Science and Technology in Society Day — LOTS of women

Science and Technology in Society Day             Friday March 23, 2012

Location:  Great Hall, Conrad Grebel University College

University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Please join us for an examination of issues at the intersection of science, technology and society with new faculty Carla Fehr (Wolfe Chair in Science and Technology) and Heather Douglas (Waterloo Chair in Science and Society) and a variety of experts from the Waterloo area.  The event is free, but pre-registration, for individual events or the whole day, is requested.

Register here:


9:15  Coffee and Welcome

9:30  Café Scientifique I:  Scientists and the Burden of Responsibility

What are scientists’ responsibilities with respect to society?  While it is clear that scientists have responsibilities to not falsify data and to treat research subjects ethically, it is more controversial the extent to which scientists should consider the potential impact of their work on society.  This lecture and directed discussion will delve into the basis and nature of those responsibilities and how institutional structures might assist scientists.

  • Heather Douglas, Waterloo Chair in Science and Society, Department of Philosophy

10:45  Coffee Break

11:00  Panel Discussion I:  Structural Obstacles to Scientific Investigation

How do community-wide practices, technologies, and standards alter which scientific knowledge is developed?  This panel will examine cases of concern across a range of disciplines.

  • Lee Smolin, Perimeter Institute
  • Trefford Simpson, School of Optometry
  • Richard Wells, Department of Kinesiology

12:15  Break for Lunch

1:45  Panel Discussion II:  Science and Technology: Who is in/Who is out?

What sorts of factors determine who gets to be a scientific expert? How does the distribution of expertise influence that way that science is conducted and the kinds of knowledge that science produces? This panel will examine patterns of inclusion and exclusion from philosophical, anthropological and psychological perspectives.

  • Kathryn Plaisance, Centre for Knowledge Integration
  • Christine Logel, Psychology, Renison University College
  • Jennifer Liu, Department of Anthropology

3:00  Coffee Break

3:15  Café Scientifique II:  If You Want Research Excellence, Fight for Diversity

Does a commitment to improving diversity in our science and engineering departments result in sacrificing research excellence?  Research in the social sciences and philosophy demonstrates that the answer is “No.”  This lecture and directed discussion explores ways that diversity improves the creativity and rigor of our research communities.

  • Carla Fehr, Wolfe Chair in Science and Technology, Department of Philosophy

4:30  Reception

Homeless people as wireless transmitters

A company at the big technology conference, SXSW in Austin, TX, hired 13 homeless people to carry around wireless transmitters at the conference.  Those who participated were paid $20 a day plus donations/tips.  The suggested donation was $2 for 15 minutes. 

So what’s wrong with this?  Plenty, some people felt. 

Branding agency BBH was forced to defend its ‘Homeless Hotspots’ initiative after it was described as ‘dystopian’ – and lambasted as a ‘shameful, hideous, patronising, dehumanising idea’ by British brand strategist Luke Scheybeler

Read more here.

And here are some pro’s and con’s from Wireless:

This is my worry: the homeless turned not just into walking, talking hotspots, but walking, talking billboards for a program that doesn’t care anything at all about them or their future, so long as it can score a point or two about digital disruption of old media paradigms. So long as it can prove that the real problem with homelessness is that it doesn’t provide a service.

Where the men involved aren’t even able to tell their own stories to the world, before they’re doubly used: first by the SXSWi attendees with their smartphones, and then by the marketing firm who will sell their story as a case study or TV show pitch, or to a company looking for a new advertising opportunity at next year’s SXSWi. Where people really are turned into platforms to be “optimized” and “validated.”

I don’t believe BBH Labs’ history with the homeless provides any reason to expect anything better.

Update: AlterNet’s Sarah Jaffe interviewed Mark West, one of Homeless Hotspots’ MiFi managers. Here’s a telling exchange (hat-tip to Melissa Gira Grant):

“It’s your company,” he stressed, “What you bring in is what you bring in. They bought the devices, they’re allowing us to use the devices to bring in our own revenue.” But as my colleague Matt Bors noted, when you actually own your own business, no one takes away your supplies after four days. You don’t work for a suggested donation.

Update 2: At Hardly Normal, Mark Horvath writes about Homeless Hotspots from SXSW, criticizing Wired, ReadWriteWeb and the New York Times for their coverage of the program:

We need fresh and creative ideas to help save lives and save money. Any brand, marketing agency, or Girl Scout Troupe that takes real tangible action to help solve a social crisis should be rewarded not slammed. What BBH Labs did with Homeless Hotspots is a harmless and fun idea that provides a positive interaction between homeless people and the rest of you. Plus, our homeless friends made a few bucks. And even more important – they were given self-worth. Unless you were on the streets you have no idea how low ones self-esteem gets. The number one thing you can give another person is your attention and the Homeless Hotspot vendors at SXSW got lots of that. Every one I met was smiling ear to ear.

This video features one of the homeless people (it may take a long time to load):


What do you think?

Interview with Vincent Hendricks

who still, quite clearly, isn’t getting it. Among other things, he clearly thinks that the main issue is whether he *intended* to be sexist. Sigh.

A: The photos have been criticized for maintaining gender stereotypes, and for being quite sexist. Is it okay to display sexist pictures for the purpose is charity?

V: It is, of course, reprehensible if charity work adds to chauvinism or sexism, racism or other prejudice. It was not sexism or anything like that that was driving my willingness to participate, and I don’t think the charity initiative or magazine intended these photos to be an expression of sexism. I am not the kind of person who would want this to happen, and I certainly do not want to be perceived as a male chauvinist.

Ohio Bill To Require Affadavits of Impotence

I am so loving this trend.

Before getting a prescription for Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs, men would have to see a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test and get a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming impotency, if state Sen. Nina Turner has her way.

The Cleveland Democrat introduced Senate Bill 307 this week.
A critic of efforts to restrict abortion and contraception for women, Turner says she is concerned about men’s reproductive health… Turner said if state policymakers want to legislate women’s health choices through measures such as House Bill 125, known as the ‘Heartbeat bill,’ they should also be able to legislate men’s reproductive health.

Turner’s bill tracks FDA guidelines which recommends doctors determine whether the root cause of men’s sexual disfunction is physical or psychological. She describes her bill as an effort to “legislate it the same way mostly men say they want to legislate a woman’s womb.”

For more go here.

(Thanks, J-Mom!)