Newsletter of the Society for Social Studies of Science
Spring 2003: Volume 16, Number 2
Managing Editors: Torin Monahan & Lane DeNicola Executive Editor: Linda Layne
Conferences, Lectures & Workshops
Call For Papers
Fellowships & Postdocs
Grants & Awards
Web Projects, Links, & Discussion Groups
Welcome to another issue of Technoscience. By decision of the 4S Council, we have now resumed publishing the newsletter in paper format, but an electronic version will continue to be produced and archived at the Technoscience website:
This site will be updated once a month with conference announcements, job postings, and other information. As always, we invite you to submit content for the next issue in the following areas: announcements of publications, reviews, jobs, competitions, prizes, workshops, conferences, general STS news, and commentary. Our deadlines remain: August 15 for fall publication, December 15 for winter publication and April 15 for late spring/summer publication. You can contact us at: TECHNOSCIENCE-L@LISTS.RPI.EDU.
CONFERENCES, LECTURES & WORKSHOPS
Governance for Industrial Transformation
2003 Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change
Deadline: 15 July 2003
Conference to be held 5-6 December 2003. For more information: www.fu-berlin.de/ffu/akumwelt/bc2003/call.htm
Standard Making: A Critical Research Frontier for Information
MISQ Special Issue Workshop
Seattle, WA, USA
Deadline: 15 September 2003
Workshop to be held 13-14 December 2003. The workshop is aimed at gathering a group of scholars examining issues related to the development, adoption and diffusion, deployment and management of standards in ICT field. For more information: www.si.umich.edu/misq-stds/.
Fifth Congress of HOPOS
The International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science
San Francisco, California, USA
Deadline: 1 January 2004
HOPOS, the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science will hold its fifth international congress in San Francisco, California, June 24-27, 2004. Submission information: Abstracts of individual paper submissions should be between 250 and 500 words in length. Panel proposals should include one panel abstract, names and addresses of all participants, and abstracts of 250 words for each of three to four papers. All submissions should arrive by January 1, 2004. Notification of acceptance of submissions will be provided by March 1, 2004. Preferred format for all submissions is plain ASCII text or RTF attachment submitted by electronic mail to email@example.com with "HOPOS 2004 Submission" in the subject line of the email. Other submissions should include one paper copy and one copy in plain ASCII or RTF format on a 3.5" DOS diskette and be sent to: Menachem Fisch, Co-Chair, HOPOS 2004 Program Committee, The Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University Ramat Aviv 61390, ISRAEL.
WTMC Summer school in Cultures of Technoscience
Study and Conference Centre Soeterbeeck in Ravenstein
Dates: 8-12 September 2003
The Netherlands Graduate School of Science, Technology and Modern Culture (WTMC) is a formal collaboration of Dutch researchers studying the development of science, technology and modern culture. The Graduate School provides advanced training for Ph.D. candidates. The anchor teacher for this yearıs event is Lucy Suchman of the Centre for Science Studies Lancaster University. For more information: http://www.wmw.utwente.nl/wtmc/summerschool01/summerschool%2003.htm.
S&T Policy Programs Meeting
George Mason University
Arlington, VA, USA
Dates: 7-8 July 2003
This informal meeting is an opportunity for advanced Ph.D. students to present their research, and for faculty to discuss the latest developments in their S&T programs. It is hosted by the School of Public Policy, George Mason University. For more information, please contact Christine Pommerening, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digital Networks and Expert Cultures
Dates: 13 June 2003
A workshop with Stefan Kaufmann, Barbara Bonhage and Karin Knorr-Cetina held at Collegium Helveticum, Schmelzbergstr. 25, ETH Zurich. For more information: www.tg.ethz.ch/lehre/veranstaltungen/03Netzwerk/programmdetail.htm. Register by email to email@example.com.
CALL FOR PAPERS
Call for Chapter Proposals
New Handbook of Science, Technology and Society
Deadline: 1 September 2003
The editors of the New Handbook of Science, Technology, and Society invite proposals for chapters to be included in the volume. This edition of the Handbook is expected to appear in 2007, some twelve years after the previous edition. We would like the volume to lend structure and direction to our field, reflecting its history, status, and prospects. The Handbook is currently planned to have four major sections, with several chapters in each: Perspectives on Theory and Methods, Reciprocal Relationships between STS and Other Fields, STS and the Public Sphere, and Enduring Themes and New Directions in STS Scholarship.
Guidelines: Chapter proposals should be 500 to 700 words and contain full contact information (including email addresses, if available) for all authors. Please send proposals electronically, if possible, to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by regular mail to Ed Hackett, Department of Sociology, 321 Social Science Building, Box 872101, Tempe, AZ, 85287-2101, U.S.A.
Call for Papers for Boltonia
Newsletter of the Bolton Society
Information about the Bolton Society: http://www.chemheritage.org/OthmerLibrary/boltonSociety.htm
For publication information contact J. J. Bohning: email@example.com.
