Virtual Conference Season

Like fall conference season, but in socks

Thank you to everyone who has subscribed, shared, or otherwise supported this newsletter! And yes, you can totally forward it to your friends; even better, invite them to sign up so it lands straight in their in-box.

For scholars who write about the history, sociology, and anthropology of science and technology, fall is conference season. The Society for the Social Studies of Science, the History of Science Society, and the Society for the History of Technology all usually hold their meetings sometime between August and November. These are separate societies with separate cultures and separate meetings, a historical legacy of 1960s and 1970s scholarly politics that needs to jettisoned really, really soon, IMHO. This year was supposed to be different, with HSS and SHOT meeting jointly in New Orleans. Alas, the pandemic had other plans.

I had hoped to write you a little “So what is the history of science, anyway,” piece, since the answer is less straightforward than you might think if this isn’t what you do for a living. But then Donald Trump yelled at Joe Biden on a stage for 100 minutes while almost certainly infectious with COVID—and it only went downhill from there. If you’ve done something other than check the news every 2 hours since last week, good for you! You are not me. And thus, my explainer on why historians of science neither celebrate the achievements of scientific geniuses nor predict the future path of scientific discovery will have to wait for another time.

But with or without my explainer, the work of historians of science and technology continues apace. Instead of gathering in New Orleans, historians of science and technology are converging on the internet, as one does in 2020. The virtual program looks…how shall I say…more self-aware of the discipline’s usual focus on whiteness than is typical for HSS, which is a welcome development. I’m particularly looking forward to Meredith Broussard’s Saturday plenary on Artificial Intelligence and Social Justice, Friday’s roundtable on the whiteness of “deep history,” and Saturday’s Forum for the History of the Human Sciences session on what it means for historians of science to engage in dismantling white supremacy.

And the business meeting, of course. What is a scholarly meeting without a business meeting.

See you on the internet, fellow historians. I’ll catch up with the rest of you soon.

Share Never Just Science

Preliminary Reading: If you want to know more about artificial intelligence and social justice but zoom lectures aren’t your speed, check out Meredith Broussard’s excellent 2018 book, Artificial Intelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World (MIT Press).

Audra on the Internet: My American Philosophical Society virtual discussion with Adrianna Link is now available on YouTube. Enjoy!

Make a Plan to Vote!: I’m going to be a broken record on this topic, folks. Check your registration, request a mail-in ballot or learn about your early voting options, find your polling place, and more at IWillVote.com.