Calendar of Events

Fall 2013

Thursday, November 7, 2013
Paul Edwards (School of Information, History, University of Michigan)
A Vast Machine book cover
Code, Community, and Trust in Climate Science
3:30 pm Curtin 175
With the Social Studies of Information Research Group (SSIRG) in the School of Information Studies (SOIS), and the Digital Arts and Culture (DAC) program

Computer models of the earth system are our principal tool for understanding global climate change. Whereas the earliest computer models were built as a "craft" activity by individuals or small groups, today’s major models exceed one million lines of computer code. Thus no individual can fully understand the entire model.

Earth system science is therefore organized as a meta-community, i.e. a community of communities. Work organization among modeling groups is changing to reflect the complexity of highly distributed, multidisciplinary work—yet traditional forms of trust remain significant as both barriers and facilitators of exchange.

Paul Edwards' talk examines problems of designing work processes and reputation systems for this situation. How can disparate scientific communities share tools without losing the expert perspective on which scientific quality depends? Which models are "good enough"—and for what, and how do you know? To what degree can software-based exchange substitute for deep, hands-on understanding of models' functions and parameters? Can meta-communities work?

These questions are particularly important because a generalized movement toward transparency—under such headings as open access, open source, transparent governance, reproducible computational science, "climate audits," and so on—is challenging the traditional boundaries of climate science and attracting participants with widely divergent competencies and political agendas.

Open Discusssion with Paul Edwards
"Institutionalizing Science and Technology Studies within Interdisciplinary Environments"
Friday, November 8
9:00 - 11:00 am, Digital Humanities Lab, Golda Meir Library, 2 East

The field Science and Technology (STS) studies has grown hugely in influence and scope over the past few decades, as evidenced by the scale of the Society for the Social Studies of Science meeting. Yet relatively few academic departments exist in the area. Instead, the influence of STS scholarship has been felt throughout the humanities, in many social science and policy fields, and within schools of information.

This informal workshop will supplement Paul Edwards' lecture the previous day. He will make opening comments on the potential and challenges for institutionalizing STS scholarship within environments such as information schools and digital humanities programs where it is one approach among many rather than the primary focus of an academic unit. The rest of the session will be devoted to informal discussion between Professor Edwards and the other participants.

The event is organized by UWM's Social Studies of Information Research Group, part of the School of Information Studies, which hopes to use the discussion to build connections between its efforts and those pursuing STS-informed approaches to the digital humanities.

Paul Edwards is a professor in the School of Information (SI) and the Department of History at the University of Michigan. His research explores the history, politics, and cultural aspects of computers, information infrastructures, and global climate science.

Edwards is co-editor (with Geoffrey C. Bowker) of the Infrastructures book series at MIT Press, and he serves on the editorial boards of Climatic Change and Information & Culture: A Journal of History.

His most recent book is A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010). A Vast Machine was chosen as one of the best books of the year by The Economist and won the Computer History Museum Prize for the best book on the history of information technology.

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