Friday, 15 November 2013

Science in the Streets

Science in the Streets:
A free public engagement event from the History of Science Society
Thursday, Nov 21, 3-6 pm, Boston Convention & Exhibition Center

[I have asked Conevery Bolton Valencius, who teaches at UMass Boston, to write a guest post about an event she is helping to organize at this year's HSS.  Many readers of this blog are interested in popular science & science popularization, and I urge everyone to join us for what promises to be a fascinating discussion!]

Current newspaper headlines make clear how anti-science and science-illiterate many Americans are, at least about some political issues.  But there are effective and interesting efforts going on all around to engage people in the workings and the wonderings of science.  Further, historians of science are doing a lot of that work – and sometimes have particular insight about what is new or very old about rhythms of scientific skepticism or scientific enthusiasm. 

At next week’s annual conference of the History of Science Society, we’ll explore some of the most exciting current efforts to engage the public in scientific research and scientific education – and we’ll reflect on how historians of science are contributing to those efforts.

The HSS conference opens with Science in the Streets, a free, all-ages public event at Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (on the Silver Line!), Room 253C on Thursday, November 21, 2013 from 3-6pm.

To find out more, continue reading after the jump.

“Science in the Streets” will feature Brian Malow (the science comedian) and Ari Daniel Shapiro of the popular science storytelling project The Story Collider, as well as historians of science, museum directors, and researchers. From fossils to FoldIt, the event will highlight the role of the public in science throughout history.

“Science in the Streets” has two halves: “Science and Spectacle” and “Crowdsourcing: Science by the People?”  In each, we will hear from do-ers in these fields, demonstrating some of the ways in which they are currently engaging a variety of communities in contemporary scientific practice.  Then a panel of historians of science will offer commentary about how these activities connect with or differ from historical examples in the past, and we will open the floor for discussion and debate. 

“Science in the Streets” is a joint project between the History of Science Society and the Boston University Center for the Philosophy and part of the new HSS “History of Science Matters” initiative, designed to highlight the relevance of the history of science beyond its usual academic boundaries. 

Don’t just sigh in annoyance when you read the headlines - Join us and see some of what’s going right!

 Conevery Bolton Valencius just published The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes and teaches the history of science and of American environments (and the U.S. Civil War) at UMass Boston.  She sometimes sighs at the headlines. 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Remembering Sandy: Stewardship, Memory, History

A year ago I wrote a series of blog posts on Hurricane Sandy here at American Science. In them, I reported on experiences in Hoboken, New Jersey, a city that was hammered by the storm, a city in which I then lived and in which I still work at the Stevens Institute of Technology. A few months ago, I was asked to put together an event marking the Superstorm's one year anniversary. That event took place on October 29th, a year to the day that Sandy struck, and today, Stevens has posted a video of the multimedia event, which mixed videos of interviews with live presentations.

At their best, history and other forms of inquiry can include acts of stewardship, service to some community whether it is near or far. When I set about organizing this event, I approached it with the eye of a public historian and sought to create oral history videos and other records that would mark our memories of the event. (I would like to see some philosopher of history explore the relationship between writing history and other acts, like commemorating, memorializing, marking, etc.) This effort included having influential people, like Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Monsignor Robert Meyer, speak at the event, but we also interviewed ordinary Hobokenites and people who worked hard to help others.

There are slight touches of science and technology studies throughout the presentation. The event wasn't the place to sell an interdisciplinary endeavor. But the presentation included Professor Alan Blumberg and Dean Michael Bruno, two members of the Stevens community who are involved in predicting ocean dynamics, including flooding. Later in the presentation, two members of Hoboken's tech community, Dave Haier and Aaron Price, talked about their role in responding to and helping the recovery from Sandy.

On a broader level, the presentation sought to explore the nature of innovation under disaster, a theme I'd previously explored both here at American Science and at the STS Next 20 page.
At the latter outlet, I noted, "Wiebe Bijker recently investigated how scientists in India develop systems for nanotechnology research that are much cheaper than systems in rich Western nations. This form of tinkering and making do with limited resources is known in India as jugaad (the idea is akin to the French notion of “bricolage”). During disasters, nearly everyone must practice a bit of jugaad because the systems we depend upon are temporarily not functional." At the Sandy event, I took the charging stations that popped up all around Hoboken as the central metaphor and image.

The video opens with some nice remarks and memories of Stevens President, Nariman Farvardin. My part begins at about 10:40.