receive distressing data about climate change, our planet has been
around for four billion years and has been through other huge changes, stating that she personally finds
comfort in knowing that we humans are not going to be here forever. Barad countered that she is not
comforted by how this kind of philosophical nihilism is often taken up politically, especially considering
the unevenness of how the planet is being damaged and by whom. She noted that scientists often have
lively alternative conceptions of time and can think about temporality more richly when our hands are not
tied to “clock time.” Barad continued by suggesting that although something like sea-level rise happens
at a certain rate within a fixed frame, the consequences of that rise are experienced very differently by the
people living in rich countries than in poor ones and wondered whether these effects should be put in
words of time or social equality.

Towards the end of the panel discussion, PhD student Ella Ben-Hagai raised the question of
whether zero waste goals were paradoxical to the push for economic development and expansion in both
San Francisco and at UCSC. She also provocatively wondered whether the zero waste programs were
causing these two enclaves to become islands of “sustainability” and created zones of privilege or
whether there was some notion of zero waste mandates as being more “trickle down” kinds of strategies
for other places.

The panel discussion concluded with a question about the politics behind scientific research and
an acknowledgment of the importance of having interdisciplinary conversations between scientists, social
scientists and humanists and which include voices and experiences from both inside and outside of the
academy, in helping to further discussions about environmental action and in order to build new alliances
to build a progressive agenda.

Post-panel Discussion Reflections
Following this panel discussion, we received written comments from our panelists reflecting on moments
that stuck out to them. The following quotes come from this written feedback:

Kroll:
“It was interesting to hear candid words from Elida about what it's like to work within a
university context, ... how terms are defined or redefined as campaigns evolve (Can Zero Waste
really mean 95% waste diversion?). The role of the Science and Justice Program in bringing
together a dynamic audience and panel cannot be understated.

Paytan:
“Having social scientists, humanists and physical scientists on the panel contributed to a
fascinating exchange of ideas. As a scientist and particularly a geologist I tend to define time as a
precise measurement related to the rates of rotation of planetary bodies (the Earth and the Moon)
and it was very interesting and educating for me to hear how others regard time in a much more
subjective manner and that time could be by personal and even societal experiences. I also
learned a lot about the challenges people have when they have to communicate timelines to a
broad community and accomplish set goals, both the campus sustainability goals and the City of
SF environmental Stewardship (0-50-100 roots) goals are impressive!”

Apr 22 | Fixing the Pathological Body

The medical industry leans heavily upon a distinction between the "normal" and the "pathological." How and why do we continue to define this distinction, and for whom are these categories useful?  What are some alternative ways to organize the lived experiences of human bodies and/or minds?

A Panel Discussion with Janette Dinishak (Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UCSC) Kelly Ormond (Professor of Genetics and Genetic Counselor at Stanford University) Matthew Wolf-Meyer (Associate Professor of Anthropology at UCSC and author of The Sleeping Masses).Organized by Science & Justice Training Program Fellows Sandra Harvey (Politics), Linda Dayem (Philosophy) and Jessica Neasbitt (History of Consciousness). Co-Sponsored by UCSC Departments of History of Consciousness, Literature, and Philosophy, as well as the Institute for Humanities Research.

Janette Dinishak is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research interests include philosophy and history of psychology and psychiatry (especially autism), Wittgenstein, philosophy of mind, disability, and ethical theory.

Kelly Ormond is a Professor of Genetics at the Stanford School of Medicine. While Ormond's primary role is to direct the MS in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling program, her research focuses on the intersection between genetics and ethics, particularly around the translation of new genetic technologies (such as genome sequencing or non-invasive prenatal diagnosis) into clinical practice. She is especially interested in patient decision making, informed consent, and the interface between genetics and disability.

