End of term

•April 2, 2007 • Leave a Comment

First of all, thanks so much to everyone for such a great term!  Your enthusiasm, committment and thoughtfulness each week was always appreciated.

I also think that the poster session went quite well – I was most impressed to hear students discussing what they had learned from other posters, and making connections between seemingly disparate topics.  But I have a few concerns, and I would love to hear your reflections before I attempt to do this again in another class.  Please feel free to send me an email or leave a comment here describing what you liked, and didn’t like, about the posters and the poster session.

As promised in class, you can pick up your poster marks from the 7th floor Loeb main office anytime after noon on Wednesday 4 April.  A sheet with your name on it will contain the assignment mark and your final mark in the course.

I’ll also be going to the department on Wednesday morning to hang your posters.  If you DO NOT want your poster and handouts put up in the department, please let me know before Wednesday.  I also have photos I took of your posters and would love to post some of them to the blog, so please let me know if that is okay with you and I’ll post them here as well.

So that’s it for administrative stuff, but if you have any final comments, questions or concerns please email me or leave a comment here.  Now go enjoy the summer and good luck with all your future endeavours!


Whose revolution?

•March 24, 2007 • Leave a Comment

As promised, here are the details for the public forum that Craig mentioned in class last week.

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) – Green Revolution – Whose Revolution?

Monday March 26th, 7:30pm – 9:30pm, Congress Centre, Capital Hall Room, 55 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa

The Bill Gates and Rockefeller Foundations plan to invest $150 million U.S. into Africa’s agricultural development. Find out what African and Canadian farmers, farm leaders and scientists think.

Discussion: articles by Nickles & Shove

•March 12, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Shelley Nickles, 2002, “‘Preserving Women’: Refrigerator Design as Social Process in the 1930s,” Technology and Culture 43(4):693-727.

using concrete examples from the article: what are some connections between design, technical function and social expectations? how do businesses leverage social needs and values in order to create new markets? what are some relationships between technological innovation and new product design? how have manufacturers, marketers and designers constructed the “average” consumer over the years? how and why are “features” added and removed? what does it mean to “take styling seriously” in terms of material culture and class, ethnicity, and gender expectations?

Elizabeth Shove, 2003, “Users, Technologies and Expectations of Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience,” Innovation 16(2):193-206.

using concrete examples from the article: how are relationships between technologies, users and environmental concerns configured? what roles do comfort, cleanliness and convenience play in micro- and macro-level configurations and appropriations of new technologies? what are some of the possibilities, benefits and drawbacks of direct user involvement in the design process?

apply it!

the scenario: You need to buy a new washer & dryer and it’s important that they embody technological and social values that are important to you.

the research: Looking at the following advertisements, what can you say about the relationships between technical function and social life?

Frigidaire Laundry
LG Laundry

Whirlpool Laundry

the decision: Which washer & dryer would you purchase, and why?

Things to Think and Talk About (Sexed & Gendered Bodies I)

•March 2, 2007 • 1 Comment

Check out some of the following videos and press articles on vaginal rejuvenation and designer vaginoplasty:

Fox News: Vaginal Rejuvenation
Salon.com: Designer Vaginas
CBS News: Sex Laser
Globe and Mail: Designer Vaginas
Seven News: Vaginal Rejuvenation
The Observer: The new nose job: designer vaginas
Rotton.com: Designer Vaginas
SheTV: Body Watch
Detroit MetroTimes: Does this make my labia look fat?

And consider them within this broader context:

Wired Magazine: The Coming Boom
“Big Pharma has made billions pumping up the male population. Now neuroscientists are reverse engineering the female orgasm.”

Some questions to think about:

How do the women who undergo the surgery describe their motivations? How do they describe their bodies? What ideals do they attribute to female bodies and sexuality? How do they describe post-operative changes in their bodies, sexual and romantic relationships?

What roles do men play in these stories? How are their bodies described? What qualities of masculinity do these men portray? How do they describe their relationship with the women involved? How do they react post-surgery?

What kinds of experts tell these stories? How do the doctors describe their motivations? How is the doctor-patient relationship portrayed? How do the plastic surgeons differ from the neuroscientists? How do each approach the female body and female sexuality?

How do the reporters present the issues? What kind of scenes are used to stage different people and roles? What risks are presented? What benefits are considered? On which points is there certainty? What points seem more ambiguous? What jokes are told?

What are the biopolitics involved? What role do markets play? How is health implicated? In what ways are these technoscientific practices presented as inevitable? How can these kinds of biotechnologies regulate bodies and sexuality? What kinds of state regulation are possible or desirable?

What do you think?