Greenwood Publishing Group
Call for Book Manuscripts
Greenwood Publishing Group seeks authors for books in several new reference series in the history of science, medicine, technology, and the environment. Each of these series will be marketed and sold to high-school, public, and college libraries, and the books are intended for advanced high-school students, undergraduates, and the interested lay public. Series include "Biographies of Technologies," "Greenwood Guides to Great Ideas in Science," "Science and Technology in Everyday Life," "Health and Medicine in Everyday Life," and "Nature and the Environment in Everyday Life." For more information, contact Kevin J. Downing: 303-791-8243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just Garcia Hill (www.justgarciahill.org)
Call for Papers
Just Garcia Hill, a web portal for minority scientist students is looking for students, mentors, and administrators interested in providing articles for web site. If you'd like to submit a contribution or suggest an idea, please contact email@example.com.
Department of Science & Technology Studies
Visiting Assistant Professor (1 year)
Ithaca, NY, USA
Deadline: 15 May 2003 (until filled)
How to apply: Candidates should send a letter of application, curriculum vitae, evidence of teaching ability, a writing sample, and the names of two references to Biology & Society Search Committee, Department of Science & Technology Studies, 306 Rockefeller Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. Application materials may be submitted electronically to Biology & Society Search Committee, c/o Judy Yonkin, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Visiting Assistant Professor in Science and Technology Studies
Blacksburg, VA, USA
Deadline: 5 May 2003 (until filled)
How to apply: Send CV, three reference letters, evidence of teaching ability, and a writing sample to Rachel Hall, STS Graduate Secretary, Center for Science and Technology Studies, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0227. For program information: www.cis.vt.edu/sts/.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Department of Science & Technology Studies
Position of Professor and Department Chair
Troy, NY, USA
Deadline: 1 May 2003 (until filled)
How to apply: Submit letter of interest, vita and three letters of reference to Professor Lee Odell, Associate Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 110 8th Street, Troy, NY 12180-3590. For information about the department: www.rpi.edu/dept/sts/.
Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies
Faculty Position in Science and Technology Policy
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Deadline: 30 June 2003
How to apply: Send letter of interest, curriculum vitae reflecting educational background and work experience, three letters of reference and two sample publications to: Personnel Director, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, 2058 Maluhia Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815-1949. For more information: www.apcss.org.
University of Melbourne
School of Anthropology, Geography and Environmental Studies
Lecturer Position (Level B)
Deadline: 31 July 2003
For further details go to: http://www.geography.unimelb.edu.au/
Contact: Associate Professor Brian Finlayson, Head of School, tel. +61 3 8344 6332, email email@example.com.
FELLOWSHIPS & POSTDOCS
Idaho State University
Postdoctoral Fellowship with Institute of Rural Health
Pocatello, Idaho, USA
Deadline: now until filled
For more information: http://www.isu.edu/departments/humanr/faculty.rural.health.htm
GE3LS at Genome Prairie
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Deadline: 20 June 2003
Genome Prairie seeks applicants for a post-doctoral fellowship within its GE3LS (Genomics: Ethics, Environment, Economics, Law and Society) program. The Genome Prairie GE3LS project focuses on genomics issues related to commercialization and society. The selected fellow will be working on the subproject entitled "Controversy in the Innovation Process" under the direction of Dr. Edna Einsiedel at the University of Calgary.
For more information: http://www.genomeprairie.ca/careers/gelspostdoc.htm or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oxford Internet Institute
Deadline: 12 June 2003
For more information: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/positions.shtml
The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Deadline: 31 July 2003
Description: From 1 January - 31 December 2004 in connection with the research project "Between the Laboratory, the Workshop and the Field Chemistry around 1800" (Independent Research Group of Dr. Ursula Klein). The project investigates the relations between chemical experimentation, workshop traditions, and natural historical cultures around 1800. It aims at comparing the pluricentred chemical culture around 1800 with chemical technoscience developing in the second half of the nineteenth century.
How to apply: Applications consisting of a curriculum vitae including publication list, a brief (maximum 750 words) research proposal (which may be written in German, French or English), and two letters of reference should be sent to Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Abt. Personal /Klein, Wilhelmstraße 44, 10117 Berlin, Germany.
The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Karl Schaedler Postdoctoral Fellowship
Deadline: 31 July 2003
The fellowship is financed from the "Liechtenstein-Foundation for History of Science". Applicants should work on projects in the history and epistemology of biology, that can contribute to the on-going project "A Cultural History of Heredity". "A Cultural History of Heredity". A description of this project can be found at www.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/HEREDITY/. The fellowships are open to scholars of all nationalities, but applications from countries of the European Community (including Switzerland) are especially encouraged.
The stipend is 2000 Euro per month over a two years period. Women are encouraged to apply. Qualifications being equal, precedence will be given to candidates with disabilities. The fellowship begins with October 1, 2003. Applicants for the fellowship are invited to send a curriculum vitae, a brief research proposal (maximum 1000 words), a sample text (chapter of the dissertation or published article) and two letters of recommendation by July 1, 2003 to: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Administration, "Karl-Schaedler", Wilhelmstraße 44, 10117 Berlin, Germany.
University of Limerick
Centre for Environmental Research
Deadline: 30 June 2003
This project will focus on evaluating the relative merits of existing integrated quantitative and qualitative modeling and assessment tools such as Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and Integrated Cost Benefit Analysis (ICBA). This research will consider the incentives needed to implement alternative innovative technologies for treating animal slurry, which are not economically viable but from a more ecological and socio-economic perspective are more sustainable. For more information, contact Bernadette.email@example.com.