Matthew Wolf-Meyer is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, specializing in medical anthropology, the social study of science and technology, and neuroscience. He is author of The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine and Modern American Life (UMN Press, 2012), which focuses on sleep in American culture and its historical and contemporary relations to capitalism. His second book, What Matters: The Politics of American Brains, focuses on the ethical and epistemological practices in contemporary neuroscience, cybernetics, disability activism, and psychoanalysis in American society. Currently he is in the early stage of a new project focused on the neurological turn to the gut as an extension of the nervous system, the history of shit in the United States, and the therapeutic uses of human excrement in modern medicine.

April 22, 2015

"Fixing the Pathological Body"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
22 April 2015
Rapporteur Report by Jess Neasbitt
This event was organized to begin what we hoped would be ongoing discussions that addressed
themes and questions like the following: "The medical industry leans heavily upon a distinction
between the "normal" and the "pathological." How and why do we continue to define this
distinction, and for whom are these categories useful? What are some alternative ways to
organize the lived experiences of human bodies and/or minds?" We invited Drs. Dinishak and
Wolf-Meyer and Professor Ormond to introduce their research and engage in a panel discussion
regarding these questions, as well as those asked by the audience.

After a brief introduction of the panelists and the overall event theme by Jessica Neasbitt, Dr.
Dinishak spoke about her interest in issues surrounding “deficit attribution.” She forwarded this
model as a specific form of pathologizing difference, and encouraged the audience to consider
what (or whose) standard is being used to assess the lack, or absence of a feature that a person
“should have,” that is a hallmark of “deficit attribution.” Dr. Dinishak is interested in calling the
moral complacency surrounding this decision into question, as well as bringing the narratives of
the pathologized into the conversation. This led to a brief overview of her research regarding the
narratives of autists, which involves qualitative interviews, and speaks to her stated commitment
to finding responsible approaches to engage in such research in ways that acknowledge subjects
as “not just objects to study.” Instead, Dr. Dinishak encouraged the audience to consider what the
narratives of autists can teach us about the lived experience of those labeled autistic, the cultural
representation of these individuals, and what their (autists) concerns might be.

Following Dr. Dinishak, Professor Ormond discussed how disability is talked about in genetic
counseling. Building off of Dr. Dinishak’s talk, she mentioned the challenge of mixing lived
experiences of people with disabilities with discussions of risk assessment during counseling
sessions. She is interested in starting conversations that focus more on the former than on the
medical aspects of potential conditions a fetus may develop in order to move past parental fear
and into a space of more expansive possibility. Professor Ormond stated that, at the present time,
potential parents most commonly focus on the medical aspects of potential disorders/disabilities
over the lived experiences of those diagnosed with them, and this often leads them to constrain
their choices to either abortion or bringing the baby to term and keeping it (versus adoption and
other possible options).

Dr. Wolf-Meyer also discussed social fixes in contrast to medicalization, and gave examples
from his para-ethnographic work. Most of his examples involved the tendency to medicate rather
than seek social fixes, which often require the rethinking—and perhaps radical changing—of
powerful institutions. The influence of capitalism was a recurrent theme, not only during Dr.
Wolf-Meyer’s presentation, but throughout the panel discussion and the question and answer
period; however, the “normalization” required of subjects in capitalist societies was integral to
several key aspects of Dr. Wolf-Meyer’s talk. Among these were: the increase of medical and
pharmaceutical interventions to make individual bodies “fit” into existing social systems and the
dramatic decrease of any social “safety net” (public assistance for persons with disabilities).
The individual, and the individualization of responsibility, were recurrent themes throughout the
event—especially in relation to the influence of capitalism on the practice of medicine in the
United States. Many attendees questioned panelists on whether or not their proposed
interventions into these practices and/or institutions were realistic, given the tenacious hold of
capitalism and its current rigid practices. While there were some small-scale examples of
successful interventions given (communal living, alternative clinics that evaluate social fixes as
well as medical ones), this was the extent of the discussion, and—given more time—this would
be a fascinating avenue to continue exploring.

