300 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Science, Technology, and Society about their New Books

New Books in Science, Technology, and Society Marshall Poe

    • Social Sciences

Interviews with Scholars of Science, Technology, and Society about their New Books

    Stuart Ritchie, "Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype in Science" (Penguin Books, 2020)

    Stuart Ritchie, "Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype in Science" (Penguin Books, 2020)

    So much relies on science. But what if science itself can’t be relied on? In Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype in Science (Penguin Books, 2020), Stuart Ritchie, a professor of psychology at King’s College London, lucidly explains how science works, and exposes the systemic issues that prevent the scientific enterprise from living up to its truth-seeking ideals.
    While the scientific method will always be our best way of knowing about the world, the current system of funding and publishing incentivizes bad behavior on the part of scientists. As a result, many widely accepted and highly influential theories and claims—priming, sleep and nutrition, genes and the microbiome, and a host of drugs, allergies, and therapies—are based on unreliable, exaggerated and even fraudulent papers. Bad incentives in science have influenced everything from austerity economics to the anti-vaccination movement, and occasionally count the cost of them in human lives.
    Stuart Ritchie has been at the vanguard of a movement within science aimed at exposing and fixing these problems. In this New Books Network conversation, we speak specifically about how even the most well-meaning and truth-seeking scientists can unwittingly introduce bias into their analyses. We discuss ways that scientists’ training is inadequate.
    Matthew Jordan is a professor at McMaster University, where he teaches courses on AI and the history of science. You can follow him on Twitter @mattyj612 or his website matthewleejordan.com.
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    • 1 hr 18 min
    Orit Kamir, "Betraying Dignity" (Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2019)

    Orit Kamir, "Betraying Dignity" (Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2019)

    What do medieval knights, suicide bombers and "victimhood culture" have in common?
    Betraying Dignity: The Toxic Seduction of Social Media, Shaming, and Radicalization (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press) argues that in the second decade of the twenty-first century, individuals, political parties and nations around the world are abandoning the dignity-based culture we established in the aftermath of two world wars, less than a century ago.
    Disappointed or intimidated, many turn their backs on the humanitarian, universalistic culture that presumes our inherent human dignity and celebrates it as the basis of every individual's equal human rights. Instead, people and nations are returning to a much older, honor-based cultural structure.
    Because its ancient logic and mentality take new forms (such as social network shaming and certain aspects of "victimhood culture") -- we fail to recognize them, and overlook the pitfalls of the old honor-based structure. Narrating the history of honor-based societies, this book distinguishes their underlying principle from the post-WWII notion of dignity that underlies human rights. It makes the case that in order to revive and strengthen dignity-based culture, the concept of human dignity must be defined narrowly and succinctly, and enhanced with the principle of respect.
    Continuing its historical and cultural narrative, the book discusses contemporary phenomena such as al-Qaeda terrorists, shaming via social network, FoMO, and some features of the emerging "victimhood culture". The book pays homage to Erich Fromm's classic Escape from Freedom.
    Orit Kamir is founder and academic head of the Center for Human Dignity in Israel, and has taught law and culture studies at universities in Israel, the United States, and Europe.
    Dr. Yakir Englander is the National Director of Leadership programs at the Israeli-American Council. He also teaches at the AJR. He is a Fulbright scholar and was a visiting professor of Religion at Northwestern University, the Shalom Hartman Institute and Harvard Divinity School. His books are Sexuality and the Body in New Religious Zionist Discourse (English/Hebrew and The Male Body in Jewish Lithuanian Ultra-Orthodoxy (Hebrew). He can be reached at: Yakir1212englander@gmail.com
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    • 1 hr 13 min
    Tanya Kant, "Making it Personal: Algorithmic Personalization, Identity, and Everyday Life" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    Tanya Kant, "Making it Personal: Algorithmic Personalization, Identity, and Everyday Life" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    How are algorithms shaping our experience of the internet?
    In Making it Personal: Algorithmic Personalization, Identity, and Everyday Life (Oxford University Press), Tanya Kant, a lecturer in Media And Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex interrogates the rise of algorithmic personalization, in the context of an internet dominated by platform providers and corporate interests.
    Using detailed empirical case studies, along with a rich and deep theoretical framework, the book shows the negative impact of algorithmic personalization, the nuances and ambivalences in user behaviours, and their modes of resistance.
    As we increasingly live our lives online, the book is essential reading across the humanities and social sciences, as well as for anyone interested in understanding how algorithms regulate our lives.
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    • 36 min
    J. Browning and T. Silver, "An Environmental History of the Civil War" (UNC Press, 2020)