Technoscience & Bodies I – Lecture links

•February 27, 2007 • Leave a Comment


“For millennia, man remained what he was for Aristotle: a living animal with the additional capacity for a political existence; modern man is an animal whose politics places his existence as a living being in question.”

– Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality 1: The will to knowledge

“[R]ecent developments in the life sciences, biomedicine and biotechnology can usefully be analysed along three dimensions. The first concerns logics of control – for contemporary biopolitics is risk politics. The second concerns the regime of truth in the life sciences – for contemporary biopolitics is molecular politics. The third concerns technologies of the self – for contemporary biopolitics is ethopolitics.”

– Nikolas Rose, “The Politics of Life Itself,” Theory, Culture & Society, 18(6):1-30.

Thoughts on the Concept of Biopower Today (pdf) by Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose

From Biopower to Biopolitics by Maurizio Lazzarato

Technoscientific issues & concerns

The Creation of Genetic Identity by Phillip Thurtle

The American Eugenics Movement

Techno-progressivism vs. bioconservatism

Stem Cells – science, ethics and politics at the forefront of biomedical innovation

Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee – Patents

PBS: Our Genes/Our Choices & Organ Farm

Time Magazine: Cloning archives


Gene(sis): Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics

Biotech Hobbyist Magazine: A brief history of tissue cult(ure)

Eduardo Kac
“Transgenic works and other living pieces…”

Stelarc (@Transmediale 2007)
“Bodies are both Zombies and Cyborgs…”

The Tissue Culture & Art Project
“[R]esearch and development project into the use of tissue technologies as a medium for artistic expression…”

“The project is seeking couples who want to donate their bone cells…Their cells will be prepared and seeded onto a bioactive scaffold…The bone will be combined with traditional precious metals so that each has a ring made with the tissue of their partner…”

“[D]edicated to the progressive advancement of human genetic structure…”

CAE: BioCom
“The researchers here at BioCom have two primary goals – to completely invade the flesh with vision and mapping technologies…and to develop the political and economic frontiers of flesh products and services…”

CAE: Society for Reproductive Anachronisms
“[F]ormed in 1992 to combat the rationalization and instrumentalization of the reproductive process that is occurring in order to totally manage its service to the pancapitalist order…”

CAE: Cult of the New Eve
“Welcome to the Second Genesis, Brothers and Sisters, we are witnessing a remaking of the world…”

YouTube: Steve Kurtz Waiting + Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund

Discussion: articles by Kaufman & Morgan, Kent et al.

•February 26, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Sharon R. Kaufman and Lynn M. Morgan, 2005, “The Anthropology of the Beginnings and Ends of Life,” Annual Review of Anthropology 34:317–41.

why and how can we problematise beginnings and endings? how do biological birth and social birth act to produce persons? how do cultural values attached to abortion, child birth and adoption influence our understandings of the beginnings of life and personhood? what are the connections between life and death? what role do funerary and bereavement rituals play in demarcating life and death? what does it mean to be “not alive” or “not dead”? how does the state regulate dead, dying and decaying bodies? how does the culture of medicine organise the beginning and end of life? what are some biopolitical concerns about emergent life forms? how do bureaucratic forms, marketplace activity and biomedical technique shape current understandings of life and death? what does this attention to biopolitics teach us about attaching value to particular forms of life?

Julie Kent et al., 2006, “Culturing Cells, Reproducing and Regulating the Self,” Body & Society 12(2): 1–23.

what are some of the implications for selfhood if we are now living in a biopolitical age? what distinguishes tissue engineering in terms of social, economic and political relations? what does it mean to treat particular technosciences as products and services? how is tissue engineering involved in the manufacturing and regulating of risk? how is it involved in reproducing and regulating the self? how can tissue engineering be seen to involve inter-corporeality and extra-corporeality? how might these forces constitute new social relations? what kinds of bioethics arise in these new relations?

Last class before Reading Week

•February 13, 2007 • Leave a Comment

In tomorrow’s class your paper proposals will be returned, and we’ll be covering topics that will be crucial to your research as well as to upcoming readings and critiques.

My lecture will provide an historical overview of we have meant when we talk about the social construction of science and technology, focussing on the Strong Programme, large technological systems approaches, feminist critiques and cyborg studies, and Actor-Network Theory.

We’ll sum up Stengers’ The Invention of Modern Science and discuss what it contributes to our understanding of science, technology and innovation – and we’ll discuss if and how it can act as social and cultural critique.

I’ll also introduce the topics for the rest of the term and discuss how technoscientific design and innovation play increasingly important roles in social and cultural life. This will be followed by small group discussions of Thrift’s article.

Next week is Reading Week and there is no class. We return on Feb 28th to explore questions of life and death (!) and your papers are due on Mar 7th. Some of you have critiques due on these days as well, so be sure to plan your time accordingly.