Another topic in which the concept of the individual loomed large was the genome. There were
several audience comments and questions regarding the power of the genome and the ease with
which risk scores that describe possible futures transition into labels that dictate identities. This
tied in with the parental fear that Professor Ormond had discussed earlier, and the question was
asked: Is fear a necessary part of medical care? Professor Ormond reiterated that this was one of
the limitations of genetic counseling, that there is no “gene for” (it is not as clear cut as that), and
that this is one of the reasons why she believes that discussions with genetic counselors might be
better framed in terms of “abnormal-normal, risk-chance.”

Most of the remainder of audience questions and comments can be divided into two categories:
those focused on the role of the history of eugenics and race in regard to processes of
pathologization, and those focused on the terminology used by the panelists. The history of
eugenics was mentioned by one panelist—Professor Ormond credited it as contributing to how
genetic counseling happens today. However, there were several excellent questions that brought
up the possibility that genetic counseling may be contributing to current eugenicist practices,
especially in relation to abortion of fetuses that are at increased risk for particular pathologized
conditions. While there was some further discussion of the relation of race, eugenics, and
pathologization, we were again limited by the format and time constraints of the event; however,
we all agree that this is an area of rich possibility for further events to explore.

Audience questions regarding the terminology used by the panelists were extensive, and also
limited by available time. Overall, these questions focused on the terms used to describe those
persons being pathologized, and why these specific words were chosen. Questions about the use
of the following terms were recorded: difference vs. deficiency, disorderly vs. disabled, disorder
vs. condition, atypical vs. abnormal, variance vs. diversity, and risk vs. chance vs. diagnosis. The
length and breadth of this list suggest yet another subject that could feasibly support its own
panel discussion; at the very least, it should be addressed in any future events planned as an
outgrowth of our event.

Our initial vision for this event was to begin a conversation regarding what work pathologization
does, and for whom. Overall, we agree that this panel was a good start to what we envisioned as
an ongoing dialogue, and we—along with our critical listeners, Jeff Sherman and Jen Trinh—
have many ideas as to aspects of our theme that future events might explore. These include
narratives and counter-narratives of pathologization, the role of institutions in pathologization
(and how this might be addressed), late capitalism and pathologization (especially regarding the
concept of “productive” bodies and the commercialization of pathology), disability activism, and
the history of pathologization—particularly in regards to race and eugenics. All of these topics
came up in one form or another during our event, and we all agree that the format of the event
severely limited our ability to allow the in-depth examination of any one of these rich lines of
questioning. However, these are topics that we think merit exploration and would make for
future events that would both continue the discussion that began during our event and interest a
wide variety of individuals and groups on campus and in the surrounding community.

As to the possible forms the continuation of this discussion might take, there are several that we
would like to forward. First (and most ambitious), we would like to suggest that, given the easy
division of our overall theme into the sub-topics mentioned above, a conference (or other multipanel
event) on this theme would be both one way to continue this discussion and have many of
the people who should be represented “at the table.” Regardless of the format of the event, we all
agree that future speakers must include disability rights activists, community members, and
narratives of pathologization that originate from the pathologized themselves. Suggestions for
future speakers included Mia Mingus and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha; we also
acknowledge that more outreach and collaboration with the disability studies community on
campus should have been part of our process, and would highly benefit any future events that
stem from our event.

Other suggestions for keeping the discussion going dovetail nicely with the stated desire of the
Science and Justice Research Center for achieving more of an online presence. These include a
series of blogs (some of which would be guest authored), a series of podcasts and/or an interview
series, and a moderated online forum on the topic. The growing number of scholars working on
related themes on this campus, the presence of a healthy activist community (both on campus
and in the community), and the upcoming History of Consciousness concentration of
“Differences Now” all point to there being a good deal of interest in—and potential for joint
sponsorship of—a variety of events that could further the discussion that began during “Fixing
the Pathological Body” in new and innovative ways, and we look forward to seeing where this
discussion goes next.

