Friday, September 14, 2007

Humanities versus social sciences.


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Monday, May 21, 2007

Mary Douglas (1921-2007)

"[T]he anthropologist who took the techniques of a particularly vibrant period of research into non-western societies and applied them to her own, western milieu..."

Guardian: Dame Mary Douglas: Brilliant and prolific anthropologist famed for her social theories about cosmology, consumption and risk

Times Online: Professor Dame Mary Douglas: Challenging and wide-ranging social anthropologist whose ideas and influence reverberated far beyond her discipline

Although she was more of a structuralist than I would ever care to be, Mary Douglas was one of the first anthropologists I read and I still come back to her ideas. As undergraduates we were assigned Purity and Danger to read, and to get a sense of how current STS scholars are still using this work check out Benjamin Sim's article, Safe Science: Material and Social Order in Laboratory Work which explains laboratory work and scientific practice in terms of order and pollution. Outside of science and technology studies, it was Donna Goldstein's wonderful ethnography Laughter Out of Place that helped me better understand the potentially disruptive and revolutionary potential of humour--something Douglas argued in the mid-60s.

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Internet of Things: Where milk is commented, eggs come with rss feeds and the shelves are full of FUN.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Research that makes people laugh and then think

"Humor is intrinsically a risky business, since it succeeds only if those present respond in the desired way. In mixed groups where some people are highly vulnerable in various ways and others are extremely secure, it is not an accident that humor tends to be initiated by the secure. It is also not an accident that the readiness of others to become secondary agents increases in proportion to the security and power of the joke's initiator ... If all the people involved are peers, then much of the moral danger involved in acts of humor is avoided. This is not because nothing can go wrong, but because if it does, there is some chance of a direct response. The situation is quite different if the people involved are non-peers." (Harvey, J. 1995. "Humor as social act: Ethical issues." The Journal of Value Inquiry 29:19-30.)

Tomorrow in class we'll be discussing the role of humour in science and technology, and the possibilities of humour as social and cultural critique.

Using the Ig Nobel Prizes and one of my favourite blogs - Improbable Research: Research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK - as case studies, we'll be talking about humour, power and exactly what it is that people can laugh at and think about in these scenarios.

What about science and technology makes you giggle - or laugh so hard you snort liquid out your nose? And what do you think after that?

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