Tag archives for asu

The Center for Science and the Imagination

Gentle Readers,

For the past year, Arizona State University and best-selling science-fiction author Neal Stephenson have been working together on a plan to use science-fiction to reignite America’s ability to undertake major infrastructure projects.  You can see Neal and ASU President Michael Crow talking about this at Google’s SolveforX event, and it’s finally come to fruition with the beta launch of the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination.  This is some very cool stuff, since Science Fiction is Technology Assessment for the Rest of Us, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

I’ll let the Center’s director Ed Finn speak for himself.

Dear All,

I’d like to update you on the latest news about the proposed Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University.

Hieroglyph Site Beta Launch

The beta launch of http://hieroglyph.asu.edu/ starts this evening with an announcement by Neal Stephenson at the EG Conference in Monterey, CA. The site is a collaboration between ASU and Stephenson’s Hieroglyph group. It will bring together science fiction writers, scientists, engineers, technologists, and the general public to think big and explore radical ideas through collaborative projects.

As early supporters of ASU’s partnership with Hieroglyph I encourage you to create a user account, explore the site’s Discussion Forums and Wiki, and share the site with anyone who might be interested in the project. If you are interested in actively contributing to the site collaborations, please let me know and I will make sure your user account has contributor-level access.

The site will continue to evolve over the coming weeks and months, and we will be making our own formal announcement about the Center for Science and the Imagination and Hieroglyph later this spring. During this beta phase, please share your feedback about the project and website on the Hieroglyph forums or with me directly.
Food for Thought/Interesting News
Here are a few recent articles exploring issues related to the Center’s mission that you might enjoy.
Putting Science in the Movies: A Conversation with Contagion’s Scott Z. Burns, Ed Finn, Slate
NASA Invests In Satellites That Beam Power Down to Earth, Rebecca Boyle, Popular Science
The Space Craze That Gripped Russia Nearly 100 Years Ago, Adam Mann, Wired

Thanks as ever for your support.



EMERGE: Artists + Scientists Redesign the Future

Here at Prevail, we care deeply about the future. And a big part of caring about the future is caring about our collective images of the future, the questions that we ask about it, and the tools that we use. Which is why I’m proud to announce the EMERGE Event, at Arizona State University March 1st-3rd.

What is EMERGE? An unparalleled campus–wide event uniting artists, engineers, bio scientists, social scientists, story–tellers and designers to build, draw, write and rethink the future of the human species and the environments that we share.

Who will be there? Global leaders from industry and creative practice will join distinguished ASU faculty and talented students along with present a line-up of world class keynote speakers for the conference-closing Keynotes Session (March 3, open to the public with RSVP) including noted writers, designers and futurists such as Stewart Brand (The Whole Earth Discipline), Bruce Sterling (The Difference Engine, Beyond the Beyond), Sherry Turkle (Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other), Bruce Mau (Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, Massive Change Network), Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Reamde) and ASU President Michael Crow.

What will we be doing? MAKING THE FUTURE.

If you’re in the Phoenix area in early March, please come by. Particularly for the Digital Culture festival which will be open to the public on March 3rd.

Lunch with Sheila Jasanoff

Sheila Jasanoff is one of my personal academic heroes*, so her visit to ASU last week was perhaps the highlight of the many lectures I’ve attended so far. I remember back when I was a sophomore, and Shelley Hurt handed us Designs on Nature and said something like “this is a difficult book, but this is a very important book, so pay attention!” Since then, Jasanoff has come up in nearly all of my ASU classes. Her many contributions to the field include a bunch of brilliant comparative studies on environmental and healthcare regulation in the US, UK, and EU. The idiom of co-production, which explains how “Orderings of nature and society reinforce each other, creating conditions of stability as well as change,” and her latest masterpiece, bio-constitutionality, which I won’t even attempt to explain (wait for the book).

Along with a general lecture on bio-constitutionality, Jasanoff spent a lunch with a group of graduate students, with the goal of helping us become wise. She is simply an absolute joy to listen to, intelligent, precise, relevant. She hit us with three solid thesis topics in 15 minutes, which almost makes me wish I didn’t have mine set, but onwards to the meat of the issue.

Jasanoff covered several topics of interest to STS practitioners, how to use theoretical paradigms, comparative studies, and the like. STS is a diverse field, but it shares the common question, “What difference does it make that science and technology are forces in our society?” Methodologically, you can attempt to bash everything into a theory, which leads to rigid, wooden papers, or do pure ethnography, where you go in with no preconceptions, take notes on everything, and hope that at the end of the day, something interesting emerges. Realistically, you need some conceptual guideposts, the challenge is to pick ones that help problematize and explore your research question.

A second topic was how graduate students can change the world. Jasanoff explicitly discourages trying to be policy relevant, or an intellectual who changes the world. If you want to change the world, go do it! Be a politician, or an engineer, and make things, don’t be a critic or adviser and try and sidle towards influence that way. One person asked about policy relevance, which Jasanoff is also not a big fan of. Being policy relevant means chasing the headlines, trying to use scholarship to beat professional spin-doctors and lobbyists, and that’s a race a good scholar will never win. At best, you’ll become captured by the kinds of people who control Washington DC, and who wants to work for them? What we should do, “If you succeed in crafting a voice, and talking about interesting things, the right people will find you.”

I asked about my perennial hobby-horse, the lack of conservative scientists, and conversely, the lack of credibility that science has for conservatives. While there is some truth to the idea that scientists like big government because it pays for their labs, that model is overly simplistic. Rather, in her view, scientists have become arrogant, and have failed to justify their support to the public. (True, Science the Endless Frontier is still the primary justification for federal R&D, and it’s 60 years old) Scientists shouldn’t discredit Palin et al, rather they must be humble, must empathize and understand why arguments about big government encroachment are effective in these situations. Theories of public irrationality are profoundly anti-democratic; it’s anthropologists hunting for fuzzy-wuzzies in their backyard. Scientists have effectively abrogated a public position, with disastrous results. “The Enlightenment was not a historical event. It is a process, a mission, a continuous duty to explain yourself.”

*for the record, Sheila Jasanoff is my role model, Bruce Sterling is my guru, and Robert McNamara is my idol.