In closing, Jessica, Linda and Sandra would like to thank our generous co-sponsors, without
which this event would not have been possible: the departments of History of Consciousness,
Literature, and Philosophy, the Institute for Humanities Research, and the Science and Justice
Research Center. We would also like to thank our critical listeners (Jeff Sherman and Jen Trinh)
for their time and extremely helpful feedback. To our panelists, Dr. Janette Dinishak, Professor
Kelly Ormond, and Dr. Matthew Wolf-Meyer, we wish to extend our sincere gratitude for your
participation and inspiring discussion, which we envision as the beginning of a much needed
exploration of the work, histories, and purposes of pathologization.

Attendance
There were approximately 26 attendees, the majority of whom hailed from the social sciences.
The remainder of the attendees were from the sciences and the community.

March 05 | The H+ Film Festival: Cyborg Fictions and Futures

 

Organized by Science & Justice Training Program Fellows Jeff Sherman (Politics) and Jen Trinh (Physics), together with the Crown Social Fiction Conference, the Science & Justice Research Center presents:

Thursday, March 5th: 8:00 pm Ghost in the Shell | UCSC Merrill Cultural Center

Friday, March 6th:
Midnight screening of Robocop (1987) | Del Mar Theatre, Santa Cruz, Reception and Introduction by Ed Neumeier

Saturday, March 7th:
10:00 am: Registration & breakfast
10:30 am: Transcendent Man | Crown/Merrill Dining Hall
12 Noon: H+ Panel Discussion
1:00 pm: Lunch & Student Poster Session

What kind of future are we moving towards with advances in robotics, prosthetics, artificial intelligence, and body augmentation? The idea of transhumanism (H+) suggests that the future is bright, with extended human lifetimes coupled with higher quality of life. However, in popular science fiction, the future is often not so bright. Will humans eventually transcend their bodies and become higher beings, or will technology reduce humans into mere machines? What is the outlook for "humanity," how does our popular culture shape our visions of that future, and what ethical questions should we consider today rather than in a transhuman tomorrow?

This film festival (part of the Crown Social Fiction Conference) seeks to create an opportunity for conversations with screenings of the science fiction classics RoboCop (1987) and Ghost in the Shell (1995), as well as the documentary Transcendent Man (2009). Following Transcendent Man, we will have a guided discussion, featuring panelists Ed Neumeier (cowriter of the original RoboCop and UCSC alumnus), Dr. Vivienne Ming (theoretical neuroscientist, entrepreneur, and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley), and UCSC's Dr. Chris Gray (lecturer at Crown College and author of the book Cyborg Citizen). They will explore these questions and examine the relationship between the fictions that awe us and the realities that face us.

Ed Neumeier is a screenwriter, producer, and director, who studied Journalism at UCSC before going on to complete his bachelor’s at UCLA at the School of Motion Picture & Television. Ed is best known for his work on the Robocop and Starship Troopers franchises.

Dr. Vivienne Ming is a theoretical neuroscientist, entrepreneur, and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience. Her research focuses on developing models for the neurobiological processes involved in cognition, perception, learning, and motor function.

Dr. Chris Gray is a lecturer at UCSC’s Crown College, as well as the author of Cyborg Citizen and Peace, War and Computers, two books that explore the political implications of our increasing dependence on electronics. Dr. Gray’s research interests include postmodern politics, information theory, the implications (political, artistic, and ethical) of cyborgs, and more.

 

The H+ Film Festival: An Exploration of Cyborg Futures and Fictions
SJWG Rapporteur Report
5-7 March 2015
Rapporteur Report by Jeff Sherman and Jen Trinh
In conjunction with the Crown College Social Fiction Conference, this film festival hoped to
explore the near futures that face us with the growing technologies of robotics, prosthetics,
artificial intelligence, and body augmentation through the lens of popular science fiction. This
was done through the exploration of the popular motif of the Cyborg cop in science fiction. On
Thursday March 5th we screened the Japanese Anime classic Ghost in the Shell. On Friday
March 6th we screened the original RoboCop at the Del Mar Theatre in downtown Santa Cruz
with a short introduction by Ed Neumeier, one of the cowriters of the film. On Saturday March
7th we screened the documentary Transcendent Man concerning the technologist and futurist Ray
Kurzweil. Our panelists, Ed Neumeier, Dr. Vivienne Ming and Dr. Chris Gray initially took up
the efficacy of Ray Kurzweil’s ideas as they were presented in the documentary that preceded
our discussion. This generated quite the number of critiques of the exceedingly optimistic view
that we will realize immortality within our lifetimes through these technologies. It also spurred
conversations about the ethics that will invariably complicate the development and
implementation of such technologies.