Smith Richardson Foundation, Inc.
Domestic Public Policy Research Fellowship Program
Deadline: 3 July 2003
The Smith Richardson Foundations Domestic Public Policy Program is interested in supporting the work of the next generation of public policy researchers and analysts. The Foundation will award at least three research grants in the amount of $60,000 each to individuals who are interested in conducting research and writing on domestic public policy issues.
For more information: http://www.srf.org/JF_Domestic_Description.htm or Fboulds@srf.org.
Studies in Music, Multimedia Arts and Technology
Deadline: 15 July 2003
Applications are invited from individuals wishing to collaborate on sociological research about new technologies of music, audio and multimedia production. For more information, contact Jan Marontate: firstname.lastname@example.org.
GRANTS & AWARDS
International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science
Division of History of Science Prize
Deadline: 31 August 2004
The DHS Prize is awarded by IUHPS/DHS every four years to four young historians of science for their successful doctoral dissertations, completed after July 2001, which represent significant contributions to
the History of Science. It is distributed as one prize in each of the following fields of focus: Western civilization, Islamic civilization, Far Eastern civilization, South Asian civilization, Ancient civilizations (not included in the above categories). Each prize consists of a certificate and coverage of travel and accommodation expenditures for participation in the IUHPS/DHS Congress. The prizes will be presented to their winners during the IUHPS/DHS Congress to be held in July 2005.
For application information, please write to please write to: IUHPS/DHS President's Office (Prof.Dr. E. Ihsanoglu), P. O. Box 24, Besiktas, 80692 Istanbul, Turkey, Fax: 90-212-258 43 65/ Tel: 90-212-260 07 17/ E-mail: email@example.com.
Nicholas Mullins Award
Deadline 1 September 2003
The Nicholas Mullins Award is awarded each year by the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) for an outstanding piece of scholarship by a graduate student in the field of Science and Technology Studies. The prize consists of a check for $US 500, a certificate, and travel expenses for this year s Annual Meeting of 4S.
The paper should not exceed 10,000 words -- including notes and references. According to the rules, longer papers will be "punished" in the evaluation procedure, i.e., they do not have to be read in their totality. Papers should be typed double-spaced. Submission to the Chair of the jury as an electronic email attachment (PDF or Word) is strongly encouraged. Alternatively, six (6) paper copies should be sent to the chair of the Nicholas Mullins Award Jury (see address below); for students for whom this would be a financial hardship two (2) copies would be acceptable. To facilitate blind review, the author s name, address, email address, and institutional affiliation should be included only in a cover letter or e-mail, so these can be detached from the distributed copies.
Submit papers to the chair of the jury: Yuko Fujigaki, Ph.D. Associate Prof., General System Studies, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo, 3-8-1, Komaba, Meguro, Tokyo,153-8902 JAPAN
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (Yukako Ogoshi, secretary of Dr. Yuko Fujigaki).
THES / OUP Prize
Times Higher Education Supplement & Oxford Univ. Press
Deadline: 30 June 2003
2003 is the fourth year of the THES / OUP prize for previously unpublished writing about popular science (including engineering, technology, medicine): not more than 3000 words of original unpublished work, aimed at a wide audience. 1st prize: £2000, OED on CD-ROM + publication in the Times Higher Education Supplement; 2nd prize, OED in 20 volumes; 3rd prize, £200 of OUP books on popular science. For more information, contact Dr. Joan Mason: email@example.com.
Economic & Social Research Council
Science in Society Programme
Funding for Visiting Scholars
No Deadline Given
The ESRC Science in Society Programme has a new funding opportunity (up to £3000 per visit) to assist scholars actively researching the themes covered by the programme, to visit UK institutions for 3 to 10 days. They hope that such visits will promote international collaborations. For full details see the programme website at www.sci-soc.net.
Lilli Hornig (ed.). Equal Rites, Unequal Outcomes: Women in American Research Universities. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2003.
This book focuses upon women faculty in research universities, seeking to identify and disseminate innovative analyses and approaches toward increasing faculty positions and opportunities for women in natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
WEB PROJECTS, LINKS, & DISCUSSION GROUPS
"The concept of innovative
capacity measures the level of invention and the potential for innovation in
any nation, geographical area or economic activity."
-- Prof. Suarez-Villa
Psci-comlit is a bibliographic database covering science communication, public engagement with science and the broader issues of science and society. The database is being continually expanded and contains references to books, reports, journal and newspaper articles, most of which are available for reference in the Wellcome Trust Library.
This site holds a database of doctoral dissertations in progress around the world.
Langdon Winners testimony to the Committee on Science of the U.S. House of Representatives on The Societal Implications of Nanotechnology. Wednesday, April 9, 2003.