    J. Browning and T. Silver, "An Environmental History of the Civil War" (UNC Press, 2020)

    This sweeping new history recognizes that the Civil War was not just a military conflict but also a moment of profound transformation in Americans' relationship to the natural world.
    To be sure, environmental factors such as topography and weather powerfully shaped the outcomes of battles and campaigns, and the war could not have been fought without the horses, cattle, and other animals that were essential to both armies. But in An Environmental History of the Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2020), Judkin Browning and Timothy Silver weave a far richer story, combining military and environmental history to forge a comprehensive new narrative of the war's significance and impact.
    As they reveal, the conflict created a new disease environment by fostering the spread of microbes among vulnerable soldiers, civilians, and animals; led to large-scale modifications of the landscape across several states; sparked new thinking about the human relationship to the natural world; and demanded a reckoning with disability and death on an ecological scale.
    And as the guns fell silent, the change continued; Browning and Silver show how the war influenced the future of weather forecasting, veterinary medicine, the birth of the conservation movement, and the establishment of the first national parks.
    In considering human efforts to find military and political advantage by reshaping the natural world, Browning and Silver show not only that the environment influenced the Civil War's outcome but also that the war was a watershed event in the history of the environment itself.
    Judkin Browning is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of History at Appalachian State University and has written two military histories of the Civil War: Shifting Loyalties: The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina (2011) and The Seven Days’ Battle: The War Begins Anew (2012).
    Timothy Silver is Professor of History at Appalachian State University and the author of Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains: An Environmental History of the Highest Peaks in Eastern America and A New Face on the Countryside: Indians, Colonists, and Slaves in South Atlantic Forests, 1500-1800, a foundational work in the field of environmental history.
    Brian Hamilton is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he is researching African American environmental history. He lives in Western Massachusetts and teaches at Deerfield Academy. Twitter. Website.
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    • 59 min
    Joshua Nall, "News from Mars: Mass Media and the Forging of a New Astronomy, 1860-1910" (U Pittsburgh Press, 2019)

    Joshua Nall, "News from Mars: Mass Media and the Forging of a New Astronomy, 1860-1910" (U Pittsburgh Press, 2019)

    In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re hearing an awful lot about the fraught relationship between science and media. In his book, News from Mars: Mass Media and the Forging of a New Astronomy, 1860-1910 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), historian of science Joshua Nall shows us that a blurry boundary between science and journalism was a key feature—not a bug—of the emergence of modern astronomy.
    Focusing on objects and media, such as newspapers, encyclopedias, cigarette cards, and globes, Nall offers a history of how astronomers’ cultivation of a mass public shaped their discipline as it managed controversies over the possibility of canals on Mars, and even interplanetary communication. This book is strongly recommended for historians of science and communication, as well as those with an eye for material culture.
    Joshua Nall is curator of modern sciences at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science in the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.
    Mikey McGovern is a PhD candidate in Princeton University’s Program in the History of Science. He is writing a dissertation on how people used statistics to make claims of discrimination in 1970s America, and how the relationship between rights and num- bers became a flashpoint in political struggles over bureaucracy, race, and law.
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    • 1 hr 4 min
    Donna Drucker, "Contraception: A Concise History" (The MIT Press, 2020)

    Donna Drucker, "Contraception: A Concise History" (The MIT Press, 2020)

    The beginning of the modern contraceptive era began in 1882, when Dr. Aletta Jacobs opened the first birth control clinic in Amsterdam. The founding of this facility, and the clinical provision of contraception that it enabled, marked the moment when physicians started to take the prevention of pregnancy seriously as a medical concern. In Contraception: A Concise History (The MIT Press, 2020), Donna Drucker traces the history of modern contraception, outlining the development, manufacturing, and use of contraceptive methods from the opening of Dr. Jacobs's clinic to the present. Drucker approaches the subject from the perspective of reproductive justice: the right to have a child, the right not to have a child, and the right to parent children safely and healthily.
    Drucker describes contraceptive methods available before the pill, including the diaphragm (dispensed at the Jacobs clinic) and condom, spermicidal jellies, and periodic abstinences. She looks at the development and dissemination of the pill and its chemical descendants; describes technological developments in such non-hormonal contraceptives as the cervical cap and timing methods (including the “rhythm method” favored by the Roman Catholic church); and explains the concept of reproductive justice. Finally, Drucker considers the future of contraception—the adaptations of existing methods, new forms of distribution, and ongoing efforts needed to support contraceptive access
    Dr. Donna Drucker leads the English as the Language for Instruction Project, which helps faculty, administrative staff, scientific staff, and students at the Technische Universität Darmstadt (Germany) improve their English abilities for teaching and learning.
    Chris Babits is an Andrew W. Mellon Engaged Scholar Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. He researches the intersecting histories of medicine, religion, and gender and sexuality and is currently working on his book about the history of conversion therapy in the United States.
     
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    • 25 min

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