In responding to the ideas of Kurzweil, Dr. Ming suggested that the techno-utopianism of his
visions was somewhat misplaced, given that not all of these technologies are readily viable along
the timeline he suggests and if they were that their implementation would not necessarily be
automatically benign. All three panelists noted that Kurzweil’s quest was deeply informed by an
obsession with defeating death (his own and his father’s) to the point of possible neurosis. While
Ed and Vivienne agreed that they do not wish to die, and that their fears of death may play some
role in their hopes for the future of technology, they expressed doubt that such technologies will
be developed so quickly. Chris, on the other hand, noted later in the conversation that he
celebrates death as the “vaccine against hubris” and accepts his fate.

Following discussion of the documentary, the panelists conversed about the ethics that will
invariably complicate the development and implementation of such technologies, despite hopes
for a techno-utopia. Ed shared thoughts on how the film industry creates what the viewer wants
to see and hear about (the miracles of future technologies), rather than the issues surrounding
these technologies, such as the monopoly of the companies that control these new tools, the
possibility of misuse by individuals (rather than the machines being inherently at fault), and the
actual feasibility of these advancements. Chris expressed skepticism about how humanity could
possibly create a techno-utopia, given the dire state of affairs within our government, where
corporations are afforded the same rights as people, and intelligence (of the IQ sort) is advanced
while emotional intelligence is neglected.

We concur with our critical listeners, Linda Dayem and Jessica Neasbitt, that as the conversation
continued through the hour, the dynamic that developed among our panelist was one of a
tempered technological optimism on the part of Dr. Ming and Mr. Neumeier with the opposite
view of technological pessimism reflected by our third panelist, Dr. Gray. We could somewhat
anticipate this chemistry from our initial discussions with our guest speakers. However, this split
was more pronounced at the public panel and this may be attributed to the particular audience
addressed for the Social Fiction Conference (undergraduate audience poised as the next
generation of technological innovators) and the provocations suggested by our documentary on
Mr. Kurzweil. Where our panelists’ views generally coincided were on: 1) the limitations of AI
in the near to midterm 2) the greater probability of body and neurological augmentation in the
near future 3) the false distinction between “science fiction” and what is touted as “science fact”
given the creativity and imagination evident in today’s leading industries.

With our project, we hoped to explore the possible futures that face us given the predicted
trajectories of robotics, prosthetics, artificial intelligence, and body augmentation through the
lens of popular science fiction. We also hoped to reach as wide an audience as possible among
graduates, undergraduates and the UCSC community. In screening three different films (two
science fiction and one documentary) and convening a panel of experts to comment on this
subject, we believe we were successful in at least starting the conversation on these subjects.

Most importantly, Jen and Jeff would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to the Crown College
staff (Jennifer Day, Derek DeMarco, Camila Dixon, Cathy Murphy, Shane Sanchez and
especially Provost Manel Camps). We also say thank you to our support at the Science & Justice
Research Center (Colleen Massengale and Acting Director Andrew Mathews) and our critical
listeners (Linda Dayem and Jessica Neasbitt). Above all we wish to thank once again our panelist
Chris Gray, Vivienne Ming and Ed Neumeier for their time participation and enthusiasm.
Without the support of all of these partners, the H+ Film Festival would have simply been
impossible. Thank you all.

Attendance
Overall we had the following attendance at our three events as part of the H+ Film Festival
14 people at the screening of Ghost in the Shell
30+ people at the midnight screening of RoboCop
40+ people at the screening of Transcendent Man and panel discussion