"Hostel of Doom: Adventures of a First Year Graduate Student"
by Ricardo B. Duque, PhD. Scholar
Department of Sociology
Louisiana State University
I had been to Africa twice before: in 1984 to Malabo, the island capital of Equatorial Guinea, as a UCLA sophomore majoring in economics, and again in 1992 to Mabuto, the seaside capital of Mozambique, as a struggling Hollywood screenwriter. On both occasions I was a guest of my father, who worked with the United Nations Development Program. Like most college educated, media-socialized Americans, I was casually familiar with the Dark Continent. I had seen the films, read an undergrads quota of books, heard the depressing news. I was vaguely familiar with the colonial past and becoming familiar with its post-colonial present. Once in Africa, the popular notions of mass famine, military juntas, and apartheid that dominated much of the US press on Africa during the 80s, were augmented by new concepts such as the AIDS pandemic, child soldiers, global dependency, and ethnic cleansing.
As a guest of my fatherhimself a guest for development--my time in these wondrous locales was occupied reading his books, touring the lush countryside, and wandering the sultry coast. I got lost in the citiestheir bustling, aromatic central markets, tourist shops, discos, and cafes. I socialized with a cast of Iberian ex-pats, development diplomats, and locals, from friendly to cynical to devious. I reveled in the earthy tastes and smells, the colorful wardrobes, the mosaic sounds of languages and music, the wide-eyed street children experiencing yet another strange visitor, the crumbling colonial infrastructures giving way to ubiquitous natureand the occasional reminders of home on store front ads for Marlboro and Coke, a tattered Bulls 23 T-shirt on the lanky body of a day laborer. I came away with a sense that this seemingly unique world, so far from the west Los Angeles I knew was not so different after all. And that was the beginning of sociology.
It was only a sense, mind you. When I arrived home in Los Angeles after that second visit, I had had my fill of Africa and had no intention of returning. My fathers work with the UNDP eventually took him to Central America and Southeast Asia. So like any self-respecting Hollywood writer, I wrote an action-adventure-romance script based on my experiences in Africa, a story of foreign aid, illegal arms sales, and corporate-financed third world insurrections. I saw Andy Garcia in the title role. Truth be told, I never sold that script. Not even close.
Fast-forward ten years to the first summer after September 11th. I am landing aboard a KLM jumbo at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Kenya, near Nairobi, late evening. Ive just survived my first year of graduate school in the sociology at Louisiana State University, and spent the early part of the summer attending an Internet workshop on both U.S. coasts. Also, I have just finished my first fieldwork experienceinterviews with Internet café users in the Netherlands and Belgium. How a California beach boy, fifteen years post college, found himself back in the Halls of Academein the bayou of all placeshas everything to do with this third trip to Africa. An Internet romance brought me to Louisiana. My interest in global society and how the Internet might shape its future brought me back to school, although I swore once I would never return. Now here I am a graduate assistant involved in a sociological study of developing world science The Professor had begun ten years prior. And as fate would have it, our study focuses on the local and global impacts of the Internet (and other digital information and communication innovations) on science and technology in Kenya, Ghana, and India. A rather fortuitous chain of eventsor is it a stretch for the audience?
But our real agenda, simmering quietly and watched with great care on the back research burner, is understanding the institutions of developmentreagency as The Professor calls it. How do guests for sciencelike The Professor, me, and Marcus Ynalvez, our Filipino colleagueconfront the challenges and opportunities of developing world research in the digital age? Are these cross-national collaborative efforts still subject to the same kind of social processes as those of the pre-digital past or can we change them? In plain English, doing research, building infrastructure, organizing participative initiatives, executing projects in the Third World is not like doing it in the First. Reagency, in diplomatic English, involves the redirection of resources to fit local needsput not so diplomatically, some might call it stealing. But more on that later.
The Professortall, angular and athleticwaits for me at baggage claim in a baseball cap, dusty cargoes, and three day old beard, a 21st century Indiana Jones. With him is our Kenyan compatriot Paul Mbatia, Indiana University alum. Paul is a compact, handsome, and alert Kikuyu who is now a sociology professor at the University of Nairobi. I am told that the Kenyan elections are near, and Mbatia has already begun politicking in his home village for the eventual winner, Kibaki. In his rickety Toyota hatchback, Mbatia drives us through the cool Kenyan night along the legendary Mombassa highway to our digs, the Nairobi YMCA. The "Y" is tucked away between the university of Nairobi residence halls on one side and the main campus of the University, adjacent to downtown Nairobi. Through the semi-guarded outer gate, and the rough-edged, brown brick, three story lodge is our efficient project base, with a warm and helpful staff, and a weathered interior courtyard terrace overlooking a beautiful, rustic landscaped lawn with sub-tropical foliage. The focus, within the grounds, is a sparkling and mightily-used swimming pool. The dilapidated tennis courts are eyed daily by The Professor. Tempted as he is, he prefers to travel on crowded, earthy matatu microbuses for higher quality courts several kilometers away. With him this game is an addiction.
