Cluster Courses in Science Studies, 2009-10

FALL 2009

Literature of the History of Science: Histories of Objectivity
Ken Alder

Description: In this course we read recent scholarship in the history of science to examine changing notions of what counts as “objective knowledge.” In doing so we will seek to open up the processes by which certain objects and concepts come to be marked as “natural” and hence beyond the realm of social and political interrogation. But how was the boundary between the natural and artificial drawn in the first place? How were the “facts of nature” made into the sorts of particularities which could be translated readily across time and space? And how, in particular, was the human body transformed into an object of scientific study? Our readings will mainly compare two historical moments—early modern Europe and twentieth-century America. For each we will examine how new forms of knowledge-making claimed to be “objective.” We will closely consider the role of science in the process of colonization and the ways that the bio-medical sciences have reinforced and subverted assumptions about sexual difference and race.


Topics in the History of ICTs
Jennifer Light Tu 12:00PM - 2:50PM Frances Searle Building 2107

Description: This course introduces students to the fields and methods of historical research on information and communication technology. No previous training in this field is required, but students who would like to use the class to continue research on a relevant topic are welcome. The class operates based on the philosophy that the best way to acquire training in historical research is not to begin by reading “how to” sources on historical techniques and methods but rather to pair readings of the best scholarly histories in a given area with an effort to write history oneself. Each week of the class combines discussion of several articles or book selections with discussion of the research process more generally. By the third week of the course, students (individually or in small groups) will have selected a topic for research and as the course proceeds will devote increasing time to researching and writing up. The work of a historian can be more solitary than other types of social science research, and this class is organized to combat that isolation. Students are invited to suggest readings for the group, whether secondary or primary sources, particularly if they are having trouble figuring out how to make sense of or interpret these materials.

The course will devote some discussion to the writing process in order to make explicit how there are many possible ways to succeed as a historian of information and communication technology. Proposal, Bibliography, and Draft workshops are intended for students to begin to acquire skills of constructive criticism in group settings which will be useful in their future careers as scholars and teachers – and also will offer feedback on their evolving work. The overarching goal of this course is to teach you, the next generation of academic professionals, to instinctively look beyond disciplinary boundaries in your research – so that you can make use of the diversity of voices on any single subject, work to create a conversation about ICT history that spans multiple disciplines, and identify with greater precision the originality of your own scholarly contributions. We will of course only be able to scratch the surface of the field of ICT history in a single quarter, so where possible I will offer suggestions for further reading. Additionally, if you have suggestions about course readings or other exercises to facilitate this goal, please let me know.

Media Meets Technology
Pablo Boczkowski We 2:00PM - 4:50PM Frances Searle Building 2115

Description: Two of the main conceptual organizers in the social study of the media have been the coexisting tendencies to focus on either their production or consumption, and on either their content or technological dimensions. If these tendencies were arrayed on a two-dimensional map of the field of inquiry, they would produce four quadrants of relatively distinct spaces of scholarship: production / content, consumption / content, production / technology, and consumption / technology. This division of intellectual labor has arisen from the evolution of linkages across the different traditions of inquiry that inform the social study of media, and it has long been taken-for-granted. It has produced major insights about the construction of media, the appropriation of the resulting products by users, and the cultural and political consequences associated with their broad social circulation. But it has also led to systematic shortcomings by imposing a stronger separation between the two elements of each pair than what is common in the media's social life. As the studies blurring this division of labor have shown, the interpenetration between production and consumption is often such that it is difficult to make sense of one without also paying attention to the other.

In addition, the content and technological dimensions are usually also so intertwined that one cannot be properly understood without reference to the other.This graduate seminar will have the dual goal of denaturalizing these taken-for-granted epistemic assumptions and imagining what kind of alternative research programs might emerge from a more integrative lens. To this end, the first half of the quarter (classes 2 to 5) will be devoted to reading monographs that represent studies in each of these quadrants, with an eye to interrogating what their respective foci make visible and what is left out of view by not venturing outside of their respective intellectual spaces. The second half (classes 6 to 9) will be centered on accounts that have challenged the boundaries between production and consumption or content and technology or both, with the overarching goal of conceiving alternatives paths of inquiry. The presentation of research proposals by students in class 9 (see below) will close this exercise of generating new trajectories in the social study of media technologies.

