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The Year Ahead for the Center for Science, Technology, and Society
I can only start reflections on the year ahead with a few thoughts about the years past for the Center. Jim Koch, our Founding Director, has worked wonders to turn that ever present twinkle in his eye into a well-supported, burgeoning center with a clear mission to knit together consideration of our increasingly techno-scientific society with deep concern for social justice, an enriching educational agenda, and links between research and development (in the broadest sense of the word). With Jim’s past work and future guidance we stand poised to make a significant contribution locally, nationally, and internationally in exploration of the issues of the interplay between science, technology, and society. The continuing superb contributions of Pedro Hernández-Ramos, Al Hammond, Terri Griffith, and our new member Susan Leigh Star (incoming President of the International Society for Social Studies of Science) has proven and will prove key to this effort. We are most fortunate to have John Staudenmaier, S.J. visiting us this year; John is editor of the premier journal in technology studies, Technology and Culture. Further, we have the continued invaluable organizational support of Cathy Valerga, Sherrill Dale, and several hard-working student assistants.
The work of the Center in developing the Technology Awards and the Global Social Benefit Incubator is a model, high-impact project which draws on the best available research and makes its fruits available where it can do most good. In the year(s) ahead we at the Center will look to develop this and cognate initiatives.
Our big production this year will be our biennial international conference. The theme of the conference, to be held April 21, 2005, will be International Conference: Global Knowledge. Our emergent global community shares much: its environmental fate (the state of the oceans, forests, air, and climate), its human dreams, and increasingly its information infrastructure, which creates the single vast database of the Internet. Knowledge and know-how are ubiquitous, but only a small fraction becomes globally shared. Only some knowledge makes it into a common space, and little of that makes it into a frame which promotes social justice. The solution is not simple. Unlike the so-called digital divide, which can be solved by shipping technology, new approaches to the knowledge divide require visionary leadership. Knowledge is not a vault of gold ingots, but something made and remade, moving through locales of all sorts. Ideally, it could be shared in a democratic space, a knowledge commons that would reflect basic shared ethics and values. How can we understand what has prevented this commons from developing? How can we work to build a functioning democracy of knowing? We will explore some of these themes in this conference and in our upcoming symposia.
The year will be bookmarked by two workshops. In October 2004, we host an Social Science Research Council (SSRC) funded workshop on new Digital Cultural Institutions (http://www.ssrc.org/programs/ccit/dcip/) —here we bring together exciting young scholars and seasoned hands to discuss the new cultural frameworks that are being forged in our digital age. In August 2005, I will run, with Helen Nissenbaum from NYU, a two-week workshop on the theme of Values in the Design of Information Technology. This will bring together doctoral students from around the country, senior scholars in value-centered design, and Silicon Valley leaders to explore this important theme.
I feel privileged to be part of this Center; the year ahead promises to be full and lively––and a lot of fun.