The tile terrace and sloping lawn of the Y attract many businessmen, students, Christian groups, and one particularly cute and rambunctious, ash gray kitten the local wild life --- during lunchtime, while the patina-colored pool attracts local sun worshipers and aquatic enthusiasts. From the main building down the garden walkway to our residence wing, you pass a rough grass clearing, featuring a drooping volleyball net, and a small, freestanding chapel from colonial days. We would have occasion within the next 24 hours to become intimately familiar with possible hideouts on the grounds, including racquetball courts and an abandoned hair salon surrounded intermediately by jagged brick walls and thick fencing with barbwire crests. Past the sleepy security check and a thick iron plated door is a stairway leading up to our rooms. There are twin beds with woolen bedding (we are on the equator, a chilly mile above sea level) and mosquito nets (optional, according to The Professor, for the annual malaria epidemic was in the West). There are wooden desks, a closet with keyhole but no key to be found anywhere, hot water twice a day, electricity for our constantly used laptops, and a narrow balcony facing the near Nairobi skyline. If this all seems rather secure, it is not by mistake. We are informed very frankly that the Y has been robbed at gun multiple times over the last five years.
The room at the YMCA included breakfast on the weathered terrace cafe, where we met two old ex-pats, in residence for over 20 years. They did not sit together. They did not eat together. Birds of the same feather who did not flock ? First Tom from New Hampshire: Tom was a Graham Greene Quiet American type, straight out of central casting, or at least thats what the Kenyans thought. For the past 20 years, since Mbatia, our local collaborator was at university, they had been familiar with "the American" at the Y, and knew exactly who he was. Seventy plus years, Tom still jogged three miles several times a week after uncountable laps in that pool. His strange and brusque eating habits (2 bowls of porridge, 10 toasts, 5 eggs and a large vitamin powder drink for breakfast), his ability to live like a Kenyanwhich means, without much money and no visible joband his choice to live so close to the university, raised more than one local eyebrow. All very peculiar, was it not? Not unfriendly, but distant he spoke perfect Swahiliand why did he never go home to America? It did nothing but solidify his reputation as a CIA operative, "our man in Kenya." Perhaps he was even helping to keep Moi in power for the past quarter century.
Then there was the English actor who had been living in Kenya since 1957. Kenneth Mason was 85 years old and still kicking, shingles notwithstanding. Sir Kenneth, as we called him, comments on our descriptions of contemporary American life in a characteristic and dramatic British drawl, the same way he responds to the nagging daily occurrences of Kenyan life, a life he had willingly chosen for just short of a half century, by singing, "DREADFUL . ABSOLUTELY, DREADFUL!" He liked nothing better than to retire with a stout in the evening and entertain guests for science, for development, for tourismany type of guests for any reason in the single room just next to us. His simple room, though, was "converted"into an imperial salon, awash in books on theater and world history, and a series of colorful, Oxford Colleges coats of arms he had painted himself. With an offer of a gin and tonic on the rocks or a brandy in a warm snifter, Kenneth would unfold amazing stories of the Royal Air Force in the second World War, discourse on his post-war, Greek Island adventures with just a knapsack in tote, or reveal how he came to Nairobi to help build a theatre for the performing arts. And so he stayed, year after year, taking his annual vacation to Mombasa, and still operating, directing and acting. When Out of Africa was filmed on location here in the 1980s, Kenneth was cast as the banker who rejects Merryl Streeps loan request. Often, when not giving us his bountiful list of film credits, Sir Kenneth spun tales about his Kenyan adventures that sounded wild, like the British safari character from Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons: "How well I remembeh the time we wah in Nairobeh." Kenneth was volubleNew Hampshire Toms opposite, yet they were admittedly the best of friends, only Kenneth refused to "dine" within eyesight of Toms diet and table manners.
Kenneth and Tom are permanent expatriates, but not strangers to their own landsthe Internet, of course was the reason. Globalization is not just an economic phenomenonit is also a matter of connectedness, to people and information. Kenneth is an avid e-mailer, communicating with his old friends and colleagues in the England on a weekly basis. New Hampshire Tom checks the ESPN website religiously to follow football and other American sports--he was eager to discuss our recent LSU football stars, Rohan and Reed, and knew more about their draft status than we did. ("So, if youre really an American, who played shortstop for the Yankees last year?"). Now that I think about it, it is not so strange these ex-pats are so connected. Nairobi has more Internet Cafés per square mile than anywhere I have experienced in Europe, Amsterdam included. They are cheap for us, but not so cheap for Kenyans. Still, they are often full, with their slow bandwidth, helpful staffs and eager patrons, often University of Nairobi students, with a scattering of ex-pats and Guests for Development like us. What is frustrating for The Professor, and amusing to me given the proliferation of digital communication we encounter all around us (mobile phones are everywhere), is that our local collaborators and the institutes we hope to network are not global enough. It is a fight to get them to answer their email on a regular basisall except Mbatia, with his awesome work ethic and scholarly single-mindedness give him the Internet, and he will be everywhere.
Now, there can be no more exploring my new surroundings. I must prepare for a new phase of our research and also return to the airport early the next morning to collect a friend, who is arriving from Los Angeles. Elizabeth, a striking green-eyed blond, is a recent Pepperdine MBA. She is treating herself to a world travel marathon after spending the last two years working and studying full time. She learned of our research in Kenya and detoured to help, after trekking through India and Nepal the month before. This would be her very first visit to Africa. Born in Poland, she became a teenage refuge during the Solidarity strike and was eventually placed by the UN in Alexandria, Louisiana, before majoring in architectural design at LSU --- Coincidental perhaps? I originally met Elizabeth over the Internet while I was still in Los Angeles.