IGP 495
Science & Society
Philip Hockberger

Description: This course is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the foundations of science (historical roots, philosophical underpinnings, diversity of perspectives), and it overlaps with some of the material presented in courses on the Evanston campus (Hist 376, Phil 354). No comparable course is currently offered on the Chicago campus. The second part of the course focuses on social issues in the biomedical sciences (creationism, abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, DNA fingerprinting, cryogenics, replacement therapies, animal rights) and their moral and ethical implications. This part is similar in design to Anthro 391 on the Evanston campus, but it covers different topics. It also shares a common ethical theme with other courses on the Evanston and Chicago campuses (Biol Sci 423, IGP 494) without duplication of subject matter. The latter two courses focus on ethical issues related to the practice of modern experimental science rather than on the social issues it impacts.

RTVF 584
Medical Imaging and the Image of Medicine
Scott Curtis Tu 1-6 (includes screening time) Annie May Swift 109

Description: This course is about the interaction and mutual dependence of imaging, physicians, disease, and the human body. Organized around the relationships between imaging technologies (photographs, motion pictures, computed tomography), diseases (tuberculosis, syphilis, psychosis), and different states or organs of the human body (corpse, fetus, brain), this course will examine how images frame medical perception, but also how the circulation of these images in the public sphere, or in their popular and educational forms°©-forensic and hospital dramas, classroom films, etc°©-have framed our perceptions of medicine. It will therefore be a course on the history of representation of and in medicine since the late nineteenth century, focusing specifically on the role of the image in structuring medical practice. But the course will also be an experiment in interdisciplinary research, combining approaches and resources from critical theory, film and media studies, medical anthropology, and the history of science and medicine. Readings will include works by Lisa Cartwright, Michel Foucault, Carlo Ginzburg, Amelie Hastie, Ludmilla Jordanova, Barry Saunders, and John Harley Warner, as well as other primary and secondary articles from a variety of fields.

There will be regular screenings of popular dramas (the Dr. Christian film series, MEDIC (1954-56), HOUSE, M.D., GREY'S ANATOMY, etc.), educational and training films (THE RELAXED WIFE (1957), SYMPTOMS IN SCHIZOPHRENIA (1940), etc.), and medical and experimental films, such as Stan Brakhage's THE ACT OF SEEING WITH ONE'S OWN EYES (1971). That film and others are, by their very nature, graphic in their depiction of human frailty. In other words, this class is not for the squeamish. Open to all graduate students (limit 15); write to scurtis@northwestern.edu for further information.

Science and Religion
Michelle Molina Times TBD

Description: tba


Sociology of Health, Illness and Biomedicine
Steven Epstein Times TBD

Description: This course provides an introduction to central topics in medical sociology (or the sociology of health and illness), but with a simultaneous focus on biomedicine as a domain of research and knowledge production. Thus an important goal is to suggest how traditional approaches to the study of medicine and health care are being redefined and reinvigorated by social and cultural studies of science and technology.

We will explore multiple domains: the market relations that commodify health care; the work sites in which medical practice is articulated; the research arenas that transform medical knowledge, practice, and technologies; the systems of cultural meaning within which ideas of health and disease circulate; the social inequalities that structure the experience of illness and access to care; the social movements that challenge biomedical authority and expertise; and the bodies and selves that experience and are remade by illness. The course focuses primarily but not exclusively on the United States in the 20th and 21st centuries. It emphasizes sociological work but also brings in analyses from fields such as history, anthropology, and cultural studies, as well as interdisciplinary science studies approaches.

Mapping Race
Jennifer Light Times TBD

Description: This course examines maps’ important service as media technologies in discussions and debates about race and ethnicity in the US since the turn of the 20th century, with special attention to their applications to the analysis of and intervention in “urban problems.” We focus on the historical function of maps as information systems and databases; simulations and policy models; and communication technologies and public relations tools. Readings include primary as well as secondary sources to capture the voices of the mapmakers who are missing from many historical studies. Each week we review how scholars are making use of new technologies to bring new life to historical maps and spatial data to provide a range of models for your own future work. The course also seeks to provide an elemental conceptual understanding of GIS.

You are encouraged to purchase /Getting to Know ArcGIS/, with accompanying CD, which will give you access to the software for a trial period on your personal computer. Students who wish to gain further technical familiarity are encouraged to follow the reading recommendations each week. This book includes simple exercises within each chapter to explore the functionality of ArcGIS. Even reading without doing the exercises will give you a better sense of how you might make use of this program in your future work.