On her first day in Nairobi, though, Elizabeth chooses to sleep off her jet lag while The Professor and I venture out into the city to begin our work. Around mid-day, we meet Paul Mbatia and a collection of individuals from the National Drylands Farming Research Centre and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. Our mission for the coming week is to find best prices and purchase digital networking materials to build Local Area Networks (LANs) with the Internet at both institutes. Our projectis it really sociology?includes the provision of infrastructure. We want to know whether and how the Internet is globalizing science (worldsci.net). Unless we connect these places, we will not have much to study by the time the project is over. But thensynchronized perfectly with some cosmic adventure scripts Act One plot twist all plans are put on indefinite suspension the day of our first shopping expedition. More immediate concernsfor life and limbbecome central. What actually unfolds over the next three days is best described in an email The Professor is able to send to our colleagues in the US the next week:
It was Thursday, when we were out buying our networking gear. The Police shot a student on campus near the University dormitories (about 200 Yards away). The YMCA where we stayed is in the middle of them and all hell broke loose. Don't know why--heard the guy was smoking marijuana but that doesn't really sound like the true story--not even in Kenya do you get shot for that. The police say he pulled a knife. The students and the people here at the Y say that he didn't have one, that the police always say that, and even if he did, why do you have to kill him? Which is a good question. We went on to the Green Café where I often do email and tried to take a taxi back. The driver didn't want to come down the State House Road, from where the President lives to the university, because he'd heard about this on the TV--you see, our YMCA is right in the middle of all these dorms. Sure enough, it was about 10:30pm. As we drove slowly down the hill, some students waved us back, and the driver put it in reverse & backed up the hill at a rapid rate.
I didn't know what to do--so called a friend on the mobile & he advised to wait it out. We went to a place [a bar in Westlands, an upscale part of Nairobi] and waited about an hour outside, then tried again. When we drove down to the city and to the campus where the dorms are, there were rocks (big ones) everywhere on the road. The students had rioted & thrown rocks at cars (which is typical here), and burned one car. But by this time everything had died down & we could get in the YMCA, which is gated.
Friday morning we woke up, heard the students outside on the road, whistling and marching toward the roundabout that leads to the center of Nairobi. That's where the police set up the barriers so the students can't get to the city center. They then spent the whole day rampaging. We considered going out but when the tear gas started coming in the windows we decided against it. There were shots and tear gas the whole day from about 9 in the morning until about 7 at night. The folks here at the Y just said, "be calm, they never come in, they only want to get a policeman."
But they also stone a lot of cars & extort money from drivers, so the rampaging can become thievery very fast. We stayed in the compound of the YMCA the whole day; occasionally we talked on the mobile phone to Paul Mbatia (my collaborator, the Univ. of Nairobi sociologist, who was only about 500 yards away at the Sociology department--but it might as well have been 100 miles). We tried to assess the situation and whether we should try to make an escape.
You could move all around the city, but just not where we were, in the middle of it [the riot}. And you're just too visible, being white. I actually felt pretty tense for the first few hours, kind of a "Blackhawk Down" syndrome or something--wondering what they might do to Americans if they came into the place. I've just never heard that much shooting before. And I don't think anyone (else) was killed--actually I don't know. The staff here keep reassuring us that the students are not interested in us, and only want to kill one policeman, then it would be over (later we heard, 'no, two [policemen].'). It would be good if the YMCA had Internet.
The pattern is this: the police drive the students back, then the Students go beyond the university gates & taunt the police to come in, then the police retreat & the students advance--and back and forth it goes the entire day. At one point we heard the Vice Chancellor came out to calm them down but then they went at it again.
I did venture out of the back gate once to have a look when the Students had advanced far enough that they didn't look like coming back immediately, and I was in a group of Kenyans from the Y, all of whom are extremely nice. Then the students ran back and started yelling at us to pick up a stone to throw, and we better not be watching for fun because this is very serious. I thought it took them a *very* long time to lock the gate? One of the women kept saying to the guards, 'Look, this is not a movie.'
I realized a couple of guys were working on the roof of our building so we went up and you could see a lot of the action from the rooftop (3 story building). These workers did not even look at the students once, but were very interested in us--one mostly in whether we felt the students were justified, and the other mostly in witnessing to me about an American biblical prophet that I should well know about but didn't. We stayed -up there for at least two hours and had an excellent view. [we could see] lots of storks and hawks and odd birds. We're pretty sure they were using rubber bulletsmost of the time. The Kenyans keep saying 'rubber bullets.' Rick Duque, my doctoral student, said: I know rubber bullets (from his Hollywood career) and these aren't. But mostly I think they fire tear gas.
The next day [Saturday] we went out early, before the students and walked in the opposite direction from the conflict. Two scientists and the computer guy from Katumani were driving in from some distance outside Nairobi, so they wanted to take back their equipment. The plan was for them to navigate around the trouble so we could go buy the stuff and then go somewhere until it settles down. But the police arrested the offending officer so the students called it off. (Bets were that they would keep him in jail for his safety, since the newspaper published his picture on the front page.)
Kenyans asked so many times 'so, this kind of thing doesn't happen in your university?' And I say, 'no, I can't say I've seen something like this.' Or 'well, it used to happen back in the 1960s but not anymore.'
Their next question is 'so, if they don't do this, how do the students express their grievances?' And now I'm just casting about for an answer, 'Well, they don't have too many grievances at the moment.' Or 'they are not too organized.' Or 'they don't worry too much about politics.'
Finally the Kenyans ask 'so when they do complain, how do the Authorities react?'
This one, I have no problem: 'they fire the coach and hire a new one.'
And that is just what the Kenyans would like to do.
But this sly reference to Kenyan politics comes later. This is only the second day of the riot and it seems to be escalating. The Professor and I scan the grounds and the racquetball courts just dont cut it as a hiding place. At least on the rooftop, you can always pull up the ladder behind you. Accompanied by Elizabeth, our ascent to the rooftop is tricky. The door to the roof is inconspicuous: a dark, cluttered stairwell leads to a perilous wooden latter. On the roof, the workers coach us to step gingerly along the solid bolted spines that hold the fragile aluminum in place. Was it the Last Crusade? No Nazis or cave snakes, but I do have a Professor and a Beautiful Blond. Then we spy New Hampshire Tom down below. Tom speaks for a moment with a concerned guard at the building entrance. He looks right and left, and then makes a decision. Here, where we are, is a place where the non-Africans, and even some of the more cautious locals, are seeking safety, the Christian grounds of the Y. Yet like a tall, lilywhite ghost, Tom walks purposefully to the gate, opens it, and strides fearlessly into the center of the mêlée. Where?! "You see," says Mbatia over the mobile, "definitely CIA."
Back on the roof, the workers are busy hand-insulating water pipes running to a hot water heater in the center. From her seat along the sturdy roof edge, Elizabeth resigns herself with a pensive pucker of her lips. This is her reality, in the mist of a potentially explosive riot, tear gas slowly sailing toward her from the street below. Not exactly what one hopes for on their first full day in Africa. Worlds away from an MBA program in Malibu and the fancy boutiques lining Rodeo drive near where she lives. The hotel wing is separated from the street below by gated grounds on all sidesthere is even a private club beneath us, not far from where students and police play the deadly but controlled cat and ever taunting mouse. In the empty lot immediately below, birds gather for their midday meal of assorted litter and carrion, if birds they are. More like large gray dragons with wingspans of six to eight feet, descending past us, cutting the crisp, cool blue Nairobi afternoon, pre-historic monsters oblivious to the human drama unfolding below. It is lunchtime for them.
While the riot raged below, I powered on my digital recordersomehow it helped to think of this as research, a kind of intentionality attributed to a completely unintentional situation. When we later assessed our experience on that rooftop over a glass of contraband red wine (it was the YMCA, after all), we replayed the audio. Halfway through the recording it gets very quiet. Then there is a horrible sound and a gasp, where our rooftop chorus holds its combined breath. Relaxed now in our room, we try to remember what had actually occurred at that moment of surprise during the riota tank rolling over a student, or a platoon of police sharpshooters mowing down a fleeing mob? Then it hits us. During a lull in the riot, one of those pre-historic creatures glides past us at arms length, monstrous and magnificent: "Who dares encroach here?" It is the pattern of the day: humanity explodes; nature goes about its business.
As I mentioned earlier, after my last visit to Africa in 1992, I was left with the sense that it was not much different from the world I had come from. And up there on that rooftop, when those pipe workers asked if this had ever happened in our country, I didnt have to think twice in answering. Under similar circumstances, in the spring just before the summer of my last visit to the "Dark Continent," the Rodney King riots exploded my home town of Los Angeles into an emotional and physical inferno, paralyzing Tinsel Town for about two weeks, forcing the National Guard into the city, and inspiring a visit by the senior President Bush. Less than a year and half before, I had been living and working in Korean Town, one of the local epicenters of the disturbance. Of course, ever the screenwriter, I wrote a romantic-drama based on those happenings. That one didnt sell either. Unlike the Nairobi riot, the L.A. riots saw not only great loss of property, but also lost lives and lost trust, with wounds still healing ten years later. They talk about tribalism in Africa as an impediment to development. Just witness the tribal lines in my hometown, dividing our city along elevated freeway arteries, palm-lined boulevards, concrete rivers, and those barriers still kept in place by suffocating traffic and phantom riots. On this third visit, the "Dark Continent" is illuminating quite nicely, a mirror of places I have known very well. In fair contrast, the Nairobi riotsafter the initial, brutal killinginvolved no deaths and minimal harm to life, more like the choreographed warfare of horticultural societies. There was, in the end, little violence, and almost no bloodshedthough the technologies for producing bloodshed were present and available.
And so I am left with this: Isnt the essence of sociologymore than any theory or methodologythe burning desire to understand something, some social phenomenon? I am only a year or so into my studiesbut what a worthwhile struggle it will be towards that understanding. Here in Africa we must understand the ways the Internet is implicated in the process of globalization: Will new information and communications technologies lead to the ever-increasing internationalization of social relationships? It is not an easy question. In Nairobi there are universities, collaborators, professional scientists, Internet infrastructure, Olympic-sized pools, tennis courts, and mobile phonesas well as grinding poverty, rampant HIV-AIDS, and the corruption born of a permanent political party and a dictator seemingly without conscience. There is a strange difference you cant quite put your finger on, but it is now my job, like others in this field, to place that finger. There are riots; but those occur back home as well, contrary to The Professors off-the-cuff email remark. There are unscrupulous collaborators, even in our own project, and the resulting interaction of interests is an aspect of reagency. This is not just the pursuit of knowledgeit is also about survival and livelihoods. I have no reason to believe the pursuit of knowledge is any more or less fundamental to research in the developed world. That is one of the tenets of sociology and STS that science is a social process, embedded in social structures, rather than an impersonal, objective enterprise driven by lofty ideals.
In Nairobi, it is abundantly clear how embedded we are in these structures, while at the same time we are involved in the social construction of our own research site, assembling a diverse group of bodies with special interests often unrelated to science, technology, or sociology. The Professor purchases networking materialscash only pleasewith precious bundles from ATM withdrawals, surrounded by watchers in the mid-day Nairobi sun. I take photos of money changing handswould that I had a 35mm film camera and a crew.
We check for missing survey pages, decide on a strategy of carrots or sticks for the painfully brief Internet café interviews streaming in daily from another remote site. We look at the first batch of interviews with Ghanaian scientists and wonder if the network questions were asked properly. We negotiate with DHL on shipping the Kenya surveys home for checking. We fire one of the local interviewers who had contracted what Kenyans call mazungu disease, the syndrome inspired by the perception of white man with too much money needs to part with it We argue for long hours in the bar about the impact of mobile phones on Internet use and globalization (it should be negative, we think). We visit a gorgeous, pristine research siteKatumani a Santa Fe-like setting just miles outside the chaos that is Nairobi, where we hope one day to gather data on the use of the LAN the project has purchased if and when they ever get it up and running. As of now, six months later, it is still not in place. Unsurprisingly, certain required hardware was forgotten the first time around and more project resources are requested to get the system installed. What is it I cant put my finger on? The same, but very different. Different, but just the same. I am going to get itwhere the costs are high, there will be high rewards.
While we pondered this conundrum, Elizabeth, who was only there for the "holiday," turned out to be our best undercover operative, it seems. She decided to solve the puzzle of New Hampshire Tom, which might have been accomplished much earlier had anyone bothered to talk to him. His brave foray into the riot? To meet his handler and pass on information? No. To our dramatic disappointment the Quiet American was no CIA agent. He had a French class to teach, you see, and the children were waiting for him. Even Mbatias skepticism dissolved. Tom loved Kenya, loved Kenyans, and loved teaching French to local school childrenfor almost no money. And it was OK with him.
That student interviewer, the one that was ceremoniously fired ? Well, we designed a new study to examine the relationship between mobile telephony and Internet use. She has been miraculously rehired and is arguably the best interviewer on the project.
And Kenneth, the Old School actor ? Hey, if you cant beat em, join em. Perhaps when were doddering in the year 2033 AD, The Professor and I will need a story or two ourselves:
My Deah Professah:
Im sitting at some newfangled communications café near the new Sunset and Vine hover campus, the one dedicated to the late humanist Sir Rodney King, you remember. I am having a chat with dear Elizabethyou do recawl our old friend? Now that Mbatia is Guvnah of the Internet shes engaged in a bit of consulting for us. As you always said, dont ask, dont tell!
We were wondring if you could still get an email at the Nairobi "Y" from time to time? We cahnt seem to ping you, but we suspect you still have your room with the view! You remembah back when we used keyboards? So much more sensible. This silicon neural eye gel with the sinus globecom tracking implants are a complicated, messy business, indeed. Quite! Drives my allegories batty, I tell you. The things we do for progress, right? I continue to feelas I always didthat humans are inherently digital creachures and digital creachures prefer keyboards. Its a proven fact. Now Ive got to learn these new things myselfand without graduate students to help. This new gooey technology, as dear Elizabeth calls it, is dreadful. Simply Dreadful. Dont know why they cant keep these things simple.
For some strange reason we were remembring that time we were togetha in Nairobeh at the turn of the Millennium. Bit of a tite spot, eh? Oh two, if memry serves during that uprising of the indigeni, before the troops popped in and put it to rest. By gawd those were the days, wot? Just the thawht of it set us going! Teah gas streaming threw those windows! Brings it awl back, evry moment, I do say shots wizzing to and fro, thick as pheasant on the estate, wot? As I recall, we were late for dinner at the Carnivore. Frightful reahly. The zebra and impala were perfectly cold.
Spot of informashun for you in case your connection is downLSU has changed coaches again! Now maybe the boys can make a good run for the lotus pedals at the Globecom Beijing Bowl next Chinese New Year. Geaux Tigers and all that!
I meant to ask you about your titanium hip. Has it improved your net game? Simply preposterous how Wimbledon has disallowed their use this year next theyll be shrinking the court back to 50 meters. Youd think we were in the dark ages.
A bit curiousis that Kibaki fellow still in charge? It must be neahly 30 years hes been in office. Showed so much promise early on, as I remembeh. As they say nowadays, the infinite consistency of change!
Hope to see you in Nairobeh again someday, health permitting. Dont let the vultures get you, ole boy.
Sir Richard Duke
Department of Sociology
Hollywood Global University